Tuesday, October 18, 2011
It was 25 years ago today
So many of the women I meet in the church have absolutely no idea what it was like to not have women in roles of ordained leadership in the church. To go through the ordination process with an extra measure of scrutiny and skepticism - just because of your gender.
She gave it to me to wear during my interviews because, she said, when others see it, it will look like a woman's symbol. But, when you look down at it, you'll remember that your role is to represent Christ to the world.
I want you to know that I was grilled - interrogated - by this woman for a full 10 minutes about that necklace. Hand to Jesus.
She wanted to know what it meant. I told her. She wanted to know what it meant to me. I told her. She wanted to know if it had some "hidden meaning". I said no. She was not convinced. She plummeted me with question after question until I finally started to look around the room at the four other people who were part of the "interview team", pleading with my eyes into their eyes for some relief.
Finally .... FINALLY.... someone called her off but by that time she had worked herself up into a lather, poor dear. I don't think I'll ever forget the look in her eyes. And, that wasn't about my sexuality. That was about my gender. She was Very Clear that women were "not suitable material" for ordination.
So, I look today at women who have been ordained in the last, say, 10 years, and I marvel at the fact that most of them grew up in a church where there has always been ordained women - in the diaconate, priesthood and episcopacy.
They have no idea and, it seems, no real desire to learn about history. They can therefore make no connection between the discrepancy in either the vocational opportunities or compensation packages between themselves and their male colleagues.
They think it's just a tough economic time for everyone. And, it is, of course, but that doesn't explain the continued disparity in vocational calls and compensation between men and women. Except, of course, that institutional sexism is not much more subtle and, therefore, more difficult to discern.
And, I think, it's a pretty serious called to ministry for the church, to help young women have the confidence and the ability to negotiate for the compensation they deserve.
Perhaps that's what I'll start doing in the next 25 years of my ordained career. What? You think I'm done, just because I hit a major milestone?
No. Way. I'm heading into NYC in just a few minutes, heading in to join the folks at Occupy Wall Street. I'm meeting up with some friends and later, my daughter.
There's still lots of work to be done. In some ways, it's just beginning.
I can't imagine a better time or place to be a Christian who is an Episcopalian. That I've had the privilege of 25 years of ordained service in the church is an additional blessing.
I am deeply, deeply grateful. So, off I go to make "Eucharist" - to offer a 'sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving' by presenting my 'self, my soul and body' to the souls and bodies on Wall Street.
It's going to be a great day.