Icelandic professor gives lecture on Reformation
December 14, 2016
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Professor of Systematic Theology at the University of Iceland Arnfríður Guðmundsdóttir gave a lecture titled “Lost and Found Women of the Reformation” on Dec. 1. Approximately 30 people attended the event, which was sponsored by the Religion Department.
Next year marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, and the Religion Department brought in Guðmundsdóttir as a preview of the upcoming events. Guðmundsdóttir, who is Dean for the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Iceland, is currently on sabbatical. She explained that she decided to give a seminar at Wartburg College in addition to Luther in an effort to continue her involvement in academia. Guðmundsdóttir added that she is also looking for input from people in her research and other aspects of her studies.
“I really wanted to be able to be in the context of a Lutheran seminary and see how things are done there,” Guðmundsdóttir said.
According to Professor of Religion Guy Nave Jr., although this lecture is not formally part of the Reformation activities, it serves well as an introduction. The Center of Ethics and Public Engagement (CEPE) is planning the official activities related to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
“We just happened to stumble across Guðmundsdóttir,” Nave said. “That she is here from Iceland is kind of a lucky thing for us.”
Guðmundsdóttir’s academic interests vary. One of her most recent projects contained an analysis of climate change as sin from a feminist perspective. Another aspect of her research in Iceland focuses on the Reformation.
Guðmundsdóttir began her lecture by stating that public interest in the women of the Reformation has been growing recently, allowing for more sources and further research. She said that although some women of the Reformation have received more attention than others, there is little on women who were involved in the Reformation from the start.
Guðmundsdóttir went on to speak of two women who were closely involved with the reformation: Katharina Zell and Argula von Grumbach. Guðmundsdóttir said that although Luther made no room for ordaining women, his ideas called for more involvement of women in the church. Both Zell and von Grumbach fought to keep their right to be active members of the church. They both received help from men who supported their cause.
“Katharina Zell is amongst the relatively few women known to belong to the first generation of supporters and advocates of the Reformation,” Guðmundsdóttir said. “She is an important representation of women who experienced the impact of their new theology.”
Guðmundsdóttir also addressed the case of a hymn that was written by a woman but falsely attributed to a man until very recently, when the authorship became widely recognized.
“The church history discloses the ambivalent attitude towards women characteristic of the Reformation,” Guðmundsdóttir said. “The status of women was considered a sign of the end of time while the tradition that women should keep silent in the public sphere.”
Thomas Specht (‘19) was pleased with the perspective that Guðmundsdóttir provided.
“I thought it would be interesting to hear about a woman’s perspective [on the Reformation]in Guðmundsdóttir’s lecture since it is not really something that is usually talked about,” Specht said.
Attendees were invited for further conversation with Guðmundsdóttir at a luncheon on Dec. 2.