18 Asian Female Theologians You Should Know About (Plus Others For You To Explore)
18 Asian Female Theologians You Should Know About (Plus Others For You To Explore)
By Graham Hill and Jessie Giyou Kim
Some of the most creative and important theology being done today is being done by Asian female theologians. These Asian female theologians live in Asia and also among the diaspora (in North America, Europe, Australia, etc.). Many of them do classic and contextual theological work. But they are also often practitioner-theologians, pastor-theologians, or activist-theologians.
Asian females make up at least 30% of the world’s population (and even more when you include those living outside of Asia). But when you ask pastors, theological students, or even theologians to name Asian female theologians, they are often at a loss. Many can’t name any (or at best they can name only a few).
But the global movement of Asian women doing theology is growing and diverse. And it is becoming increasingly prominent and influential. Kwok Pui-lan talks about the diversity and importance of Asian female theologians, this way:
“More than half of the world’s population live in Asia, a multicultural and multireligious continent that has undergone tremendous transformation during the past several decades. From Japan to Indonesia, and from the Philippines to Central Asia, people live in different socio-political realities and divergent cultural worlds. Divided into at least seven linguistic zones, Asia is also the birthplace of the major historical religions of humankind.” Kwok Pui-lan goes on to say,
18 Asian female theologians you should know about (plus others for you to explore) Click To Tweet
“Asian women comprise more than a quarter of the world’s population. They live on a fascinating multilingual, multireligious, and multiracial continent” and in diaspora all over the world. Asian cultures have “diverse eating habits, ways of life, and social and cultural realities.” Asian female theological voices are shaped by “immense cultural and religious diversity,” and are “pluralistic and multivocal, woven out of many separate strands.”
As we learn from Asian female theologians, it is important to remember that their voices are diverse and many. As Rita Nakashima Brock says, “We differ as much from each other in culture and language as we do from white, Eurocentric feminism,” or from white male authors.
Unfortunately, the ignorance about Asian female theologians and their writings is widespread and persistent. It is due time for this to change. The local and global church needs the voices and contributions of Asian women. These Asian female voices enrich our theology, revitalize our churches, and renew the world.
For this reason, we have decided to feature 18 Asian female theologians you should know about. We have chosen these 18 because they have been influential in our personal lives and how we think about and practice our faith and theology. And at the end of this article we offer 114 more Asian female theologians whose work we are growing to admire and enjoy. (Note: This is a series we are running profiling female theologians — see our other article in this series, “18 Latin American Female Theologians You Should Know About”).
18 Asian (and Asian American) Female Theologians You Should Know About
Here are the 18 Asian female theologians that everyone should know about and read.
Aruna Gnanadason was formerly the Executive Director for Planning and Integration in the General Secretariat of the World Council of Churches. She was Coordinator of the Justice Peace and Creation Team and of the Women’s Programme of the World Council of Churches before taking up that position. She has a doctorate in ministry from the San Francisco Theological Seminary, and three honorary doctorates. Aruna comes from India and belongs to the Church of South India.
Aruna Gnanadason writes about creation care and eco-feminist theology, globalization and local cultures, women and faith, peacemaking and leading nonviolent change, and addressing violence against women. Her publications include “Asian Women in the Ecumenical Movement: Voices of Resistance and Hope” (2017), “Jesus and the Asian Woman: A Post-colonial Look at the Syro-Phoenician Woman/Canaanite Woman from an Indian Perspective” (2001), Listen to the Women! Listen to the Earth! (2005), Women, Violence and Nonviolent Change (ed.) (2009), and Creator God in Your Grace, Transform the Earth: An Eco-Feminist Ethic of Resistance, Prudence and Care (2012).
Chung Hyun Kyung
Chung Hyun Kyung is Associate Professor of Ecumenical Theology at Union Theological Seminary. She writes about feminist and eco-feminist theologies, Third World spiritualities, Christ-Buddhist dialogues, mysticism and social movements, and the contributions and uniqueness of Asian Christian theologies.
In Struggle to Be in the Sun Again, Chung Hyun Kyung writes the following about being an Asian female theologian: “Doing theology is a personal and a political activity. As a Korean woman, I do theology in search of what it means to be fully human in my struggle for wholeness and in my people’s concrete historical fight for freedom” (1990: 1). In an interview with Zion’s Herald, she challenges the Western dominance of Third World theologies and perspectives: “I think in order to really heal the world we need the ‘wisdom of darkness.’ This can be the Third World, dark people, women, or our ‘shadows,’… all the things we do not want to confront within ourselves, so we project them onto others and call them terrorists. So, I think that we need ‘endarkenment’ for a while, not enlightenment, to heal the world.”
Chung Hyun Kyung’s publications include Struggle to Be the Sun Again: Introducing Asian Women’s Theology (1990), “‘Han-pu-ri’: Doing Theology from Korean Women’s Perspective” (1988), “Seeking the Religious Roots of Pluralism” (1997), “Asian Christologies and People’s Religions” (1996), and “Ecology, Feminism and African and Asian Spirituality: Towards a Spirituality of Eco-feminism” (1994).
Elizabeth “Lisa” Yao-Hwa Sung
Elizabeth (Lisa) Sung is a Protestant systematic theologian serving as a visiting Professor of Theology at University of Saint Mary of the Lake / Mundelein Seminary. Prior to that she was Associate Professor in the Department of Biblical and Systematic Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. She has received fellowships from the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning and the Carl F. Henry Center for Theological Understanding. She is a member of the American Academy of Religion and the Evangelical Theological Society. Dr Sung also teaches in the course “Global Theologies”, offered by seminaries within the Roman Catholic, mainline Protestant, and evangelical Protestant traditions.
Elizabeth (Lisa) Sung’s writings focus on theological hermeneutics, theological anthropology, the intersections between theology and science and culture, and theologies of sanctification and spiritual formation. Her publications include “Race” and Ethnicity Discourse and the Christian Doctrine of Humanity: A Systematic Sociological and Theological Appraisal (2011), “‘Racial Realism’ in Biblical Interpretation and Theological Anthropology: A Systematic-Theological Evaluation of Recent Accounts” (2015), and “‘Race’ and Ethnicity Discourse and the Christian Doctrine of Humanity: A Systematic Sociological and Theological Approach” (2011). She is currently engaged in two major writing projects: a volume on theological anthropology for the multi-author systematic theology textbook series, Foundations of Evangelical Theology, and a book that analyzes, critiques, and reconstructs racial identity in light of Scripture and sociology.
Grace Ji-Sun Kim
Grace Ji-Sun Kim is an Associate Professor of Theology at Earlham School of Religion. Englewood Review of Books listed Intersectional Theology (co-written with Susan Shaw) as one of the Best Theology Books of 2018. Healing Our Broken Humanity (co-written with Graham Hill) was included in Englewood Review of Books list of Best Books of 2018. Grace Ji-Sun Kim is a member of the Board of Directors for the American Academy of Religion. She served on the American Academy of Religion’s (AAR) “Research Grants Jury Committee” and was co-chair of AAR’s steering committee, “Women of Color Scholarship, Teaching and Activism Group.” She sits on the editorial board for the Journal for Religion and Popular Culture and is a referee for 3 journals, including the Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Religion. She is an Advisory Board Member for the Center for Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School.
Grace Ji-Sun Kim is the author or editor of 16 books, and she writes about a wide range of topics, including feminist and post-colonial theologies, Asian-American and intersectional theologies, climate justice and racial reconciliation, and intercultural ministry. Her publications include Healing Our Broken Humanity: Practices for Revitalizing the Church and Renewing the World (co-written with Graham Hill) (2018), Intersectional Theology: An Introductory Guide (co-written with Susan Shaw) (2018), Embracing the Other: The Transformative Spirit of Love (2015), and Making Peace with the Earth: Action and Advocacy for Climate Justice (2016).
Grace Yia-Hei Kao
Grace Yia-Hei Kao is Professor of Ethics at Claremont School of Theology. She serves as the co-director of the Center for Sexuality, Gender and Religion (CSGR), and serves on the steering committees of the Animals and Religion Group (ARG), and the Women of Color Scholarship, Teaching, and Activism Group (WOCSTAG) of the American Academy of Religion. She is on the Board of Advisors of the Pacific, Asian, and North American Asian Women in Theology and Ministry (PANAAWTM), and serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Religious Ethics (JRE), the Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics (JSCE), and the Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Religion (JRER).
Grace Yia-Hei Kao’s writings focus on human and animal rights, religion in the public space, ecofeminism, and Asian American Christianity. Her publications include Grounding Human Rights in a Pluralist World (2011), Asian American Christian Ethics: Voices, Methods Issues (ed.) (2015), and Encountering the Sacred: Feminist Reflections on Women’s Lives (ed.) (2018).
Havilah Dharamraj is a Langham Scholar, and serves as Academic Dean and Professor of Old Testament at South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies (SAIACS) in Bangalore, India. Her academic degrees are in biochemistry and theology, and she has a PhD from the University of Durham, UK.
Havilah Dharamraj’s research centers on Old Testament biblical and theological studies, and innovation in theological education and ministry training. Her publications include Altogether Lovely: A Thematic and Intertextual Reading of the Song of Songs (South Asian Theology) (2018), South Asia Bible Commentary: A One-Volume Commentary on the Whole Bible (ed.) (2015), Challenging Tradition: Innovation in Advanced Theological Education (ed.) (2018), A Prophet Like Moses?: A Narrative – Theological Reading of the Elijah Stories (2011), and “We Reap What We Sow: Engaging Curriculum and Context in Theological Education” (2014).
Henriette Marianne Katoppo
Henriette Marianne Katoppo was an Indonesian feminist theologian and novelist, whose novels and theological works received international acclaim. She was a pioneer in Asian feminist theology, and used Asian stories and myths to interpret theology; presenting God as a mother and Mary as the complete woman. Fluent in a dozen Asian and European languages, she spearheaded Asian feminist theology in the 1970s – at a time when Asian theologies and Asian feminist theologies were mostly unknown in the West. Her novels captured the imagination of Indonesian society, and her novel Raumanenwon first prize at the Jakarta Arts Council Novel Competition.
Henriette Marianne Katoppo’s publications include Raumanen (a novel republished in 2018), Compassionate and Free: An Asian Woman’s Theology (2000), “Conversion: An Asian Women’s Experience: From Tribal Priestess to Social Critic” (1979), “Structures of Communion and Structures of Domination: A Biblical Reflection on Genesis 1:1 to 4:22” (1992), “Women That Make Asia Alive” (1986), “Asian Theology: An Asian Woman’s Perspective” (1981), “Women in Asia” (1983), “Woman’s Image of Herself” (1984), and “Jail was a Healthy Lesson on Freedom” (1980).
Julie C. Ma
Julie C. Ma is Associate Professor of Missions and Intercultural Studies at Oral Roberts University. She has also taught at the Asia Pacific Theological Seminary in the Philippines, and at the Oxford Center Mission Studies in Oxford, UK. She has authored and edited numerous books, often with her husband Wonsuk Ma. She served as the president of the Asia Pentecostal Society from 2014–2015.
Julie C. Ma writes about Asian theology, Asian expressions of Christianity, Pentecostal pneumatology, mission in the Spirit, Pentecostalism in Asian and Confucian societies, and evangelism and church planting. Her publications include When the Spirit Meets the Spirits: Pentecostal Ministry Among the Kankana-ey Tribe in the Philippines (2010), Mission Possible: Biblical Strategies for Reaching the Lost (2005), Mission in the Spirit: Towards a Pentecostal/Charismatic Missiology (with Wonsuk Ma) (2011), Asian Church and God’s Mission (with Wonsuk Ma) (2003), “Korean Pentecostal Spirituality: A Case Study of Jashil Choi” (2002), “The Holy Spirit in Mission” (2015), and “The Role of Christian Women in the Global South” (2014).
Kathy Khang is a writer, speaker, theologian, and activist, who has spent more than 20 years in parachurch ministries, mostly focusing on college students and also training Christian organizations and church leaders. She writes about the intersections between faith, culture, and gender. Kathy Khang’s books and articles explore the ways the church can engage in the ministry of reconciliation, and in amplifying the voices of those who are silenced because of their ethnicity or gender, and in genuine social change.
Kathy Khang’s publications include Raise Your Voice: Why We Stay Silent and How to Speak Up (2018), More Than Serving Tea: Asian American Women on Expectations, Relationships, Leadership and Faith (co-author) (2006), “Dear White Santa” (2018), “Dear White Santa (The Sequel)” (2018), “Opting Out of the Back-White Binary: A Korean American on Filling in the Gaps of Our Collective History” (2016), and “Resistance Takes Action” (2017).
Kwok Pui-lan is the Distinguished Visiting professor of Theology at Candler School of Theology, and is the former William F. Cole Professor of Christian Theology and Spirituality at Episcopal Divinity School. She has taught theology at major universities and seminaries all over the world, including the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Auburn Theological Seminary, Union Theological Seminary, and Yale Divinity School.
Kwok Pui-lan researches and writes about Asian and feminist theologies, postcolonial theology, biblical hermeneutics, ecotheology, Asian Christologies, and the theological perspectives, spiritual experiences, and biblical interpretations of Asian women and marginalized peoples. Integrating postcolonial and feminist theologies in order to do justice to the experiences of the women of the Third World (Majority World), Kwok Pui-lan explores the theological intersections between gender, race, class, culture, poverty, colonialism, sexuality, religion, the arts, story, and liturgy.
Kwok Pui-lan has written or edited over 20 books, and her publications include Occupy Religion: Theology of the Multitude (2012), Postcolonial Imagination and Feminist Theology (2005), Introducing Asian Feminist Theology (2000), Discovering the Bible in the Non-Biblical World (1995), Chinese Women and Christianity, 1860–1927 (1992), and Hope Abundant: Third World and Indigenous Women’s Theology (2010).
Sydney Park is Associate Professor of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School, teaching biblical interpretation and New Testament theology. Her writings cover such topics as New Testament theology, Asian American church life and theology, biblical theology of women, and racial reconciliation. Her publications include The Post-Racial Church: A Biblical Framework for Multiethnic Reconciliation (2011), Submission within the Godhead and the Church in the Epistle to the Philippians: An Exegetical and Theological Examination of the Concept of Submission in Philippians 2 and 3 (2007), Honoring the Generations: Learning with Asian North American Congregations (ed.) (2012), and A Biblical Theology of Women (2019).
Melba Padilla Maggay
Melba Padilla Maggay lives in the Philippines. She’s a writer, theologian, political activist, sociologist, and highly respected Christian leader. She’s the founder and director of the Institute for Studies in Asian Church and Culture (ISACC), based in Quezon City in the Philippines. Melba Padilla Maggay gained international prominence and acclaim through her writings, through her social and political leadership, and through her work to transform broken communities. She was instrumental in organizing the Protestant presence at the EDSA barricades during the February People Power Uprising in the Philippines in 1986. Melba founded ISACC, which has a vision “to see the gospel of Christ so rooted in Asian cultures that they are engaged by its values and empowered to become societies of justice and righteousness. Our mission is to creatively witness to the Lordship of Jesus in all of life by penetrating cultures with the values of the Kingdom and engaging the powers towards social transformation.” ISACC is a research and training organization that offers courses and training, and that also engages in political advocacy and community transformation programs.
Melba Padilla Maggay writes about Asian theology, transforming society, multicultural ministry and communicating cross-culturally, serving among the urban poor, integral mission, contextualization through Asian eyes, political theology, and social anthropology. Her publications include Transforming Society (1994), Rise Up & Walk: Religion and Culture in Empowering the Poor (2016), A Clash of Cultures: Early American Protestant Missions and Filipino Religious Consciousness (2011), A Faith for the Emptiness of Our Time (1990),Global Kingdom, Global People: Living Faithfully in a Multicultural World (2017), and Integral Mission: Biblical Foundations (2016). Her articles include “Confronting the Powers” (2009), “Why Poor Are Always With Us: A Filipino Christian’s Propositions” (2009), “Excluded Voices: Women, Communications, and the Church in Asia” (1995), and “To Respond to Human Need By Loving Service” (2008).
Muriel Orevillo-Montenegro is a professor of theology in the Divinity School of Silliman University in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, the Philippines. She is also the Director of the Justice and Peace Center at that university. Her research and writing focuses on Asian feminist theology and Christologies that are adequate for Asian women. For Muriel Orevillo-Montenegro, Western Christologies are insufficient for Asian women, who need to discover and talk and theologize about Jesus out of their own experience, hopes, understandings, and languages. In her book The Jesus of Asian Women, Muriel Orevillo-Montenegro shows how South Korean feminist theologies and Christologies give rich insight into ecotheology and creation care, how Filipina Christologies offer new insights into liberation theologies, and how Hong Kong and postcolonial feminist theologies help us see Jesus in fresh ways. Muriel Orevillo-Montenegro concludes with the following. “Overall, the Jesus of Asian women is the Asian Christ who accompanies them in their daily struggles for liberation from all forms of oppression and suffering. This Christ seeks to engage with religions, cultures, and indigenous spiritualities to make life flourish for every living being.” (194).
Muriel Orevillo-Montenegro shows how Christian ethics must have a transformational role. This is especially the case when Christian ethics address the marginalized women of Asia. She shows how Asian women are developing indigenous Christologies and associated ethical practices. These can have a transforming effect on women in India, Korea, the Philippines, and Hong Kong. For example, Muriel Orevillo-Montenegro writes of the plight of many young girls in the Philippines. Cartels traffic these girls for sex with foreign tourists. The legal and policing systems that should protect these girls ignore and abuse them. She writes how Filipino women’s voices are rising. They are seeking justice.
Muriel Orevillo-Montenegro shows how Filipino women are exploring the person and work of Jesus afresh. They are meeting Jesus, the Wounded Healer, as wounded healers. In The Jesus of Asian Women she writes, “Filipino women must face the challenge to keep going, to embody Christ in accompanying the people in their journey out of the bondage of evil. Her prophetic ministry, her dances, her songs and rituals, must provide healing and inspiration to the wounded spirits out there.” (157).
Muriel Orevillo-Montenegro’s publications include The Jesus of Asian Women (Women from the Margins Series) (2006), “Capitalism as Religion: When Does the Cycle End?” (2013), “Revisiting and Reclaiming Incarnation: An Asian Woman’s Christological Journey” (2012), and “Why Are Some People Cast So Low? Feminist Theology and the Problem of Evil” (2000).
Namsoon Kang is Professor of Theology and Religion at Brite Divinity School, having formerly served on the Faculty of Divinity at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom and the Methodist Theological University in South Korea. She is president of the World Conference of Associations of Theological Institutions (WOCATI) and on the global faculty for the Global Ecumenical Theological Institute. Namsoon Kang’s writings focus on apophatic theology/philosophy, deconstruction, postmodernism, ecumenism, postcolonialism, gender studies, diaspora theology, human rights and justice, hospitality, and postcolonial mission.
Namsoon Kang’s publications include Handbook of Theological Education in World Christianity: Theological Perspectives, Ecumenical Trends, Regional Surveys (co-editor) (2010), Cosmopolitan Theology: Reconstituting Planetary Hospitality, Neighbor-Love, and Solidarity in an Uneven World (2013), Postcolonial Mission: Power and Partnership in World Christianity (co-editor) (2011), Diasporic Feminist Theology: Asia and Theopolitical Imagination (2014), “God in Your Grace, Transform Our Churches” (2006), “Theology From a Space Where Postcolonialism and Feminism Intersect” (2013), “Towards Healing and Reconciliation of ‘Regardless’: Radicalizing Christian Mission for Today” (2005), and “The Centrality of Gender Justice in Prophetic Christianity and the Mission of the Church Reconsidered” (2005).
Nikki Toyama-Szeto is Executive Director of Evangelicals for Social Action (ESA), having previously served with International Justice Mission, the Urbana Conference, and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. She speaks and trains leaders globally—past engagements include speaking for Tearfund (Nepal), Centro Esdras (Guatemala), Christian Community Development Association (USA), and Billy Graham Center (USA). Nikki Toyama-Szeto has served on the Third Lausanne Congress (2010), and on the boards of Interserve USA, Missio Alliance, and Casa Chiralagua. She serves as a “Leading Voice” for Missio Alliance, and her ministry was profiled in Christianity Today’s, “Who’s Next?” and Rejuvenate Magazine’s “40 under 40”. Her insights about peace, theology, and justice are rooted in ministry among the poor and marginalized peoples in Nairobi, Cairo, Bangkok, and major cities in the United States.
Nikki Toyama-Szeto writes about shalom, justice, the kingdom of God, Asian American female Christian faith and experiences, and racial reconciliation. Her publications include God of Justice: The IJM Institute Global Church Curriculum (2015), More Than Serving Tea: Asian American Women on Expectations, Relationships, Leadership and Faith (co-editor) (2006), Partnering With the Global Church (2012), “Recovering Prayer and Discernment in Our Agendas and Strategies” (2016), and “More Than Serving Tea: One Asian Woman’s Journey to the Real Jesus” (2008).
Rita Nakashima Brock
Rita Nakashima Brock is Senior Vice President of Volunteers of America Moral Injury programs. She was formerly the Founding Co-Director of the Soul Repair Center at Brite Divinity School, and a theology professor for twenty years. Previously, she directed the Fellowship Program at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, a prominent advanced research institute, and from 2001-2002, she was a Fellow at the Harvard Divinity School Center for Values in Public Life.
Rita Nakashima Brock writes about spirituality and moral injury, theologies of war and peace, theologies of peace and suffering, postcolonial and feminist theologies, human sexuality and liberation, and ecotheology and creation care. She was the first Asian American woman to earn a doctorate in Theology (Claremont Graduate University, 1988) and to serve on the Board of Directors of the American Academy of Religion.
Rita Nakashima Brock does not self-identify as an Asian female theologian, but as an Asian American feminist theologian. Her publications (many of her books are co-authored) include Proverbs of Ashes : Violence, Redemptive Suffering, and the Search for What Saves Us (2002), Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion and Empire (2008), Journeys by Heart: A Christology of Erotic Power (1988), Casting Stones: Prostitution and Liberation in Asia and the United States (1996), Saving Paradise: Recovering Christianity’s Forgotten Love for this Earth (2012), Soul Repair: Recovering from Moral Injury after War (2013), “What Has Occupy Got to Do with Feminist Liberation Theology?” (2013), “Communities of the Cross: Christa and the Communal Nature of Redemption” (2005), “The Fiction of Church and State Separation: A Proposal for Greater Freedom of Religion” (2002), and “A Witness For/From Life: Writing Feminist Theology as an Act of Resisting Violence—Responses to Proverbs of Ashes: Violence, Redemptive Suffering, and the Search for What Save Us” (2002).
Sarah Shin is the Associate National Director of Evangelism at InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF). She is an acclaimed speaker and trainer, whose writing and speaking focus on ethnicity, evangelism, and the arts. She is especially passionate about helping Christian integrate evangelism with ethnic reconciliation, justice, beauty, and technology. She explores how our brokenness around ethnicity can be healed and restored. Sarah Shin’s book Beyond Colorblind also helps Christians develop cross-cultural skills, manage cross-cultural conflict, pursue reconciliation and justice, and share the gospel as ethnicity-aware Christians.
Sarah Shin’s publications include “Racial Difference Without Division: The Power of an Ethnicity-Honoring Witness” (2017), Beyond Colorblind: Redeeming Our Ethnic Journey (2017), and Moving Beyond Colorblind: A Resource Guide for Churches and Organizations (2018).
Wonhee Anne Joh
Wonhee Anne Joh is Professor of Theology and Culture at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. She researches and writes about constructive theology, transpacific Asian American studies/theologies, empire and post/decolonial studies, war, migration, militarism, carcerality, race, gender, sexuality, cold war, trauma studies, affect theory, global anti-colonial movements, and emergent political theologies. Wonhee Anne Joh’s book Heart of the Cross is critically acclaimed. “Utilizing the Korean concept of jeong, Joh constructs a theology that is feminist, political and love-centered, while acknowledging the cross as source of pain and suffering. Joh’s innovative vision is a call for political love that is stronger than powers of oppression.” (From the book’s description). The book constructs a Christology rooted in Wonhee Anne Joh’s Asian/Korean American experience, and in dialogue with post-colonial, liberationist, feminist, psychoanalytical, and post-structuralist theories.
Wonhee Anne Joh’s publications include Heart of the Cross: A Postcolonial Christology (2006), Critical Theology against US Militarism in Asia: Decolonization and Deimperialization (New Approaches to Religion and Power) (ed.) (2016), Double Gesture on the Cross: Toward a Postcolonial Feminist Christology of Jeong (2003), and “A Postcolonial Spectrality of the Cross” (2013).
Listening and Learning from More Than Half of the Church
Women make up more than half of the church. Asian women make up more than a quarter of the church’s population. It is time for us all to listen to women’s voices, honor their contributions, follow their examples of reconciliation and ministry and activism, and learn from their theological writing and thoughts. As Juliany González Nieves says, “It is time that we get to know the faces and hear the voices of the women doing theology across the globe.”
114 More Asian (and Asian American) Female Theologians You Should Know About
We chose the 18 Asian female theologians featured in this article not because they are necessarily more important than other Asian female theologians, but rather because these 18 have been influential in our personal spiritual formation, in our lives, and in our theology. But as we’ve continued to read the writings of Asian women, we’ve grown to value and enjoy many more.
Here are 114 more Asian female theologians that we are currently reading and who are becoming increasingly important in our lives and how we approach our theology, witness, reconciliation, worship, and discipleship. These are 114 more Asian female theologians we think you should know about and read. We also offer some examples of their books or articles.
Please note two things:
- The books and articles we provide are representative works, and not exhaustive lists for each theologian.
- This is not an exhaustive list of Asian and Asian American female theologians. This is a work-in-progress, and we will continue to update this list over the coming months and years. Please feel free to email us with other female theologians you think we should add to this list – [email protected]
We hope that you, like us, will grow to love and value the work of Asian female theologians and activists. If you think we should add an Asian (or Asian American, or Asian American feminist) female theologian, biblical scholar, or theologian-activist to this list, please let us know!
Agnes M. Brazal – Intercultural Church: Bridge of Solidarity in the Migration Context (2015), Feminist Cyberethics in Asia: Religious Discourses on Human Connectivity (ed.) (2014), Transformative Theological Ethics: East Asian Contexts (ed.) (2011), and Church in an Age of Global Migration: A Moving Body (ed.) (2016).
Andrea Lizares Si – Body and Sexuality: Theological-Pastoral Perspectives of Women in Asia (ed.) (2004).
Angie Hong – “Advent and Activism” (2015), “Ugly Cries in Church: Why is it So Hard to Find Songs of Lament in Worship?” (2015), and “Equals at the Table” (in Intercultural Ministry) (2017).
Anna Marsiana – “Leadership and Power Relations in Social Movements” (In God’s Image, vol. 29, no. 2 (2010): 38–47).
Anna Sui Hluan – Silence in Translation: Interpreting 1 Corinthians 14:34–35 in Myanmar (2016).
Anne Dondapati Allen – “No Garlic, Please, We Are Indian: Reconstructing the De-eroticized Indian Woman” (in Off the Menu: Asian and Asian North American Women’s Religion and Theology) (2007).
Astrid Lobo-Gajiwala – Practicing Peace: Feminist Theology of Liberation, Asian Perspectives (ed.) (2011).
Athena Gorospe – God at the Borders: Globalization, Migration and Diaspora (co-author) (2015), and Judges (Asia Bible Commentary Series) (co-author) (2016).
Barbara M. Leung Lai – Glimpsing the Mystery: The Book of Daniel (2016).
B. Yuki Schwartz – “Shame on the Trinity: Agamben’s The Kingdom and the Glory and the Theopolitics of Shame” (2012), “Bodies of Empire: Toward a US Multiracial Theology in the Shadow of the Cold War” (2012), and “Secret Identities: Mimicry, Stereotype and Identity Negotiation in Gene Yang’s American Born Chinese” (2010).
Chandra Talpade Mohanty – Feminism without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity (2003), and Feminism and War: Confronting U.S. Imperialism (ed.) (2008). Mohanty is not a theologian, but her acclaimed work offers excellent insight into postcolonial transnationalist Asian feminist theory.
Chloe Sun – Love Already but not Yet: A Commentary on the Song of Songs (2016), Coming from God: A Daily Devotional based on the Hebrew Text of Exodus (2014), and The Ethics of Violence in the Story of Aqhat (2013).
Christine J. Hong – Identity, Youth, and Gender in the Korean American Christian Church (2015).
Courtney T. Goto – The Grace of Playing: Pedagogies for Leaning into God’s New Creation (2016), and Taking on Practical Theology: The Idolization of Context and the Hope of Community (2018).
Diane G. Chen – Let Me More of Their Beauty See: Reading Familiar Verses in Context (2011), God as Father in Luke-Acts (2005), and Luke: A New Covenant Commentary (2017).
Dwi Maria Handayani – “Female Evangelical Scholars in Indonesia: A Crisis or Opportunity?” (2017), and “Proverbs as Theology” (2018).
Elaine Wei Fun Goh – “Political Wisdom in the Book of Ecclesiastes” (2016), and “An Intertextual Reading of Ruth and Proverbs 31:10-31, With a Chinese Woman’s Perspective” (2015).
Emma Silva Smith – “Called to Remain” (in Voices Rising: Women of Color Finding and Restoring Hope in the City) (2018).
Eunny P. Lee – The Vitality of Enjoyment in Qohelet’s Theological Rhetoric (2005).
Evangeline Anderson Rajkumar – “Practicing Gender Justice as a Faith Mandate in India” (2007), and “Mission from a Dalit Perspective, Mission Paradigm in the New Millennium” (2000).
Eyingbeni Humtsoe-Nienu – Prayers and Litanies for All Occasions: Resource for Christian Living, Worship and Ceremonies (2018).
Gabriele Dietrich – Women’s Movement in India: Conceptual and Religious Reflections (1988), Reflections on the Women’s Movement in India: Religion, Ecology, Development (1992), Towards Understanding Indian Society (1998), and A New Thing on Earth: Hopes and Fears Facing Feminist Theology: Theological Ruminations of a Feminist Activist (2001).
Gale A. Yee – The Hebrew Bible: Feminist and Intersectional Perspectives (ed.) (2018), Composition and Tradition in the Book of Hosea: A Redaction Critical Investigation (1987), and Poor Banished Children of Eve: Woman as Evil in the Hebrew Bible (2003). Gale A. Yee self-identifies as an Asian American feminist biblical scholar.
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Grace M. Cho – Haunting the Korean Diaspora: Shame, Secrecy, and the Forgotten War (2008).
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Helen Kiyong Kim – JewAsian: Race, Religion, and Identity for America’s Newest Jews (2017).
Helen Lee – The Missional Mom: Living with Purpose at Home & in the World (2011), and Growing Healthy Asian American Churches: Ministry Insights from Groundbreaking Congregations (ed.) (2006).
Hisako Kinukawa – Women and Jesus in Mark: A Japanese Feminist Perspective (1994), and Migration and Diaspora: Exegetical Voices of Women in Northeast Asian Countries (2014).
Hope S. Antone – “Models of Learning/Teaching Ecumenism in Asia” (in Asian Handbook for Theological Education and Ecumenism (Regnum Studies in Global Christianity) (Antone is co-editor of this book) (2013), “Towards a New Paradigm in the Concepts of Mission” (2008), “Peace-building for Women and Children in Asia” (2005), and “Learning to Live in Oikoumene: Doing Ecumenical Formation in Asia” (2005).
Ivy Singh – Voices from Narmada: Doing Ecofeminist Theology (2009).
Jaisy Joseph – The Struggle For Identity Among Syro-Malabar Catholics (2009), “No Longer Bearing the Cross Alone” (2018), and “The Decentered Vision of Diaspora Space: Theological Ethnography, Migration, and the Pilgrim Church” (2018).
Janelle S. Wong – Immigrants, Evangelicals, and Politics in an Era of Demographic Change (2015), and Asian American Political Participation: Emerging Constituents and Their Political Identities (co-author) (2011).
Jane Naomi Iwamura – “Ancestral Returns: Examining the Horizons of Asian American Religious Practice” (in Off the Menu: Asian and Asian North American Women’s Religion and Theology) (2007), Virtual Orientalism: Asian Religions and American Popular Culture (2011), and Revealing the Sacred in Asian and Pacific America (2003).
Janet Balasiri Singleterry – “Girl, You Need Jesus!” (in Voices Rising: Women of Color Finding and Restoring Hope in the City) (2018).
Janette H. Ok – Who You are No Longer: Constructing Ethnic Identity in 1 Peter (2018), and “You Have Become Children of Sarah: Reading 1 Peter 3:1-6 through the Intersectional Lens of Asian Immigrant Wives, Honorary Whiteness, and the Oriental Feminine Mystique” (2019).
Jayachitra Lalitha – Re-Reading Household Relationships Christologically: Ephesians, Empire and Egalitarianism (2017), Teaching All Nations: Interrogating the Matthean Great Commission (ed.) (2014), and Evangelical Postcolonial Conversations: Global Awakenings in Theology and Praxis (ed.) (2014).
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Jennifer Chi Lee – “Privilege, Fragility, and Grace in the Margins” (in Voices Rising: Women of Color Finding and Restoring Hope in the City) (2018).
Jennifer Chou Blue – “Deborah’s Song” (in Voices Rising: Women of Color Finding and Restoring Hope in the City) (2018).
Jenny Hwang Yang – Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate (2018), and “Americans, Immigration and the Call to “Welcome the Stranger” (2018).
Jessica Richard – Oxford Encyclopaedia of South Asian Christianity (co-editor) (2012), and “Body” as a Hermeneutical Tool for a Critical Feminist Christology of Liberation and Transformation (2010).
Jessica W. Wong – “The Christian Criteria for Assimilation: Racially Reading Christianity, Civility, and Social Belonging in the Modern Western World” (2018), “Christianizing and Civilizing The Immigrant Body” (2018), and “Iconic Humanity, Anti-Iconic Inhumanity: Understanding the Racial Optic Through Byzantine Theology” (2014).
Jin Young Choi – Postcolonial Discipleship of Embodiment: An Asian and Asian American Feminist Reading of the Gospel of Mark (2015), Minoritized Women Reading Race-Ethnicity: Intersectional Approaches to Early Christian (Con)Texts (co-editor) (2019),“Dispersion of Minjung in Mark and Asian Diaspora in the Americas” (in Scripture, Election, and Rejection) (2019), and “Double Marginality” (in The Oxford Handbook of the Bible in Korea) (2019).
Judette A. Gallares – Practicing Peace: Feminist Theology of Liberation, Asian Perspectives (ed.) (2011), Images of Faith: Spirituality of Women in the Old Testament (1994), and Images of Courage: A Re-reading of the Stories of Women in the Gospels from the Perspective of Contemporary Asian and Third World Women (1995).
Jung Ha Kim – Off the Menu: Asian and Asian North American Women’s Religion and Theology (ed.) (2007), Bridge-Makers and Cross-Bearers: Korean-American Women and the Church (1996), Religions in Asian America: Building Faith Communities: Building Faith Communities (Critical Perspectives on Asian Pacific Americans) (2001), and Leading Wisdom: Asian and Asian North American Women Leaders (2017).
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Kamol Arayaprateep – Studies in the Semantics of the Covenant Relationship in Deuteronomic Teaching (1974), “Conversion: A Universal Need” (1992), and “Reflection on the Trip to China” (1991).
Keun-Joo Christine Pae – Western Princesses in the Borderlands: A Christian Feminist Ethical Analysis of U.S. Military Prostitution in South Korea (2009), “The United States as a Responsible Member of the Global Community: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness When Militarized Prostitution Matters” (2013), and “A Solidary-Talk among Women of Color: Creating the “We” Category” (2011).
Kristen S. Oh – “Church Segregation and Integration” (2016), “Womb-Like Mercy: A Theology of Risk through Adoption Experience” (2017), and “Theological Education in a Multicultural Environment: Empowerment or Disempowerment?” (2008).
Lai Ling Elizabeth Ngan – By Bread Alone: The Bible through the Eyes of the Hungry (ed.) (2014), and “Women in Weakness and in Power: A Reading of Amos through Slanted Eyes” (2003).
Laura Mariko Cheifetz – Church on Purpose: Reinventing, Discipleship, Community, & Justice (2015).
Limatula Longkumer – No More Sorrow in God’s Garden of Justice: Tribal Women Doing Theology (2007), and Women in Theological Education: Pedagogical Issues (2012).
Liza B. Lamis – “Passion for Peace: From Victims if Violence to a Healing Community” (2005), Baptist and Feminist: Towards a Feminist Re-orientation of the Women Ministers of the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches (1999), and “On Gender Justice: A Christian Perspective” (2004).
Lizette Tapia-Raquel – Babaylan: Feminist Articulations and Expressions: Volume One (co-editor) (2007), and Anumang Hiram Kung Hindi Masikip ay Maluwang (Anything Borrowed is Either Too Tight or Too Loose) (2006).
Liz Lin (Elizabeth Lin) – “Why Asian Americans Might Not Talk About Ferguson” (2015), “The Loneliness of the Progressive Asian American Christian” (2017), and “Still a Progressive Asian American Christian, Now a Lot Less Lonely” (2018).
Mano Emmanuel – “Reconciliation: Easier Said Than Done – Lessons From the Church in Sri Lanka” (2013).
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Metti Amirtham – Women in India: Negotiating Body, Reclaiming Agency (2011).
Mihee Kim-Kort – Outside the Lines: How Embracing Queerness Will Transform Your Faith (2018), and Making Paper Cranes: Toward an Asian American Feminist Theology (2012).
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Rini Ralte – “Tribal Eco-Feminist Spirituality” (2006), “The Contributions to the Ecofeminist Debate in Theology From A Tribal Woman’s Perspective” (2004), and “Crab Theology: A Feminist Critique of Cultural Degradation and Empowerment of Mizo Women” (1993).
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Satoko Yamaguchi – Mary and Martha: Women in the World of Jesus (2006).
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Teresa Ku-Borden – “Emmanuel, God With Us” (in Voices Rising: Women of Color Finding and Restoring Hope in the City) (2018).
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Further Reading and Resources
Juliany González Nieves “18 Latin American Female Theologians You Should Know About”
Juliany González Nieves “Caribbean Christian Theology: A Bibliography”
Jessie Giyou Kim is studying a Bachelor of Theology degree through the Australian College of Theology. She was born in Seoul, South Korea, and moved to China at age 15. Jessie has served in mission in China, Australia, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Her areas of interest include mission, pastoral care, and caring for people. She is pursuing ordination for pastoral ministry with the Baptist Churches of Australia in order to become a pastor and missionary. Jessie grew up in various parts of Asia, and is fluent in Chinese, Korean, and English. A global citizen and a passionate disciple of Jesus, Jessie writes and translates theology posts in English, Korean, and Chinese, and edits and produces videos and podcasts on global theology and World Christianity.
Graham Hill (PhD) is the Founding Director of The GlobalChurch Project – www.theglobalchurchproject.com. He is Senior Lecturer at the University of Divinity. In July 2019, Graham begins in the role of Research Coordinator at Stirling Theological College (University of Divinity). Graham has written 6 books. His latest three books are “Global Church: Reshaping Our Conversations, Renewing Our Mission, Revitalizing Our Churches” (InterVarsity Press, 2016), “Salt, Light, and a City, Second Edition: Ecclesiology for the Global Missional Community: Volume 1, Western Voices” (Cascade, 2017), and a co-authored book with Grace Ji-Sun Kim called “Healing Our Broken Humanity: Practices for Revitalizing the Church and Renewing the World” (InterVarsity Press, 2018)
Cover Image: Mary and Martha, Painting by He Qi, copyright 2014, used by permission. more at heqiart.com
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 Kwok Pui-lan. Introducing Asian Feminist Theology. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000. 9–12. In this quote, Pui-lan is referring specifically to Asian feminist theologians and their plurality, diversity, and large number.
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