Maria Gwyn McDowell is a priest in The Episcopal Church, a teacher, and a scholar in love with the God who calls all to liberation and compassion. She is committed to working and playing alongside God in communities seeking to practice justice, mercy, and joy in our world. She received her PhD in Theological Ethics from Boston College where she wrote on gender, sexuality, and women through the lens of virtue and liberation ethics. She continues to learn and grow in her anti-racist commitments as the rector of St. Philip the Deacon Episcopal Church in Portland, Oregon.
Maria grew up in Portland, Oregon, and has spent time in time in Los Angeles, Iowa City, and Boston. She loves gardening and her prayer life involves conversing with God with busy, dirty hands, or writing. She has always been a bit of tech geek, and has generated income through a string of tech and project management jobs from college to the present. She loves the outdoors, camping, hiking, kayaking, and goes through phases of joining the hoards of bike commuters in her beloved home town. She goes absolutely nowhere without reading material. She has always loved soccer, is a huge fan of the Portland Thorns Football Club, and is sure that somewhere in her mother's basement is buried an original Timbers t-shirt.
Maria was raised in the Russian Orthodox Church (OCA) and has been an active participant with the Russians, the Greeks (GOA), and the Antiochians (AOA). She has been a choir member, chanter, youth minister, educator, and occasional preacher; essentially any form of church ministry open to women within Eastern Orthodoxy. Despite a strong call to the priesthood, she remained Orthodox and focused her academic work on a contemporary argument for the ordination of women to the priesthood rooted in both tradition, liturgy as an essential place of ethical formation, and contemporary understandings of sex and gender. She spent a number of years blogging the topic at Dei Profundis. She met her wife, Elizabeth, in the Orthodox Church and they were subsequently excommunicated as a result of their relationship. She knows what it is like to love and lose one's community.
Upon leaving Orthodoxy, she followed her wife to Trinity Episcopal Cathedral where they were immediately invited to exercise their gifts as welcome participants in a vibrant community. In the Episcopal Church, she found a home where worship was a joyful and life-giving experience of hope, welcome and delight in the uniqueness of all God's creatures. She began the discernment process for Ordination to Holy Orders in 2014. During her process, she served at St. Paul Episcopal Church in Oregon City, and St. Michael & All Angels in Portland. She was ordained to the diaconate (transitional) at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral on 10 June, 2017, and the priesthood at St. Michael & All Angels on 13 January, 2018. She currenly serves as the Rector of St. Philip the Deacon Episcopal Church in Portland, Oregon.
The moment Maria discovered theology in college, she was hooked. She earned an MDiv and PhD (Theological Ethics), and works as an independent scholar focusing on ethics, gender, and sexuality. Scholarship remains important to her intellectual well-being, but her interest has always been in lived practices, not simply theoretical discussion. She holds that nourishing theology and transformative practice ought to go hand in hand, and so is committed to ministry and the communal worship of the church as a source for theological reflection and social activism. Life and practice in the church has always been essential to her spiritual well-being.