Bearing Fruit in Due Season: Feminist Hermeneutics and the Bible in Worship

Article excerpt

Bearing Fruit in Due Season: Feminist Hermeneutics and the Bible in Worship. By Elizabeth J. Smith. Collegeville, Minn.: The Liturgical Press, 1999. viii + 248 pp. $29.95 (paper).

Elizabeth J. Smith holds a doctoral degree in liturgy from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, and is presently a parish priest in the Anglican Church of Australia. This combination of the academic and the pastoral is evident throughout this thoughtful and stimulating study of the use of Scripture in Christian worship from a feminist perspective. And indeed, the result not only "bears fruit," as the title suggests, but offers a rich and well-balanced feast for the reader.

The richness is found in Smith's careful and critical analysis of feminist approaches to biblical texts. Establishing the importance of the authority of scriptural texts that resides in the believing community, she then goes on to build on the pivotal work of Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza and of Sandra Schneiders. From a comparison of the approaches of these two influential scholars, Smith constructs a valuable model for assessing the use of Scripture in Christian worship. She also adds to the feast insightful and revealing critiques of Anglican studies in worship, history, and Scripture, drawing the reader's attention to the implications of these views for the question of women's ordination in the Anglican Church. Clearly, Smith does not limit herself to a review and critique of Anglican (or other) lectionary systems, but is concerned with the ways in which Scripture functions in Christian worship, as "problem, danger, even liability" for worshipers, as well as gift. She attends to the scriptural basis of prayer and hymnody, as well as reading and sermon. …