Monday, February 22, 2016

Men of the Church: It's time to call out misogyny. It's time for women to lead.

For the past 19 months, I have watched women’s leadership change this community and change this nation. Women like Brittany Packnett, Traci Blackmon, Brittany Ferrell, Susan Talve, Ashley Yates, Johnetta Elzie, Karen Anderson, Elle Dowd, Felicia Pulliam, Deb Krause, Amy Hunter, Rebecca Ragland, Momma Cat, (and gender nonconforming people like Alexis Templeton.). They have brought their whole selves to the struggle for black lives and human rights. They have been my leaders and my inspiration, and I am honored and grateful to be led by them.

And every step of the way, they have fought men trying to control them.

Minimize them.

Dismiss them.

Erase them.

The Church has a long history of controlling, minimizing, dismissing, and erasing women. In fact, throughout history, you’d be hard pressed to find a greater offender. That’s why it is particularly important for men in the church to speak out now.

For our entire nation’s history, if you are a woman you have to work at least twice as hard to get half as far (and again, for women of color – multiply that out by a whole bunch.).

The church – despite believing that “in the image of God they were created, male and female God created them.” – instead of transforming the culture, has mirrored it – and even worse. As of last summer, only 6.4% of Episcopal bishops were women. Women are a superminority of rectors of large congregations.

Our male supremacist nation continues to equate tokenism and individual women breaking barriers with real change. In America the gender pay gap remains at 21 percent – and considerably worse for women of color. And that doesn't talk about how women are treated and judged differently in the workplace. How women are subject to harassment at exponentially greater rates than men. How women have their health care options limited by the same men who scream about how "Obamacare will make you lose the choice of your doctor."

And while this has happened, what are we saying?

For decades and even centuries, men have told women to be patient, work within the system, and change will happen.

So let’s look at that.

A woman does that. A woman works the system incredibly well. She uses every opportunity and "despoils every Egyptian" (it's in Exodus -- look it up) so that she can have the same chance as a man to use her leadership gifts.

She does this so well that she becomes a U.S. Senator, the Secretary of State and on the cusp of her party’s nomination for president.

And what happens?

I mean, in addition to her being called “ambitious” where a man would be called “visionary” and being called “manipulative” where a man would be called “clever.”

I mean, in addition to her wardrobe being evaluated in ways that Marco Rubio’s tie choice never warrants.

I mean, in addition to her being singled out and vigorously labeled "dishonest" and "untrustworthy" to a degree that even a president who lied to get us into a war didn't come close to having to face.

I mean, in addition to all the criticisms that would be seen as strengths if she were a man – but instead make her “less likable” because we men are both threatened by strong women and in general don’t like women who fit into our own self-centering definition of what gender-specific behavior should be?

She gets called “Too establishment”

She gets called “Part of the problem.”

She gets called a bitch -- though not on TV, because that would be politically incorrect. On TV she just gets called "pushy."

Vote for Bernie. Vote for Hillary. Vote for who shares your values. Vote for whose vision for this country sets your heart on fire. Vote for the person who can get the job done. Vote for whomever you like. Criticize whomever you like – for surely there are legitimate criticisms of every candidate.

But recognize what is going on here. And recognize it not just in this election but in our church.

We men tell women that it really is a level playing field (which it’s not), and that women just have to work hard, play by the rules and work the system.

That generally means -- just act like men.

And then when women do, we men penalize them for it because they don’t fit men’s image of what a woman should be.

And still, even when women do act like men and work the system (and definitely if they don’t), we men call them "pushy" and "dishonest." We talk about being “uncomfortable” with women’s leadership or “not ready” for women’s leadership.  And that is seen as being perfectly acceptable and rational.

For the past 19 months, I have watched women’s leadership change this community and change this nation.

For the past 20 years, I have had amazing Episcopal clergy colleagues like Amy Cortright, Christine McSpadden, Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, Paige Blair, Kate Moorehead, Suzanne Willie, Winnie Varghese, Becca Stevens, Stephanie Spellers, Dahn Gandell, Sherilyn Pearce, Penny Bridges, Gail Greenwell, Yejide Peters, Elizabeth Easton, Beth Scriven, Hope Welles Jernagan, Debbie Shew, Amy McCreath, Pamela Dolan, Emily Mellott, Emily Wachner, Amber Stancliffe Evans - I could go on and on and on and on and on (and apologies to the legions I’m leaving out) – change this church and teach ME what being a priest is all about.

I have seen them have to work at least twice as hard to get at least half as far.

I have seen them get judged on scales I never have to worry about.

I have seen them struggle with incredible grace and power against the misogyny of our church, our St. Louis community and this country.

And it is time for this to be over. It is time for this to be over for our church. It is time for this to be over for our nation.

The first step in any healing is recognizing that we have a problem.

The second step is doing something about it.

Jesus gave women the most important leadership ministry in the history of history – proclaiming the resurrection.

Paul bids us to “have the same mind in us that is in Christ Jesus” and empty ourselves, giving up power and privilege.

Whomever you vote for, it is time for we men to ask what we are doing to dismantle the systems of patriarchy that are binding our church and our nation. That are preventing us from fully realizing and benefitting from the gifts of more than 50% of our population.

We need to look in the mirror and examine our “uncomfortability” and instead of giving into it, lean the other way.

We need to look in the mirror and be honest with ourselves – and not immediately get all fragile and defensive -- about how we have unconscious bias about both race and gender ... and that this is to all of our poverty.

We need actively to promote women for leadership positions. For the past several years, when people have asked me for names for rector or bishop positions I have only given women’s names. And still so few of them have been chosen. What if everyone did this?

We men need to stand up for women, knowing that even in 2016 women still have to work twice as hard to get half as far.

This is not a political post. This is a theological one.

I am a follower of Jesus Christ. And Jesus bids me to see Christ in all people, to value their gifts – including their leadership – and to bring people from the margins to the center until such time as there are no margins left.

Women are still on the margins. And as the Church, we have been one of the worst offenders in keeping women there.

As followers of Jesus, now we must be among the loudest voices demanding change. Not just with our lips but with our lives.

Women’s leadership will change our communities, our nation, our church and our world. Men ... we need to get out of the way.

Who's with me?