In Christian art, including Michelangelo and Hollywood biblical films, the maleness of God has long been highlighted. Seldom has there been a depiction of deity or spiritual strength that remotely suggested a woman like Eleanor Roosevelt or Marian Anderson, Helen Keller or Barbara Jordan.
However, extraordinary change was in the air in July 1974 when 11 women shattered tradition by being ordained Episcopal priests. Ironically, I became involved when invited — as a male — to write a cover story about it for groundbreaking Ms. Magazine. From my perspective, by following the anthropomorphism that depicted God as male, the church failed in its witness to God and came close to committing institutional suicide. The idea of receiving the Host from the hand of a woman apparently confronts some people with grave difficulties. Could this stem from the life experience of praying “Our Father who art in heaven” while one was mentally on one’s knees before a male God? Was the male priest before whom one knelt in church to receive Holy Communion a surrogate figure of a familiar bearded and patriarchal God?