American Academy of Religions.
In November 1997 I went to the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religions in San Francisco. It was a huge gathering, several thousand. Interesting lectures, but as with all these meetings it is the contacts and the social events which are the most important aspects. This was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of the Women and Religion section. It was good to meet some of the people involved from the early days. One of the founders was Carol Christ, whose new book, The Rebirth of the Goddess, was the subject of a special panel (this was one of the reasons I went, as she had used one of my stories as an epilogue to the book). Nonetheless, there were no women presenting at the major plenary sessions, although lots of individual talks were by women. There was a move this time to form a Goddess Religions section, rather than treating it as a topic which occurs occasionally under other subject headings. It seems time to do this, and it is also interesting that very many biblical scholars now take it almost for granted that the religion of the Hebrews in biblical times included a goddess and was not a monotheistic religion of a male god.
Interesting, also, that a call in one session for scholars to relate their work more to the every-day world was answered coincidentally by several speakers in a session on feminist approaches to the bible, who insisted that part of the value of their work lay in the connections it could make with the wider community, and the support it could give to oppressed people. It was also noticeable that religious studies (and not only among the feminists) is one of the few scholarly disciplines that has made a positive response to the womanist and mujerista analyses made by Black and Hispanic women.
(Added 2005. While there are still regular sessions on aspects of goddess religion, these remain under the Women and Religion section and an independent section has not been created. There is now a section on Pagan Studies.)
Wood and Water 61, Winter Solstice 1997