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"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Friday, May 29, 2009

Herstory - Part II: A few good (straight) men

This is the second of three stories reported in the very first edition of Ruach the magazine of the Episcopal Women's Caucus, , Vol. 1, Issue 1, May, 1974. The first story is here. I will print the third and final story tomorrow.

I print them here for a variety of reasons, none the least of which is to understand the context out of which came the revolutionary event of July 29, 1974, at the Church of the Advocate, Philadelphia, PA, that has become known simply as "The Philadelphia Eleven" - the ordination of eleven women who had graduated from seminary, passed canonical exams and yet were refused ordination to the Priesthood because they were women.

Remember that the 1973 General Convention, held in Louisville in June, had rejected for the second time a resolution which would have permitted the ordination of women. The first was in 1970, which had been approved by the laity but narrowly defeated by the clerical deputies.

As with the reading Holy Scripture, context is also important to reading history - or, in this case - herstory.

At the coffee hour following the ceremony [on March 22, 1974, the Rev. James F. Riley, Jr., rector of St. Nicholas Church, Richfield, and] the Rev. Robert N. (Randy) Morse, male deacon, urged Jeannette to vest and participate in Randy's ordination on Sunday evening.

Sunday, March 24th, the Rev. Douglas Hiza and women from Mankato State College again distributed the statement they had distributed two days earlier at the ordination of Palarine and McFerr-Reans. When the time came for the Laying-on of Hands, the Rev. Jeannette Piccard left her place among the clergy and walked back down the center aisle to the middle of the nave, symbolizing her rejection by the Minnesota clergy.

The Rev. George Parmeter, male deacon, who has been ordained priest at Christ Memorial Chapter in Grand Rapids, Minnesota on April 19th, came from his place among the clergy and stood beside her. The Rev Douglas Hiza, priest, joined them.

After the Laying-on of Hands the three gave each other the Kiss of Peace and returned to their places.

Solidarity is a powerful thing. It can embolden the bold who have become temporarily weary by the struggle.

It speaks a silent but powerful truth to power.

Power speaks to power. It always does. It always has. It always will.

When those who are part of the institutional system of power take a stand against the abuse of power, something in the paradigm shifts.

I am convinced that there is great significance in the allies who stand in solidarity with those who are the target of the abuse of power. Their simple acts of solidarity blow gently on the embers of gospel passion which glow with hope dimmed by the suffocating, illogical madness of oppression.

July 29, 1974, did not emerge from thin air. It was not, as has been portrayed by the opponents of the ordination of women, a rebellious, childish, selfish act, placing the unity of the church in peril.

Neither is the movement to ensure that all the baptized have access to all the sacraments in the church.

As we prepare for General Convention which meets in Anaheim, CA, July 5 - 18, we need to remember and learn from our history - and our herstory.

What we need most are strong allies to stand in solidarity with LGBT people, who will speak power to power about the powerful truth of the gospel that we are all called, in our baptized lives in Christ, to do the work of ministry - some to the ministry of the laity, some to the servant ministry of the diaconate, some to the sacramental ministry of priesthood and some to the ministry of the episcopacy.

We are all called, each in our own way, to be representatives of the Living Christ.

There are no barriers to the movement of the Holy Spirit who leads us to the truth of our lives - except the ones we impose on others.

I have often been asked why it is that some women and others who have known institutional oppression, once the are in positions of privilege and power, are sometimes the ones who do not stand in solidarity with those who stand outside the gate.

Is it to maintain the hierarchy of institutional power? Yes, sometimes.

Is it because we have forgotten the past? Yes, sometimes.

Is it because sometimes we do unto others even the painful things done unto us? Yes, sometimes.

I only know that I know what I believe those men who stood in solidarity with their sisters knew: My ordination will not be complete until everyone who is called to stand where I am privileged to stand is allowed to pursue their vocation - no matter their race, ethnicity, gender, age, socio-economic class or sexual orientation.

And, I know that those of you - LGBT and straight - who enjoy the sacramental grace of marriage will not know complete sacramental fullness until everyone who is called to stand where you are privileged to stand is allowed to pursue their vocation to marriage and family life.

What we need in Anaheim is a few good (straight) men . . . and women . . . who know the same.


it's margaret said...

Oh! What a vision. Thank you! (and with quiet resolves wonders what else might be done to embody the struggle)

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Amen, dear Elizabeth!

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Stunning picture.

Elaine C. said...

Two things:
1) Context -- on the issue of women's ordination, Women were first allowed voice, vote and seat at General Convention in 1970 -- so the numbers of women allowed in the realm of power was very, very small. This suggests that a majority of male delegates to convention were standing in solidarity with ordaining women.

2) On the formerly oppressed or oppressed standing with hegemonic oppressors -- for some it seems to be a way to feel they are claiming power. Minor comparisons, those who have been hazed may have hated it, but buy into the rationale that it is good for group solidarity -- or just want the opportunity to do to someone else what has been done to them.