Women, Power, and Politics: Feminist Theology in Process Perspective

by Lois Gehr Livezey

Dr. Livezey is assistant professor of Christian social ethics at Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, New Jersey.

The following article appeared in Process Studies, pp.67-77, Vol. 17, Number 2, Summer, 1988. Process Studies is published quarterly by the Center for Process Studies, 1325 N. College Ave., Claremont, CA 91711. Used by permission. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.


The author concludes that a concept of God as Holy Advocate, calling us and empowering us to advocacy for justice and peace, can only strengthen the bond between process theology and feminism.

I. Feminist Theology as Process Theology

Feminism and process theology have "trafficed together" (to borrow Bernard Meland’s description of the relation of ultimacy and immediacy; see CST 15) since the earliest days of contemporary feminist theology. Perhaps the best summary of that dialogue was the conference and subsequent book, edited and introduced by Sheila Greeve Davaney, Feminism and Process Thought (FPT), which featured articles by Valerie Saiving, Penelope Washbourn, Marjorie Suchocki, and Jean Lambert. Each of these women has contributed further to the richly textured fabric of this discussion. And, in the meantime, others of us have joined in as well.

In the first section of this paper, I will lift out certain threads of feminist process theology, for the purpose of focusing our attention on observations, concepts, and arguments that are essential, and often distinctive, in this theological discourse. In so doing, I do not intend or pretend to be exhaustive of the feminists who consider themselves or are considered to be "process theologians." Rather, I am seeking to delineate representative themes and issues. In the second section of the paper, I will suggest the contours -- or rather, the Whiteheadian grounds -- of a more political feminist process theology.

As we embark on this venture, a couple of preliminary observations are in order. For most of these women -- and for myself as well -- our feminism and our introduction to process thought were independent developments, which became related by virtue of the exciting discovery of their power to illumine each other. So there is a sense of independence and a certain reciprocity between process thought and feminism. But the criteria of adequacy are feminist -- adequacy to women’s stories, experience, and vision -- rather than Whiteheadian. Not surprisingly, then, these essays -- for example, the papers in the Davaney volume -- have an existential quality; there is a sense of important issues at stake. And, lastly, there is an experimental quality about the essays as well; it is a time of testing. Valerie Salving mentions this point, and Marjorie Suchocki reminds us that Whitehead’s own test of a philosophical system includes not only internal coherence and logical consistency but also applicability to other and new areas of experience and ultimately adequacy to all experience.

A. Theologizing Out of Experience: Women’s Stories

The first point of contact between feminism and process thought is methodological rather than substantive -- but it is of crucial importance. Both represent a reevaluation of experience in philosophy and theology. For both, the method is one of philosophizing or theologizing out of experience. In the heyday of neo-orthodoxy, with its limited-access roads to theology, process thought gave a foothold to voices! speech/stories hitherto excluded, and established the grounds for breaking the silence with respect to women within the bounds of theological discourse itself.

More specifically, for both, it is physical or bodily experience which is the beginning of the becoming of actuality and the matrix out of which thought emerges and to which it responds. Thus, Whitehead’s philosophy emphasizes the importance of the object-to-subject structure of experience, the physical pole of all actual occasions, causal efficacy as the initial phase of the process of becoming, and "the withness of the body" as an essential element in perception. Penelope Washbourn takes up this theme in her argument against body/mind and self/other distinctions that lead us to speak of having a body rather than being a body and to obscure the bodily character of selfhood, relatedness, and creativity (FPT).

This leads us to a closely related point. Rosemary Radford Ruether and many feminist theologians in her wake have argued that body/mind dualism and a host of other dualisms axe rooted in the sexism of Western culture. In the context of this interpretation of the problem, Whitehead is a welcome fellow-traveler among feminist theologians, for he, too, is concerned with overcoming the dualisms that beset modern philosophy and social analysis, and, indeed, his philosophy can be interpreted as an effort to provide a more integral description of our experience. Thus, mind/body dualism gives way to the dipolarity of physical and conceptual elements interwoven in every actual occasion, and self/world dualism gives way to the doctrine of internal relations.

As Valerie Salving points out, feminism and process thought share the view that the philosophical tradition has defined "experience" too narrowly. Whitehead argues that the Cartesian tradition has excluded causality and so "a common world to think about" from experience. Feminists focus on the exclusion of women’s experience. Both emphasize the necessity of a reinterpretation of the nature of experience, so as to include the excluded dimensions within its scope (FPT). Within this framework, there is a divergence among feminist process theologians. Valerie Salving seeks to articulate a reinterpretation of essentially human experience, our common humanity defined androgynously. Penelope Washbourn takes as on a somewhat different journey, for she seeks to articulate distinctively female experience (FPT).

Finally, and related to the point above, "human experience never comes uninterpreted" (FPT 13). Women live in a culture of interpretation regarding men and women (their character, relations, roles, etc.) which distort women’s experience. In other words, "common sense" carries an "implicit metaphysics" of which we must become conscious and critical. Again, Valerie Saiving’s argument here echoes Whitehead’s analysis of the common sense of his own day.

B. Relationality

Surely the deepest bond between feminism and process thought is the recognition that we are constituted by our relationships, that relationality or sociality is the fundamental reality of all experience. In this respect, process thought and feminism resonate with the more recent arguments of Carol Gilligan that women’s moral development is characterized by agency attentive to the web of relationships -- although ethics in the mode of process thought would view this as normative for men and women alike. Ultimately, this insight reaches to the nature of God in relation to the world. Marjorie Suchocki symbolizes this dimension of feminist process theology with poetic and philosophical power in her imagery of weaving (WW 76-86).

Again, the sociality or relationality of experience suggests several paths of inquiry and argument: The reciprocity of relationship and individuality (Valerie Saiving) or of mutuality and openness to new possibilities (Marjorie Suchocki), the priority of bodily experience as a principle of interpretation of women’s self-identity, spirituality, and relatedness to reality (Penelope Washbourn) or of intimacy (Carter Heyward; see RG). Later, I will propose a principle of worldliness. These are not "either/or" options but a matter of different emphases within the complex pattern of a doctrine of internal relations.

It is in this context that feminism and process thought converge in a reconsideration of the meaning of power. Power is grounded in the fact that our actions issue from and into a web of relationships. "Nexus" is the technical term in process thought. In other words, it is the nature of power to be community-creating -- or destroying. For some, it has the character of energy, an energy born of and expressed in solidarity with others. But, in process thought as in feminist thought, this basic insight has been elaborated to affirm that power is expressed in receptivity to the influence of others as well as in agency with respect to others. Bernard Loomer set the terms of this definition of power in his 1976 essay, "Two Conceptions of Power," in which he distinguishes between "unilateral" power and "relational" power and explores the implications of this distinction. In this view, power (which is synonymous with "stature" or "size") is "the capacity to sustain a mutually internal relationship" (TCP 22). It requires being "present" to one another, listening and speaking (mutual self-disclosure), and attentive to the "concrete" existence of one another.

I should say one more thing about the feminist appropriation of process theology and its doctrine of internal relations. While most feminists have emphasized the power and possibilities which a relational ontology and anthropology offers, Peggy Ann Way, drawing on Bernard Meland’s focus on the causal efficacy aspect of Whitehead’s thought, emphasizes instead the limitations which follow inescapably from our embeddedness in a bodily and social matrix (GF). And others echo the same theme in their attentiveness to the elements of loss and tragedy in human experience.

C. Creativity

The other theme that distinguishes feminist process theologians is the theme of creativity. Marjorie Suchocki’s emphasis on openness to new possibilities as constitutive of human and divine nature alike expresses the importance of this theme (FPT ). Penelope Washbourn demonstrates the power of her feminist, revisionist interpretation exactly with respect to this notion of creativity, drawing on the female experience of childbirth as the basis of her argument that creativity should be understood not in terms of construction or making (the potter and clay image) but in terms of emergence from a social and bodily matrix to which it is responsive even as it is also unique and something new. It is the image of giving birth rather than building or making, and it hears/speaks the language of gift, growth, and gracefulness rather than control. (FF1’). In process thought, creativity is grounded more clearly in the conceptual pole of experience and has to do with the capacity to imagine or envision new and alternative possibilities as well as the capacity for the creative synthesis of the actual world with the possible good.

D. Passion

I want to mention one further theme in which feminist and process theology have a common stake. It is not as prominent as the themes of relationship and creativity, but it is becoming more so -- and that is the theme of passion. In feminism, passion appears in the celebration of our bodies/ourselves and in the intimacy thus made possible. In feminism, passion appears also in the struggle for justice and in the recognition that the old dynamics of distancing/abstraction, disinterest/apathy, and even the principle of universalizability are not adequate to the struggle. Here, Carter Heyward is particularly eloquent (I cannot say whether she considers herself a process theologian; see OPJ). In process thought, passion appears in the very nature of causation, perception, and cognition as "concern" -- in the Quaker meaning of the term, according to Whitehead (AI 176). This affective tone at the base of all experience suggests the fallacy of efforts at value-free facts or passion-free judgment. But the criteriological question remains. There is a difference between the ethics of "me and my friends" and an ethics motivated by the passion of love of the world.

II. A Constructive Argument for Political Feminist Theology on Whiteheadian Grounds

So far so good. But, thus far, this mutual admiration society between feminism and process thought has been basically apolitical. I say this, acknowledging the feminist argument that "the personal is the political." I am concerned, nevertheless, that this very important discussion of the bodily and the intimate, the constitutive and the interpersonal dimensions of relationality and creativity does not of itself generate an explicit argument regarding the vision, the criteria, and the commitment for the political struggle for justice for women and between women and men. In my view, the apolitical character of process-oriented feminist theology is due, in no small part, to the apolitical character of process theology itself as it has developed to this point. The notable exception is Douglas Sturm, and, very recently, John Cobb and Schubert Ogden have turned their attention in the direction of politics and justice. But there has also been a rather selective appropriation of Whitehead by feminist process theologians. Specifically, the dipolarity of actuality, the unity and reciprocity of physical and conceptual in all experiencing, has been the basis for the reappropriation and reevaluation of the bodily dimensions of women’s experience. But there has not been much exploration of the specific character of the "mental" pole. Also, the bodily has not become an avenue to the worldly, as it is in Whitehead. I want to sketch the contours of a political theology -- on Whiteheadian grounds and of a piece with the feminist arguments considered above.

A. Taking Experience Seriously -- and Politically: The Meaning of Assemblage and the Definition of the Issue

We have already noticed the shared concern for "theologizing out of experience" in the methodologies of feminist and process theologies. Yet process theology has also been criticized for its inattention to social analysis, to analysis of the social order -- or, one might say, the structural and symbolic character of our common experience.1And process theologians give some credence to this criticism. Bernard Loomer says, for example, "I think that a theology of relations can include the positive values of theologies of liberation without being committed to specific analyses of racism, sexism, or economic functioning (TAG 147; my italics).

It is my contention that Whitehead’s notion of assemblage is a mode of taking the social order seriously -- and politically -- within process thought. In Modes of Thought, Whitehead distinguishes two modes of philosophy: The one is "systematization" or systematic philosophy, which is "the criticism of generality from the specialism of science" (MT 4); this is a matter for experts. The other is "assemblage," which is the "survey of society from the standpoint of generality" (AI 97). In this aspect, philosophy is not the task of specialists but of citizens (AI 99).

In Adventures of Ideas, the standpoint of generality is lodged firmly in empirical, historical inquiry. Here, assemblage requires "a survey of possibilities and their comparison with actualities . . . [in which] the fact, the theory, the alternatives, and the ideal are weighed together" (AI 98; my italics). On this reading, assemblage is not a transcendent principle of criticism, abstract vis-a-vis any concrete, particular situation. Rather, it maintains its foothold in particularity -- in the analyses of actual situations or problems, the contention among interpretations and alternative solutions, the appreciation or the variety of vivid values or standpoints, the articulation of relevant ideals. Here, Whitehead argues that the philosophic mode of thought appropriate to morality requires a "standpoint of generality," informed by history, appreciative of diversity, and "undaunted by novelty" (AI 97-98).

I have argued elsewhere for a revisionist interpretation of this concept of assemblage (see GRV). To reiterate briefly here: assemblage is a mode of thought in which "relevant ideals" can only be given their concrete meaning and have their relevance tested in the context of our actual world. Now the obvious fact is that the actual or public world is characterized by various forms of injustice, which is to say, by values and structures that organize our common life in such a way as to obscure, distort, and deny the essential fact that we have our world -- and our humanity -- in common. Assemblage, that standpoint of generality which weighs together facts, theories, alternatives, and ideals, must take its empirical cue, its ground of relevance, from the actual injustice of the world, exactly that it may be the bearer of "some imaginative novelty, relevant yet transcending traditional ways" (FR 66). What is needed is a principle of interpretation of the facts of the situation which is attentive to and adequate to these various forms of injustice. My proposal is that Whitehead’s notion of "assemblage" requires clarification and specification in terms of some definition of the issue at stake in the situation.2 Thus, far from being uncommitted to specific analyses of social issues, as Loomer would have it. a theology of relations appropriate to the feminist struggle for justice and to democratic citizenship would require such analyses. And, so interpreted, assemblage provides process thought with the method of social analysis requisite to moral judgment and the social struggle for justice and peace.

B. Relationality and the Politics of Mutual Persuasion

Secondly, Whitehead’s argument that we are constituted by our relationships envisions a worldliness and even a political sensibility that is mostly ignored in this dialogue between feminism and process thought.

Whitehead’s analysis of the nature of experience is politically significant in three respects.

I) In Science and the Modern World, Whitehead criticizes modern philosophy for its devaluation of the public realm (ontologically, epistemologically, ethically, politically, etc.); in his words, "there is no common world to think about" (SMW 84). It is my contention that his reinterpretation of the nature of experience seeks to make a persuasive case for the ontological possibility and intelligibility of public-regarding moral principles. The key here is the principle of relativity, the fact that the nature of a thing consists in its relations with other things. But Whitehead’s special concern is the relations among things which are actual (actual entities); these are the subject of his theory of "objective immortality." Objectification "refers to the particular mode in which the potentiality of one actual entity is realized in another actual entity" (category of explanation viii); objectification explains how the past becomes a component and a condition in the becoming of the present. Thus, in Whitehead’s marvelous phrase, every action is "a mode of . . . housing the world" (PR 80/124). The world becomes a "common world to think about" in that it is exemplified in the constitution of every actual entity or action (PR 7/Il, 148/224). This objectification of the world in action establishes both the solidarity and the intelligibility of the world. For the dictum of modem epistemology that "apart from the experiences of subjects there is nothing" does not, in this view, exclude the public world from its scope (PR 167/254). It is in the constitution of actuality or action that the world appears -- as it is, and as it might yet be.

This theme is elaborated in Whitehead’s discussion of perception in terms of the notion of "the withness of the body." In his critique of Descartes and Hume, Whitehead argues that, insofar as perception is limited to sense-data: "We have already done violence to our immediate conviction by thus thrusting the body out of the story, for, as Hume himself declares, we know that we see by our eyes, and taste by our palates" (PR 122/187). Perception of the contemporary world is a complex physical feeling characterized by the fact that "we feel with the body" (PR 311/474). Thus perception in the mode of presentational immediacy (sense-perception) involves both presentational objectification of a contemporary actuality as "the passive subject of relations and qualities" (AI 197), and causal objectification of the past in the present:

The conclusion is that the contemporary world is not perceived in virtue of its own proper activity, but in virtue of activities derived from the past, the past which conditions it and which also conditions the contemporary percipient. These activities are primarily in the past of the human body, and more remotely m the past of the environment within which the body is functioning. (AI 219)

In other words, the basis of perception is the various bodily organs "as passing on their experiences by channels of transmission and enhancement" (PR 119/181). Their experiences refer to the actual world. It is because contemporaries share a past or world transmitted through the body that their past and present importance and our mutual and moral responsibility for the future enter into our experience. Note here that, in Whitehead’s thought, bodiliness (the body basis of perception) introduces a certain worldliness into our experience as well.

2) My second point here has to do with Whitehead’s description of the "satisfaction," the final phase of the process of becoming of everything actual. The individuality of an actuality consists in its particular standpoint or "social location" in the actual world; in its creative synthesis of its world of actualities and potentialities; and in its "self-enjoyment of being one among many" (PR 145/220). This experience of being one among many is, of course, the very definition of the polis in the Greek tradition, and this description of the intrinsic character of experience in terms of the joy of solidarity carries a certain political sensibility right to the heart of individuality. If the "self-enjoyment of being one among many" is the height of individual self-realization, politics is integral rather than alienated vis-a-vis what it means to be human.

3) The other side of the coin of objective immortality is the self-transcendence inherent in action. Every action has consequences which establish a context of possibilities and limitations for future actions. In a word, action is power. But this power is, as we have seen in the discussion above, characterized by receptivity as well as agency, by mutuality. Power is grounded in the fact that our actions issue from and in a network, a web of relationships. In other words, it is the nature of power to form associations. That is so whether we are talking of giving birth or participating in a feminist organization. Whitehead himself recognizes the political significance of this power in his account of the historical development of human freedom. The turning point in the history of freedom, according to Whitehead’s version of the story, comes with St. Paul and the emergence of independent associations (namely, the churches) and, therewith, the freedom of "corporate" action as distinct from the freedom of individual thought or action. The point is that, in his analysis of the human venture in Adventures of Ideas, Whitehead develops an interpretation of human freedom as essentially political -- though he does not develop this line of argument. Nevertheless, it reminds us that public-regarding independent or voluntary associations (the churches, the abolitionist and suffrage movements and the feminist and other liberationist groups of our day) have, in this country and elsewhere, throughout our history, provided the organization of social criticism, the definition of moral vision and purpose, and the advocacy and impetus for changing the world.

Two lines of argument as to the nature of justice and the political struggle for justice seem to me to follow from these elements of worldliness and citizenship in the interpretation of the nature of experience. One: It seems to me that the sociality of human nature provides the basis on which to formulate a theory of human rights related to the creation and nurture of relationships, that is, rights of association. In other words, a Whiteheadian doctrine of human rights should be cast in terms of claims upon the social order for the protection and promotion of human capacities essential to the initiation, preservation, and transformation of relationships. The elaboration of this point must await another occasion.

Two: Whitehead’s primary contribution to a political process theology, however, is his argument for a politics of mutual persuasion. It is easy to misinterpret the argument for persuasion. In my view, the political significance of persuasion rests not only on the possibilities of mutuality and even harmony but also upon the inevitabilities of conflict. The principle of persuasion presupposes that the world is constituted by different standpoints, perspectives, and purposes -- that "Strife is at least as real a fact in the world as Harmony" (AI 32). Thus to speak of the creation of the world as "the victory of persuasion over force" is not an appeal to some pre-established harmony but an imperative to the non-violent resolution of conflict, on the grounds that violence, domination, and degradation cannot transform or transmute conflict into a creative and enduring generality of harmony or the public good. The paradigm of persuasion as the normative expression of power constitutes a fundamental critique of power as domination/subordination and violence.

Now, Whitehead’s insight that the politics of persuasion and the recourse to violence are antithetical rings true to me in the light of my work in the area of sexual and family violence, which has given me new eyes to see the destructive character of violence and the fear of violence. Indeed, we must discover and develop a more adequate theological interpretation of what it means to be human in the presence of God -- and of the multivalent violation of our humanity that violence represents. We must recognize in violence the distinction wreaked on body/spirit (they are not separate), on our capacities to think and speak and act, on our relationships, on the delight and joy which is our true end. But this, too, is another paper. In the face of the incredible levels of violence against women, the media glorification of violence as an effective and attractive way to solve problems, and the increasing dependence of governments on capabilities for violence of unprecedented potentialities -- we need to give serious energy, resources and the best of our human capacities to strategies for non-violent conflict resolution. In this context, the politics of relational power and mutual persuasion is the politics of solidarity for the sake of advocacy, advocacy of an end to violence and violation, advocacy of justice and peace.

C. Creativity and the Politics of Transformation

The connection of solidarity with advocacy brings me to my second concern in the dialogue between feminism and process thought. The politics of mutual persuasion is not just a process of non-violent conflict resolution. The fundamental purposiveness of human action, in process thought, liberates the principle of persuasion from the classical liberal emphasis on the priority of process by raising the question of "to what end?" Its raison d’être is those ideals, the realization of which in this or that occasion or group of occasions creates, sustains, and transforms the world. Thus, in mutual persuasion, a public world is created which rests not only on the instinctual or emotional basis of community but on thought, the imaginative consideration of relevant ideals.

It is important to remember the dipolarity of experience, [namely, that all experience is constituted by a "mental" as well as a "physical" pole]. Although all thought emerges out of and is responsive to the physical pole of experience, it is the conceptual pole that is the ground of human freedom. In Whitehead’s analysis of freedom, there are two moments or, more aptly, elements: the element of initiation of new and alternative possibilities, and the element of aesthetic integration of this new vision with the worldly and bodily past into some creative synthesis, culminating in the "self-enjoyment of being one among many." Now the weaving of the old and the new together in some richly textured, complexly designed, beautiful yet fitting cloth is critical here. But I want to emphasize the importance of imagination and its potential -- when teamed with solidarity -- for introducing new beginnings and so changing the world. Ultimately, the imagination of new possibilities is grounded in the vision and passion of God -- to which I shall return.

It is a cliché that Whitehead is a rationalist as well as an empiricist. My point is that the power of thinking in this mode of thought is not so much the power of logic (or of common sense) as the power of imagination of the possible, the power of sensitivity or appreciative consciousness regarding the actual, the power of empirical generalization (the airplane flight) and of mutual persuasion. In my view, imagination is key, because of its self- and world-transformative significance in an unjust world. But the very multivalence of conceptuality in process thought is worthy of some further consideration (see HE). I say this exactly because of the history of the exclusion of women from the institutional spaces of education and inquiry, as well as politics. We have been denied participation in the public realms of intellectual, political, and religious leadership, and we are aptly critical of the ways in which thinking and power have been expressed in our absence -- and ambivalent about their relevance in our own experience. We have begun the revisionist task with respect to power; we must do so, also, with respect to thinking. Whitehead’s philosophical system is not finally adequate, but his insight into the link between imagination and transformation suggests a possibly fruitful direction for our own feminist mode of inquiry.

D. Passion and the Religion of World-Loyalty

In Religion in the Making, Whitehead defines religion ("civilized" or "rational" religion, as he was wont to put it) as "world-loyalty" (RM 59). In this view, the politics of mutual persuasion and imaginative transformation, solidarity and advocacy, are essentially related to the religion of world-loyalty, a religiousness characterized not only by its standpoint of social criticism but by its lure to love of the world.

Let me turn from this definition of religion to the doctrine of the relation of God and the world which underlies and undergirds it -- and the politics of solidarity and advocacy. Specifically I want to address the question of the power of God in the World.

Whitehead rejects the concept of God as Holy Warrior, who parts the sea and closes it over Pharaoh and his army, in favor of the concept of God the Holy Poet, who wisely, carefully, patiently weaves together or, to change the metaphor, harmonizes the harmonies and discords. Now this shift in symbolism bears closer examination. According to G. Ernest Wright, the significance of warrior language for God is its affirmation of the political significance of the relation of God and the world vs. the reduction of this relation to the existential, individual relation of God to the self (OT 145). For Whitehead, God represents the perfection of persuasion rather than violence. And the symbol of God the Poet is apt, for, far from abandoning the political significance of the relation of God and the world, it could be interpreted to represent just that. We have only to remember the significance of poetry and song in every struggle for justice from the days of Miriam and Moses through the slave songs of this nation’s beginnings to the civil rights, peace, and feminist movements of our own era. Here, Whitehead articulates a concept of God as One whose vision of new possibilities and passion for their realization inspires and so empowers us. The point I want to emphasize here is the imagination of God. Whitehead’s God is One who is incredibly imaginative in the face of what we do and who perseveringly "confronts what is actual in [the world] with what is possible for it" (RM 153). By virtue of God’s vision, we may not perish, but change the world. Thus, God is the ground of the imagination toward transformation so critical to the politics of justice in an unjust world. We cannot say a priori what are the possibilities and limitations of transformation. In my view, one of the difficult tasks before us, as women dealing with violence and the threat of violence, as participants in the struggles for justice and peace, is discerning the new in our lives, naming and celebrating the changes.

We have already noted that process theology has rejected the doctrine of divine impassability in favor of a doctrine of divine suffering and joy in solidarity with the world. Moreover, process theology has rejected the doctrine of divine omnipotence in favor of a doctrine of divine freedom, power, and creativity which acknowledges the irreducible plurality of powers and freedoms in a world of creativities. God shares rather than abrogates our solidarity and our plurality. But God is absolutely unique by virtue of the perfection of the divine experience/understanding of the actual world and the divine vision of and passion for the good. Indeed, we should speak of God in terms of the perfection rather than the limitation of power, the perfection of the power of persuasion. Now persuasion -- or advocacy -- rightly interpreted, is a complex relationship with the world. It requires a discerning listening to the stories of suffering and joy, a disclosure of relevant possibilities, a love that will not let us go, and a word/song of judgment and grace that transforms and enables self and world transformation. On this point, Whitehead is clear. He is persistently and specifically critical of anti-democratic doctrines of God and the world, theologies of "a Divine Despot and a slavish Universe, each with morals of its kind" (Al 26, 36). In their stead, he articulates a concept of God as One whose love of the world (world-loyalty) is our salvation and the ultimate principle of human purpose and virtue. This concept of God as the lure to the creation of world-community represents a radical call to action in a world turning conflict not into complex harmony but into holocaust.

In conclusion and summary’ God is a unity (trinity?) of I) suffering with the worldly reality of injustice and violence in love (the consequent nature); 2) vision of new and alternative possibilities for the world (the primordial nature); and 3) passionate persuasion for the transformation of the world, passion for justice and peace, constitutive of the world as the initial aim of every creative act (the superjective nature). This unity of suffering love, vision, and passionate persuasion is the perfection of advocacy. This concept of God as Holy Advocate, calling us and empowering us to advocacy for justice and peace, can only strengthen the bond between process theology and feminism.



CST -- Bernard Meland. "How is Culture a Source for Theology?" Criterion 3:3 (Summer 1964).

FPT -- Feminism and Process Thought. Ed. Sheila Greeve Davaney. New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1981.

GF -- Peggy Ann Way. Growth and Finitude: Limitation in Pastoral Work and Thought. Diss.: Princeton Theological Seminary, 1979.

GRV -- Lois Gehr Livezey. "Goods, Rights, and Virtues: Toward an Interpretation of Justice in Process Thought." The Annual of the Society of Christian Ethics, 1986.

HE -- Bernard Meland. Higher Education and the Human Spirit. Chicago: Seminary Cooperative Bookstore, 1965.

OT -- G. Ernest Wright. The Old Testament and Theology. New York: Harper and Row, 1969.

OPJ -- Isabel Carter Heyward. Our Passion for Justice: Images of Power, Sexuality, and Liberation. New York: Pilgrim Press, 1984.

RG -- Isabel Carter Heyward. The Redemption of God: A Theology of Mutual Relation. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1982.

TAG -- Bernard Loomer. "Theology in the American Grain." Process Philosophy and Social Thought. Ed. John B. Cobb, Jr. and W. Widick Schroeder. Chicago: Center for the Scientific Study of Religion, 1981.

TCP -- Bernard Loomer. "Two Conceptions of Power." Process Studies 6:1 (Spring 1976).

WW -- Marjorie Suchocki. "Weaving the World." Process Studies 14:2 (Summer 1985).



1Henry Young and others argued this point at a conference on ‘Liberation in Process Thought and the Black Experience," Chicago, Illinois, November 8-9, 1985,

2 Some readers will recognize this argument for the priority of the issue in social analysis as the methodological clue to social ethics, developed by Alan B. Anderson and George W. Pickering in their study of CCCO and the color line in Chicago. See Alan B. Anderson, "The Search for Method in Social Ethics," in Belief and Ethics, edited by W. Widick Schroeder and Gibson Winter (Chicago: Center for the Scientific Study of Religion, 1978), 107-128; and Alan B. Anderson and George W. Pickering, Confronting the Color Line. The Broken Promise of the Civil Rights Movement in Chicago (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1986). See also Mary D. Pellauer, "Understanding Sexism," in Issues of Justice: Social Sources and Religious Meanings, ed. Warren R. Copeland and Roger D. Hatch (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1988), 127-152.