Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Religious Feminism

We just entered Advent, a new church year and “the year of the priest” according to hierarchical decree in the Roman Catholic Church.

I am a priest of the Anglo-Catholic variety, Episcopal, and a Christian feminist who suspects, with a dash of surety, that this year of the priest is a campaign slogan designed to recruit men, young ones, for the all-male priesthood, currently suffering from short supply. Women need not apply or consider themselves in any way included in this effort unless they want to be sideline cheerleaders.

However, it seems that the Spirit is calling women anyway. World-wide there are over 100 Roman Catholic (RC) women ordained under the auspices of RCWP (Roman Catholic Women Priests) and more in the process.

They are forming communities; they are ordained from both canonical and non-canonical communities; their bishops are pastoral not administrative; they utilize a consensus model of decision-making and democratic processes. "Our goal is a new model of ordained ministry in a renewing Roman Catholic Church," according to Bridget Mary Meehan, Bishop of Southern Region, RCWP, former Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister.

These women priest communities, yes, like parishes, rent space and the ordained women do what priests do. They’re growing.
Adversity and opposition from on high gets press and helps them grow.

Who said feminism was dead? I am the cheerleader, sending prayers, money and all my heart their way.

Some women in American culture wonder about feminism and about young women feminists. They are out there. My daughter is one of them although she falls now into the mid-life category. These women are concerned with justice, with equality and equivalence for women in all our institutions. They have made changes in their homes and their workplaces. It’s still uphill.

Our government and international organizations have recognized the plight of women the world over. Awareness of oppression, torture, stonings, violence of the most horrific kind and unjust laws that sancitify violence against women has increased.

In this country domestic violence is rampant and increasing. Sexism may have an even stronger hold on American patriarchal culture and church than any other -ism.

I am a Christian feminist. That means that because of my religious faith..............

I serve on coalitions that work on prevention of violence against women and educate my parish on that and similar liberation issues.
I harass my congregation about inclusive language, especially for Godde who I believe has no gender. The congregation is loving and listening and some I imagine converted, including some men.
I spell the divine name Godde, softer and open-ended. I don't change it because I don't usually change names by which I am introduced to someone. A woman parishioner just asked me why we don't spell it that way in the church bulletin and prayers. I told her we haven't gone that far—yet.
I preach and teach and write books about Jesus’ feminist politics.
I understand the bible as sacred literature, more devoted to story than history, giving us universal stories and characters who continue to give meaning and shape to our own relations and self-understandings;
I direct a group of women who present a dramatic rendering of the biblical women who came to the burial tomb of Jesus on Easter morn. The women play themselves; they share their personal stories of new life and resurrection. People cry.
I understand Godde as a spirit of goodness embedded in all creation, all flesh—male, female and combinations thereof.
I celebrate the Holy Eucharist every Sunday. I am a woman’s body at the altar.

Roman Catholic women who feel called to serve Godde as priests think that their church’s stance goes beyond simple injustice. Jamie Manson writes in the National Catholic Reporter ( “But what is, for me, most exasperating about this searing opposition to women’s ordination, is that it is a rejection of faith in the power of God to work in our world. By banning women from serving as priests, the church is saying that God simply cannot work sacramentally in the body of a woman.” This is not only against traditional church teaching but places limits on divine activity. Many admire Rome for its consistency but isn’t that the “hobgoblin of little minds”? (Walt Whitman)

It’s always about sex. My goodness, Rome has invited Anglicans who are discontent about full sacramental inclusion of practicing homosexuals (male ones) to join them. They offer to ordain even Henry Eighth breakaways as long as they have male anatomy. Anyone but a woman with breasts.

For this feminist the soul of the Christian religion is body—embodiment.

Today I hear myself whisper thanks to Godde for mucous. Odd. But for someone like me with lung disease mucous excretion means an end to incessant, exhausting and futile coughing. Why thank Godde for a natural human bodily process? Because it’s a process in which the Godde who connects heaven and earth, human and divine is present—intimately so.

And if this my faith is not so? Then I will grieve deeply, for Godde will become distant, clothed in male anatomy only, and no longer a divine feminist.