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Finding Me: A Woman's Theology of Self-Identification was written in partial fulfillment for my Master of Sacred Theology Degree from Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. The premise for this book is to take a specific look at women of faith who have had the eyes of their understanding opened as they read, reflected, and reassessed how they understand the Bible along with how they understand themselves in God's eyes. I identify some of the theological challenges that wrestling women are faced with, address some of the Christological limitations that they deal with, and demystify some of the anthropological barriers that they are constricted with.
This book will help women as well as men understand the danger in women disconnecting internally to engage externally. Let this book bring wholeness and healing to what it means to live, move, and have your being in the body of a woman.
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- Brenton D Dickieson
Terrible Book, Interesting Story, Doubtful Degrees
I read this book because I am curious about how Christian women rebuild their sense of self as women and Christians once they have faced the challenge of women’s experience in Christian history and theology. I was also curious because Rev. Dr. A'Shellarien Anthony is a woman of colour and her C.V. suggests education in Womanist Theology (i.e., feminist theologies of African-American women). She is also a practicing chaplain, so I was curious what distinctives she would bring at the intersection between African-American culture, pastoral theology, and her experience as a woman.
Unfortunately, this was a terribly disappointing book.
Though many of the conversation partners were good, there was no depth given to any topic and the bibliography is not very large. Anthony tended to rely on a small circle of thinkers. Although some of them were strong, I never got the sense, for example, that we were seeing the whole thought of Carol Christ, Letty Russell, or Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza. While over and over again she assures the full partnership and humanity of both women and men, Anthony never deals with the really hard challenges from feminist theology about history, violence, and patriarchal language. I appreciate the worlds she is trying to hold together, but I would have like to see more of that struggle. The biblical exegesis was highly selective and there was no critical hermeneutic for the book—no particular, single way to work through the issues.
There were some strengths, such as the section on liturgy. But there were other parts that were very puzzling, such as a list of programs that Anthony would like to implement. Bringing programming and pastoral experience into the text would have been welcome, but the lists of programs and topic headings for potential bible studies were just that—potential. She shared none of the experience of actually doing those programs, how they worked, and how the programs on the ground helped her to apply her feminist questions to intimate aspects of life in community. This would be a great future book, given her experience.
Beyond these weaknesses, the writing is uneven and repetitive. The movement between topics was awkward and difficult to trace. I had trouble understanding the organization of the book, as it seems that Anthony moves back and forth between topics. There is the central image of the “wrestling women” moving throughout the book, which I think is a creative and (to me, at least) new way of approaching the question in feminist theology. The leitmotif of “live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28) was a nice touch in feminist theology. But as a whole this was a poor book. My guess is that it is a series of master’s-level papers that were put together for a single book project.
A strength in a book like this would typically be the author’s story. I appreciated how she spoke of being marginalized growing up. The last couple of pages was the best of the whole book. I was disappointed there was not more about her approach in womanist theology, which is mostly part of the list of potential programs for girls and Bible studies. Even if the whole book was weak, at least we have the story—a story of liberation and hope. A couple of things disturbed me on this front, however.
First, Anthony comes from the intriguing collections of backgrounds that include Judaism, African American culture, and Christian fundamentalism. I don’t have a full picture of how that entire story plays out, but is her experience of being a woman non-human in synagogue a typical American Jewish experience? I’m just offering a caution that her experience may not have been normative (but still her own story).
Second, I came to have some doubts about whether I was being presented Anthony’s story as a real one.
When I began the book and was puzzled about how it was written, I decided to look up her credentials. She has graduate degrees in theology from a reputable urban seminary, but the “Dr” in her name on the book cover was a bit concerning. She claims in her Amazon biography to have a Doctorate of Theology in Biblical Theology from Almeda University. Any ThD or PhD should have a strong, full-length, research-based project well-rooted in theory. In LinkedIn she claims to have been doing her PhD from 2009-2011, three years following her master’s program at Lutheran Theological Seminary. While she was writing that PhD she also worked as a professor, chaplain, teacher, and business owner.
This would be a profound example of genius, except Almeda University is a fake degree program. Now closed, the CBC was able to purchase three advanced degrees from Almeda with no course work, including a PhD in Biblical Counselling. See here: https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/marketplace-diploma-mills-degrees-professor-1.4291437. These fake degrees—purchased the same year that Anthony graduated—cost $1550 and are part of the reason that Almeda was rejected from several states before closing. Of Almeda, one expert said, “Almeda has never been real, it's never been legitimately ... accredited by a recognized entity in its life, period.”
That Rev. Anthony uses Almeda University as a credential is disturbing. If Almeda decided to make Anthony do work in her doctoral program and this book is the result of her ThD “research,” then it is further demonstration that it is a fake degree. Though interesting at parts, and showing good potential, this book is not research quality. This review would have received two stars, but a lack of integrity in one’s leading credentials is cause for grave concern. It made the title of the book, “Finding Me,” somewhat doubtful for those of us invited to read her life.
Fortunately, Anthony’s influence is not great at this stage. The only other Goodreads review at the time of writing is by the author under a different last name (which, of course, might be an accident and not dishonesty, but there are concerns with profile).
Do not spend money on this book. There are dozens of better feminist theology books, including ones I have recently read by Sarah Bessey, Anna Fisk, and Sallie McFague. I should note that I am entirely in sympathy with Rev. Anthony’s views. I agree with her theological perspective almost entirely. There are a host of women who have made coherent books on feminist theology, but this is not one of them.
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