Picture of Mercy Amba Oduyoye

MERCY AMBA ODUYOYE (1934–), Director of the Institute of Women in Religion and Culture at Trinity Theological Seminary in Legon, Ghana is affectionately known as the “mother of African women’s theologies.” A renowned theologian, educator, writer, mentor, and poet, she has worked tirelessly to address issues of poverty, health care, youth empowerment, women’s rights, destructive cultural and religious practices, and global unrest. As a lifelong member of the Methodist church, her early work began in the area of youth ministry and Christian education, serving as Youth Education Secretary in the Christian Education and Youth Department of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and later as Youth Secretary of the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC). An influential leader in the ecumenical movement she has also served as Deputy General Secretary of the WCC and the first woman president of the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians (EATWOT). She is the founder of the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians, an organization that encourages African women to research, write, and publish their own books and articles on “African issues” and concerns. As a dynamic professor, she has led provocative courses, workshops, and seminars in theological schools, universities, conferences, and local church gatherings. 


Early Background, Education and Teaching

            Mercy Amba Oduyoye was born on her paternal grandfather’s cocoa farm in Amoanna, Asamankese, Ghana, on October 21, 1934 to Reverend Charles Kwaw Yamoah and Mercy Yaa Dakwaa Yamoah. The first born of nine children, she was named “Amba,” which means a girl born on Saturday and “Ewudziwa” after her grandfather, Kodwo Ewudzi Yamoah, on the eighth day after her birth. In acknowledgment of her arrival during the harvest, her grandfather, a prominent leader in the Methodist Church of Asamankese, invoked a commonly practiced cultural and religious ritual among rural Akan communities, of planting a “special yam” on the family farm to mark her birth (Oduyoye, interview 10/22/07; Oduyoye, 2004, pp. xi, xiv; Oduyoye, 1988, p. 38; Amoah, 2006, p. xviii). This ritual, symbolizing a deep connection  with the land, community, and extended family inspires Oduyoye to celebrate her heritage through farming and cultivating cocoa trees at her home despite the British colonial milieu into which she was born that exploited cocoa farming in the then Gold Coast (Oduyoye, interview 10/22/07; Oduyoye, 2004, p. xiv; Oduyoye, 1988, pp. 37-38).

Oduyoye’s father was a Methodist minister who began as a teacher and later became an ordained minister. Following his family’s tradition of active and prominent church leadership, her father ultimately served as president of the Methodist Church of Ghana. Her mother, while a faithful supporter of her husband’s ministry and devoted mother, graduated from the prestigious Wesley Girls High School, an opportunity seldom afforded to African girls. Nevertheless, Oduyoye’s mother became a leader and activist in her own right working for the liberation of women (and youth) in the church and wider society (Oduyoye, interview 10/22/07; Oduyoye, 2004, pp. xi-xii; Oduyoye, 1988, pp. 45-46; Amoah, 2006, p. xxi; Fiedler & Hoffmeyr, 2011, p. 41-42).

Due to the itinerant nature of her father’s ministry, Oduyoye’s family traveled throughout Ghana and lived in various places such as Sunyani, Wenchi, Winneba and Akropong near Kumasi. The communities in which she grew up were either Twi speaking or Fanti speaking. She also lived in the Ga speaking city of Accra. Because Oduyoye’s family was committed to living a peripatetic life, their constant mobility taught her to make friends, to work cooperatively with others, and to be optimistic about human nature. Thus, she developed a strong sense of family and with each move she embraced a new community, which would soon become home. “Wherever I am, she asserts,” that’s home” (Oduyoye, interview 10/22/07; Oduyoye, 2004, pp. xi-xii). 

Although her early childhood was spent in multiple places, Oduyoye attended primarily Methodist schools, in Ghana. She studied in Asamankese during her first three years of primary school. She continued her primary school education in a small Asante village called Akyinakrom where her father began his first ministerial appointment. She spent her middle school years in Kumasi at Mmofraturo, a Methodist boarding school for girls. She went on to attend a government supported co-ed school in Accra, known as Achimota for her secondary education and completed her certificate there in 1952 (Oduyoye, 2004, p. xii).

Oduyoye credits Achimota for developing within her a sense of community, hard work, responsibility, team work, and intellectual excellence. In addition to her academic studies at this prestigious school, she participated in cultural activities that taught her the Ghanaian dances, music, and cultural practices. She and the other students were also exposed to classical music and were afforded the opportunity to learn to play the piano, violin, and various instruments. Moreover, Oduyoye was exposed to a full array of courses that included visual arts, weaving, and pottery (Oduyoye, interview 10/22/07). 

Although Achimota was a government supported secondary school, it embodied a strong Christian base that promoted the unity of the church as well as respect for humanity and creation. It was at this school that Oduyoye first heard the phrase coined by one of the founders of Achimota, James Kwegyir Aggrey: “educate a woman and you educate a nation: educate a man and you educate an individual.” The school emblem, based on the piano keyboard also made an impression upon her by suggesting that one can play some forms of music on the white keys and some forms of music on the black keys. But, to create harmony one has to play both the white and the black keys together. Thus, the school motto, “that all may be one,” and the symbol of the piano keyboard, both created by Aggrey, taught her the importance of diversity and the unity it can create, if persons work together. 

The school also supported ecumenism as it brought together Protestant and Catholic students from various ethnic and language backgrounds. The idea of “the unity of the church and ecumenism of Christians,” in addition to the inclusion of all racial ethnic and religious backgrounds “was for me normal.” Divisions among these groups were nonexistent, she maintains, as they were all part of the same community, “We were just boys and girls together” (Oduyoye, interview 10/22/07; Oduyoye, 2004, p. xii). The Achimota experience, therefore, taught her “that people of varying cultural, economic, religious, and social backgrounds can live together in harmony in the way that individual colors overlap and blend imperceptively into one another to form a rainbow” (Amoah, 2006, p. xx).  

This, however, was not a new concept for Oduyoye as she had already experienced the notion of harmony in diversity in her home. She was the oldest of nine children (six girls and three boys) and as she recalls, it was like “living in everybody’s guest house.” Family “didn’t mean just me and my siblings.” Instead, Oduyoye’s home was “a mixed community” that required negotiation and cooperation. If you are not “doing your part,” she asserts, “you will not be very happy in the house” (Oduyoye, interview 10/22/07). Thus, for Oduyoye, family extended beyond her immediate household to include the broader community, which no doubt served as a springboard for her later ecumenical experiences and involvement.  

Deeply immersed in the Christian tradition, Oduyoye’s parents, grandparents, and siblings lived out their faith not only as active members and leaders of the church, but as prominent leaders within the larger community. Her paternal grandmother, affectionately known as Maame, for example, was a baker and successful trader of fish and crockery. She was also a practitioner of the traditional music, Ebibindwom commonly sang in the Methodist church (Amoah, 2006, p. xix). Her siblings also held various leadership roles in the community. Kojo Ewudzi Yamoah served on the Police Force of Ghana, Martha Yamoah was a staff nurse at the University of Ghana Hospital, Esi Ewusiwa Yamoah served as a  staff nurse at the Tema General Hospital in Ghana, Essie T. Blay served as professor of Agriculture at the University of Ghana, Essie F. Cobbina, a lawyer, served on the Board of the Ghana Cocoa Industry, Joseph Addo Yamoah worked as a lawyer with the Bank of Ghana, Effie Harris, became a dentist, and Johnny B. Yamoah served as a Captain for Ghana Airways (Oduyoye, conversation 9/25/14). Oduyoye credits her family’s tradition of daily Bible readings and prayers at 5:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. for her grounding in the Bible and her Christian faith. In addition to her academic and community involvement, her church work included teaching Sunday school, serving as a chorister, and speaking publically at the tender age of eleven (Amoah, 2006, p. xix).

As the firstborn and as a Christian, Oduyoye was held to a high standard and expected to “become exemplary, first to her siblings and then to her entire community” (Amoah, 2006, p. xix). Her primary responsibilities entailed not only caring for and mentoring her younger siblings, but also making sure that they did not fail. If a younger person neglects their work, she explains, the younger person is not punished first. It is the senior person who did not supervise well who receives the punishment. Consequently, she embraced her responsibilities as well as her education recognizing that to mismanage these opportunities may potentially affect her younger brothers and sisters (Oduyoye, interview 10/22/07). In light of these expectations imposed by the church and society, Oduyoye carefully attended to every aspect of her life including her appearance, her disposition, her mode of speaking, her cooking and cleaning, her clothing and conduct in private and public arenas, and her overall deportment (Oduyoye, interview 10/22/07; Amoah, 2006, p. xix).

As a young adult women in 1952, Oduyoye grappled with limited career choices. Women were either trained to be teachers, nurses, or secretaries. Or, they married and worked various jobs to support their families. Although Oduyoye met the qualifications for all three career choices, she followed her father’s counsel and pursued a career in teaching. From 1953-1954 she attended the Teacher’s Training College at Kumasi College of Technology (now the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology) in Kumasi. After completing her Post-Secondary Certificate of Education (Teachers Certificate A, Ministry of Education Ghana), she taught at Asawase Methodist Girls’ Middle School from 1954-1959 near Kumasi (Oduyoye, n.d.).

During this time, she also cared for three of her siblings while her father, accompanied by her mother, pursued his Bachelor of Divinity (BD) degree in London. When her parents returned, she entered the University College of Ghana, Legon in 1959 and in 1961, she received the Intermediate Bachelor of Divinity from the Theology Department of the University of London. She continued for another two years to obtain an honours degree in the Study of Religion. At the time, the University of Ghana was a college of London University until it became autonomous in 1963 (Oduyoye, interview 10/22/07; Oduyoye 2004, p. xii; Amoah, p. xx).

Oduyoye did not plan to study theology, she wanted to complete a degree in education after receiving her teachers’ certificate. “I think that was a call,” she asserts as her early studies focused on geography, economics, and British Constitution. In 1959, Noel King, Professor of Church History in the Theology Department at the University of Ghana encouraged Oduyoye to study theology and “Why not,” she said, and thus began her journey (in Legon, 1959-1963) into theological education (Oduyoye, conversation 9/25/14; Oduyoye, interview 10/22/07). In 1963, Oduyoye became the first woman to graduate with the Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree in the Study of Religion from the University of Ghana, Legon. Her decision to study theology surprised many people, as a woman pursuing such a discipline was rare. “What are you going to do with theology?” they asked, “churches don’t ordain women.” “I wasn’t called to ordination,” she responded “I’m a teacher. . . . [and] I am specializing in religion.” This proved to be an important decision in her life. She notes, “With teaching came public speaking and writing. With theology came the passion for justice and dignity. With teaching came also all my involvements in humanization” (Oduyoye, interview 10/22/14; Oduyoye, 2004, p. xiv).

During this time, Ghana’s recent independence necessitated a tremendous need for staff development in education and other forms of leadership. In the wake of this crisis, Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of independent Ghana and others emphasized the importance of “developing our own leadership for the country.” As a stellar student, Oduyoye received a scholarship to Cambridge University, United Kingdom in the staff development program. At Cambridge, she studied dogmatics under the tutelage of professors Alec Vidler and Maurice Wiles (Amoah, 2006, p. xxi). This course of study included both an emphasis on patristics and the reformation along with an examination of contemporary ecclesiology. Her interest in the development of Christian doctrine bolstered her belief in multiple ways of perceiving the text. She later became interested in the Christian history of Africa and prominent theological symbols used in popular preaching. Issues and concerns emerging from her studies eventually led her to write her first theological work titled Hearing and Knowing: Theological Reflections on Christianity in Africa, (1986) (Oduyoye, interview 10/22/07; Oduyoye, 2004, p. xiv).

In 1964, Oduyoye graduated from the University of Cambridge, UK with a Bachelors of Art (Honours) degree in theology focusing on Tripos Part III, Dogmatics (1963-1965). She went on to receive a Master of Arts (Honours) degree in theology from the same university in 1969 (Oduyoye, n.d.). Oduyoye returned to Ghana in 1965, not to teach at the university as she had expected, but to teach at Wesley Girl’s High School for two years in Cape Coast. Through her mentoring and exceptional teaching at this school, she inspired numerous girls to pursue Christian theological studies and world religions (Oduyoye, n.d.; Amoah, 2006, p. xxi).

Shortly after her arrival in Cape Coast, Oduyoye was invited to attend a conference by the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) at the University of Ghana, Legon. The conference was part of a series called “The Christian Presence in the Academic World.” During this conference, a representative from the World Council of Churches invited her to attend a meeting in Bolden Switzerland titled, “Christian Education and Ecumenical Commitment.” The aim of this meeting was to explore the role of Christian education in the promotion of ecumenism. Together, these conferences marked her early international and ecumenical work, which began in 1966 and, they came with the advocacy of Reverend Adeolu Adegbola, a senior leader in the WSCF from Nigeria and Mr. Albert Van den Heuvel of the World Council of Churches (Oduyoye, interview 10/22/07; Oduyoye, 2004 p. xiii).

Oduyoye went on to accept a joint appointment by the World Council of Christian Education (WCCE) and the Youth Department of the World Council of Churches as the Youth Education Secretary from 1967-1970 (Oduyoye, n.d.). It was during this time that the WCCE and the WCC merged. As Youth Education Secretary and a full staff member of the WCC, Oduyouye worked closely with the newly created sub-unit on education to which Paulo Freire served as a consultant. She thus had the esteemed honor of working with and learning from this renowned legend first hand.   

In 1968 Oduyoye married her Nigerian born husband, Adedoyin Modupe Oduyoye. Adedoyin Modupe a renowned linguist, writer, publisher, and Yale graduate, was at the time, the General Secretary of the Students Christian Movement (SCM) of which Mercy was also a member. Their union deepened her “ecumenical sensibilities” as Mercy grew up in the Methodist church in an Akan matrilineal context and her husband was a member of the Anglican tradition and a Yoruba of patrilineal descent (Amoah, p. xx). These differences would subsequently play an important role in shaping her passionate work on issues of gender sensitivity and women’s rights.

After her move to Nigeria in 1970, Oduyoye left the Youth Education Secretary position of the WCC and became the Youth Secretary of the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) working in the Ibadan office from 1970-1973. During this time, she developed several pamphlets designed for youth. Two of these pamphlets, which represent her first publications, were “cartoon books” illustrated by an artist. These books explored various issues confronting African youth. The first book was titled “Youth

Without Jobs” (1972) and the second was titled “Flight from the Farms” (1973). The books were widely distributed among the youth and used to generate discussions. She also edited the book, Church Youth Work in Africa (1973).

As the AACC Youth Secretary, Oduyoye also served on the Youth Committee of the WCC. During this time, she was invited in 1974 to attend the Faith and Order Commission meeting in Accra. She also worked on the Faith and Order Plenary Commission and later joined the Standing Committee. It was at one of the first meetings of the Faith and Order Commission that she met renowned theologian, Letty Russell and other American feminist, with whom she would forge a life-long bond (Oduyoye, interview 10/22/07; Oduyoye, 2004, p. xiii).

When the AACC required all staff to live in Nairobi, Oduyoye not wanting to leave her work or her husband and family resigned her position as Youth Secretary of the AACC. She did, however, maintained a close networking relationship with them often serving as a guest speaker and consultant around issues of theology and missions (Oduyoye, interview 10/22/07; Oduyoye, 2004, xii, xiv).

After leaving the AACC, Oduyoye began teaching at Lagelu Grammar School for Boys, a community school in Ibadan, Nigeria with about 80% Muslim children. There she taught children biblical criticism and strategies for reading the Bible from a variety of perspectives. Her primary goal was to make the Bible relevant so children could find meaning in the biblical text, yet learn to raise critical questions about confusing or oppressive aspects of the text. Years later, one of her former students affirmed her efforts at a chance encounter, “Teacher,” he said . . . “you are the one who taught us about justice.” Thus, her work at Lagelu (1973-1974) marked a significant teaching and learning milestone for her and her students (Oduyoye, interview 10/22/07; Oduyoye, n.d.).  

Oduyoye later joined the faculty at the University of Ibadan in the Religious Studies Department where she taught church history, Christian theology, and missions. She held this appointment from 1982-1987. As a staff member of the department, she served as Assistant Editor of Orita, Ibadan Journal of Religious Studies from 1974-1976 and as Editor of the journal from 1976-1987 (Oduyoye, interview 10/22/07; Oduyoye, n.d.).

Like her journey toward theology, Oduyoye did not plan to become involved with women’s rights primarily because she never considered being a woman a “handicap.” But, with the coaxing of her friend and colleague, Brigalia Bam, who encouraged her to consider working on “women’s affairs” coupled with her teaching appointment in the male dominated Religious Studies Department at the University of Ibadan, and especially after marrying into a patrilineal African context, she began to see oppressive systems and practices at work. She began to see more clearly what society thought of family life, the place of women in the family, and how they function in the world. Perhaps “if I had been a man,” she reasoned “they would have invited me straight-away,” to join the faculty at the university. Growing up in a matrilineal context, she never thought she would be impacted by these systems, but when she saw them in practice, “then I knew,” she asserts “there was something the matter with the world” (Oduyoye, interview 10/22/07; Oduyoye, 2008, p. 91).  

Two incidents at Ibadan reinforced Oduyoye’s new found belief. First, as the only woman on the faculty in the Department of Religion, she was asked during her first faculty meeting to make tea for the faculty. Stunned by the request, she got up from her seat, picked up the phone on the professor’s table, called the administrative secretary of the department (a man) who is normally in charge of refreshments, and in front of all of the men said “the professor says the staff is ready for their tea.” She soon realized the men thought it was her responsibility to make the tea. But by calling the person in charge of refreshments, she asserts, “I gave him his job back” (Oduyoye, interview 10/22/07). 

Another incident at Ibadan involved a discrepancy between the allowances that were given to male faculty/staff and female faculty/staff. For example, the man with whom she was appointed at the same time appeared to be receiving a vacation allowance that was double the amount of hers. She asked why and was told that the man was married. “So am I,” she responded. “He has to pay for his wife,” they argued. “Who told you that I don’t have to pay for my husband?” she queried. With that she joined the Women’s Staff Fight Association and began fighting for equal rights and equal pay for the women. From these and other experiences, she learned quickly that men were afforded certain privileges and preferences, but “I didn’t think I should live” under patriarchal male dominance, she argued (Oduyoye, interview 10/22/07). During her time at the University of Ibadan, Oduyoye also served as Visiting Lecturer and Research Associate at Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts from 1985-1986 and the Henry Luce Visiting Professor of World Christianity at Union Theological Seminary from 1986-1987.

In 1987, Oduyoye left the University of Ibadan and returned to the World Council of Churches as Deputy General Secretary, the first African to hold this position. Many voiced concern about her invitation to apply and interview for the position. Some tried to discourage her from taking the job because she would be competing with other men. Others said the World Council was not ready for a woman. She received letters asking her not to go for the interview. She was even required to submit a letter from her husband giving his approval for her to pursue the position. On the day of the interview, a colleague and friend on the panel said to her, “I don’t think this is a good image for African women. An African woman who is going to leave her family to come and do this kind of work in Geneva, I don’t think it speaks well. . . . I don’t know what Dupe thinks” (referring to her husband). She responded emphatically, “if I had not discussed this with my husband already, I would not be here. So, the fact that I am here should tell you that I already settled my home business” (Oduyoye, dinner conversation 10/22/07). In support of his wife and in protest of this policy, Oduyoye’s husband physically took his letter to the Methodist Church office in Lagos and demanded a note saying they have received the letter. He agreed with his wife’s decision and supported her move to Geneva.

Ecumenical Work

            Oduyoye’s involvement in the ecumenical movement spans over 48 years (1966-present). Her sensibilities toward ecumenism were shaped at an early age from her family’s welcoming spirit towards strangers in their home to her experience at Achimota, the secondary school she attended that brought together children from diverse racial, ethnic, language, and denominational backgrounds. Her “first ecumenical conference outside of Ghana was at Bolden, Switzerland.” And, as noted earlier, “the theme was ‘Christian Education and Ecumenical Commitment.” This conference was followed by her attendance at the Assembly in Nairobi, 1966, at which the World Sunday Schools Association merged with the World Council of Christian Education (WCCE) to create a Department of Christian Education at the WCC. This merger took place during the WCC’s (Fourth) Assembly at Uppsala. A faithful participant in the WCC for years, Oduyoye proudly asserts, “I have been to every WCC Assembly since Uppsala including the meeting in Busan, South Korea in 2013” (Oduyoye, 2004, p. xiii; Oduyoye, conversation 9/25/14).  

Oduyoye’s ecumenical work includes not only attending a myriad of conferences and meetings around the world, but also her active involvement as keynote speaker, workshop leader, Bible study developer and teacher, moderator, staff member of the World Council of Churches and other ecumenical organizations, executive committee member and officer, book editor, journal editor, and conference organizer. Most recently she served as a presenter for the ecumenical conference titled “Over 30 Years of Women’s Ministry: Achievements, Challenges and Opportunities” in Limuru, Kenya (Oduyoye, 2008, p. 106; Oduyoye, n.d.; World Council of Churches, 2014). But while Oduyoye has contributed widely to the ecumenical movement, two of her most notable contributions include her work with the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women (1988-1998) and her work with the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians (EATWOT).

The Ecumenical Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women (1988-1998)

The Ecumenical Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women was inspired by the International Year for Women (1975) and the subsequent Decade for Women (1976-1985) initiated by the United Nations (UN) (United Nations website, n.d.; 5th Women’s World Conference website, n.d.). Building upon the work of the UN, the WCC initiated the Ecumenical Decade of the Churches in Solidarity with Women (1988-1998). Similar to the UN decade, the purpose of the Ecumenical Decade was to provide opportunities for churches to “respond to God’s call to inclusiveness, solidarity with the oppressed; and the sharing of power and resources within communities” (United Methodist Church, 2004; See also World Council of Churches, 2014, Programme for women). The Ecumenical Decade further sought to eliminate the abuse of women, to attend to economic and political disparities, and to address the exclusion of women in leadership roles and decision-making processes. In short, according to Oduyoye, churches were asked to become more open “to the full humanity of women” . . . and to “stand by and with women as they work for peace, for justice and for the dignity of the human as it exists in two genders” (Oduyoye, 1990, pp. 2, 6).

Oduyoye played a significant role in the efforts to initiate and support the Ecumenical Decade. Prior to the launch of the decade, she participated in a broad-based four year study (1978-1981) titled the “Community of Women and Men in Church and Society.” This revealing study, also known as the “Community Study,” focused on the overall welfare and status of women and men in the church (Oduyoye, 1990, p. 4). In collaboration with others, Oduyoye’s work with the Community Study uncovered critical aspects of oppression such as sexism, racism, classism and other societal ills impacting individuals as well as the church. The results of the study generate wide-ranging debates, global interest, and a commitment to address discriminatory practices towards women. The Community Study subsequently laid the ground work for the Ecumenical Decade. Not surprisingly, the Ecumenical Decade embraced similar goals as the Community Study as they both challenged the church to embrace a “more integrated way of viewing itself” and to recognize that the Christian community consists of both women and men (Oduyoye, 1990, p. 57).

In addition to the Community Study, Oduyoye led the Bible studies that delineated the major issues for the Decade. Presented at the 1987 meeting of the WCC’s Women in Church and Society Sub-Unit, the studies drew upon the Easter Story to frame critical discussions around the urgent question raised by the women at Jesus’ tomb: “Who will roll away the stone?” As Oduyoye states:

The imagery of stones as stumbling blocks hampering women’s lives was a fertile ground for discussion. The stream of ‘resurrection people’ that has flowed from the empty tomb has continued to broaden and deepen. The story of the two who walked with the risen Christ towards Emmaus without recognizing him was also helpful as we planned for a journey that would take ten years to complete (Oduyoye, 1990, pp. 1-2).

For Oduyoye, the Easter Story proved to be a spring board for uncovering the stones of oppression in the form of sexism, racism, classism, and exclusion of women from full participation in the church and the wider society. The story not only aided her in naming various “strands” of oppression toward women, it also revealed visions of hope and transformation, partnership and cooperation not only for oppressed women, but for the entire faith community. But as Oduyoye emphasized, most critical to the success of the Decade would be insisting upon an ongoing conversation with the risen Christ whose guidance would illuminate the path towards women’s empowerment and transformation (Oduyoye, 1990, pp. 1-2).

Throughout the Decade, Oduyoye challenged churches to move beyond patriarchal structures and practices that devalue the gifts, contributions, and the very presence of women while excluding them from leadership roles and decision-making opportunities. She strongly believed that churches should be in solidarity with women. For women in the Body of Christ, she maintains, “are in pain (as are some men) . . . we seem to be operating as if we are unsure whether women are fully human and therefore to be accounted responsible and accountable” (Oduyoye, 1990, p. 44). But, as churches stand in solidarity with women, she argues, they are called to stand on the side of truth and justice and to embrace the church “as one whole and humanity as a single unity in God’s creation” (Oduyoye, 1990, pp. 47).  

In her book Who Will Roll the Stone Away? The Ecumenical Decade of the Churches in Solidarity with Women (1990), Oduyoye records the first two years of the Decade. Through this text, she provides an historical overview of the key events that led to the implementation of the Ecumenical Decade including the Community Study and the UN Decade for Women. Emphasizing the importance of churches in solidarity with women, she further delineates the major activities surrounding the launch of the Decade from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Caribbean to Latin America, the Middle East, North America, and the Pacific. Accents of women’s leadership roles and meticulous work during the launch and promotion of the Decade emerge throughout the book showcasing their vital role in its success. Her concluding comments reflect her vision and hope for the Decade “Ten Years Hence?” In the Decade 1988-98 “we seek justice for women, to dream ‘bold dreams’ for a new community, and to act both locally and globally for the conversion of church and society towards the recognition of the full humanity of women” (Oduyoye, 1990, p. 68).

Through her involvement with the Decade, Oduyoye boldly advocated for the rights of women and their full participation in the life of the church while challenging the church to recognize the value of their presence and contributions to the Body of Christ. Without a doubt, she underscores, “the importance of kin-dom thinking” asserts Letty Russell, while standing in solidarity with “all those who do not fit in traditional cultures and religious patterns” (Russell, 2006, p. 51).

The Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians

Oduyoye’s long-standing involvement with the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians (EATWOT) formed in 1976, began with her attendance at the 1977 EATWOT Africa Continental Conference in Accra. The conference theme was “The Christian Commitment in Africa Today: Concerns of Emerging Christian Theologies.” As one of a few women invited to participate in this conference, Oduyoye presented a paper illuminating an ongoing theme in her work title “The Value of African Religious Beliefs and Practices for Christian Theology” (Oduyoye, 1979; See also Oduyoye, 2004, p. xiv). In her presentation, she highlighted various themes emerging through African religious beliefs and practices ranging from stewardship of the earth, community life, women, the divine right of kings, and human wholeness, to making covenants, the power of evil, reconciliation, rites of passage, and liturgical practices. These themes, she argues, have the potential to inform, challenge, deepen, and expand Christianity. But more importantly, since African religious beliefs emphasize the “common origin of all humanity” they can facilitate one’s sense of dignity and human responsibility toward self and others while inspiring people throughout the world to return to “basic principles of human community and the religious basis of life” (Oduyoye, 1979, pp. 115-116).

Oduyoye goes on to suggest that African Christian theologians must draw from this context as they engage in theological work and integrate their African religious heritage into Christian theology. She also acknowledges the mutual contributions of both traditions and the need to draw upon them equally in a genuine effort to shape a theology that is inclusive, empowering, and life-giving for all of humanity including women.

Building upon her early work in the ecumenical movement and in light of her involvement with the Decade, Oduyoye continued her efforts through EATWOT to shine the light on violence and oppression against women under patriarchal systems and structures not only within the church, but also within the organization itself. She worked tirelessly to give voice to women’s demands for inclusivity, leadership opportunities, and gender equality. Moreover, she persisted in her work to empower women as well as other oppressed communities to resist oppression and to continue in their struggle for justice.

These concern became a glaring reality in 1981at the first general assembly of EATWOT in New Delhi, India. This conference “made feminists of us,” Oduyoye writes, shocked by the conference entertainment that featured “misogynist folktales from Africa” (Oduyoye, 2008, p. 89). Outraged by this display, she and other women at the conference became keenly aware of the fact that while EATWOT was content to acknowledge various forms of oppression that “divide human beings” and quick to affirm a “liberative stance,” it was blind to the pervasive sexism within the organization. And, while women boasted a strong presence at the meeting, they were excluded from key leadership roles and from speaking in major plenaries rendering them virtually voiceless in what was clearly a male dominated organization (Oduyoye & Fabella, 1988, p. ix-x).

Exploring the conference theme, “Irruption of the Third World,” however, Oduyoye, in her paper titled “Reflections from a Third World Woman’s Perspective: Women’s Experience and Liberation Theologies” insisted that their voices be heard. She spoke of an “irruption within the irruption” pointing out the sexist marginalization of women not only in theological arenas and church leadership, but also in EATWOT. She challenged EATWOT, therefore, to seek a “new community of men and women . . .” engaged in a “theology of relationships” that would “bring us closer to human life as God desires it” (Oduyoye, 1983, p. 254). Women’s participation and theological contributions within EATWOT as well as the church, argues Oduyoye, must be valued and affirmed as women step more readily into leadership roles and persist in their struggle for justice. 

Determined to have their voices heard within EATWOT, Oduyoye in partnership with other women, was instrumental in establishing in 1983, the Commission on Theology from Third World Women’s Perspective. The women’s commission designed to be a “sisterhood of resistance to all forms of oppression,” also pressed for more inclusivity of women’s experiences and serious consideration for their theological insights as they relate to multiple issues confronting the daily existence of Third World women. Although primarily supportive of women and their concerns, the commission also welcomed “creative partnership” with men of EATWOT willing to stand and work in solidarity with them (Fabella & Oduyoye, 1988, p. x; Fabella, 2006, p. 120).

In the years that followed the women’s commission coordinated national, regional, and intercontinental meetings in Asia (Manila, Philippines, 1985), Latin America (Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1985), and Africa (Port Harcourt, Nigeria and Yaounde, Cameroon, 1986). The aim of these meetings was to share women’s experiences in light of their theological reflection, to identify points of connection, and to affirm their distinctive qualities. Representatives from each of the three continents subsequently gathered in 1986 to discuss their experiences at the Intercontinental Women’s Conference in Oaxtepec, Mexico. Through a collaborative dialogue the women focused on five areas of concern: ecclesiology, Christology, spirituality, Bible, and shaping theology that takes into account the destructive realities impacting Third World women (Fabella & Oduyoye, 1988, p. x). This cooperative work led to the publication of With Passion and Compassion: Third World Women Doing Theology (1988), compiled and edited by Mercy Oduyoye and Virginia Fabella.

The 1994 gathering of the women’s commission in San Jose, Costa Rica hosted a dialogue between EATWOT women and feminist theologians from around the world. Exploring the theme “Women Resisting Violence: Spirituality for Life,” the conference participants tackled multiple aspects of violence against women including cultural, ecological, domestic, physical, economic, and military abuse. Presenting a provocative paper titled “Spirituality of Resistance and Reconstruction,” Oduyoye emerged once again as a leading voice.

In her paper, she frames her discussion of women resisting violence through the lens of her work with ecumenical youth in the WCC and AACC from 1967 to 1974. Although the youth were confronted with oppressive educational systems, high dropout rates, unemployment, economic exploitation, civil unrest, drought, and other forms of violence against their personhood and their ability to thrive, they refused to bow down to devastation, despondency, and dehumanization. Indeed, these young people understood the need to “survive in order to be fully human” (Oduyoye, 1996, Spirituality of resistance, p. 161). Oduyoye likens this refusal of youth to “stay on the margins of power” as they confront a hostile world to the lives of African women. Both African women and youth have undeniably responded to such hostility by shaping a spirituality of resistance that allows them to express not only their anger and their hope, but to engage in the ongoing struggle for the liberation of their world. Thus, she affirms

In the struggle to build and maintain a life-giving and life enhancing community, African women live by a spirituality of resistance which enables them to transform death into life and to open the way to the reconstruction of a compassionate world. [Thus] African women live by a resurrection motif . . . . With this affirmation African women confront, survive, and overcome violence (Oduyoye, 1996, Spirituality of resistance, p. 162).

Oduyoye deepens her discussion of this dynamic spirituality by embracing the sentiments of Lisa Meo, a participant in the Costa Rica meeting, who suggests that spirituality is linked to justice. Meo maintains that as persons grow spiritually they become more sensitive to issues of injustice and inspired to act on behalf of justice (Oduyoye, 1996, Spirituality of resistance, citing Lisa Meo, p. 163). Responding to Meo’s comments through a “Trinitarian” theological lens, Oduyoye strongly agrees that a spirituality of resistance to dehumanization and reconstruction of community is in fact a spirituality of justice. It is “holistic and cosmic,” “passionate and compassionate,” but ultimately “it is God moving in and through us to accomplish a mission of peace with justice which will result in a beautiful world, a new creation, no longer hostile” (Oduyoye, 1996, Spirituality of resistance, p. 163).

Oduyoye concludes her presentation by offering several resources for resisting violence including truth telling, empowering myths in African tradition, re-reading oppressive myths and folktales, drawing upon women’s hope-filled prayers, rituals, and sacrifices to resist natural disasters, sickness, and disease; lifting up African women leaders (past and present) and their empowering strategies from their history, religion, and culture to resist “death and disgrace”; and calling for a mutual effort by the entire community to affect legislative, religio-cultural, and socio-political change. These and other resources, according to Oduyoye, must affirm a spirituality of the cross and the resurrection. This means “an Easter of new and life-bearing beginnings, an Easter of dignity and strength, an affirmation of life, and a heritage of bonding and community” (Oduyoye, 1996, Spirituality of resistance, pp. 167-168). To live out this powerful image of Easter, African women immerse themselves in Bible study, prayer, and songs of the Christian faith.

But drawing upon coping devices and resisting violence is not enough, asserts Oduyoye. Communities must take the initiative to “transform the relationship that breeds violence.” This will require a holistic approach that involves a community of women and men working together to build “an empowering society” that advances human dignity, healing, and respect (Oduyoye, 1996, Spirituality of resistance, p. 169). This mutual effort toward transformation is not limited to creating new relationships in African communities, but it also entails strengthening relationships with the “global sisterhood,” so African women can rightfully take their place in the world community and speak their “own” words. Genuine hospitality, love, and respect must ultimately form the foundation of these communities. Citing the Akan proverb, “All human beings are the children of God,” Oduyoye pushes for mutual relationships that advance “‘one earth community,’ one household of the God of life” (Oduyoye, Spirituality of resistance, 1996, p. 170). Two years after the Costa Rica conference, Oduyoye co-edited with other renowned feminist theologians, the book Women Resisting Violence: Spirituality of Life (1996).

In 1995, Oduyoye presented a paper at Union Theological Seminary in New York titled “The Impact of Women’s Theology on the Development of Dialogue in EATWOT.” In this lecture, Oduyoye continued her critique of and challenge to EATWOT regarding its own oppression of women by asking the poignant question, “To what extent does patriarchy continue to reign in EATWOT?” (Oduyoye, 1995, quoted in Russell, 2006, p. 54). The following year, she returned to New York to give a keynote address to EATWOT. Through her presentation, she emphasized the importance of gender sensitivity in theological reflection and recommended the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians as a logical forum to facilitate a gendered theological dialogue (Oduyoye, 1996, Keynote address). 

Over the years, Oduyoye’s involvement with EATWOT and the larger ecumenical community has reflected at least five primary concerns: 1) to empower women to resist systems and structures of oppression and violence against women, 2) to affirm the full humanity of women and to restore them to their rightful place as viable and contributing members of the human community, 3) to create a space for women’s voices to be heard amid male dominated organizations, churches, and communities, 4) to stand in solidarity with Third World women as they share their experiences and articulate contextual theologies that reflect their existential realities, and 5) to encourage a broader dialogue among Third World women with other feminist and liberation theologians in their quest for a just world. Oduyoye’s ecumenical work has indeed been far-reaching. She became the first woman president of EATWOT in 1997 and served in this capacity until 2001. And, in 2004, she co-edited with John Briggs and Georges Tsetsis, A History of the Ecumenical Movement, 1968-2000 for the World Council of Churches. She continues her critical work in the ecumenical movement even to this day.

Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians

Many perspectives abound on how and why the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians began (Oduyoye, 2008, pp. 87-91). And while Oduyoye acknowledges the multiple perspectives on the founding of the Circle, she contends that the Circle started informally in 1976 with her determination to invite African women in religious studies and theology to join EATWOT. But she was limited in the number of women she could invite due to a quota system that only allowed a certain number of delegates from the three regions--Africa, Asia, and Latin America--and a smaller number from North America and the Caribbean (Oduyoye, dinner conversation 10/22/07). The limitation on African women’s involvement in EATWOT became a strong incentive for Oduyoye to create a forum for them to connect with one another and to voice their concerns (Oduyoye, 2008, pp. 89-90).  

A growing sentiment among African men (and some women) who argued that African women were not oppressed, also compelled Oduyoye to seek out other African women theologians. These individuals suggested that those who believed that African women were oppressed were being influenced by “frustrated American women” thrusting ideas of liberation onto Africa. African culture was not the problem, they maintained, but rather it was Christianity and westernization that was disrupting their lives. Oduyoye argued against this proposition noting “we have our own indigenous sexism” (Oduyoye, interview 10/22/07).

This debate erupted into the staff common room of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Ibadan in 1978, during a discussion on women’s liberation. In response to this heated debate, Oduyoye delivered a public lecture at the Institute of African Studies titled “The Asante Woman: Socialization through Proverbs.” In her presentation, she further argued that African cultures have “built-in beliefs, practices, and language that are oppressive to women” (Oduyoye, 2008, p. 91). For example, many African folktales and proverbs deny women their sense of personhood admonishing them to “be silent and sacrificing” for the good of the wider community. They further imply that women are disruptive, demanding, and quarrelsome and must therefore be viewed with suspicion and constrained from full participation in society (Oduyoye, 2008, p. 87). The aftermath of the public lecture and debate inspired Oduyoye’s studies of African proverbs, the focus of her book, Daughters of Anowa and deepened her resolve to create the Circle.

In 1980, Oduyoye, in collaboration with Isabel Johnston of the AACC and Daisy Obi of the Christian Council of Nigeria’s Institute of Church and Society organized a conference of African Women in Theology in Ibadan. It was the first of its kind on the continent. The conference served as a forum for developing effective women theologians in the church and the ecumenical movement. At this conference, Professor Bolaji Idowu, Head of the Methodist Church of Nigeria and Head of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Ibadan shared the Yoruba proverb, “a bird with one wing does not fly” and encouraged conference participants as African women, to grow the second wing so that African theology would fly. Prof. Idowu’s words became yet another clarion call for Oduyoye to create the Circle (Oduyoye, conversation 9/25/14).

Despite popular sentiments regarding her founding role of the Circle, Oduyoye does not consider herself to be the founder, but the “initiator” of the organization. The more formal idea for the Circle came in 1985 as Oduyoye participated in the Women in Religion Program at Harvard Divinity School. While researching Daughters of Anowa, she discovered quite unexpectedly that she could not find any works by African women on theology beyond her own work. She did, however, find three novels written by African women and numerous works about African women by men in sociology and religion, but nothing in theology by African women. Most disheartening was the realization that in many of the books she read, African women were listed primarily as wife, mother, witch, and much more. “I wondered whether we are part of the human family . . .” she recalled. This discrepancy prompted her to start looking more intensely for the women (Oduyoye, interview 10/22/07; Oduyoye, 2004, p. xiii). During this time she also shared her vision of creating the Circle with Constance Buchanan, Director of the Women’s Studies in Religion program at Harvard. Buchanan encouraged her to start the Circle, but when Oduyoye expressed concerns about funding, Buchanan simply said “start the project and the money will come” (Oduyoye, conversation 9/25/14). 

Through her connections with the WCC, EATWOT, the Ecumenical Association of African Theologians, educational institutions, churches, various community organizations in addition to her teaching and speaking opportunities, Oduyoye began to amass an impressive list of African women who studied Bible, theology, religion, ministry, sociology, linguistics, and anthropology. Recognizing a strong connection among these women who also affirmed religion and culture as the overarching concern for developing a theology of liberation for African women, Oduyoye ultimately invited this core group of women to attend the first gathering of the Circle. The inaugural meeting of the Circle was held September 24 - October 2, 1989 at Trinity College (Now Trinity Theological Seminary), Legon, Ghana and it explored the theme, “Daughters of Africa Arise” (Kanyoro, 2006, p. 24; See also Oduyoye & Kanyoro, 1990, 2001).

From its inception, Oduyoye emphasized writing as a central part of the Circle. Indeed, women were required to write papers in order to attend the meeting and to gain membership into the organization. Membership also required a genuine concern about the dearth of theological materials by African women and a commitment to develop compelling, assessable, and life-giving resources. A press release dated September 25, 1989 echoed this sentiment stating that members of the Circle would “concentrate their efforts on producing literature from the base of religion and culture to enrich the critical study and empowering practice of religion in Africa” ( See Kanyoro, 2006, p. 21-22). African women from across the continent responded enthusiastically to the call for papers. Sixty-nine women shared their writings and over two hundred Ghanaian women from surrounding churches participated in the Circle inauguration. Nine days of inspirational dialogue, paper presentations, mentoring, Bible studies, storytelling, and dramatic performances culminated in the formal initiation and celebration of the Circle (Oduyoye, 2008, p. 84; Kanyoro, 2006, p. 24). At the conclusion of this meeting, Oduyoye and Musimbi Kanyoro co-edited the proceedings of the inaugural conference titled Talitha, Qumi! (1990, 2001).

In the early years, Oduyoye encouraged women to write their own stories arguing along with Musimbi Kanyoro that “as long as men and foreign researchers remain the authorities on culture, rituals, and religion, African women will continue to be spoken of as if they were dead” (Oduyoye & Kanyoro, 1992, p. 1). She, therefore, urged African women to explore what it means to be a woman in the church, in school, in the community, at home, and in the larger society. She also recounted the story of Jesus raising Jairus’ twelve year old daughter from the dead emphasizing his words, Talitha cumi as a source of inspiration. As the story unfolds in Mark 5:41-42 (NRSV), Jesus takes Jairus’ daughter by the hand and says to her “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” “Everybody is talking for us,” Oduyoye argues “because they think we are dead . . . we are not dead!” As Jesus talked directly to the girl and told her to “rise up,” she continues, he also speaks directly to African women who must do likewise and begin writing (Oduyoye, dinner conversation 10/22/07).

In addition to Oduyoye’s teaching and mentorship, the Circle’s logo of a woman on her knees with her hands and head lifted up also embodies the notion of Talitha cumi. “The rising woman represents for us human potential and possibility to image the divine” (Oduyoye, 2008, p. 94). The early emphasis on writing resulted not only in the first Circle publication titled The Will to Arise: Women, Tradition, and the Church in Africa, (1992) co-edited by Oduyoye and Kanyoro, but also over 30 publications by Circle members.

The Circle emerged as an autonomous organization with its own distinctive concerns and objectives, but more importantly it serves as the critical space for African women to engage in women’s communal theology. An interreligious association that embraces women of diverse backgrounds, largely from Africa’s “triple religious heritage”--Christianity, Islam, and African Traditional Religions, concerned African women theologians tackle issues of injustice. As they dialogue together on the various cultures, sacred writings, oral teachings, religious expressions, religio-cultural beliefs, and traditional practices that “shape the African context” and impact women throughout the continent, their ultimate aim, which embodies an extended list of goals and objectives centers on ending the “isolation and marginalization of African women in the study of religion and culture” (Circle Newsletter, November 2003 & April 2004; Kanyoro, 2006, p. 20; Oduyoye, 2008, pp. 90, 104-105; Oduyoye and Kanyoro, 1990, 2001). With an eye towards shaping a liberative theology that speaks to the issues, concerns, and existential realities of African life, the Circle’s primary concern is to affirm and support African women and girls in their journey towards wholeness and liberation.

In her quest for an African liberative theology, Oduyoye drew upon the imagery of the Yoruba proverb’s one-winged bird and argued, in her address to the Circle’s inaugural conference, for a “two-winged” theology emphasizing once again that a bird with one wing cannot fly. Similarly, a theology that only has one half of the story that of African men, and neglects the faith stories of African women is limited and cannot be effective (Oduyoye & Kanyoro, 1990, 2001, p. 43; Circle website, n.d.). Thus, she cites Idowu once again, who maintains that theological reflection in the African church today is “like a bird trying to fly with one of the wing[s] . . . if the Church in Africa is to become an African church, then it needs both wings in full strength” (Quoted in Oduyoye & Kanyoro, 1990, 2001, p. 43). Under Oduyoye’s leadership and influence, the Circle has worked to restore the missing wing of African theologies. It has confronted difficult topics head-on accepting Musimbi Kanyoro’s challenge to speak and write about taboo subjects in African culture including sexuality (Quoted in Oduyoye, 2008, p. 96).

Oduyoye has also challenged the Circle to address issues of poverty, sexism, racism, cultural practices, rape, prostitution, sexual abuse, female genital mutilation, a patriarchal theology of enculturation, disparities in leadership, sub-par education, limited access to medical care, and most critically the impact of HIV/AIDS on African women and girls. The urgent nature of the HIV/AIDS pandemic forced the Circle to abandon its seven-year meeting cycle and in 2002 it turned its full attention to the crisis in Africa. Although the pandemic ravaged entire communities, African women, suffered the highest rates of infection and overall impact of the disease. Oduyoye sprang into action and in collaboration with women faculty at Yale Divinity School (YDS) (e.g., Letty Russell, Margaret Farley, Shannon Clarkson, Emilie Townes, Serene Jones, Yolanda Smith, Kristen Leslie), and Circle leaders coordinated the Women’s Initiative Consultation on Gender, Faith, and Responses to HIV/AIDS in Africa. Hosted by Yale Divinity School, February 28-March 3, 2002, the conference included fifty women from sixteen countries including twenty-three African women theologians and church leaders from twelve African nations and various faith traditions.    

The women at the conference spoke of the need to critique, retrieve, and transform some aspects of religious traditions, resisting distortions and inadequacies that contribute to sickness and death. Major theological understandings surrounding sexuality, power, gender relations, and conflict were discussed along with concrete ethical concerns such as the availability and acceptability of condoms. The participants also addressed issues of social justice in international access to medical care (YDS Women’s initiative brochure, 2002).

Six months after the Yale consultation, which birthed the YDS Women’sInitiative on Gender, Faith, and Responses to HIV/AIDS in Africa, Oduyoye organized a Pan African conference of the Circle, August 4-8, 2002 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. At this conference, Circle members and invited participants continued their work on HIV/AIDS as they explored the theme, “Sex, Stigma, and HIV/AIDS: African Women Challenging Religion, Culture, and Social Practices.”

Through Oduyoye’s mentorship, the Circle has become a vehicle for African women to discuss candidly, multiple issues associated with HIV/AIDS, as well as other taboo subjects, including sex, sexuality, rites of passage, female genital mutilation, contraceptives, marriage, and stigma. “When no one openly spoke about HIV,” she maintained, “African women theologians came out and challenged the stigma attached to the disease . . . and invoked compassion among the church leaders” (Oduyoye, quoted in World Council of Churches, 2014, For Mercy Amba Oduyoye). She has also encouraged the Circle to reflect more deeply on what it means to shape a liberative and life-giving theology in light of the HIV/AIDS crisis. Ultimately, the Circle has responded to the HIV/AIDS pandemic by developing educational materials, conducting training workshops, and publishing curriculum resources to empower churches and communities in their efforts to assist women, children, and families affected by the disease. The Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians continues to reflect not only Oduyoye’s teaching and mentorship, but also her passion for justice and transformation.

Oduyoye’s role as a theologian and educator has certainly afforded her the opportunity to speak out against various forms of violence, and she has worked diligently to empower women (and men) to resist such violence. To this end, Oduyoye has expanded the work of the Circle by establishing the Institute of Women in Religion and Culture at Trinity Theological Seminary in Ghana. The objective of the Institute is “to promote gender-sensitivity and gender justice especially in religion and culture” and to transform these elements so that they will be a “life-giving and life-enhancing factor in women’s lives” (Institute of Religion and Culture, 1999). To house the Institute, Oduyoye has initiated the creation of the Talitha Qumi Centre, an educational conference facility, which will allow the Institute to host multiple seminars, conferences, and related programs. She has also instituted a master’s program in women’s theology at Trinity Theological Seminary (Oduyoye, 2008, pp. 102-103).

 Over the years, Oduyoye’s efforts to create and inspire the Circle have been invaluable for African women as well as for women throughout the world. Indeed, as Musimbi Kanyoro points out, the Circle has become not only a safe space for African women to engage in transformative theological reflection, but a tangible representation of Rosemary Radford Ruether’s prophetic words that have emboldened women to speak out of their own experience of agony and victimization, survival, empowerment and new life as places of Divine presence and out of these revelatory experiences, write new stories that can tell of God’s presence in experiences where God’s presence was never allowed or imagined before in a religious culture controlled by men and defined by men’s experience (Ruether 1987, p. 147, quoted in Kanyoro, 2006, p. 39).

Teaching, Scholarship, and Activities in Recent Years

In 1994, Oduyoye left the formal structures of the church and the academy to concentrate more intentionally on her research and writing and to teach in theological arenas on an “ad hoc” basis. This decision has been her “saving grace” in that it has allowed her to speak, teach, and write on critical issues that many have been reluctant to address. As a freelance scholar and teacher who is still an integral part of the church and the academy, she is beholden to no one and institutions such as these cannot hem her in or push her out (Oduyoye, n.d.; Oduyoye, dinner conversation, 2007).

Since her decision to move outside of the institutional church and academy, Oduyoye has held visiting faculty appointments and lectureships at prestigious institutions such as San Francisco Theological Seminary, San Anselmo, CA; Selly Oak Colleges, Birmingham, UK; Harvard  Divinity School, Cambridge, MA; Union Theological Seminary, New York, NY; Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, NJ; Emmanuel College of Theology in Toronto, Canada; Free University of Amsterdam; University of Nijmejin-Catholic Theological Faculty; Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, MA; Union Theological Seminary, Richmond, VA; and Candler School of Theology, Atlanta, GA. Moreover, she has served as Adjunct faculty and Founder and Director of the Institute of Women in Religion and Culture at Trinity Theological Seminary, Legon, Ghana since 1998 (Oduyoye, n.d.). Through the Institute’s Talitha Qumi Center, Odudyoye had the distinct honor in 2012 and 2014 of hosting and lecturing at two historic conferences of the African and African Diaspora Women (Oduyoye, conversation 9/25/14; Ross, 2012). 

As the author of fourteen books, editor or co-editor of nine volumes, and over eighty published articles and book chapters, Oduyoye’s research interest and scholarship cover a wide-range of topics. They include: Christian theological trends in Africa; feminist perspectives on Christianity and culture in Africa; gender justice, religion, and governance in Ghana; women and ritual in Africa; women in three West African communities from a religio-cultural perspective; African women, missiology, religion, and culture; African beliefs and practices in the development of Christian theology in Africa; and missionary policy, power, and accountability in the Nigerian Methodist Church 1840–1960 (Oduyoye, n.d.).

In addition to her teaching and scholarship, Oduyoye has maintained membership in numerous professional organizations including, The Nigeria Association for the Study of Religions; The West Africa Associations of Theological Institutions; The Ecumenical Association of African Theologians; The Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians; The Oxford Institute of Wesleyan Studies; The International Association of Mission Studies; and The Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians. She has also served as a member of the Advisory Committee on Theological Education in Africa, Lutheran World Federation (1982-1985); The Committee on Theological Education and Leadership Development in Africa, LWF (1986 to 1995); the Editorial Committee for the third volume of the history of the ecumenical movement of the WCC (completed 2004); and the Special Commission on Orthodox Relations, World Council of Churches (present) (Oduyoye, n.d.).

Oduyoye’s many honors and awards include: Doctor of Theology honoris causa Academy of Ecumenical Indian Theology (1990); Doctor of Theology honoris causa State University of Amsterdam (1991); Doctor of Theology honoris causa University of Western Cape, Republic of South Africa (1998); Doctor of Divinity honoris causa

Chicago Theological Seminary (2001); Outstanding Service in Mentoring, Society of Biblical Literature (2001); E. H. Johnson Award for Cutting Edge of Mission, Presbyterian Church of Canada (2008); Doctor of Divinity honoris causa, Yale University (2008); Doctor in Theology honoris causa, Stellenbosch University of South Africa (2009); and Doctor of Theology and Doctor of Divinity honoris causa, Akrofi-Christaler Institute of Theology, Mission and Culture, Akropong Ghana (Oduyoye, n.d.).

Throughout her life and ministry, Oduyoye, has acknowledged numerous mentors, professors, colleagues, and friends who have influenced her teaching and scholarship. She credits Mr. James Kwegyir Aggrey, the creator of the Achimota school motto and emblem for helping to shape her understanding of diversity at a young age. Professor Noel King, whom she considers her mentor in theology set her on the path of theological studies and inspired her to become the first woman to graduate with the Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree in Religious Studies from the University of Ghana, Legon. Her courses in dogmatics with Professors Alec Vidler and Maurice Wiles at Cambridge University, United Kingdom gave her insights for interpreting the gospel from an African perspective and the grounding she needed to shape a relevant theology for African peoples throughout the continent. Reverend Adeolu Adegbola of the WSCF and Mr. Albert Van den Heuvel of the WCC supported her early international and ecumenical work while Brigalia Bam, a close friend and colleague strongly encouraged her to take up the mantle of women’s rights and helped her see the need for gender sensitivity in the church, academy, and larger society. Constance Buchanan at Harvard Divinity School encouraged her to take concrete steps toward starting the Circle of Concerned African Women’s Theologians. And, Professor Bolaji Idowu from the Methodist Church of Nigeria and the University of Ibadan inspired her to strive for a two-winged theology that represents the whole story of African people’s encounter with God. 

Gifted in collaboration, Oduyoye has also worked with countless scholars, educators, and faith leaders developing and implementing Bible studies, educational programs, mentoring opportunities, curriculum resources, conferences, and community outreach. She has collaborated on many articles, chapters, and book-length publications with renowned scholars such as Letty Russell, Kwok Pui-lan, Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, Katie Cannon, Virginia Fabella, Mary John Mananzan, Shannon Clarkson, Elsa Tamez, Elizabeth Amoah, Hendrik M. Vroom, John Briggs, and Georgios Tsetses to name a few. She also cherishes an enduring friendship with womanist scholar, Katie Cannon whose support and encouragement during her time at Harvard Divinity School provided guidance in her program of studies as well as opportunities for Oduyoye to teach with her. Moreover, Oduyoye’s collaboration on the first meeting of African women theologians with Isabel Johnston and Daisy Obi laid the foundation for the inauguration of the Circle, which has become a vital resource for African women in ministry and theological education.

Lastly, Oduyoye has mentored countless children and youth through her ecumenical work with the WCC and the AACC as well as through her teaching at the Wesley Girl’s High School and Lagelu Grammar School for Boys. Through these appointments, she inspired many students to study theology through the lens of religion, culture, and gender and instilled within them a sense of social justice, the need for liberation, and a call to action. She has guided numerous women and graduate students through their course of studies at Trinity Theological Seminary, Legon (as well as other academic institutions), and encouraged them to write their own stories through essays, thesis projects, dissertations, journal articles, and extended book projects. Moreover, many women have been personally mentored by Oduyoye’s tutelage through Trinity’s Institute of Women in Religion and Culture and deeply shaped by the Circle’s communal reflection and relational methodology. Circle women such as Musimbi R. A. Kanyoro, Nyambura J. Njoroge, Isabel Apawo Phiri, Sarojini Nadar, Musa W. Dube, Dorcas Olubanke Akintunde, Sr. M. Bernadette Mbuy Beya, Fulata Lusungu Moyo, and Devakarsham Betty Govinden among others have gone on to become recognized scholars, professors, ecumenical leaders, and community activists in their own right. Indeed, Oduyoye’s life and work has inspired women (and men) throughout the world and compelled them to continue in the struggle for gender justice and transformation. Oduyoye, as Nyambura Njoroge rightly affirms, has truly “given us a legacy . . . worth emulating” (Njoroge, 2006, p. 62).

Although Oduyoye did not have biological children of her own, she has mothered many throughout her lifetime including her siblings, students, Circle women, and many more. But in a context where childlessness is a source of distress for many women, Oduyoye has responded to her painful experience by turning to God as a source of comfort. She speaks of her courageous journey through childlessness in her moving article titled “A Coming Home to Myself: A Childless Woman in the West African Space” (1999).

Just as Hannah rose, so that day, on the island of Crete, Amba rose to the realization that children are God’s gift to creatures who need to survive by procreation. I had prayed to join in obeying the command to increase and multiply, and God was saying a clear no to my offer. I felt free; I felt open and fertile, a new person for whom God has a purpose. It was like putting my life on the altar for God to consume what is not necessary for my journey. Rather than being consumed by childlessness, I rose, like Hannah, as one who had experienced a secret conversation and a secret pact with God. I was convinced that something would be born of this experience. I was pregnant with expectation of great things to come to me from God. I have not been disappointed (Oduyoye, 1999, p. 118).

Oduyoye’s life has been full indeed as she has worked to multiply God’s love, the fullness of humanity, creativity, God’s glory and “that which God can look upon and pronounce ‘good,’ even ‘very good.’” As the Mother of African women’s theology, she has truly embodied God’s call to “increase and multiply” (Oduyoye, 1999, p. 118).

Contributions to Christian Education

Without a doubt, Mercy Amba Oduyoye has made a significant contribution to the field of theology and Christian education through her meticulous examination of gender, religion, and culture from an African woman’s perspective. As one of the first African women to write and publish theological works by and about African women, she has virtually spent a life-time educating and empowering African women to write and create their own liberative theologies. These African and women-centered theologies embody the existential realities of women of faith living under oppressive systems and structures throughout the African continent and wider society. Yet they also celebrate the rich African heritage and contributions of African women.

Over the years, feminist, womanist, and Circle scholars have celebrated Oduyoye’s wide-ranging contributions to women’s theologies through their teaching, scholarship, and activism. Through the lens of their commendations we can glean insights from Oduyoye’s life and work for shaping a liberative Christian education. For example, Kwok Pui-lan points to Oduyoye’s tireless work with Third World feminist theologians. Recognizing similar issues of sexism, exclusion, violence, and devaluation of women in the Third World, Oduyoye has worked through EATWOT and other ecumenical organizations to encourage women from various countries to share their experiences with one another in an effort to develop strategies of resistance and creative feminist theologies from Third World perspectives (Pui-lan, 2007; Pui-lan, 2004).

As an educator, Oduyoye has drawn upon her international and ecumenical work to emphasize the importance of knowing one’s own context, yet moving beyond one’s context to engage other communities. Grounded in a feminist and liberationist orientation, she approaches the educational task by first sharing her own experiences of oppression and quest for liberation from an African Christian woman’s perspective. Her experiences reveal her deep analysis of culture, religion, and gender with the aim of identifying religio-cultural elements that are life-giving for African women and affirming of their “full humanity and participation in religion and society.” She also examines elements that are contrary to the “gospel of fullness of life” to determine whether they embody transformative qualities or whether they must be called out for “prophetic condemnation” (Oduyoye, 2001, p. 13). Oduyoye’s pedagogy is grounded in both cultural hermeneutics and biblical hermeneutics with the goal of equipping students not only to challenge oppressive cultural practices, church traditions, and biblical interpretations, but also to shape and reshape educational approaches that advance liberation. For Oduyoye, education is highly contextual and grounded in experience, as generalizations about Africa or any other community can be dangerous in light of “patriarchal ideologies” and monolithic structures that tend to be oppressive. She therefore, embraces educational practices that empower women, students, and oppressed communities to resist these tendencies (Oduyoye, 2001, p. 18).

But knowing one’s own context, which includes personal experiences as well as an understanding of one’s community--its social ethos, religio-cultural norms, and history of oppression and struggle for liberation, must be coupled with a commitment to move beyond one’s context to engage other communities. Oduyoye, has longed believed, as reflected in her work with Third World feminist theologians, in the power of experiencing another’s world. She emphasizes this point by drawing upon the Akan proverb, Wonnkoo obi afum a wose wonko na woye okuafo, which in essence means, “you gain a better perspective of the kind of farmer you are if you visit other people’s farms” (Oduyoye, 1988, p. 51). Experiencing other communities reminds us as Christian educators that there are multiple ways of teaching and learning; that we must engage in biblical criticism and strategies for reading the Bible from a variety of perspectives; that we must be willing to enter into dialogue across gender, culture, and religious orientations; and that engaging other communities allows us to share in one another’s struggle for liberation while affirming the full humanity of all of God’s people.

Womanist scholar, Katie Cannon as one of only three women in the African diaspora (the others being Jacquelyn Grant and Verna Cassells) invited to attend the Circle’s first Biennial Institute of African Women in Religion and Culture, celebrates the significance of the Circle’s first edited volume under Oduyoye’s leadership, The Will to Arise: Women, Tradition, and the Church in Africa (1992). Commending the writers for their ability to “affirm cultural traditions and criticize their failings” in order to envision new possibilities for shaping relevant theological discourse, she concludes her foreword to this volume by stating, “African women theologians have turned once-invisible words into reflective, critical insights so that concepts knowable only to sound and hearing are now visible and available to an infinite range of readers.” Oduyoye has indeed initiated this process through her insistence on African women writing and publishing their own stories with a critical eye toward gender, religion, and culture (Cannon, 1992, pp. vii-viii).

A key component of Oduyoye’s work has been her analysis of the role that African religion and culture plays in shaping and impacting African women’s experiences. In her book Daughters of Anowa; African Women and Patriarchy (1995, 2003), she illustrates how African culture functions as a two-edge sword in the lives of African women. On the one hand it offers a rich heritage of faith and spirituality, music, art, proverbs, folktales, family, and communal life that forms the foundation of their sense of personhood and identity. It also embodies liberative components that women readily embrace. But on the other hand, African culture can be for women a source of oppression. “At the core of the culture,” she writes, “is an ideology that has absolute priority: the corporate personality of the family, clan, or nation is always chosen over the personhood of the individual, especially when that individual is a woman” (p. 15). While, Oduyoye celebrates those aspects of African faith and culture that are life-giving, empowering, and liberative, she also engages in a serious analysis and critique of those aspects of the heritage that are dehumanizing and oppressive.

Oduyoye’s educational approach suggests that Christian education engage in a similar analysis and critique of the Christian faith. It must raise critical questions about the Bible, Christian practices, and the existential realities of diverse communities in an effort to create life sustaining communities that reflect God’s love and liberating presence. “African women who read the Bible with a critical eye,” she maintains, “discover in it the Triune God as liberator of the oppressed, the rescuer of the marginalized and all who live daily in the throes of pain, uncertainty and deprivation” (Oduyoye, 2001, p. 50). For Oduyoye, Christian education must draw liberative themes from biblical stories and Christian tradition with attention to the work of liberation and affirming the full humanity of all peoples. 

Cannon’s comments also reveal Oduyoye’s passion for mentoring others. We see her educational approach to mentoring most clearly through her involvement with the Circle as she attends to several key components. First, she is intentional about creating a safe space for women to research, write, dialogue, and participate in the process of communal theology. Second, she nurtures relationships by “replacing hierarchies with mutuality” and encouraging women to learn from one another in a mutual exchange of ideas (Oduyoye, 2001, 17). Third, she begins where students are while challenging them to move beyond their comfort zone. And finally, she emphasizes women’s solidarity. She illustrates the essence of her communal mentoring in her book, Introducing African Women’s Theology, (2001).

In the community of women none is treated as an object. Women all recognize mutual dependence, support and correction. They see themselves as having embarked on a joint search for relevance. Convinced that one head does not constitute a council, they consult together so that their chances of arriving at reliable sources and construction may be heightened. They act together hoping that in so doing they might improve their chances of coming closer to the realities of their lives and hopefully closer to the truth that will set them free, creating a community in which the image of God in women will be honored (p. 29).

Oduyoye relies on mentoring as a source of empowerment, building authentic relationships, and advancing the collective struggle for transformation.   

The late Letty Russell, a beloved friend and colleague of Oduyoye champions her ability to work within, yet outside of the male dominated structures of the church, faith-based organizations, and the academy to challenge patriarchal limitations and sexism. As one of a few women (and often the only woman) in leadership roles within these institutions, Russell notes that Oduyoye “used her pioneering presence to open up the possibility of including outsiders” into “patriarchal systems” to bring about change (Russell, 2006, p. 50). In concert with others, Russell therefore declares that Oduyoye’s extensive scholarship, religio-cultural analysis and critique, courage to speak out against patriarchal violence, as well as her ability to empower women to find their voices and resist all manner of oppression has clearly established herself as the “Mother of African women’s theology.”

While Oduyoye’s commitment to liberation under girds her theological reflection, it is also a resounding theme in her educational orientation. Indeed, her passion for justice, humanization, and dignity inform her critique of patriarchy as well as her advocacy of gender sensitivity and women’s equality throughout all aspects of the church, academy, and society. For Oduyoye, education must lead to individual and societal liberation with an eye toward justice, humanization, and dignity for all of God’s people.

Elizabeth Amoah, a longtime Circle member lifts up three foci of Oduyoye’s theological work that “form the pivot around which many current African women theologians do their theologizing”: (1) post-colonial Christianity in Africa; (2) women, tradition and the gospel in Africa; and (3) global issues from African perspectives  (Amoah, 2006, p. xxi). Amoah goes on to conclude that Oduyoye’s creative interpretation of African Christianity, her extensive work in the ecumenical and missionary movements, and her rootedness in African culture have given her a unique ability to identify issues and concerns that impact not only the welfare of African women, but their full participation in church and society. Her work has also broadened her understanding of globalization and its effect on African communities. Oduoyoye, therefore, encourages African theologians to engage in relevant theological reflection that addresses the realities of contemporary African life (Amoah, 2006, p. xxii).

Oduyoye has spent a lifetime teaching and writing about theology, women’s rights, and global concerns. But her theological and educational reflections have not been solely based on her intellectual studies and accomplishments, but rather they have been shaped by her own experience of marginalization and her active involvement with others in the struggle for liberation. As an educator, Oduyoye is deeply concerned about helping people integrate what they have learned into their everyday lives. Thus, she invites a mutual dance between theory and practice. Theory, according to Oduyoye, interweaves theology, spirituality, and ethics and moves to “commitment, advocacy and a transforming praxis” (Oduoyoye, 2001, p. 16).

One way that Oduyoye inspires the dance between theory and practice is through the power of story-telling. A primary method of theological reflection in the Circle, storytelling has provided a critical lens for analyzing women’s experiences at various points in their lives and engaging them in a praxis of transformation. It has also inspired dialogue with other traditions, perspectives, and contexts that offer insights for deeper understanding and transformative action. Throughout her educational process, Oduyoye uses storytelling to advance not only the integration of theory and practice, but also to engage students in a transformative praxis that “gives birth to liberating and life-enhancing visions” that lead to further actions and continued reflections (Oduyoye, 2001, pp. 16-17).    

Finally, Musimbi Kanyoro and Nyambura Njoroge, also faithful members of the Circle, speak of Ouyoye’s critical leadership within the Circle and her ability to draw from her own experiences to encourage women to name their challenges and to transform them through a life-giving theology of healing, hope, resistance, and transformation (Kanyoro, 2006; Njoroge, 2006). As a gifted leader and storyteller, Oduyoye “writes and speaks with consummate passion [and] . . . believes implicitly in what she does” notes Kanyoro (Kanyoro, 2006, p. 28). Through her sustained leadership, extensive networking, collaboration with others, creative mentoring, and prophetic call to action, the Circle has gained international recognition. Indeed, the Circle has been a spring board for creating African women’s theologies; for proposing theological education programs that emphasize gender-sensitivity; and for promoting ongoing leadership development. Moreover, Oduyoye has been instrumental in advancing the work of Circle members who have been responsible for multiple publications, advocacy programs, resource centers, orphanages, and outreach programs (Oduyoye, 2008, pp. 102-104).   

Oduyoye’s leadership and educational approach has clearly been one of collaboration. She has worked tirelessly with multiple faith-based organizations, churches, educational institutions, and individuals to engage their collective wisdom and contributions. Through this collaborative effort, she has created, explored, and integrated subject matter, curriculum resources, leadership development strategies, and educational methodology that is grounded in a liberation motif. Yet, her liberation orientation especially in light of a collaborative educational process has demanded a serious consideration of power. Hence, power, according to Oduyoye, is not for the sole benefit of an individual or a certain group of people, but rather it is for the “well being of the community” (Oduyoye, 2001, Transforming power, p. 223). By re-envisioning the role of power, Oduyoye affirms the value of every person within the educational community and their equal responsibility for sustaining the livelihood of those within the community. Her insightful definition further emphasizes the importance of creating a hospitable learning environment that is life-giving and fosters the full participation of teachers and learners.

Oduyoye’s educational process, therefore, inspires “a new kinship” within the teaching/learning process that transcends differences and invites persons to work in solidarity with one another in their mutual quest for healing, hope, and love for all. That indeed is a legacy worth emulating!


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Oduyoye, M. A. (1972). Youth without jobs. Ibadan, Nigeria: Daystar Press.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1973). Flight from the farms. Ibadan, Nigeria: Daystar Press.

Oduyoye, M. A. (Ed.). (1973). Church youth work in Africa. Ibadan, Nigeria: Daystar Press.  

Oduyoye, M. A. (1979). Christian youth work. Ibadan, Nigeria: Daystar Press.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1980). And women, where do they come in? Lagos, Nigeria: Methodist Literature Department.

Oduyoye, M. A. (Ed.). (1986). The state of Christian theology in Nigeria 1980-81. Ibadan, Nigeria: Daystar Press.

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Oduyoye, M. A. (1990). Who will roll the stone away? The ecumenical decade of the churches in solidarity with women. Geneva, Switzerland: Risk Series, World Council of Churches.

Oduyoye, M. A., & Kanyoro, M. R. A. (Eds.). (1990, 2001). Talitha, qumi! Proceeding of the convocation of African women theologians Trinity College, Legon-Accra September 24-2 October, 1989. Accra-North, Ghana: SWL Press.

Oduyoye, M. A., & Kanyoro, M. R. A. (Eds.). (1992). The will to arise: Women, tradition, and the church in Africa. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1992). The Wesleyan presence in Nigeria, 1842-1962: An exploration of power, control and partnership in mission. Ibadan, Nigeria: Sefer Books.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1992). Leadership development in the Methodist church Nigeria, 1842-1962. Ibadan, Nigeria: Sefer Books.  

Oduyoye, M. A. (1995, 2003). Daughters of Anowa: African women and patriarchy. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Book.

Mananzan, M. J., Oduyoye, M. A., Tamez, E., Clarkson, J. S., Grey, M. C. & Russell, L. M. (Eds.). (1996). Women resisting violence: Spirituality for life. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1996). Hearing and knowing: Theological reflections on Christianity in Africa. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

Oduyoye, M. A. (Ed.). (1997). Transforming power: Women in the household of God, proceedings of the Pan-African conference of the circle of concerned African women theologians, 1996. Accra-North, Ghana: Sam-Woode Publishers.

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Robert, D. L., Gunter, Stephen W. & Oduyoye, M. A. (1997). Evangelism as the heart of mission. General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church.

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Oduyoye, M. A. (2001), Heart, mind, and tongue (A heritage of woven words), Amoah, A., & Martin, P. (Eds.). Accra-North, Ghana: Sam Woode Publishers.

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Oduyoye, M. A., & Vroom, H. M. (Eds.). (2003). One gospel–many cultures, case studies and reflections on cross-cultural theology. Amsterdam, the Netherlands – New York, NY: Rodopi B. V.

Oduyoye, M. A. (2004). Beads and strands: Reflections of an African woman on Christianity in Africa. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

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Chapters in Books

Oduyoye, M. A. (1976). The church in youth education—Years ago or years to come. In J. S. Pobee (Ed.). Religion in a pluralistic society (pp. 190-200). Leiden, Netherlands: E. J. Brill.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1977). The value of African beliefs and practices for Christian theology. In K. Appiah-Kubi & S. Torres (Eds.), African theology en route (pp. 109-116). Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1977). The poverty makers: A critique on patterns of poverty in the Third World. In D. Millwood (Ed.), The poverty makers. Geneva, Switzerland: World Council of Churches.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1979). The roots of African Christian feminism. In J. S. Pobee et. al. (Eds.), Variations in Christian theology in Africa. Nairobi, Kenya : Uzima.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1979). Women theologians and the church in Africa: A study of relevance. In World Council of Churches, Sub-unit on Women in Church and Society, We listened long, before we spoke: A report of the consultation of women theological students, Cartigny, Switzerland, July, 1978 (pp. _). Geneva, Switzerland: World Council of Churches; German Translation In B. Urhobo (Ed.), Frauen in der Dritten Welt: Text und fragen (pp. _). Hamburg, Germany: Evangelisches Missionswerk.  

Oduyoye, M. A. (1980). A decade and a half of ecumenism in Africa–The problems, programmes and hopes. In A. J. Van der Bent (Ed.), Voices of unity: Essays in honour of William A. Visser‘t Hooft. Geneva, Switzerland: World Council of Churches.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1982). The unity of the church and the renewal of human community: A perspective from Africa. In M. Kinnamon (Ed.), Towards visible unity: Study papers and reports. Geneva, Switzerland: World Council of Churches.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1982). The mission of the church and Nigerian realities. In M. Motte &

J. Lang (Eds.), Dialogue in mission. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1983). Wholeness of life in Africa. In M. ma Mpolo et. al. (Eds.), An African call for life. Geneva, Switzerland: World Council of Churches.

 Oduyoye, M. A. (1985). Who does theology? Reflections on the subject of theology. In S. Torrres & V. Fabella (Eds.), Doing theology in a divided world. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1985). The doctrine of the Trinity--Is it relevant for contemporary Christian theology? In R. P. Scharlemann (Ed.), Naming God. New York, NY: Paragon House.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1986). Women’s experience and liberation theologies. In V. Fabella and S. Torres (Eds.), Irruption of the Third World, A challenge to theology. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1984). Towards a liturgy for revolution. In S. O. Abogunrin et. al. (Eds.), Religion and ethical reorientation (pp. 120-138). Ibadan, Nigeria: Daystar Press.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1986). Commonalities: An African perspective. In K. C. Abraham et. al. (Eds.). (1987), Third World theologies (pp. _). Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books; In J. S. Pobee & B. Von Wartenberg Potter (Eds.), New eyes for reading: Biblical and theological reflections by women from the Third World. Geneva, Switzerland: World Council of Churches.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1988). Be a woman, and Africa will be strong. In L. M. Russell et. al. (Eds.), Inheriting our mothers’ gardens: Feminist theology in Third World perspective (pp. 35-53). Louisville, KY: Westminster Press.

Oduyoye, M. A., & Amoah, E. (1988). The Christ for African women. In V. Fabella & M. A. Oduyoye (Eds.), With passion and compassion: Third World women doing theology (pp. 35-46). Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1989). Christian feminism and African culture: The heart of the matter. In M. H. Ellis & O. Maduro (Eds.), The future of liberation theology: Essays in honour of Gustavo Gutierrez (pp. 441-449). Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1990, 2001). The search for a two-winged theology. In M. A. Oduyoye & M. Kanyoro (Eds.), Talitha qumi! Proceedings of the convocation of African women theologians, Trinity College, Legon-Accra September 24-2 October, 1989 (pp. 31-56). Accra-North, Ghana: SWL Press.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1990). Teaching authoritatively amidst Christian pluralism in Africa. In D. Meeks (Ed.), Should Methodists teach? Wesleyan tradition and modern diversity. Nashville, TN: Kingswood Books, Abingdon Press.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1990). The empowering spirit of religion. In S. B. Thistlethwaite & M.  P. Engel (Eds.), Lift every voice: Constructing Christian theologies from the underside (Revised & expanded edition, pp. 251-264). San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1991). Liberative ritual and African religion. In J. Van Nieuwenhove & B. K. Goldewijk (Eds.), Popular religion, liberation and contextual theology. Kampen, Netherlands: J. H. Kok.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1991). Anthropology, African. In N. Lossky et. al. (Eds.), Dictionary of the ecumenical movement (pp. 29-34). Geneva, Switzerland: World Council of Churches.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1991). Jezu, de gezalfde. In M. Kalsky & T. Witvliet (Eds.), De gewonde genezer: Christologie vanuit het perspectief van vrouwen in verschillende culturen (pp. 11-25). Baarn: Ten Have.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1993). A critique of John S. Mbiti’s view on love and marriage in Africa. In J. K. Olupona and S. S. Nyang (Eds.), Religious plurality in Africa: Essays in honour of John S. Mbiti (pp. 341-366). Berlin, Germany, New York, NY: Mouton de Gruyter.  

Oduyoye, M. A. (1993). Inclusive and liberative for all (forward). In V. Fabella (Ed.), Beyond bonding: A Third World women’s theological journey (pp. vii-xi). Manila, Philippines: EATWOT.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1993). Liberation and the development of theology in Africa. In M. Reuver, F. Solms, G. Huizer (Eds.), The ecumenical movement tomorrow (pp. 203-209). Kampen, Germany, Kok/Geneva, Switzerland: World Council of Churches.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1993). The meaning of solidarity. In P. Kumari (Ed.), A Reader in feminist theology (pp. 115-131). Madras: Gurukul Publications.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1994). Donna nera: la teologia femministain una prospettiva africana. In R. Gibellini (Ed.), Percorsi di teologia africana (pp. 263-290). Brescia, Italy:  Queriniana.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1994). Feminist theology in an African perspective. In R. Gibellini (Ed.), Paths of African theology. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1994). Women, religion and ritual in Africa. In J. Pobee (Ed.), Culture, women and theology. ISPCK.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1996). Pagan, conversion: Feminist theology in Africa. In L. M. Russell & J. S. Clarkson (Eds.), Dictionary of feminist theologies (pp. 112-114); Inculturation (pp. 153-154, 1998-9). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1998). God alone gives and distributes gifts. In S. Madigan (Ed.), Mystics, visionaries, prophets: A historical anthology of women’s spiritual writings (pp. 454-472). Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Press.

Oduyoye, M. A. (2001). Transforming power: Paradigms from the novels of Buchi Emecheta. In N. J. Njoroge and Dube, M. W. (Eds.), Talitha cum! Theologies of African women (pp. 222-244). Pietermaritzburg, South Africa: Cluster Press.

Oduyoye, M. A. (2003). African culture and the gospel inculturation from an African women’s perspective. In M. A. Oduyoye & H. M. Vroom (Eds.), Editions (pp. 39-62). Amsterdam, Netherlands, New York, NY: Rodopi B.V.

Oduyoye, M. A. (2003). Christian engagement with African culture: Religious challenges. In J. Leox & G. Ten Haar (Eds.), Uniquely African? African Christian identity from cultural and historical perspectives (pp. 89-108). Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press.

Oduyoye, M. A. (2005). African women and globalization: A view from Ghana. In J. de Santa Ana (Ed.), Religions today: Their challenge to the ecumenical movement (pp.148-153). Geneva, Switzerland: World Council of Churches.

Oduyoye, M. A. (2005). A letter to my ancestors. In N. Otieno & H. McCullum (Eds.), Journey of hope: Towards a new ecumenical Africa (pp. xv-xxii). Geneva, Switzerland: World Council of Churches.

Oduyoye, M. A. (2005). Theological reflections on gender, poverty and church involvement: A report from a research conference in Uppsala. In K. Hallencreutz (Ed.), Missio No.20 Swedish Institute of Mission Research.


Yamoah, M. (1968). Education and development. Student World, 1, 67-70.

Yamoah, M. (1968). The church and education in Ghana. Insight and Opinion, III, 96-98.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1974). Unity and freedom in Africa. The Ecumenical Review, 26(3), 453-458.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1976). Women from the perspective of the Bible. Orita: Ibadan Journal of Religious Studies, 10(2), 161-171.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1977). Human rights and social justice: A theological reflection on Christian social teaching from 1966-1976. Religions 3(3) (Nigerian Association for the Study of Religions), 69-81.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1977). Liturgy for our days. Nigerian Christian, 2(5), 10; 2(6), 11-12.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1979). The Asante woman socialization through proverbs. African Notes, 8(1), 5-11.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1979). Controversial ordinations in the early church. Nigerian Christian, 13(10), 13; 13(12), 10-11, 14.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1980). The development of the ecumenical movement in Africa with special reference to the all Africa conference of churches 1958-1974. Ife Journal of Religions, 1, 25-36; Theological Journal 9(3), 30-40.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1981). Female authority in Asante law and constitution: Part II. African Notes 8(2), 9-14.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1981). The search for a two-winged theology. Nigritsia Journal of the Comboni Fathers.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1981). Standing on both feet: Education and leadership training of women in the Methodist church Nigeria 1878-1946. The Ecumenical Review, 33(1), 60-71.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1981). Naming the woman: The words of the Bible and the words of the Akan. Bulletin of African Theology, 3(5).

Oduyoye, M. A. (1982). The doctrine of the Trinity: Is it relevant for contemporary Christian theology? Orita: Ibadan Journal of Religious Studies, 14(1), 43-54.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1982). Feminism: A pre-condition for a Christian anthropology. Africa Theological Journal, 11(3).

Oduyoye, M. A. (1982). In the image of God: A theological reflection from an African perspective. Bulletin of African Theology, 4(7), 41-54.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1983). The Eucharist as witness. International Review of Mission, 72(286), 222-228.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1983). Feminism: A precondition for a Christian anthropology. African Theological Journal, 2(3), 193-208.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1984, June). Absoluteness of Christ in the context of Muslim claims: The Nigerian case. Orita: Journal of Religious Studies, Ibadan, 16(1), 31-53.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1984). A new community of women and men for Africa. Media Development (Journal of the World Association for Christian Communications) 31(2), 25-28.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1984). Church-women and the church’s mission in contemporary times: A study of sacrifice in mission. Bulletin of African Theology, 6(12), 259-272.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1988). Okumenische dekade: Solidaritat der kirchen mit den frauen 1978-1988: Ein afrikanischer beitrag. Okumenishe Rundschau, 37 Jahrgang, Heft 3, 257-270.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1988). An African woman’s Christ. Voices from the Third World, 2(2).

Oduyoye, M. A. (1989). The African family as a symbol of ecumenism. One in Christ, 3, 238-254.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1989, April). Alive to what God is doing. The Ecumenical Review, 41(2), 194-200.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1989). Armut und Mutterschaft. Concilium, 25(6).

Oduyoye, M. A. (1989, April-Sept.). La famiglia africana come simbolo del ‘ecumenismo.’ Studi Ecumenici, 203-231.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1989, June 29-July 4). United and uniting: That they may all be one. Minutes (Seventeenth General Synod United Church of Christ, Tarrant Convention Center, Fort Worth, Texas), 135-138.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1990). La familia africana como simbolo de ecumenismo. Dialogo Ecumenico 25, 82-83. Publication of Centro De Estudios Orientales y Ecumenicos ‘Juan 23’ Universidad Pontificia, Salamanca (Espana).

Oduyoye, M. A. (1990). Scripture goes full circle in Africa. Response (Official Program Journal of United Methodist Women), 22(8), 22-23, 41, 46-47.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1992). Feminism and religion: The African woman’s dilemma. Amka (An Occasional Newsletter of the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians), 2.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1992, April). The passion out of compassion: Women of the EATWOT Third Assembly. International Review of Mission, 81(322), 313-318.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1993). Contextualization as a dynamic in theological education. ATS Theological Education, 30 Supplement 1, 107-120.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1993). Doing theology is being in mission: A focus on women. Ministerial Formation, 62, 2-7.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1994). Involving women. One World.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1994). Meditation: Jesus as source of wholeness. One World.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1994, May-June). Re-imagining the world: A global perspective. Church and Society (Presbyterian Church USA), 82-93.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1994). The women partners of Jesus in a changing world. Circle of Prayer, 13.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1994). Violence against women: A challenge to Christian theology. Journal of Inculturation Theology, 1(1), 38-53.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1995). Calling the church to account: African women and liberation. Excerpts from Daughters of Anowa.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1995, January-April). Christianity and African culture. International Review of Mission 84(332-333), 77-90, (1995) Reprint from SEDOS Bulletin 27(8 & 9), 243-249.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1995). Christianity and African culture. International Review of Mission, 84(332.333), 243-249.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1995). Violence against women. Bangalore Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians (EATWOT), 18(1), 169-176.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1995). Violence against women: Window on Africa. Voices from the Third World, 18(1), 168-176.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1996, January). The church of the future, its mission and theology: A view from Africa. Theology Today, 52(4), 494-505.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1996). The impact of women’s theology on the development of dialogue in EATWOT. Bangalore Ecumenical Association of Third Word Theologians (EATWOT), 19(1), 11-33.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1999). The impact of women’s theology on the development of EATWOT. Bangalore Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians (EATWOT), 22(2), 89-114.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1999). Reducing welfare and sacrificing women and children. South Africa University of Cape Town, 104, 74-77.

Oduyoye, M. A. Il faut deux ailes pour voler. Interview, Bethleem 5(94), 8-10.

Oduyoye, M. A. Zum Fliegen braucht es zwei Flugel. Interview, Wendekreis, 5(94), 10-12.

Oduyoye, M. A. (2001). Addresses of EATWOT president. Bangalore Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians (EATWOT) 24(2), 13-22.

Oduyoye, M. A. (2001). Biribi wo soro. Bangalore Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians (EATWOT), 24(2), 11-13.

Oduyoye, M. A. (2001, January). The story of a circle. Ecumenical Review 53(1), 97-100.

Oduyoye, M. A. (2003). Gender and theology in Africa today. The Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians Website (n.d.). Retrieved from http://thecirclecawt.org/focus_areasc6fe.html?mode=content.

Oduyoye, M. A. (2005, July). Praying for God’s transformation in Africa. Ecumenical Review 57(3), 281-283.

Oduyoye, M. A. (2006, Spring). Poverty renders African women vulnerable to violence. Insights 121(2), 25-28.

Oduyoye, M. A. (2007, December). Re-reading the Bible from where we have been placed: African women’s voices on some biblical texts. Journal of African Christian Thought 10(2), 3-7.

Oduyoye, M. A. (2008, January-April). Women’s presence in the life and teaching of Jesus with particular emphasis on his passion. Ecumenical Review, 60(1-2), 82-89.

Oduyoye, M. A. (2009). Claiming our heritage. Ghana Akrofi-Christaller Institute of Theology, Mission and Culture 12(2), 3-9.

Sources about Oduyoye


Dyczek, C. (2002, June). Casting the nets of symbolism. New Blackfriars, 83(976), 278-288.

Erbele-Kuster, D. (2004, June). Rereading the Bible: A dialogue with women theologians from Latin America, Africa and Asia. Voices from the Third World 27(1), 53-67.

Fiedler. R. N., & Hofmeyr, J. W. (2011). The conception of the circle of concerned African women theologians: Is it African or western? Acta Theologica 31(1), 39-57.

Kuhlman, Erica Ann. (2002). Oduyoye, Mercy Amba. In A to Z of Women in World History, A to Z of Women. New York, NY: Facts On File, Inc. Modern World History Online. Facts On File, Inc.       Retrieved from http://www.fofweb.com/History/HistRefMain.asp?iPin=azwom00141&SID=2&DatabaseName=Modern+World+History+Online&InputText=%22liberation+theology%22&SearchStyle=&dTitle=Oduyoye%2C+Mercy+Amba&TabRecordType=Biography&BioCountPass=16&SubCountPass=51&DocCountPass=0&ImgCountPass=0&MapCountPass=0&FedCountPass=&MedCountPass=0&NewsCountPass=0&RecPosition=7&AmericanData=&WomenData=&AFHCData=&IndianData=&WorldData=Set&AncientData=&GovernmentData= 

Parks, J. (2014, February). Frauen Fridays—Mercy Amba Oduyoye. Cataclysmic Retrieved from http://cataclysmicblog.com/2014/02/28/frauen-fridays-mercy-amba-oduyoye/

Pui-lan, K. (2004, Spring). Mercy Amba Oduyoye and African women’s theology. Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, 20(1), (Special Issue in Honor of Mercy Amba Oduyoye), 7-22.

Pui-lan, K. (2007). Mercy Amba Oduyoye. In K. Pui-lan, D. H. Compier, & J. Rieger (Eds.), Empire and the Christian tradition: New readings of classical theologians (pp. 471-486). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.

Landman, C. (2007, May). Mercy Amba Ewudziwa Oduyoye: Mother of our stories. Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae 33(1), 187-204.

LenkaBula, P. (2008). A journey on the path of an African feminist theologian and pioneer, Mercy Amba Oduyoye: continuing the pursuit for [sic] justice in the church and society. Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae 34 Supplement, 1-27.

Muers, R. (2005). Feminism, gender and theology. In D. Ford (Ed.). with R. Muers, The modern theologians: Introduction to Christian theology since 1918 (3rd ed., pp. 431-450). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers.

Russell, L. M. (2004, Spring). Cultural hermeneutics: A postcolonial look at mission. Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, (20)1 (Special Issue in Honor of Mercy Amba Oduyoye), 23-40.


Chidili, B. U. (2003). The vision of Mercy Amba Oduyoye an African feminist theologian and educator: Pedagogy of human dignity (Doctoral dissertation, Fordham University, 2003). ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing, 3081402.


Phiri, I. A. & Nadar, S. (Eds). (2006). African women, religion, and heath: Essays in honor of Mercy Amba Ewudziwa Oduyoye. Pietermaritzburg, South Africa: Cluster Publications.

Book Reviews of Oduyoye’s Work

Athyal, L. (1990, July). [Review of the book With passion and compassion: Third World women doing theology]. International Bulletin of Missionary Research, 14(3), 134.

Britton, J. (2006, October). [Review of the book A history of the ecumenical movement, 1968-2000 (Vol. 3)]. International Bulletin of Missionary Research, 30(4), 210.

Heiser, W. C. (2005, Spring). [Review of the book A history of the ecumenical movement, 1968-2000 (Vol. 3)]. Theology Digest, 52(1), 60.

Kalu, O. U. (2005, January). [Review of the books Christians and churches of Africa;   Jesus and the gospel in Africa; and Beads and strands: Reflections of an African woman on Christianity in Africa]. International Bulletin of Missionary Research 29(1), 48-49.

The Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians Publications

See: http://www.thecirclecawt.org/cawt_publications.html

Excerpts from Publications

Oduyoye, M. A. (1996). Hearing and knowing: Theological reflections on Christianity in Africa. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, p. 121.

“Feminism has become the shorthand for the proclamation that women’s experience should become an integral part of what goes into the definition of being human. It highlights the woman’s world and her worldview as she struggles side by side with the man to realize her full potential as a human being . . . Feminism then emphasizes the wholeness of the community as made up of male and female beings. It seeks to express what is not so obvious, that is, that male-humanity is a partner with female-humanity, and that both expressions of humanity are needed to shape a balanced community within which each will experience a fullness of Be-ing. Feminism calls for the incorporation of the woman into the community of interpretation of what it means to be human.”

Oduyoye, M. A. (2001), Heart, mind, and tongue (A heritage of woven words), Amoah, A., & Martin, P. (Eds.). Accra-North, Ghana: Sam Woode Publishers, p. 62.


We invoke you

Spirit of unity

Transform our divisions and reshape our vision.

All of creation, all living being,

Cry in the midst of injustice and brokenness.

Spirit of unity

Reconcile your people

We invoke you

Spirit of unity,

Heal the wounds of our history,

Remove from us

All that sustains our present divisions

Unstop our ears to hear your call for unity.

Awaken in us the hunger for righteousness.

Teach us and lead us into all truth.

Spirit of unity

Reconcile us with the Triune God.

Oduyoye, M. A. (2001). Introducing African women’s theology. Sheffied, England: Sheffield Academic Press, p. 21.

“The stories we tell of our hurts and joys are sacred. Telling them make us vulnerable, but without this sharing we cannot build community and solidarity. Our stories are precious paths on which we have walked with God, and struggled for a passage to our full humanity. They are events through which we have received the blessings of life from the hands of God. The stories we tell are sacred, for they are indications of how we struggled with God. While we were yet asleep or presumed dead, we heard the voice of Jesus saying amka! Those who declared us dead will see the resurrection of the image of God in the humanity of the African woman. We share our stories with you as people who believe that true community thrives where there is sharing in solidarity.”

Oduyoye, M. A. (1995, 2003). Daughters of Anowa: African women and patriarchy. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, pp. 4-5.

 “In Africa, the very idea of a ‘free woman’ conjures up negative images. We have been brought up to believe that a woman should always have a suzerain, that she should be ‘owned’ by a man, be he father, uncle, or husband. A ‘free woman’ spells disaster. An adult woman, if unmarried, is immediately reckoned to be available for the pleasure of all males and is treated as such. The single woman who manages her affairs successfully without a man is an affront to patriarchy and a direct challenge to the so-called masculinity of men who want to ‘possess’ her. Some women are struggling to be free from this compulsory attachment to the male. Women want the right to be fully human, whether or not they choose to be attached to men.”

Oduyoye, M. A. (2008, January-April). Women’s presence in the life and teaching of Jesus with particular emphasis on his passion. Ecumenical Review, 60(1-2), p. 83.

“Without too much straining of the gospel, one discovers Jesus as a man who related to women as human beings, to be respected and to be trusted. He accepted their friendship and service and hospitality. He rendered them service, teaching them, healing them, waking up their dead, saving them from exploitation and victimization. He himself undertook much that was seen as women’s roles and attitudes. A compassionate and caring one who anticipated people’s needs. Jesus was a mother par excellence. Therefore, when we meet certain women as regularly among his followers from Galilee to Golgotha and the tomb, we see a real example of solidarity among caring people.” 

Recommended Readings

Oduyoye, M. A. (1996). Hearing and knowing: Theological reflections on Christianity in Africa. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

This collection of essays highlights Oduyoye’s theological understandings of African Christian theology as they have emerged from her studies in dogmatics and her involvement with the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians (EATWOT) and the Ecumenical Association of African Theologians (EAAT). Although the book is not intended to be a systematic account of theology in Africa, it does attempt to share aspects of the Christian faith that Oduyoye has found compelling to the extent that she has “understood and appropriated the faith” (p. vii). The book is divided into two parts. Part one: “Theology in Africa: Past and Present,” focuses on major theologies that are prevalent in African churches and the lasting impact of the Contemporary Missionary Movement on African Christianity. It also addresses the need to re-envision the aim and practice of mission so that it is no longer an “exercise in cultural occupation” (p. 33), but rather an effort to recognize our covenantal relationship with God. Part two: “Themes in African Theology” surveys theological themes such as creation, covenant, salvation, the Godhead, and Christian anthropology and argues for a serious consideration of African cultural heritage with attention to African women’s experiences in shaping contemporary African Christian theology.      

Oduyoye, M. A. (1990). Who will roll the stone away? The ecumenical decade of the churches in solidarity with women. Geneva, Switzerland: Risk Series, World Council of Churches.

In this book, Oduyoye documents the first two years of the Ecumenical Decade of the Churches in Solidarity with Women. It provides an historical overview of the key events that led to the implementation of the Ecumenical Decade including the Community Study and the UN Decade for Women. Emphasizing the importance of churches in solidarity with women, she further delineates the major activities surrounding the launch of the Decade from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Caribbean to Latin America, the Middle East, North America, and the Pacific. Accents of women’s leadership roles and meticulous work during the launch and promotion of the Decade emerge throughout the book showcasing their vital role in its success.

Oduyoye, M. A. (1995, 2003). Daughters of Anowa: African women and patriarchy. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

Inspired by the question of whether African women are oppressed or not, Oduyoye embarks upon a study of the influence of traditional African culture and Christianity on the lives of African women. Through her careful analysis of African myths, folktales, and proverbs, she illustrates how these cultural expressions have worked to socialize African women into communal norms that have been oppressive, dehumanizing, and restrictive of African women’s full participation in the community. She goes on to reveal the impact of patriarchy as it emerges in both matrilineal and patrilineal communities. Oduyoye organizes the book around three “cycles of interlocking circles of stories” (p. 13). The first cycle titled “Language,” addresses Mythical Images, Women in Folktales, and the Language of Proverbs. The second cycle, “Culture,” focuses on Culture’s Bondswoman, Religion’s Chief Clients, and Marriage and Patriarchy. And the third cycle, “Dreams,” explores Dealing Justly with African Women, Calling the Church to Account, Acting as Women, and Beads and Strands. The book concludes with Oduyoye’s reflections on how African women, grounded in African culture and religion can “create new patterns of life based on the old” (p. 210).  

Oduyoye, M. A. (2001). Introducing African women’s theology. Sheffied, England: Sheffield Academic Press.

This book draws primarily upon written lectures, papers, and publications that emerged over a twenty-year time period (1976-1996) from the conferences and consultations of the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians. It also incorporates oral materials gleaned from women’s conversations, storytelling, and other communal gatherings. While this text is not a systematic treatment of African women’s theology, it is an exploration of theological themes such as God, Jesus, humanity, the church, hospitality, spirituality, and the resurrection as they are experienced and lived out in the daily lives of African women. Drawing upon both biblical hermeneutics and cultural hermeneutics, the aim of this book is to convey not only the daily struggles of African women, but also their quest for a life-giving, life-sustaining, liberative theology that meets the needs of their existential realities. The book concludes with Oduyoye’s reflection on “The Way Forward,” which embodies her hopes and commitments to shaping a liberative theology in solidarity and collaboration with all who seek justice.

Oduyoye, M. A. (2004). Beads and strands: Reflections of an African woman on Christianity in Africa. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

This book examines selected themes emerging through African religious beliefs and practices in light of Christian biblical stories. The book is divided into three parts: “Africa and Redemption,” “Global Issues in African Perspective,” and “Women, Tradition, and the Gospel in Africa” and examines African wisdom as a viable source for informing, challenging, deepening, and expanding Christianity. Through a critical lens, Oduyoye challenges African Christian theologians to create a “new myth” about human nature that transcends scientific or biological origins and emphasizes human interconnectedness as a vital part of human existence. From this holistic orientation, Oduyoye calls African theologians to engage in theological reflection that integrates their African religious heritage with Christian theology in an effort to create a relevant theology that is inclusive, empowering, and life-giving for women and all of humanity. 

Author Information

Yolanda Smith

Yolanda Y. Smith has served as Associate Professor, Research Scholar, and Lecturer in Christian Education at Yale Divinity School. She worked with Mercy Amba Oduyoye on the YDS Women’s Initiative on Gender, Faith and Responses to HIV/AIDS in Africa for several years and she has participated in meetings of the Circle of Concerned African Women’s Theologians. She is currently writing a chapter on Oduyoye in her forthcoming book Women’s Spirituality and Education in the Black Church (Palgrave MacMillan) from which this article was gleaned.

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