The very articulate, and wise for his age (see how I made myself seem so much older?) Preston Yancey posted this on Twitter today:
Women: for those men in Christian circles or traditions where women in leadership is accepted already, how do we serve you?
— Preston Yancey (@prestonyancey) November 20, 2013
So here is my response, because I just can’t say anything in 140 characters.
Dear Progressive Men,
This is to those of you who love us, we women who are in leadership in religious organization, note I didn’t say that we are in leadership in your religious organizations. Because the very first thing that we need you to do is stop thinking we need you to help us out. Here’s why: those with power “do things for” those without. “Serving others” has been code in the church for the haves giving a charitable hand to the “have nots” (in power, money or otherwise) for a very long time. Or in other language: for you to move aside and make room for me, requires the assumption that the space involved was yours to start with, or was yours to give up. It wasn’t.
I love you, you are my brother in Christ (all of you, even the grumpy old men who pretend to not have hearts of gold, you know who you are). But I do not need you to empower me, or to lift me up, or give me a boost, or even serve me. God made me, and God empowered me. Ask the folks who knew me when I was a kid; I came out of the womb a priest. I’ve been one my whole life. The men and women of the commission on ministry of my diocese, my bishop, and the parishes that nurtured me, none of them made me a priest: rather they acknowledged and honored what God had already done.
God has raised up, and anointed women to serve Her church, always has, always will. (Whether the church was able to see that or not.) And in doing so, God does not ask the men who have hoarded power for so long to do anything but to live into their baptismal covenant. And neither do I. I don’t need a champion, or a knight in shining armor. I don’t need to be defended, or empowered either, because neither of those things belongs to you. Power, authority, shield and comfort belong to God, not to any human being. And God gives them out lavishly, and to whom God choses. We can ignore that are our peril.
Dear fellow progressives, what the church needs is for you to look into your hearts and acknowledge the ways that “helping” me is rooted in your assumption that you as male are still the seat of power, are still the norm, are still able to ‘do me a favor.’ I know you would never say that, you don’t even consciously think it, but your assumptions give away the patriarchy you grew up within. That’s OK, we all did. But it is time to open up all the closets and expose all the skeletons, and bring them out and make them dance.
Because the minute those old bones start waltzing around our living room we can see how silly, and outrageous they are. When we do that they lose their power, they collapse into dust and we can all, maybe, move on. So, please stop asking what you can do for me. Instead, sit down together and ask the far more important question: What does God need us to do in this world. Us. Human beings. Male and female, gay and straight, black and white and brown, extrovert and introvert, whatever label and grouping you think matters. Because they don’t.
The only label that matters is child of God and that one is universal.
A Priest in God’s One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
PS – I realize that issues of gender, race, and a whole host of others are not over. They are still real, harmful, and painful. But what must be over is the progressive blindness to our own part in those problems. Our progressiveness often covers up the same insidious assumptions held by those who work to maintain sinful power dynamics and the solution must start with our ability to acknowledge that.