Friday, October 30, 2009

The Bishop and The Boys' Club

Like many of my fellow ELCAers, and as someone of German heritage, I was delighted to hear that a woman, theologian and Bishop of Hanover Margot Kaessmann, had been elected to become head of the Evangelical Church in Germany.

Kaessman has some impressive street cred. Active in the church since her youth, she has been a parish pastor; a scholar and teacher; a EKD official; a member of the World Council of Churches' Central Committee. (She resigned from the WCC in protest after the WCC appeared to be waffling on its commitment to ecumenical fellowship, in deference to its more conservative members.) She has been an active opponent of right-wing extremism in Germany. She has been a strong advocate for progressive social policies as well as an advocate for re-spiritualizing the German church by placing more emphasis on prayer, Bible study and devotional life. She is also a mother of four, and a survivor of breast cancer.

I didn't know anything about Bishop Kaessman before reading about her online. But, interestingly, most of the information I just shared with you was nowhere to be found in most of the articles announcing her election as head of the EKD. Oh, no.

"German Protestants on Wednesday elected Margot Kaessmann, a divorcee and the Lutheran bishop of Hanover, to lead them, the first woman to take the post and only the third woman to head a major Christian church," reported Reuters. This meme was repeated in several other online news features...that and a reference to her as "Mother Teresa crossed with Demi Moore."

What decade are we in, again? I mean, when I was in grade school a "divorcee" was an exotic and dangerous creature whose stereotype was clad in jungle-print stretch pants and indolently puffed on alimony-funded Pall Malls while adolescent boys leered and decently married housewives tut-tutted. But we're not living in 1967 anymore. So why is the lead sentence in an important news story, from a respected news syndicate, about a respected woman with a lengthy curriculum vitae and significant spiritual as well as professional gravitas identifying her principally in terms of her marital status, and then adding insult to injury by completely ignoring her personal story as a church leader?

The worst part of this: The reporter who wrote the story is female.

At least she didn't refer to the Bishop as "perky."


Auntie Knickers said...

Oi! Thanks to you, though, I now know the real story. Good for them!

shewillsing said...

Regardless of how the AP described her, this is very exciting! She sounds quite accomplished and looks pretty cool too. I had no idea women could rock preaching tabs!!!

PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

It is always good to keep in mind that what a news writer chooses to leave out, as well as what is put in a story, tells about the writer's biases. Maybe this writer didn't dig very deep or was just fed superficial information. Shame on somebody.