Friday, June 26, 2015

275-19, a tsunami of stupidity, and why I stand with the women.

275-19. By my count, that's the ratio of women to men in the Episcopal House of Bishops. 6.4%. That's more than three times worse a rate of representation of leadership than the U.S. Congress (19.4%). And yet it gets worse: Only 3 women -- Mariann Edgar Budde​, Mary Gray-Reeves​, and Cate Waynick​ are diocesan bishops. And the problem doesn't stop there -- and I'm part of it. In our own Episcopal Diocese of Missouri​ -- despite a cadre of amazing women clergy -- not one of our large parishes in St. Louis City or County has a woman rector. All are led by white men. Ironically, South Convocation -- the most politically conservative part of our diocese -- is benefitting from a majority of women rectors (great leaders like Annette Joseph, Edie Bird, Suzanne Wolfenbarger and Aune Strom). But that is also the part of the diocese where rectors have some of the lowest salaries because of the deep problems we have in our clergy compensation system.

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 Farmsmovement -- 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.

19 comments:

Greg said...

Father Mike, What an eye opening post. Thanks so much. I grew up around and thanks to, very strong women. I have never understood the fear of women that so many men have, men both in the Church and out of it.

Danny Cutting said...

God bless our women clergy...Give them the passion and brilliance and patience ...They are such bright stars. God bring them into the forefront of leading our Episcopal Church...they will bring such new life and vigor to it , through Christ Jesus who is their inspiration. The Church needs their leadership NOW more than ever.

Muthah+ said...

Thank you, Mike. This wonderful rant has helped my soul today. Tho you don't know her, you need also to remember that one of the earliest priesting of women was held in your cathedral on Jan.6, 1977 for Judith Upham, the one time companion of Jonathan Daniels. What we are seeing is the dreaded backlash of the men/boys and the frightened. Judy and I now live in a diocese where women's ordination was not permitted until 2009!!!! Yes, we have talented women, but they seem to frighten male bishops because there is a whole generation of men who have never learn (as you have, evidently) that women can be their greatest colleagues. After 9 years of ++KJS who was able to kick butt and take names because it had to happen, the men of all orders have struck back. It will take more years than I have to strike a balance again. The white, straight male privilege does not go easily into the past yet it is probably the most sinful element in the world today. The Rev. Lauren A. Gough

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. You are living proof of the old saying, "Men of quality do not fear equality.". Thank you.

Janet Waggoner said...

Let's work together, men and women, folks of all colors and classes, to lift up not only women but people of color. All voices need to be represented in every level of leadership in our church and in our world. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Mike for helping to lead the way!

Sue Sommer said...

Awesome post. I remember attending my first Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes meeting in St. Louis some years ago, when I served as subdean at Grace & Holy Trinity Cathedral on the other side of the state from you. The sessions oriented toward rectors and deans were overwhelmingly attended by white (patrician) men. I know that deans' gatherings reflect a similar reality. Women are a long way from achieving parity in resource-size congregations, including cathedrals. Thank you for being an ally! From your mouth to God's ears, from your blog to search committees' hearts. -- The Rev. Sue Sommer

Grace Cangialosi said...

I can only add my own heartfelt "Thank You!" As a priest myself, I must confess that I had no idea of the statistics.

Robert C. Delvin said...

Thank you for posting this article. It gives much to think about. I am not a member of the Diocese of Missouri, but rather from your neighbor, the Diocese of Springfield (IL). Unfortunately, I am familiar with only one parish in your Diocese, that of Trinity Church, St. Louis. When in St. Louis over a weekend, I make every attempt to attend Trinity for Sunday Eucharist. It is one of the most open, welcoming, and affirming Episcopal congregations that I have ever experienced! Trinity seems to have its head and heart in the right place, and provides a powerful witness to the love of Jesus Christ to the people of the Central West End and surrounding neighborhoods. The Rev. Anne Kelsey, until recently the rector of Trinity Church, was/is a remarkable preacher. I understand that, like Trinity Church in general, a strong voice for social justice and the Grace of God.

Rosa said...

Dear Mike: I am acutely aware that I am a woman priest who has very intentionally chosen to serve in pretty small and unremarkable way, working very part time in a rural parish in Central Alabama and perhaps, playing a supporting role in a larger congregation in Montgomery, the closest city to where I live. Even though I have ended up in the place that most women priests find themselves in, but not by choice, and even though I have far fewer aspirations for breaking ceilings these days than I used to, I am deeply moved by your post and your willingness to stand with women priests. There is a kindness and generosity in your writing that makes a difference even out here in this small place of ministry. I thank you for that gift. Rosa Lindahl, Lowndesboro, AL

Anonymous said...

My heart is filled with gratitude and I am standing a bit taller today. Thank you.
The Rev. Sherry Hardwick Thomas

Ruth Meyers said...

Thank you for standing in solidarity with women, and for challenging the church.

Nancy Davidge said...

Thank you. It's time for our church - and our nation - to do better. Yesterday I experienced what may, to some, be perceived as a minor oversight. I interpret it as an example of dismissing/ignoring - intentionally or unintentionally - a large segment of the people who are clergy in our Church.

While watching the presentation/Q&A of the nominees for the role of presiding bishop I was troubled by this pattern: Of the people selected to read the questions, all of the bishops were male, all of the clergy were male, and all of the lay people were women. What message are we sending here about the leaders of our Church?

I'll be wearing a purple scarf as I participate from home.

amckeever said...

So grateful for your strong words and big heart.

Jennifer+ said...
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Jennifer+ said...
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Jennifer+ said...

Your words are a blessing for my sisters and me, and are a balm for my very weary soul.
The Rev.Jennifer G. McKenzie

Sister said...

Thank you, Michael. I've been saying ever since August that we need to battle both racism and sexism now, simultaneously, not sequentially. We can do this, and we must do this, starting with the church we all love (with reservations).

Nancy Gossling said...

Thanks Michael. Stood next to you in the Eucharistic circle at SSJE a month back. Posted your words to my FB and Twitter. Blessings from afar. With gratitude for your faith and courage.

Grace Cangialosi said...

Nice to hear your voice here, Sherry!