It has been more than 40 years since we first ordained women to the priesthood and a quarter-century since Barbara Harris was consecrated in the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. We have literally decades of experience of incredible, Jesus-centered, Spirit-led leadership of women everywhere:
*When I was out on the streets in Ferguson, the clergy with me were mostly not white men ... they were women -- Rebecca Ragland, Traci Blackmon, Mary Gene Boteler, Susan Talve, Heather Arcovitch, Deb Krause, Dietra Baker, Cassandra Gould, Renita Marie. On every level, women are leading this new civil rights movement (Read my blogpost about this here) -- and yet they are shut out of leadership of our church.
*The most transformative movement in the church today is the Magdalene/Thistle Farms movement -- the love of Christ literally healing, transforming and saving lives, evangelizing far beyond the four walls of the church and calling the church to repentance, healing and joy -- is a movement of women, founded by the finest leader and preacher in the church today, Becca Stevens.
*When I needed to have the Holy Spirit take me by the collar and shake me in seminary, it was a woman -- the Rev. Vicki Sirota -- who made it happen. When for 36 hours doctors told me I probably had a brain tumor, it was Dahn Gandell who prayed me through it. When I needed someone to come talk with Christ Church Cathedral about being fierce in conversation, I called Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, Every morning when I wanted to know what to do after Michael Brown was killed, I texted Traci Blackmon. When I needed help with my leadership style, I called Kate Moorehead. As a college chaplain, I was shaped as a priest by amazing students like Amber Stancliffe Evans, Hopie Welles Jernagan, Beth Scriven, Lindsay Hills, Emily Wachner and others who have gone on to ordination. When I was just starting out as a Cathedral dean in a congregation full of conflict, it was Renee Fenner who shepherded and prayed me through it. And every day, Amy Chambers Cortright provides some of the most amazing leadership I have ever seen!
And that does not even begin to touch the litany of incredible women clergy who have borne Jesus to me and gotten in my face when I needed it in a thousand ways -- Paige Blair, Christine Trainor Mcspadden, Sherilyn Pearce, Penelope Bridges, Gail Greenwell, Yejide Peters, Elizabeth Easton, Debbie Metzgar Shew, Stephanie Spellers, Amy McCreath, Pamela Dolan, Winnie Varghese, E. Suzanne Wille, Emily Mellott come to mind off the top of my head and there are many, many, more (for those I have left out, know how much I love and admire you .. but it's early and I'm only on my first cup of coffee!)
Our church continues to be deeply impoverished to the point of degeneration by our stubborn and just plain stupid unwillingness to give women the opportunity to lead and offer their gifts at every possible level. All over the world, humanity is learning that women's leadership is the single greatest leverage point for thriving.
This is not a just a justice issue, though it certainly is that. This is not just a theological issue, though it certainly is that as well.
This is, plain and simple, an issue of whether we will continue to get blown out with our best players on the bench. Whether we will continue to look some of our best leaders in the eye and say "sorry, you're not good enough to lead in our church, just because you're a woman." (and, given the state of the church, haven't we men done a marvelous job!)
Whether we will continue to be just plain stupid.
So, yeah, I'm changing my Facebook profile picture to a purple scarf for the rest of General Convention. And like the Black Lives Matter signs, I'm sure there are people who will talk about empty gestures or that I'm denigrating the ministry of men. And that's fine ... have at it.
But this year has taught me something. I have learned it from women like Brittany Ferrell and Alexis Templeton in the streets of Ferguson and from women like Celeste Smith and Tricia Roland-Hamilton in our house of Magdalene SaintLouis. From women like Elle Dowd on our diocesan staff and from women like Teresa Danieley in her works of neighborhood ministry. From women like Robin Kinman leading from within in an educational system dominated by mediocre men who are threatened by strong, brilliant women.
Even if it is only in a small way. Even if it is only holding a sign or wearing a scarf. Even if it seems like only an inconsequential act of protest against a tsunami of abuse, injustice and stupidity ...
You stand up.
And today, and always, I stand with the women.