Well, these are exciting times as women are elected to the top leadership positions in their church bodies -- new ECUSA Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori (oh, that's fun to type), and Joan Gray, new head of the PCUSA.
Reading the blogs of persons in both these denominations...I just want to jump up and down with you in glee, in spirit if not in person. Well, maybe in person too, if I were in the room with you.
And I did experience a wee bit of wistfulness: Hmmm...wonder when the ELCA will elect a female Presiding Bishop?
I think the first female Lutheran pastor was ordained in one of the Scandinavian countries shortly after World War II, and Constance Parvey became the first Lutheran woman ordained to the pastorate in the U.S. back in the early Seventies -- but before we in the ELCA congratulate ourselves on being so darn progressive, it should be noted that sexism is still alive and well in our church body. Oh, the angry social conservatives have, I think, mostly decamped to other church bodies, which I personally think is the best place for them. But the last statistics I saw showed that the ELCA lags behind other denominations in terms of numbers of female clergy; many ELCA congregations are still loathe to call a female pastor; female seminary graduates often have a harder time finding a job. There's the old "don't rock the boat" argument that, in our circles, often presents itself in a golly-jeepers, forelock-tugging way: Well, gosh, ya know, I don't have a problem wid da lady preachers myself, Ole, but I tink dat if we call a lady preacher some of da others are gonna quit da church.
And lately I've noticed a re-rearing of the ugly head of gilded-cage sexism disguised as an appeal to female superiority and concern over contemporary men's discomfort with taking an active role in churches: The idea that women are much more spiritually evolved, and will always be the more active members of faith communities, whereas men are knuckle-dragging, not-terribly-bright and, to borrow a term from the fundies, hopelessly carnal creatures, Neanderthals whose lives are mostly spent scratching their crotches, emitting bodily noises and mentally undressing the women around them, who are naturally averse to attending church unless there's a good ol' boy up there at the pulpit to reassure them that, no, they're not faggots; that Real Men Go To Church. So, the argument continues, we women, being the spiritually advanced humans that we are, need to humor these poor, dumb beasts by graciously submitting to their authority, and letting them run the show. (Just as a point of interest: I used to be privy to -- long story -- the conversations of a gaggle of fundamentalist women who in public strongly promoted the idea of male headship/female subordination -- this seemed to be, in fact, a major tenet of their church -- but who in private spent most of their time dissing their husbands as clueless, fairly subhuman louts who couldn't think or work their way out of a paper bag without major female assistance, and who also spent a lot of time collectively pondering ways to do end runs around their husbands' supposed household authority. So in the unlikely event that any male social conservatives are reading this: When Wifey is looking up at you shyly with her doe eyes and telling her how happy she is that you are exerting your male headship in your home, my field observations would seem to indicate that she is, in fact, faking it. Which makes one wonder what other times she's f- -- well...don't worry your big, brawny, authoritative head over that.)
So while we can celebrate the lives and ministries of strong, faithful women like Schori and Gray who have been called to service at the highest levels in their churches...it's still a long road to the kind of freedom described in Scripture where "all are one in Christ Jesus."
But...I'm still smiling. You go, girls.