Rev. Dr. Katie G. Canon (1950)
For the next few days I will be featuring women preachers and musicians. This comes from a personal place and in preparation for my own preaching on this coming Sunday. Yes, there are women preachers, and yes there are women of color who are preachers/academics. When it comes to representation this is important and not just in regard to representation. If we are true to biblical teachings, Old and New Testament, we realize that women held places of leadership in biblical history.
Dr. Katie G. Cannon was born in 1950 and was reared in Kannapolis, North Carolina. She experienced the Jim Crow oppression of the South, where racial segregation was the order of the day.
Cannon’s teaching career took her first to the Episcopal Theological Seminary in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She then taught at Temple University in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. Cannon is currently the Annie Scales Rogers Professor of Christian Ethics at Union Presbyterian Seminary.
Cannon is credited with a long list of firsts and many academic and scholarly achievements. In 1974 she was the first African American woman to be ordained into the ministry of the Presbyterian Church of the USA. In 1983 she became the first African American woman to earn a doctor of philosophy degree (in Christian ethics) from Union Theological Seminary in New York City. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Barber Scotia College in North Carolina and a master of divinity degree from Johnson C. Smith School of Religion at the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC) in Atlanta Georgia.
Cannon’s most notable contribution is her development of a theological perspective known as womanist theology or womanism. Womanism seeks to critique traditional feminism pointing out the ways that the dual struggles of being black and female and being black, female, and poor in America have not been addressed by feminist thinkers, most of whom have reflected on feminist issues from the position of white privilege. Womanist scholars seek to reflect upon issues of oppression while using the experience of black women as the point of departure.
Womanism seeks to offer a perspective from which the interrelated issues of oppression based upon race, gender, and class can be viewed. It also wonders how so much of earlier Protestant theology managed not to make these connections any sooner. Thus womanist theology offers a sharp critique of racism within the ranks of feminism and an equally sharp critique of sexism within the black church, black theology, and the civil rights movement.
This information and full entry can be found in the book, An Encyclopedia of African American Christian Heritage by Marvin A. McMickle.
For further reading:
Katie Cannon, Katie’s Canon: Womanism and the Soul of the Black Community.
Jacqueline Grant, “Womanist Theology: Black Women’s Experience as a Source for Doing Theology with Special Reference to Christology,” The Journal of the Interdenominational Theological Center 13 (spring 1986)
C. Eric Lincoln and Lawrence H. Mamiya, The Black Church in the African American Experience.