|Virginia Ramey Mollenkott (right) with Suzannah|
Virginia Ramey Mollenkott passed peacefully into Godde’s closer embrace on September 25, 2020, surrounded by her son Paul and several close friends from EEWC-Christian Feminism Today and from the Sisterly Conversations community, which gathers annually at the Kirkridge Retreat Center in Pennsylvania.
Her pioneering work in feminist biblical analysis, feminist theology, and LGBT theologies made her a sought-after speaker at churches, conferences, universities and seminaries. She authored or co-authored 13 books and hundreds of articles and book reviews.
Born on January 28, 1932, in Philadelphia, Virginia Ramey was raised in the Plymouth Brethren Church and sent to a private Christian high school. After graduating from Bob Jones University in 1953, she earned an M.A. at Temple University in 1955. She married Frederick Mollenkott in 1954 and completed a Master’s degree at Temple University in 1955. Her son Paul was born in 1958.
She earned her doctorate in English literature at New York University in 1964, specializing in the study of John Milton. In 1973 she left her abusive marriage and accepted herself as a person attracted to women.
Dr. Mollenkott taught at Shelton College in New Jersey and Nyack College in New York City before joining the English Department of William Paterson University in New Jersey in 1967. After 30 years she retired as Professor of English Emeritus.
In 1977 her book Women, Men, and the Bible attracted widespread attention, giving hope to women raised in denominations that required women’s submission to men. In 1975 she gave a rousing speech to the first national conference of the Evangelical Women’s Caucus in Washington, D.C.
Her ground-breaking work Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? A Positive Christian Response (Harper Collins) came out in 1978, co-authored with Letha Dawson Scanzoni. It rocked the evangelical world and caused Bob Jones III, then president of her alma mater, to write a letter in 1989 declaring her unwelcome and “a devil.” Virginia sometimes chuckled over his words, “I believe it would not be unfit to pray for her destruction.”
Her many awards and honors can be found in the biography on her website, She was a member of the translation committee for the New International Version of the Bible.
Using inclusive language to refer to the Eternal One was important to her. She wrote The Divine Feminine: The Biblical Imagery of God as Female (Crossroad, 1993) and served on the committee preparing An Inclusive Language Lectionary (National Council of Churches, 1983-85).
Later in life Virginia married Judith Suzannah Tilton (1936-2018), and they lived on the shore of a lake in northern New Jersey. Then they moved to Cedar Crest Senior Living Community in Pompton Plains, NJ.
In June, Virginia suffered a fall in her apartment there. At the end of August she fell again and then developed pneumonia. Her two last wishes were fulfilled: to return to her home after hospitalization and to cast her vote by mail in the Nov. 3 election.
“Now she’s dancing with Suzannah,” said her long-time friend Debra Morrison.
Virginia is survived by her son Paul Mollenkott, his wife Barbara, and granddaughters Miranda, Serena, and Corinne.
A celebration of Virginia’s life will be postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Donations in her memory can be made to EEWC-Christian Feminism Today.