My wife, Roslyn, and I are both Swedenborgians. We are, nominally at least, members of the branch known as the General Church1. The General Church does not ordain women, although, if it did, Roslyn would probably be one of the first to be ordained. She earned an M.A. in Religious Studies at the Academy of the New Church Theological School (seminary for the General Church), completed a course of study in Clinical Pastoral Education, is ordained by two online churches and is an Adjunct Staff Chaplain for the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center2. All of which is merely background for what follows.
Roslyn has been contributing for years to the Priests for Equality — a project of the Quixote Center — in support of their Inclusive Language Project to completely re-translate Hebrew and Christian Scripture in a way that "eliminate[s] sexist language"3. If I understand correctly, their translations are now complete in four volumes: the Inclusive New Testament and the 3-volume Inclusive Hebrew Scripture (Torah, Prophets and Writings). Roslyn decided it would be nice to donate a complete set to the Theological School and the co-located Bryn Athyn College. She kindly asked if I would like this gift to be in both our names and I enthusiastically agreed (even though she's done all the contributing — also in both our names, ordered and paid for it).
She spoke separately to the Dean of the Theological School and to the College Chaplain. Both seemed pleased with the idea. One came up with the idea of announcing the availability of this Inclusive Scripture at a convocation, which Roslyn thought was great. However, next thing we knew, a meeting had been held with the two of them, the Dean of the College and the President of the Academy of the New Church (to whom all the Deans as well as principals of the affiliated secondary schools report). Apparently, the purpose of the meeting was to decide whether or not to accept our gift. Or maybe it was only to discuss whether to make an announcement and how much fanfare should accompany it. I'm quite sure there was some concern about the potential subversiveness of having such volumes available, more specifically perhaps, giving the appearance of endorsing this particular translation.
In the end, they are indeed accepting the gift. Roslyn took it over to them today [9 Dec]. I think it's going to be on display in the Commons or some such place for a little while before taking up its place in the Theological School library.
I'm mostly amused by the little bit of drama that we generated. But there's also a small part of me that's annoyed at what I see as the paternalism and narrow-mindedness that required having to consider this small gift at the highest levels of the institution. If I were in charge, I'd probably4 be happy to accept of gift of Manifesto of the Communist Party, Quotations of Chairman Mao Tsetung
1Our membership was more or less inherited. In my case, both parents, all four grandparents and all eight great-grandparents were members of the General Church or, before the split in the late 19th Century, of the parent body, then known as the General Convention and today as the Swedenborgian Church. My readings of the history of that split have led me to believe that, had I been alive at the time, I would have remained with the General Convention.
2She also earned a B.S. in Nursing at Thomas Jefferson University and is a registered nurse (RN). She works full-time as a clinical nurse in the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit at Temple University Children's Medical Center.
3Roslyn's observation is that the resulting translations are inclusive in a much broader sense than simply avoiding sexism. Their translations speak, for example, of "people with leprosy" rather than "lepers."
4The only reason I say probably is because I think the Swedenborg Library, rather than trying to be all things to all people, as it seems to, would be better off focusing on having an outstanding collection of material related to Swedenborgianism, or religion, or religion and spirituality. I can go half a mile down the street to the Huntingdon Valley Library to get a much wider and more up-to-date selection of secular material.