Sunstone Symposium met in Berkeley this weekend at the Pacific School of Religion. Sunstone is a liberal Mormon intellectual magazine that holds at least one Symposium every year. I went to the last one at the University of Utah, being in Salt Lake City at the right time, and now this one also being at the right place and right time, as a GTU grad student!
In the opening plenary on Saturday, GTU Dean Arthur Holder and Mormon professor Bob Rees spoke about the importance of interfaith in the work that they do. Dean Holder spoke about interfaith being central to the GTU mission since the very beginning. A Chair of Jewish Studies was appointed shortly after the GTU consortium of nine Christian seminaries began. There are now programs in Jewish Studies, Islamic Studies, and Buddhist Studies. We are not a formal program but there is a student-run website for Pagan Studies at the GTU. Bob Rees, also a member of the Marin Interfaith Council, spoke about the many blessings he has experienced by interfaith connections at the GTU and elsewhere. He was touched especially by being invited to participate in a student's Protestant ordination, as one of her mentors. Bob was also kind enough to mention me, his Wiccan student pursuing Mormon Studies, and a few people wanted to talk with me on account of that afterwards. He said he thought the folks in the BYU seminar must have found that a hoot! (Yes, they really did love me there.)
There was a strong emphasis on LGBTQ and women's issues this year. There was last year as well but this time the program seemed smaller and had fewer programs outside of these two major topics. However, a Mormon graduate of Columbine High School who was a freshwoman during the Columbine shooting led a program about responding to tragedy.
Saturday morning plenaries were: a conversation on Mormon Studies at the Graduate Theological Union and the academy, a panel "More Paint, Less Corner" on LGBTQ and LDS (Latter-day Saints) issues, and a panel of Roman Catholic and Mormon women in dialogue about women's ordination in their traditions. During the question and answer period, I expressed gratitude for their panel and asked the question, "What can Wiccan women [and others] do to support Mormon and Catholic women?" The four panelists appreciated my question and each responded. There were a variety of answers, including genuine appreciation for support from Wiccan women and concerns that such public support may not help their cause in the Roman Catholic church for example. The women are interested in forming bridges with us but also careful given the seriousness of their requests within the Catholic church. From my perspective, women vying for ordination are in a serious conflict as it is; they need our support not criticism. A young Roman Catholic Woman involved with Women's Ordination Conference asked that we listen with our full hearts, that we hear the bads and the goods...without judgement. There are many reasons why women choose to stay within their faith tradition even when it is patriarchal. The panelist asked that we hear their joys and their sorrows and continue to be in relationship with them. I can best interpret the overall requests as: Support but don't hover.