Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, PhD
Dr. Virginia Ramey Mollenkott entered the great company of the Saints in Light at 8:30 p.m. Sept. 25, 2020. Born in Philadelphia on January 28, 1932 she married Frederick H. Mollenkott in 1954, had a son, Paul F. Mollenkott, 1958; divorced in 1973; & married J. Suzannah Tilton on September 26, 2013. She earned her B.A. from Bob Jones University, 1953; M.A. Temple University, 1955; & her Ph.D. from New York University, 1964, receiving the Founder's Day Award for the highest scholastic achievement & Andiron Club Award for the most meritorious doctoral dissertation in the Department of English (Milton & the Apocrypha). In 1989 Samaritan College awarded her an honorary Doctor of Ministries. She received the 1979 Integrity Award for "extraordinary support of the gay Christian movement" & was lauded by the National Council of Churches for her work on its Inclusive Language Lectionary Committee. She taught at Temple & Bob Jones Universities, chaired English Departments at Shelton College, Ringwood, NJ, & Nyack College, Nyack, NY, & taught for three decades at William Paterson University, Wayne, NJ, retiring in 1997 as Professor of English Emerita. The second half of her 44-year academic career saw her development of specializations in feminist, lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender theologies.
Virginia served on multiple Boards & editorial committees: Pacem in Terris, Warwick, NY; Upper Room AIDS Ministry, Harlem; Kirkridge Retreat & Conference Center, Bangor, PA; & chaired the National Advisory Board for Evangelicals Concerned. She delivered hundreds of lectures on feminist & LGBT theologies in the United States & Canada, including at Princeton, Harvard, Duke, Cornell, Wheaton, Wellesley & Perkins School of Theology and was a Stylistic Consultant for the New International Version of the Bible.
Dr. Mollenkott's thirteen books include Is the Homosexual My Neighbor: A Positive Christian Response, 1978 (with Letha Dawson Scanzoni) revised 1994; The Divine Feminine: Biblical Imagery of God as Female, 1983; Sensuous Spirituality: Out from Fundamentalism, 1982 (revised 2008); Omnigender: A Trans-Religious Approach, 2001 (won the Lambda Literary Award & the Ben Franklin Award in 2002) revised 2007; & Transgender Journeys, 2003 (with Vanessa Sheridan). Her academic & church-related publications include over 150 articles & book reviews.
A trans-religious Christian & Christian feminism pioneering giant, she was a founding member of the Evangelical & Ecumenical Women's Caucus, now known as Christian Feminism Today. She led Sisterly Conversations & co-led Gay, Lesbian & Christian retreats at Kirkridge Retreat Center with Father John McNeil for 23 years. She was awarded the 1992 NJ Lesbian & Gay Coalition's Achievement Award, the 1999 Lifetime Achievement Award from SAGE (Senior Action in a Gay Environment) & was the 2017 inaugural recipient of the Mother Eagle Award by Christian Feminism Today & the Q Christian Fellowship. Her papers are archived at Pacific School of Religion's Center for LGBTQ & Gender Studies, Berkeley, CA.
Virginia lived in Hewitt, NJ, partnered with Debra L Morrison for 16 yrs. & then 21 yrs. partnered & married to Judith Suzannah Tilton after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage. They moved into Cedar Crest Village in Pompton Plains, NJ in 2008 where Virginia taught numerous Elderhostel courses in English lit & poetry, making countless friends who loved her lively intellect, compassionate heart, & unfailing wit. She continued to provide mentorship for younger Christian feminists, lesbians, & transpeople, as well as for other scholars around the world.
She will be deeply missed by her son Paul; daughter-in-law Barbara; three granddaughters Miranda, Sarina, & Corrine; cousins Jack & Jane Smiley-Canning & Nancy & Paul Bakalar; beloved decades-long friends, Beverly Gibson, Debra Morrison & Gail Ricciuti; & other beloved friends. Virginia was predeceased by her spouse J. Suzannah Tilton, her brother-in-law John Tilton, her brother Robert Ramey, her mother May Lotz Ramey & her father Frank Ramey.
Those wishing to honor Virginia's memory may make donations to the Mollenkott-McNeil Fund at Kirkridge Retreat & Study Center, Bangor, Pa. (https://kirkridge.org
); Strengthen Our Sisters (https://StrengthenOurSisters.org
); or Christian Feminism Today (https://eewc.com
). A celebration of her life will be held in 2021; details to be announced at www.VirginiaMollenkott.com