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Human Rights Begin in the Pew

The exclusion of women and the resulting division in the Church is not peculiar to the LCA. Many other churches, including the Catholic Church, are facing the same debate. The inclusion of women has come of age.  It is an issue that can’t be placed aside.

Religious-based bigotry eviscerates women’s human rights the world over, and God doesn’t like it one damned bit. Re-posted from the Huffington Post with permission.

Today at the grocery store, I overheard a mom telling her little girl, “Of course you can be President of the United States!” It seems a boy at school said girls were not good enough to be president because they weren’t boys. Even though I had heard such things before (I am the youngest of six with five older brothers), this particular conversation stopped me dead in my religious tracks.

Catholicism decided I wasn’t good enough to be a leader in the Church about 2,000 years before I was born. I couldn’t be its president (aka “pope”) or a priest or bishop or cardinal because I happened to be female. Not knowing any better, I accepted my Catholic less-than-ness as a fact of life, like when the Little League in Wheaton, Ill., said I couldn’t play because I was a girl. I didn’t organize sit ins on the pitcher’s mound or walk outs from the pew. Like other girls, I simply accepted the adult-dictated view of things.

The Catholic Church believes the Bible (a document written, translated and almost entirely interpreted by men) establishes that men are, quite literally, born leaders. The Church claims that women can’t be priests because Jesus wanted it that way. Really? A man didn’t play any role whatsoever in Jesus’ conception (from all accounts, it was sperm-free). Christ came out of a woman’s uterus, which seems to be a pretty important part of the birth story. Jesus’ most trusted disciple was arguably Mary Magdalene. The risen Jesus didn’t show Himself to the fellas at the local mens-only oasis. He first appeared to Mary. Experts believe it was Mary at Jesus’ right in DaVinci’s Last Supper. She wasn’t doing dishes in the back or filling the wine glasses for the boys, she was right next to Mr. Equality Himself.

The wildly dangerous and incredibly pathetic part of religiously based gender bigotry is the critical role it plays in legitimizing the horrific treatment of women in societies throughout the world. Women aren’t equal in the eyes of God, Jesus, Allah, Yahweh, etc., therefore: Cover your face and body or be whipped. You’re forbidden to drive or vote or hold a paying job. Don’t speak, as you are not worthy to be heard. You deserve to be treated like objects or property or animals. It is justified by God that you be beaten or stoned to death simply for being the victim of your own femininity. Face the cold, brutally hard fact that all of your human rights are dependent on what men, not God, feel they should be.

In the Catholic “faith,” women are told to accept that our own religion utilizes every political and legal channel known to man (aided by the money we put in the Sunday collection basket) to prevent us from controlling what happens in our bedrooms or to our bodies. Using God to control women is what we in marketing might call a “Top Down” strategy. Find an expert and leverage his/her position to convince consumers of a “truth.” Unfortunately, God isn’t around to verify the man-made claims in support of gender inequity, or to expose it as the load of crap it most certainly is. I believe God made us equal. We may be different physically, but God sees us as His children. Not as His sons and those other ones, but as His children. Precious. Made in His image.

By attending Catholic mass, I’m tacitly endorsing women’s inequality within the Church. Through my silence, I am agreeing with its calculated discrimination against females. I am supporting a Church that fights to control women’s reproductive choices and is hell bent on ruining the lives of my God-loving gay brothers and sisters. And at the end of the day, I’m going to have to explain to Jesus why I would patronize any organization that doesn’t treat His children equally.

I believe in exacting change from the inside out by trying to make things better rather than abandoning them. However, unless I can find a way to express my opposition to all forms of bigotry within the confines of my Church (wearing a sandwich board, neon sign or set of very large buttons to Mass being viable, short term solutions), I’m going to have to stick by the teachings of my God and sit that pew out.

Sarah O’Leary is a writer, marketing expert and licensed minister. She encourages you to share this and all of her Huffington Posts. Sarah answers all comments made herein, and may be reached via email: sarahathuffpo@gmail.com.

 

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When should congregations refuse to play the conservative game? Reflections on Gen.Synod 2006

Martin Luther

Luther worked within the structures of the Catholic Church to convey his understanding of Scriptures, but when continually hitting immovable walls conscience dictated his actions. Perhaps the LCA has operated from fear that conservative congregations would break from the LCA if women’s ordination was approved.  Little thought, however, has been given to the possibility that moderate congregations would break away after suffering the closing down of the discussion.

When is it time to step away from an abusive Church?  How long should congregations suffer the manipulation of democratic processes?

The following is Tanya Wittwer’s reflection after General Synod in 2006.  The despair she expresses from that time is evident again in our Church as we lead up to General Synod in April of 2013.  There is significant expectation of change.  Members and congregations of this Church are not content to forever suffer diversions and stalling.

From the beginning of the proceedings it was apparent that the leadership had decided to keep a tight lid on Synod.  The first woman to speak asked that one of the two nominees for the position of President share his vision for the church, prior to the election; the incumbent had just delivered his report and it seemed reasonable to be able to at least have heard from each of them.  This request (repeated by another woman the following day) was immediately denied.

The ordination question was clearly established as something to be debated from opposing sides, rather than an issue that could be discussed collegially.  On the Monday evening of Synod there was an “information evening” at which two seminary professors had been chosen to speak for 25 minutes – one presenting the position that only men could be ordained, and the other responding.  Unfortunately it was the No position that established the parameters of the “information” presented.  In the format chosen and the time limit given there was no opportunity to address bigger questions of Biblical interpretation, or faithful decision-making.  The chair contributed negatively to the debate, with a long, heavy-handed introduction, and unhelpful remarks.

The chair had been clear in his direction that only Scriptural and theological issues were to be addressed, but this did not prevent some of the anti-lobby using manipulative anecdotes and sweeping statements to support their arguments.  The style of “debate” meant that there was no opportunity to respond to these.  When the chair declared that only those waiting to speak would be given an opportunity, and no more were to go to the microphones, the balance was such that the final five speakers were against the ordination of women.  The chair urged people to abstain from voting if they had any doubts at all, or if they thought the time was not yet right.  Then the votes were cast.

I felt surprisingly free.  I felt free to leave the LCA, and join another denomination.  The reaction surprised me, but it felt as if the part of the race I needed to run was complete, and it was time to hand the baton over.  I was overwhelmed by the people – many of them strangers – who thanked me for my words, and shared their sadness.

When I woke on Wednesday morning, I had moved to a position of feeling free … to stay, at least for a while. To stay and to support others in being the church we believed we needed to be, even if this meant pushing boundaries. The nice, polite, official way of doing things seemed unhelpful; maybe now is the time to forget being “good.” We need to name clearly the legalistic turn in our church. We need to work against the pressure being applied by Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the International Lutheran Council (ILC). We need to find ways to proclaim more loudly God’s inclusive grace.

via GENERAL LCA SYNOD 2006 — “There’s nothing new under the sun.” (Ecc 1:9) | Women’s Ministry Network – Tanya Wittwer (6 October 2006)

 
 

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A Catholic woman’s open letter to the Pope

A post reprinted in its entirety from Baptist Women for Equality’s Blog | Claiming our equality by Shirley Taylor which reprinted a post from Phyllis Zagano [1] on Apr. 27, 2011

___________________

This may not be entirely legal, but I found the words of this blog so important and I want you to see what this Catholic woman has to say, so I have copied her entire blog post which was printed in the National Catholic Reporter.  The words in this post are not mine, but her words are our words.  Her frustration is our frustration. Her anger is our anger.  Her fight is our fight.  I trust she will understand as we connect with each other in righting a wrong.

Following is a letter she wrote to the Pope.  This is a lady who is fed up.  She is speaking up.

By Phyllis Zagano

Created Apr 27, 2011

by Phyllis Zagano [1] on Apr. 27, 2011

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
00120 Vatican City State, Europe

Your Holiness:

Forgive my presumption in addressing you directly, but the matter I bring is both urgent and pressing. Women are no longer walking away from the church. They are running away. They are running toward churches that make it clear women are made in the image and likeness of God.

I am not writing to argue for woman priests. But you told me many years ago in New York women deacons were “under study.” From 1992-2002, the International Theological Commission worked on that question, producing a report essentially repeating what you said: the Magisterium must decide.

When you met with the priests of Rome in 2006, you wondered aloud: could the church open more positions of responsibility to women? Were you then signaling the recovery of the tradition of women deacons?

In 2009, you changed Canon Law to echo the Catechism. Priests are ordained to act in the person of Christ, the head of the church; deacons are ordained to serve the people of God in and through the Word, the liturgy and charity. Since doctrinal statements only forbid women priests, and deacons are not priests, it seems you removed another hurdle.

You know it is not just me asking. Thousands of people sent Cardinal William Levada, your successor at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, e-mails and postcards about women deacons in a campaign organized by the US-based group FutureChurch. Several other organizations including the Canada-based Femmes et Ministères have claimed April 29, the feast of St. Catherine of Siena, as an international day of prayer for women deacons.

It is a new-old question. The only person in scripture with the formal job title “deacon” is Phoebe, deacon of the church at Cenchrae (Rom 16:1). Some see the start of the diaconate in Jesus’ washing the apostles’ feet at the Last Supper, but most see it really beginning with the apostles calling the seven to a more formal ministry (Acts 6: 1-6). There were many women deacons in the early church.

The bishops of the world were talking about women deacons at the Second Vatican Council. They are still at it. Most recently, the Swiss Bishop of St. Gall, Markus Bűchel, said women deacons were a good idea. Others before him — even Cardinal Carlo Martini when he was archbishop of Milan — wanted to restore women to the diaconate. Bishops from Australia to Ireland say more women in power would have stemmed the priest sex mess. I think they are correct.

I am told your curia knows women can be ordained as deacons, but does not want women in the clerical structure of the church. That cuts both ways, Holy Father. A lot of women do not want anything to do with clericalism. Some want the whole system to collapse. More say it has collapsed already.

Where is the church without women? I know you are concerned about the fading influence of Christianity in Europe. I write from the United States. Things are pretty bad over here, too. The country is over three-quarters Christian (with 68 million Catholics) but newspapers like The New York Times had no front page Easter story this year. Their ink is used on scandal.

The Christian message is lost in the daily drama of the sex abuse crisis. I fear, Most Holy Father, that bad priests and worse bishops will be your legacy. You will be remembered as the pope who belatedly started a laboring sludge pump to clear the swamp.

I know you love what God loves and hate what God hates, but I also know how bureaucracy can stymie even (maybe especially) the most brilliant person. Is the bureaucracy keeping you from doing the right thing? That goes for the crisis as well as women deacons.

Let me come to the point. The Catholic Church in developed nations is dying out. I am convinced it is dying because of the way it relates to women. Surely you see the numbers — declining membership and eroding donations — but do you have any idea how angry women are? And every woman you alienate extends her influence to several others — to her husband, her children, her friends, her neighbors — until the last person out the parish door closes the lights.

If I may, I think it is time for you to make a decision about women deacons.

It is an opportunity for you to state the Christian message in a way that can be heard. Yes, God is love and all persons are made in the image and likeness of God. But the world will not and cannot hear that until you have a woman deacon standing beside you and proclaiming the Gospel in St. Peter’s.

Again, pardon my presumption, but perhaps no one else will tell you.

Correction: An earlier version of this column gave an incorrect scripture citation for Phoebe, deacon of the church at Cenchrae. The correct citation is Romans 16:1.
[Phyllis Zagano is senior research associate-in-residence at Hofstra University and author of several books in Catholic Studies. Her book Women & Catholicism will be published by Palgrave-Macmillan in 2011.]

Won’t you join me, and this courageous sister in Christ, and speak up for equality by writing, and going to the top earthly person you personally can go to.  We can discuss the subject to death, and never get anywhere.  Now is time for courageous action.

Note to Readers:  Please respect the intent of this post, which is that women in various denominations are speaking up, and we have the same goal.  What we think about a pope or whether priests are the earthly representative of Christ is not relevant to this post.

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2011 in history, theology

 

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Sickness and Power in the State and Church

You may have noticed the strange behaviour of many heads of state.  The experience of being in power brings about psychological changes that can lead to grandiosity, narcissism, and irresponsible behavior. A few examples: Bob Hawke’s inability to pass the reigns of leadership to Paul Keating; John Howard’s dispatching the troops without even consulting his cabinet;  Kevin Rudd’s tyrannical attempts to micromanage just about everything; George W’s slash and burn around the world; Tony Blair’s maverick ignoring of his party.

Lord David Owen, a UK ex member of parliament, and neurologist, proposes a “hubris syndrome’, akin to post-traumatic distress, to explain the behaviour.  He discusses the extent to which illness can affect the decision-making of world leaders in his book In Sickness and in Power, and was recently on Radio National.

Leaders suffering from this political hubris syndrome believe that they are capable of great deeds, that great deeds are expected of them, that they know what is best under all circumstances, and that they operate beyond the bounds of ordinary morality.  Lord Owen gives examples of leaders who have lied about their health, had a compromised judgement and made irrational decisions.

Some definitions:

  • hubris – overweening pride, superciliousness (patronizing those considered inferior), arrogance, great belief in your own importance.  It was a crime in ancient greece.
  • ‘Hubris Syndrome’ – an acquired personality disorder that develops in high office, with three characteristics: excessive self-confidence, restlessness and inattention to detail.

Now, consider President Mike Semmler of the LCA.  He is a pleasant character, and pastorally has stood beside many in their time of need. However, when it comes to power, there is a change of character and many boxes can be ticked that might indicate hubris syndrome.  As Vice-President of the LCA, standing for the position of President in 2000, he declined to inform the Church that he was booked into hospital for a heart bypass.  If his use of the Presidential flowing red cloak is any indication, he clearly considers his position and himself as highly important.  Judging from District Presidents’ comments on how meetings of the Council of Presidents are administered, and how General Synod is manipulated he considers that he knows what is best under all circumstances.

Recently it has come to our attention that President Mike Semmler is considering standing again for the position in 2012, after a period of leadership that already spans twelve years.  Like Bob Hawke and many before him, this seems to indicate that he sees himself as being the only suitable person for leadership.

Hubris syndrome may well be an appropriate description for our Church leader, never-the-less, we have to rely on the institutions of democracy and divine inspiration to correct this situation.

“Angelo Roncalli was an Italian peasant who rose to become Pope John XXIII, one of the most beloved figures in Christian history.  During his service as pope, the Roman Catholic church underwent the major upheaval known as Vatican II, a tumultuous and controversial time of reform and change.  It is said that in the midst of this volatile time, Pope John would read his bedtime devotions, say his private prayers, and then, before turning out the light, would say to himself, “But who governs the church? You or the Holy Spirit?  Very well, then.  Go to sleep, Angelo, go to sleep.”

Here is the testimony.  We are all floating in a sea of mercy and grace and providence.  So go to sleep.  In confidence and trust, go to sleep.” (Long, 2004)

Reference:
Long, Thomas G. Testimony : Talking Ourselves into Being Christian, Practices of Faith Series. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2004, 156.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on January 10, 2011 in sociology

 

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Congregations will eventually ordain women

In the LCA congregations will eventually begin to ordain women.

It is happening in the Catholic Church because congregations are despairing of any change through formal channels. In August Elaine Groppenbacher became the fourth female to be ordained a Catholic priest in the Phoenix area, USA.  When the Vatican increasingly loses respect and authority, congregations will increasingly risk being ejected from the fold to do what they think is right … and this is in a tradition where obedience has a high priority.

“We’re the Rosa Parks of the Catholic Church,” says Bridget Mary Meehan, a Womenpriests bishop and former nun. “We no longer accept second-class status in our own religion.” Read more.
The Vatican is in crisis.  It is facing a drop in membership despite Catholic policy against birth control, it is beginning to face the crimes of its clergy from the last few generations, (I shudder to think of the undisclosed crimes from the last two millenia) and very few Catholics have any respect for the Catholic decree prohibiting the use of contraception, which has led to a devastating surge of AIDS in Africa. In addition, a US CBS poll says that the majority of Catholics support women’s ordination.
There is panic in the Catholic camp for the Vatican is responding with inordinate force, denouncing  “female ordination a delictum gravius, or a grave crime, the same label it has given to pedophilia.”  Time Magazine 27th September 2010, pp 53-55 The Vatican declares that women who attempt to become priests, and the officiating bishops, will automatically be excommunicated from the church. Let’s be clear about this – women who wish to share the gospel through the ordained ministry are condemned with the same language as paedophile priests who use children for their own sexual gratification!  Such loss of perspective and such loss of focus indicates a blinkered urge to regain control of a diverse Church and an accompanying loss of pastoral care and vision.
It is clear where the Vatican’s priorities lie. The Times cites the case of Rev. Roy Bourgeois, who was excommunicated two months after he took part in a ceremony ordaining a woman. It took years after bishops’ requests, in many cases, to defrock pedophiles.

Women and men have waited generations for women’s ordaination in the LCA.  It is a certainty that congregations will eventually lose patience with the callous handling of this pivotal issue.  It is unlikely that the Church can remain intact through another General Synod without ordaining women.  I believe that General Convention 2012 will be a turning point.  No more will all congregations be content to trust in the process.  No more will they trust that women’s ordination ‘will soon happen’.  No more will they trust Church leadership. No more will they continue to tell the women in their midst to continue waiting.

Congregations will increasingly consider their options are as General Synod 2012 draws closer.

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Posted by on November 5, 2010 in sociology, theology

 

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