The New Prophetic Sisterhood is a network of UU woman-identified religious professionals, who covenant to affirm and promote equity and justice for women and girls and to lift up diverse feminisms. As individuals and as a body we use our voices in our congregations and communities to create more awareness of and prophetic public witness around issues that impact women and girls.Our Mission
We have named this women’s justice project the New Prophetic Sisterhood after the 19th century early wave of Unitarian Universalist women clergy who founded liberal religious congregations on the American prairie (the Iowa Sisterhood) and other under-served states. These female ministers spoke out on women’s voting rights and educational opportunities; on abolition; and on other social reforms. Their bold spiritedness – their struggles, defeats and legacy – provide a model for our contemporary aspirations and for tactics for overcoming the barriers facing us as women.
Since 2001, women have outnumbered men in the ranks of UU professional ministry. How has their presence impacted our faith movement’s justice work on behalf of the female gender? How have their voices been heard from the pulpit and the public square? Have they found themselves silenced or self-silenced? How does prophetic ministry fit with their style and focus? A 1998 Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association survey sent to all ministers in fellowship indicated that women ministers were less likely to list prophetic ministry as a style of leadership and less likely to focus on social justice. Is this still the case 17 years later? If so, can targeted efforts to reach out to and support women who engage in empowering prophetic ministry increase the numbers willing to do so?
As shared ministry and collaboration between religious professionals within our movement has grown, we made the decision to expand this network beyond ordained and fellowshipped clergy to include religious professional colleagues more broadly. We acknowledge that UU women-identified religious professionals of all kinds are offering their prophetic voices to our movement and our world, and we wish to lift these up and build a network of those who have made this commitment.
The Statement of Conscience on Reproductive Justice adopted at the 2015 General Assembly provides a serendipitous opportunity for our women religious leaders to reclaim/enhance their voices in service to this issue. How might the focus in particular on reproductive justice in our denominational witness efforts catalyze our colleagues to make this arena of justice work, with its economic justice and anti-racist elements, more vibrant and impactful within our congregations and beyond?
While the UUWF describes itself as one of the oldest religious lay women’s organizations, we have had women religious professionals in our ranks as members, board members, funding panel members, and grant recipients. Individually, they have contributed their time, talents, and professional perspectives to our work. This project is an intentional effort to provide a structure within UUWF to greatly enhance their numbers and contributions in service of women and girls. This initiative is sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Women’s Federation, with support from the UU Fund for Social Responsibility.
New Prophetic Sisterhood covenanted members commit to creating and sharing worship resources, including sermons, homilies, and liturgies. They will commit to participating in prophetic witness in the public square around national/state/local level public policy. They will communicate their opinions and concerns as progressive female faith leaders (and their diverse feminisms) through a variety of media. They will preach, teach, and encourage small group conversation and action within their congregations, with the goal of inspiring and mobilizing lay UUs – both women and their male allies. Join us!
— Rev. Marti Keller