I talked to Shelley Finson at her home in Halifax. Born in England into a white working-class family, she spent a few years living in Jamaica as a teen and then moved to Canada in her twenties, in the late 1950s. Though not particularly religious as a youth, she was gradually drawn into the United Church of Canada. Her work in the church initially focused on community development with youth in poor neighbourhoods in Toronto, but in the 1970s she was drawn into the women’s movement and into discovering how her faith and the movement were related. Beginning in the mid 1970s, she took on a lead role in bringing feminism both to her own church and to Christian churches more generally in Canada through the Movement for Christian Feminism. She was ordained as a minister in 1979 and began to work as a theological educator. Though she did not take a visible, leading role in lesbian and gay struggles within the United Church, as a lesbian who was largely closeted in church contexts in that era she was profoundly affected by the debates surrounding the United Church’s decision in 1988 to ordain out queer ministers. Finson passed away on February 3, 2008. Her words form the core of Chapter 6 of Gender and Sexuality: Canadian History Through the Stories of Activists.
Material from Finson on this site:
- In this audio clip, Finson talks about Friends of Hagar, a feminist consciousness raising group that began among women employees of Canadian churches in the mid 1970s but grew to include many lay womena as well, and eventually took on more overt and externally focused public education activities.
- In this audio clip, Finson talks about some of her experiences as the coordinator of the Movement for Christian Feminism, beginning in 1975. [audio:finson_mcf.mp3]
- In this audio clip, she talks about some of her experiences of heterosexism and homophobia as a theological educator with the United Church, both before and after taking up her long-time position in Halifax.