Gimme That Old Time Religion

I work for an Episcopal diocese’s main office, something that as a firmly agnostic person I find very ironic. Honestly, it’s mostly like any other job I’ve had except I have to sit through opening prayers at meetings.

I’m not one for organized religion of any kind, but I have to say Episcopalians are trying to get into the 21st Century…at least on all visible levels. At this weekend’s General Convention (gigantic governing body where all decisions are made),    Episcopalians Elected a  Female Bishop.

Fantastic. No, really, that’s great, actually…but it’s already being viewed as divisive a decision as it was to accept Eugene Robinson, an openly gay man, as a bishop. (That’s awholenother kettle of fish.)

Except why? Why should allowing a woman to pursue her own vocation for her god be such a terrible, forbidden  thing? (Some conservatives are still angry the Episcopal church allows female priests…) Why should this election be an ssue at all? The persons responsible for her election surely voted based on skill, experience and confidence in her ability to lead, and her gender plays no part in that nor does it impact her ability to lead; she’s already proven herself, hasn’t she, in her past positions and performances in them? Just like any man has, just like the men she was a candidate with.

Apparently not. It apparently does matter, because, like homosexuals, we can’t go around treating women as actual people capable of fulfilling many roles, can we? That would be chaotic and might just bring the end of the world.

I’ll discuss a few behind the scenes disturbing things about the view of women to the men who work in my particular diocese, but for now I just want to wish Bishop Jefferts Schiori the best. Show those old conservative men what you can do.

Comments

  1. scarlett says

    I could rant for hours after how we shouldn’t HAVE to prove that we’re as capable as men, just because we don’t have penises, but I think it’s good that tehy’re trying. Hell, if you think Episcopalans got a raw deal, come spend a few minutes with my Polish Catholic family sometime :p

  2. sbg says

    I was raised Catholic, so no need at all. I get in trouble with my mother all the time for forgetting she (somehow, I can’t figure out how) firmly believes women shouldn’t “be allowed” to be priests. The whole “be allowed” phrase just rubs me wrong.

  3. scarlett says

    Yeah, I once made the mistake of asking an aunt, in response to her statement that she’d rather give up sex then have any more children, why she didn’t use birth control. No wonder no-one misses my presence at the family get-togethers anymore :p

  4. Jennifer Kesler says

    While I disagree with your mother, at least she’s owning her opinion. Here’s the response that really bugs me:

    Question I’ve often asked: What if God calls a woman or gay person to the priesthood?

    Answer I’ve generally received: He wouldn’t. Trust us.

    C’mon. It’s one thing to have your OWN opinion that things should be a certain way. It’s blasphemous, however, to put forth your opinion as God’s. Not to mention spineless.

  5. sbg says

    Well, yes and no. Does she believe that way because she believes it or because that’s what she’s been told over and over again by men who interpret “God’s word” (which is really men’s word)? It’s tricky.

  6. Jennifer Kesler says

    The distinction I’m making is not whether she did her own thinking to come up with that opinion. I’m just saying that, to me, it’s even worse when people say “God wouldn’t” rather than “I don’t think we/the church should”. Does that make sense?

  7. Glaivester says

    Question I’ve often asked: What if God calls a woman or gay person to the priesthood?

    Answer I’ve generally received: He wouldn’t. Trust us.

    C’mon. It’s one thing to have your OWN opinion that things should be a certain way. It’s blasphemous, however, to put forth your opinion as God’s. Not to mention spineless.

    Why is it more blasphemous than claiming that God called you to the priesthood? By saying that you were “called by God” rather than “it is my opinion that I ought to be a priest,” aren’t you also presuming to know the mind of God?

  8. Jennifer Kesler says

    I always thought it WAS potentially blasphemous to declare you were called by God to do something. ;)

    But there IS a difference. When you claim God has called you to do something, you’re only speaking for yourself, and your (possibly mistake) understanding of God’s plan for YOU. When you claim God disapproves of any woman becoming a priest, you’re speaking for God and his plan for a whole mass of people. That’s where it becomes blasphemous.

  9. scarlett says

    I always thought it was more presumptous then blasphemous; it was one thing to say ‘god told me to have this opinion’, and it was another to say ‘god told me to have this opinion on behalf of everyone else’. This is why I left the RCC; I want to be as far away from my rellies beliefes as possible…

  10. sbg says

    Yeah, but you can’t call it blasphemy when soooo many people use God (and the devil, for the record) as some kind of excuse. “It’s God’s will,” “I guess God just didn’t want me to have this,” “The devil made me do it,” etc. are all phrases people use all the time as ways to take the responsibility off themselves.

    But that’s not really about women or feminism so I’ll stop talking about it.

    Wasn’t your point more that people have no problem accepting a heterosexual man believing and stating he’s called by God for the priesthood (or whatever, really) but they do seem to have a problem when it’s an openly homosexual man or a woman of any sexual preference? That’s the true double standard, if you ask me.

    Heh, and now I’ve just read this and that was what you were saying. ;)

  11. Jennifer Kesler says

    Yeah, that was what I was trying to say. They’ll unquestioningly accept almost any straight white man’s claim he’s been called by God, but they doubt the same claim coming from someone else God created and presumably loves and has a purpose for, just because they can’t imagine that person being called by God.

    If you believe one, you have to believe them all. You can’t pick and choose at convenience. At least not if you expect me to take you seriously.

  12. Glaivester says

    I hate to say this, but I have a hard time taking most feminist arguments about this issue very seriously. The reason for this is that very few of these arguments deal with the primary issue here of Christian theology, that is, what does the Bible say about this matter? (Granted, not evryone here may be a Christian, but the Episcopal/Anglican Church is, in theory, a Christian institution, and thus ought to base most of its ideas on what the Bible says on a subject). I don’t think it makes sense to talk about this issue without once bringing up the Bible.

    There are biblical passages that seem to indicate that women should not have positions of authority in the church (I Corinthians 14:34). There are also passages, not just in the Mosaic Law of the Old Testament, but in the New Testament, which look upon homosexual activity as wrong (Romans 1: 26-27).

    Any attempt to argue that the Episcopal Church ought to let women (or those who see nothing wrong with engaging in homosexual sex) become priests should, I would think, either try to argue that those passages are misinterpreted or argue some reason why those passages ought not be considered part of scripture. Simply arguing that they are ought-of-date or other arguments that are based on a humanistic perspecitve seem to me to be missing something.

    Otherwise, you simply ought to argue that positions such as “no homosexual priests” or “no women priests” show why Christianity is wrong.

  13. Jennifer Kesler says

    American Baptists and a number of other denominations teach that I Corinthians 14:34 refers to a Jewish law which, like the kosher laws, was rendered unecessary by Jesus’ teachings.

    As for Romans 1: 26-27, the ABA and others teach that this was a reference to heterosexuals choosing to engage in homosexual acts for the sheer purposee of being perverse; not a reference to actual same-sex oriented individuals as we know them now.

    And I’m certainly aware of more than a few adulterous ministers who’ve been counseled instead of sent packing. Surely if an actual Ten Commandment breaker can preach God’s word, someone who’s merely committed the sin of being born a woman (or, IMO, a homosexual) can.

  14. Glaivester says

    While I disagree with the ABA’s interpretations, I do think that theirs is the proper method (i.e., biblical interpretation) for a Christian challenging church policy.

    And I’m certainly aware of more than a few adulterous ministers who’ve been counseled instead of sent packing. Surely if an actual Ten Commandment breaker can preach God’s word, someone who’s merely committed the sin of being born a woman (or, IMO, a homosexual) can.

    I’m not certain that the analogy between the treatment of practicing homosexuals and adulterers entirely holds up here; the adulterers presumably are in agreement with the church that their behavior was unacceptable and that it should end. The homosexual ministers that are at the heart of this controversy essentially want the church to condone homosexual behavior. If the adulterous ministers had told the church “this is the way I am and I do not want to stop having affairs, rather, I want the church to change its position on marital fidelity,” I doubt that the church would have kept them on.

  15. Jennifer Kesler says

    Of course the adulterers tell the church what they want to hear instead of “You bet I’m chasing the next skirt that comes my way – that’s why I got into this job”. They’re terribly sorry every single time they fall to the sins of the flesh. And the church buys it every single time, because we luvs our sinner-redeemed stories. There are ministers out there who are screwing half the female congregation. There is an actual rock star/groupie dynamic in churches – seminarians are counseled about it, and how to avoid trouble from it. But of course, that’s why some of them are there. Just like some doctors enjoy playing god, and some policemen just want to beat the crap out of people. Such folks will tell the establishment exactly what it wants to hear in order to keep these positions that aggrandize their egos.

    But you ignored the analogy between adulterers and, uh, practicing women, which was my main point (the reference to homosexuality being thrown in as an afterthought). Is it likely, in your opinion, that God would prefer a lecherous old fiend who’s chasing after the teenage parishoners to a woman in the pulpit? I mean, your guess is as good as mine.

    I’m not sure what church you’re a member of, but the ABA goes back a long way – certainly longer than the SBC – and their interpretations are without a doubt more scholarly and based on a realistic reading of the original scrolls. The SBC’s subjective interpretations are more popular because preaching will always win you a tremendously large and vocal audience: the capacity of people to turn their self-loathing outward and onto someone else is a huge resource to be tapped.

  16. sbg says

    Any attempt to argue that the Episcopal Church ought to let women (or those who see nothing wrong with engaging in homosexual sex) become priests should, I would think, either try to argue that those passages are misinterpreted or argue some reason why those passages ought not be considered part of scripture. Simply arguing that they are out-of-date or other arguments that are based on a humanistic perspecitve seem to me to be missing something.

    But that’s not what we’re doing or the purpose of my post. The Episcopal Church does have and encourage female priests and they do have homosexual priests. They don’t have a problem at that level, they just don’t like women to gain positions higher than that, it seems.

    And I don’t quite know how you can make Biblical arguments without looking at the humanistic side or why you should. It was written by humans (men) and what was approved in the very book was run by humans. It’s always been a matter of human interpretation, right from the moment the words were written. By men. Quite a long time ago, when the world was very different. ;)

  17. Glaivester says

    And I don’t quite know how you can make Biblical arguments without looking at the humanistic side or why you should.

    I’m not saying you can’t look at the humanistic side when making biblical arguments. What I am saying, though, is that you should look at the biblical side when making humanistic arguments. I was objeting to the lack of discussion of biblical theology in many of the arguments on this issue.

  18. Jennifer Kesler says

    SBG was writing about an inconsistency within the church’s policies. How is the Bible going to clear that up? If the Bible’s track record on clearing things up was better, we wouldn’t have thousands of separate Christian denominations, some of which firmly believe the others are going to hell, would we? Even you provide an example: at various points on this site, you’ve dismissed both the Church of England and the American Baptist Association as unworthy of consideration.

    Given this atmosphere of extreme confusion among the followers of the Bible, what could be gained by introducing the Bible into a discussion of a church from a humanist perspective? Might as well throw in theoretical astrophysics.

  19. Glaivester says

    at various points on this site, you’ve dismissed both the Church of England and the American Baptist Association as unworthy of consideration.

    I haven’t dismissed the ABA, just disagreed with it. As for the Church of England, I am dismissive of large portions of it because I don’t think that there is much of a commitment to Christianity in a lot of it. It has included in its leadership people such as John Shgelby Spong, who is not a Christian in any meaningful sense of the term, as he rejects basic Christian doctrine such as Christ’s divinity.

    Given this atmosphere of extreme confusion among the followers of the Bible, what could be gained by introducing the Bible into a discussion of a church from a humanist perspective?

    Because however one interprets it, the Bible is supposed to be the basis of any Christian church’s creed. It seems to me that a lot of the critics of church policies, by ignoring the issue of “what does the Bible say about this,” are essentially telling the churches “Abandon the Bible, do what fits in with society. Go along to get along.”

  20. Glaivester says

    The Episcopal Church does have and encourage female priests and they do have homosexual priests. They don’t have a problem at that level, they just don’t like women to gain positions higher than that, it seems.

    The reason is probably because there are more conservative factions of the church and more liberal factions. The higher up one goes into the hierarchy you go, the more people you have under you, so the more chance that some of them will be part of a conservative faction and object to him/her.

    For example, a female priest might be acceptable to a more liberal congregation in New Hampshire. But if she were to take a national position, she would also have to face more conservative congregations in Tennessee and Texas, who would now care more about her appointment than if her position were one that did not involve them.

  21. sbg says

    We’re never going to agree on this issue, because when I look at Biblical theology it simply proves to me that the suppression of women was in full force when it was written and I question the logic in following the Bible’s credo about said issue just because it says to.

    The Bible as a tool and guideline is great. The Bible as an absolute is scary.

  22. Jennifer Kesler says

    As for the Church of England, I am dismissive of large portions of it because I don’t think that there is much of a commitment to Christianity in a lot of it.

    Gee, that’s exactly how I feel about the SBC, and did feel even when I was Christian. I mean, they broke off from the ABA because it wasn’t racist enough for them.

    So, again, what’s the point of debating the Bible in a humanist discussion, when you can’t even scrape up 12 Christians who see it all the same way?

    And I haven’t seen anyone here say you need to ignore what you think your favorite semi-correct translation of the Bible says. I’m just saying it’s such a debate in and of itself, it could only cloud the issue being argued here.

  23. Jennifer Kesler says

    The SBC’s subjective interpretations are more popular because preaching will always win you a tremendously large and vocal audience: the capacity of people to turn their self-loathing outward and onto someone else is a huge resource to be tapped.

    Er, I meant to say “preaching HATE will always win you a tremendously large and vocal audience.” Sorry, that was a significant typo.

  24. Jennifer Kesler says

    The Bible as a tool and guideline is great. The Bible as an absolute is scary.

    Which is perhaps why Jesus said he was the Word made flesh, and advised focusing more on doing the right thing than studying ancient texts.

  25. SunlessNick says

    I always thought it was more presumptous then blasphemous; it was one thing to say ‘god told me to have this opinion’, and it was another to say ‘god told me to have this opinion on behalf of everyone else’.

    Exactly.

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