Friday, February 13, 2015

Churches, Male Entitlement, and the Place of God in the World: Why I Refuse to Participate in a Church That Excludes Women from Leadership

I will not participate in the activities of a church that excludes women from its leadership structures. I will not pretend that I find God in such a church.

April 2013: my uncle is buried, and I spend his funeral thinking about women. To be specific, I think about the interesting conversation I have in front of his coffin before the funeral with two of his nieces who aren't my cousins, since they're on the other side of that family.

And then, during the funeral, as I see my own two first cousins who are Southern Baptist pastors and who conduct the funeral, sitting in their big chairs facing the congregation, I feel a strong revulsion. The revulsion deepens as I listen to their canned, trite, soul-numbing sermon-notes comments during the funeral.

They cannot preach — their message will not preach — because it's devoid of thought. It's devoid of the struggle to understand how their Word intersects with the lived reality of other words, of the human lives of those to whom their message is being delivered.

These men occupying the big chairs have not had to think. In a church that forbids women ordination and tells women to keep silent, they have never been challenged to stretch themselves to understand the world from anyone else's perspective.

The big chairs are for them.

I wrote about this here at the time of my uncle's funeral.

December 2014, the day after Christmas, Steve and I visit St. John Lateran in Rome, and an Eastern-rite liturgy is underway as we walk around the church. As with the big chairs at my uncle's funeral in the year before our trip to Rome, I'm repulsed by the gaggle of gorgeously clad clerics — all men — standing at the altar during this liturgy. I wrote about that experience here.

I do not find God in the self-celebratory worship services conducted by groups of men in churches that exclude women from their sanctuaries. I don't find God in these places because I suspect God is not in such places.

Except, perhaps, as the excluded and demeaned Other. 

Insofar as churches have committed themselves to upholding the unmerited power and privilege of men over women, and of heterosexual people over homosexual ones, they've lost me. Because from the little chair I occupy, they've lost God Herself.

The graphic is by David Fitzsimmons for Cagle Cartoons, and is found at the Cagle Cartoons website. On the Kayla Mueller quotation that (in part) provokes my reflections here: I highly recommend Jayme Manson's powerful meditation on Mueller's life at National Catholic Reporter.

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