Monday, October 17, 2016

Stand Your Ground - Black Bodies and the Justice of God - Chapter 5 - Jesus and Trayvon: The Justice of God

The Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas continues to relay the story of Trayvon Martin to us through the words and interviews with his parents. She uses their own words to illustrate their faith in God and then pulls the lens back to also use those same words to illustrate the historic faith of Black Christians in the United States. In this fifth chapter, Dr Douglas draws sharp parallels between the death of Trayvon and the death of Jesus Christ, in that they were both innocent men who were executed by the powers that be of their individual time periods.

Dr Douglas utilizes the story of the Samaritan woman at the well to show how a male Jewish Jesus uses his privilege to balance out the demonization of the female Samaritan woman. In balancing out the power by giving up his privilege, Jesus places himself in solidarity with those who did not have the social power to move freely in his society. In this movement of Jesus, from the place of privilege equalizing the place of subordinate, we find an example to follow to move from our places of sacred white space to places in solidarity with those in the cross hairs of Stand Your Ground culture today.

Dr Douglas uses the interviews with Trayvon's parents to show how they continually try to turn the conversation toward resurrection by speaking of their beloved Trayvon with pride and love. They refuse to allow Trayvon's character and life to be further crucified. According to Dr Douglas, this is in harmony with their Black Christian faith which places more weight in the resurrection than teh crucifixion. I have to say that I have never been a big fan of Matt Lauer, but Dr Douglas' reporting of his interviews with the parents make me never want to watch him again.

At the end of this chapter, Dr Douglas names Anglo-Saxon exceptionalism as America's original sin - from which most all other sins originate. It has been there since our inception as a country (chapter one) and Stand Your Ground Culture is merely the newest manifestation.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God - Chapter Four - A Father's Faith: The Freedom of God

The Reverend Dr Kelly Brown Douglas helps us all examine Black Faith in God in chapter four. Using the Exodus Story as the primary lens, she explains that Black Faith is essentially grounded in the belief that God is completely free and therefore seeks freedom for all people. The people in the Exodus story were oppressed and that oppression led to them being God's Chosen People.

I am very appreciative of the information Dr Douglas writes about the function of music in Black Faith. "Music allowed the captured and enslaved Africans to speak to one another across the barriers of their indigenous language and dialects that their enslavers did not respect" (pg 141). The music allowed for the transfer of information, the learning of language, and the expression of hopes and fears. It also allowed the enslaved to sing about the God they already knew from their homeland, a God that was free and demanded the freedom of everyone. This was not the same God that was preached to them as enslaved people by white preachers. The God of Home was a God who called them into being the fulness of who they were created to be (pg153). Home was a free and safe space to fully be who God created them to be.

The discussion of the people who already inhabited the Promised Land is deft and challenging. It allows for the God of Freedom to call the oppressed Home, while leaving space open to say that Home might already be occupied. Dr Douglas does not condone the acts of violence that might be attributed to God that clear out Home for others. She specifically names Native Americans again and their losses to the Manifest Destiny war.

Black Faith, as explained by Dr Douglas, does not blame God for injustice, but rather assumes that God prefers and gives strength to everyone who opposes the injustice and protests for justice.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God - Chapter Three: Manifest Destiny War

I am finally on the other side of beginning the new Sunday School season. One Sunday was Homecoming Sunday, the next started Sunday School, and then the next was Ministry Fair Sunday. It has been a busy month and I did not get back to this as quick as I thought I would. Here we all are, a few weeks later, ready to discuss Chapter Three: Manifest Destiny War in Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God by the Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas.

Dr. Douglas begins the chapter by giving us a history of the term, Manifest Destiny: the combination of Anglo-Saxon as the epitome of humanity finding their place in a whole new world and setting up a societal paradise known as the United States of America. According to Manifest Destiny, the USA was a blank slate ready for the experiments of democracy as imagined by Anglo-Saxon ways and culture. God had declared Anglo-Saxons as superior and all other races were to assimilate as quickly as possible. Assuming that whiteness is superior is troublesome enough, but then requiring assimilation from every other race is a “declaration of war” (pg 107) against non-white bodies. Because God had ordained the Anglo-Saxons as superior, then the war declared against the non-whites was a religious & just war. People indigenous to the USA were killed or segregated using the ideology of Manifest Destiny. All immigrants and non-whites were expected to assimilate as fully and quickly as possible. White Space was to be defended at all costs.

Dr. Douglas then neatly traces the ideas of Manifest Destiny straight into the beginning of the Stand Your Ground Laws. If White Space is the most valuable space, then defending White Space is paramount to fulfilling Manifest Destiny and Stand Your Ground laws allow for the use of deadly violence in that protection of White Space.

The rest of the chapter explains the intersection of Stand Your Ground and White Backlash. Even before Stand Your Ground laws were enacted, non-whites could be killed with impunity simply for being in White Space. If a white person felt threatened in any way by a non-white person, and especially by a black male, that “threatening” presence could be killed or otherwise removed with no further thought. Lynchings, imprisonments, and now police shootings are the direct result of the backlash against black people for simply being in a white space. Militarized police officers and departments continue to fight the war of Manifest destiny every day.

Dr. Douglas ends the chapter by pointing out that having a Black President of the United States has triggered a whole new level of White Backlash. She ponders the idea that the only place her Black son is safe is in her own home.

I am so glad I started this book. Now that I have been introduced to these ideas of White Space and Manifest Destiny and Anglo-Saxon Superiority I cannot un-see it unfolding all around me. I admire Dr. Douglas’ methodical, logical outline of the foundations of the United States and how we got to this place that so many of us find appalling. In some ways, I wonder how we can unravel racism from the fabric of our culture, when it has been woven in so tight and methodically from the very beginning.  

Chapter Four will begin Part Two of the book, which also has three chapters. We are halfway finished reading at this point. Where are your thoughts?

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Stand Your Ground - Chapter Two - The Black Body: A Guilty Body

This chapter begins with another intriguing question: "Why are black murder victims put on trial?" (pg 48). Lower on that same page, Dr. Douglas writes, "Black victims of fatal violence are presumed guilty of bringing their deaths upon themselves. Their white killers are given the benefit of the doubt. It is readily assumed that the white killer acted as a reasonable person would who is in fear for his life."

In helping us to understand how this has historically developed,  Dr. Douglas revisits the Anglo-Saxon exceptionalism and how it lead to the belief that black people could be excluded from consideration as being human (pg 52). She then tracks the concept of "Black Body as Chattel" (pgs 52-56). She shows how the church and state affirmed that not only were black people not equal to white people, but that "equality with white people - and certainly not to speak of superiority over them - is immoral" (pg 57).

I found it hard to read the "Hypersexualized Black Body" section (pgs 64-68). It makes logical sense that in this terrible way of perceiving black bodies, the charge of rape would be unfathomable; I had never allowed my thoughts to wander that far. The sexual abuse of slaves was another way to de-humanize them, force a higher birth rate, and set them apart as "other," specifically the blacks males as threats to white women.

"The Dangerous Black Body" was illustrative for me for what seems to be happening over and over again in the killings of black bodies by police officers right now in America (pgs 68-76). "When black people step into [white/public] social space, they do so as intruders, and thus they have created a dangerous situation because white people are compelled , by divine law nonetheless, to protect their space from intruders" (pg 69). A lot of the calls to the police in the instances of the killings that have necessitated the Black Lives Matter movement, incorrectly identify black bodies as threatening in some way: carrying a weapon. threatening property, threatening suicide, etc. The police then respond with preconceived notions of danger and act without truly assessing the situation.

The dangerous black body then becomes the "Criminal Black Body" for the rest of chapter two (pgs 77-89). If you have not yet read Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow, it should be the very next book on your White Person's Reading List on Racial Reconciliation. It is a dense read, and as well-researched and well-written as Stand Your Ground, in my opinion.

As Dr. Douglas traces how the anti-vagrancy laws came to reinforce a new type of forced labor for the males (pgs 77-82), she also shows how black women are dismissed as "criminally immoral" or "mean and angry" (pg 83). In the week or so since I read this section, I have noticed the stereotype of "Angry Black Woman" (pg 85) more then I ever have before in my lifetime.

So then, if black men are criminal, and black women are so angry as to be irrational and then become criminal, then Dr. Douglas' last stories in chapter two show how "free black bodies have to be guilty of something" (pg 86). Therefore all black murder victims are ultimately put on trial for their own murder. The story Dr. Douglas tells of her toddler son's interaction with an elementary-age white boy at a playground is heart-wrenching (pgs 86-87).

**Aside for Chapter Three: I may not be able to post again next week, so there may be a two-week lapse until the next post. There are some program-year tasks I need to get accomplished to get the Sunday School year started well.**

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Stand Your Ground - Chapter One - America's Exceptionalism

Dr Douglas begins this chapter with the question, "If Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk?" (pg3). In the next 44 pages, she presents a well-researched position that traces writings concerning Anglo-Saxon superiority to 98 CE (pg4). Those writings are quoted in the founding documents of our country, and are used to strengthen and legitimize white "as Cherished Property" (pg 23). Thus, white as supreme: skin color, cultural norms, etc. The very foundations of culture and religion are built on white supremacy.

The rights of white supremacy include the rights to exclude, the rights of property ownership and the rights of personal space. These are only some of the privileges I have been historically able to hold as a white person. While those first two may be lessening, it is the third one that I see causing the clashes more and more in our society today. It seems like the calls to law enforcement go something like this, "There is a Black person outside with a gun." Law enforcement shows up, assumes the truth of the call and a Black person is detained, arrested, or killed = a Black person in a white space is seen as the problem. Public streets, even in Black neighborhoods, are seen as white space.

Dr Douglas has opened my eyes to how I travel trough daily life. I do not feel safe everywhere, but I certainly expect that my body and my rights will be protected everywhere, as a white person. I now see how our forefathers could write about the rights of all, yet truly mean only those of white heritage. This is a suspicion I held before this, and I am thankful to have such a tightly-researched chapter to trace the lineage of influence.

What are your thoughts as you digest chapter one and ponder what exceptionalism means? Where are you and your family history weaved in and out of this story? How have you noticed your privilege differently since reading this chapter?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

EWC Book Club - Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God

It started with a Facebook post anchored in the frustration that I did not know which of my friends and colleagues might be starting to educate themselves on racial issues. I had begun stumbling down that path, with half of my life already behind me, and I felt isolated in my ignorance and tardiness. I want companions for this journey. I have been blessed with many Facebook and Twitter "friends" who graciously allow me to peek into their serious and on-going conversations on race and inequality. I have been even more blessed by my colleagues and friends in real life who are gentle, yet strident that this is my work to do. That is truth.

This is the beginning of my work in community with those who will gather here to clarify our learning, check our assumptions and prejudices, and un-learn what needs to be challenged. My prayer is that our blinders will be removed, and we will be led to right actions as we learn how to be allies in the work of racial justice, and specifically the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas
The first book I am proposing that we read together is Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God by the Reverend Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas. I have read and marked up the prologue, introduction, and first two chapters so far.

I will keep posting as I continue to read, and I truly and humbly invite your comments. I will comment after writing the summaries of the chapters. I will create new posts as I progress, so the labels will be important for finding your place in the conversation as we go along. All will be labeled "Race Issues" and then "SYG" followed by the chapter, although this one is labeled "SYG Intro." I hope that will help with navigation.

If you are reading ahead of me and would like to create the post for a chapter, please feel free. My email is AmyPHaynie at gmail dot com - I would love for this to be a group effort.

Dr. Douglas uses the prologue and introduction to orient us to her social relationship to the Stand Your Ground laws. As the mom of a black young man, as a professor of religion at Goucher College well-versed in racial history, and as a black woman in US society, she asks "Why is it becoming increasingly acceptable to kill unarmed black children...Why are they so easily perceived as a threat?" (pg ix).

In the introduction, Dr Douglas states that "this book will explore the socio-cultural narratives that have given birth to our stand-your-ground culture and the religious canopies that have legitimized it. This stand-your-ground culture has produced and sustained slavery, Black Codes, Jim Crow, lynchings, and other forms of racialized violence against black bodies" (pg xiii).

In the comments of this section, I invite us to introduce ourselves and explore why we are interested in this work at this time. What do you hope for or want from this conversation? I hope we will be able to keep this space safe by checking our own white fragility and using "I" language as we do this important work.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Women's Story

During the 2015 General Convention of the Episcopal  Church, my husband and I premiered a documentary film about the life Bishop John Eldridge Hines, the 22nd Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.  The film has been a work spanning almost 20 years, and features an extensive live video interview of Bishop Hines, by the ABC news anchor, Hugh Downs.  Bishop Hines tells his own story, in his own elegant words, with honesty, humor, and occasionally sadness.  A significant part of the film deals with the Bishop's beliefs and respect for the place of women in the Episcopal church, and included is a rare video of the Bishop's last address to the church at the General Convention of 1973, where he states unequivocally there is absolutely no biblical reason why women cannot be ordained.  In the background, voices shouting NO WAY! can be heard—the only time a Presiding Bishop has been treated thus.

The film was shown in a large ballroom, on a theatre size screen, and about 40 people attended.  Among those present was a young woman, who told those assembled that she was a second generation ordained woman, following in the steps of her own mother.  

In the film, are many interviews and memories called forth from those who were alive at the time, and who were faithful followers of the human rights positions that Hines believed the church must embrace, if the church were to be faithful to the Gospel.  The film is titled, JUSTICE IS THE CORPORATE FACE OF LOVE, a quote from Bishop Hines.

A very moving story is told by General Convention Deputy Philip Masquelette, a lawyer from the Diocese of Texas.  He talks about his experience of voting to seat women delegates at the General Convention of 1970; of the women waiting in the hallway hoping their time had come. Most of the delegates to be seated were already leaders in the church as Presidents of the Episcopal Church Women's organizations in their dioceses. The joy of the Convention when the cadre of almost thirty women walked onto the floor of the House of Deputies to take their seats was palpable.   Masquelette becomes very emotional telling the story; with a tembling voice, and with tears rolling down his cheeks, he says that moment was wonderful, as the entire House of Deputies rose to cheer in this moment that changed the church.

The young woman, the second generation priest, watching the film also became very emotional, rising from her seat at the end of the film, and saying in tears, "I didn't know.  I didn't know."  

Vice President of the House of Deputies, the Honorable Byron Rushing, stood up and asked her what she meant.  Her answer was remarkable.

"I know all the dates that things happened.  I know the dates that women were seated; I know the year that women's ordination was approved.  But the dates are just that dates, aren't they.  I didn't know the stories.  Why don't we know the stories?  Mr. Masquelette was weeping as he told of the events.  Why don't we know the stories?  I am moved so deeply by the story.  I wish I had always known the story.  It would have meant so much to know what really happened."

Byron Rushing said, "You don't know the stories because the church doesn't want you to know.  The church doesn't want anything like the Philadelphia Eleven, for example, to ever happen again.   So you need to go back and tell the story, and pass the story on."  Mr. Rushing went on to talk about the stories that need to be told, so that we all remember the hard, hard work that must to be done when the world must change.  

The fight within the church for human rights is still a challenge.  Remembering the trials and tribulations of those who were courageous in their determination; telling their stories; these are the ways we inspire the careful nurturing of those who would risk greatly.   Philip Masquelette's wife, Betty, was the first woman ordained in the Diocese of Texas.  She has recently retired.  Betty's story needs to be told.  

The stories of the Philadelphia Eleven need to be told, as do the stories of the brave Bishops who ordained them.  These men were, at the time, some of the most respected men in the Episcopal Church, and they dared greatly.  The event took place on July 29, 1974.

The ordinations were done at the Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia, Pa., before a congregation of some 2,000 worshipers.   The Bishops assembled were Bishop Daniel Corrigan, Denver, Colo., former suffragan bishop of Colorado, retired; Bishop Robert L. DeWitt, resigned bishop of Pennsylvania; and Bishop Edward R. Welles II, Manset, Me., retired bishop of West Missouri. They were joined by a fourth bishop, the Rt. Rev. Antonio Ramos, Bishop of Costa Rica, the only one of the four exercising jurisdiction in the church at the time.  A young woman, a faithful volunteer in the civil rights movement, who had weathered many of the storms raging through the Episcopal Church and the country, carried the processional cross for the service; she became a priest.  Her name was Barbara Harris—ultimately, the first woman elected Bishop.

Bishop Ramos, who did not participate in the actual ordination, but joined in the laying on of hands, issued a statement in which he said that the ordination event "stands as a prophetic witness on behalf of and for the oppressed. " He added that the ordination of the 11 women can "be characterized as an act of disobedience, ecclesiastical disobedience on our part, willfully done to abolish a system of canon law which is discriminatory, and which can no longer stand the judgment of the liberating Christ."

Dr. Charles V. Willie, professor of education and urban studies at Harvard, and vice president of the church's House of Deputies, preached a sermon in which he said that he participated in the service "not because I wanted to speak out but because I could not remain silent. "  When the Church in the next General Convention, refused to acknowledge the ordinations in Philadelphia, Dr. Willie resigned from his position in the House of Deputies.  This act received national news coverage, and again spotlighted the battle for women's rights.   Dr. Willie was present for the screening of the John Hines film in Salt Lake City.

The first official ordination of an Episcopal woman took place three years lateron January 1, 1977, Jacqueline Means became the first woman ordained to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church. The vote to allow women’s ordination which finally passed in 1976 was undoubtedly largely influenced by the presence of women delegates whose seating in 1970 had so moved Philip Masquelette.

The saga of the ability of women to step forward and answer the call to the priesthood they hear is a story of love and commitment.  Each story is an anniversary.  In this 40th year of women being ordained, there are many anniversaries.  All of these stories must all be told, because the love of those who have dared greatly can change lives.

This film was a recipient of  the Polly Bond award from Episcopal Communicators. Robin Sumners was the Director of Development for a small Christian publishing company called Mission City Press, she left that company in 2008 to  free lance. Robin is a graphic designer and writer, and recently won an award for one of her short stories. She is currently working on a novel and a collection of short stories.  She has started a writer's group in Cuero at Grace Church called Writer's of Grace.

She has served the larger church as President of The Episcopal Church Women of the Diocese of Colorado, Province VI representative for the Episcopal Church Women and a member of the national board of the United Thank Offering. She currently is a board member of The Episcopal Women's History Project.

Monday, June 13, 2016


I am sad that in 2016 we are still having a discussion on how women are perceived in society. It seems to me that we should be over this discussion by now. Yet I do not believe we have even fully started this discussion. 

Language matters and our own church lives reflect some of the trouble we have using inclusive language. Parishes that depend on and refer to the 1979 Book of Common Prayer are not using inclusive language. I have been ordained five years now and I have not yet served a parish that uses inclusive language consistently. I attended seminary from 2003-2009. All papers there had to balance out pronouns for God. In some aspects, culture runs ahead of us: in yoga classes, it is not unusual to hear the about a feminine divine; in TEC in Ft Worth, TX it can still raise eyebrows to refer to a feminine divine. In other ways, the Episcopal Church runs ahead: those of us who are priests and female in Ft Worth, TX have fun stories of people’s reactions to our collars as we live and minister here. I believe honestly confessing where we fall short on Sunday morning matters in this conversation. 

As a priest who happens to be female and was born, raised, and educated in this part of the world, I am not terribly optimistic that the way women are perceived in society will change in my lifetime. I dearly love my spouse and our sons; I have made sure that these three men understand my feelings on sexism, expectations of gender roles, and the importance of equality in relationships. I am not afraid to enter into this conversation in the church either. I believe that our churches are one of the few remaining places we can still have respectful, hard conversations (and get to sing together, but that is another topic). 

I realize I am a cynical, generation x woman who is approaching 50 years old. The only way I can see forward movement in this discussion is for those of us who are female to keep speaking and living our particular call, no matter what or where that is. All I feel like I can do is to use my gifts to the best of my ability in my social location with God’s help, calling out sexism when I see it, and holding out a hand to the women around me in support and solidarity. It is not revolutionary or a quick fix or even original thinking, but it is movement.

Amy P Haynie is a priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, serving at Trinity Episcopal Church, Fort Worth. 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Me and the Beards

by the Rev. Kate Bradsen

When visiting our church for a social event recently, one of my friends, another young woman, remarked at the pictures of the church staff up on the wall: “Look at you and the beards!”  I am not only the youngest person on our church staff, I am also the only woman.  And, as my friend noted, the only one without a long grey or white beard.  

At least once a month, and more often at church gatherings on a diocesan level, someone unfamiliar with our church approaches one of the pastor associates or our deacon and asks them questions about their role as rector of our church.  Sometimes they even do this right in front of me.  The blessing of “the beards” who are a part of my church is that they always say something to the effect of: “Oh no, I work for her,” and gesture to me.  

I don’t fault people for these assumptions.  In the Episcopal Church, men outnumber women in the position of senior rector or solo rector four to one.  Guessing that one of “the beards” is my boss is a fairly safe bet.  It’s just not the truth.  

In over a decade of ordained ministry, I have too often found that men make the difference in female clergy’s careers.  If women have a male mentor or a man looking out for them, they tend to do better.  Obviously I am grateful for the gifts these men bring to all of us, and for the clergy and staff of my church who continually stand up for me and my role as a leader, but I wonder how we as women can do more to tell our own stories.  

I know that women have come a long way in our church.  If it were not for the work of the Episcopal Women’s Caucus, I would not be in role I am in now.  I hope that as a group we can work together to bring the stories of strong female leaders, be they lay or ordained, to the forefront of our church.  I look forward to the work we are called to, and to challenging the assumptions we all make about who is and should be in charge. 

The Rev. Kate Braden, Vicar, St. Andrews, Tucson, AZ and Board member of the Episcopal Women's Caucus

Tuesday, June 7, 2016


The Episcopal Women's Caucus produces and an e-newsletter several times a year. If you'd like to subscribe to receive this please sign up on our website: here The current edition features article written by the EWC Board of Directors and considers how women are represented in the media and the world around us. Here is the first of several articles:

I’ve been thinking a lot about who is called a liar these days, in particular the repeated description of Hillary Clinton as a liar, but also how often women in general are thought of as liars. I’ve been called a liar myself, or more subtly people have alluded to, without saying outright, that I have been manipulative and deceptive. The truth is, whether we are conscious of it or not, and I suspect we are rarely conscious of it, women have been considered untrustworthy for centuries. Below are just a few quotes from some early Christian church fathers and their view of women:

“What she cannot get, she seeks to obtain through lying and diabolical deceptions. One must be on one’s guard with every woman, as if she were a poisonous snake and the horned devil.” — St. Albertus Magnus

Tertullian: “Women are the devil’s gateway.” 

Thomas Aquinas: “As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten.” 

St. Clement of Alexandria: “Every woman should be filled with shame by the thought that she is a woman…the consciousness of their own nature must evoke feelings of shame.”

 St. John Chrysostom: Women are “weak and flighty…For what is a woman but an enemy of friendship, an inescapable punishment, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a domestic danger, delectable mischief, a fault in nature, painted with beautiful colors?” and “Amongst all the savage beasts none is found so harmful as woman.”

 St. Jerome: “Woman is the root of all evil.” 

Considering that those who helped form the early Christian church held these views of women it’s no wonder that a base distrust of women pervades our global societies and infiltrates our thoughts and actions. Donald Trump, for whom statistics indicate that he is rarely accurate or truthful, faces little scrutiny for his words. Headline news rarely ever calls him a liar. Yet Hillary is called a liar so often that this notion of her has infiltrated the general public who consider this characteristic of her to be accurate, despite fact checkers saying otherwise. 

A simple internet search on “women liars” pulls up stories about women rape victims whose stories are not believed, women as Jezebel’s, women who are “attention seekers.” It seems it all comes down to sex, women are not to be trusted because of sex. Consider how women are portrayed on television and in movies: liars, sexually manipulative, temptresses, mentally ill. Women are portrayed as untrustworthy and we support that notion, consciously and unconsciously. 

I’m not suggesting that Hillary Clinton is always completely honest, but she is certainly not the liar that some portray her as. Men, it seems can lie and get away with it. At least that seems to be the case with men like Donald Trump and Bill Cosby. I’m not arguing that we should lie or accept liars. I’m only commenting on the disparity between men and women, and our assessment of who is trustworthy and who is perceived as being a liar. 

Thanks to this presidential election, my awareness has grown. Much like the election of Barak Obama pushed open my awareness of racism and how embedded it is in me, let alone the corporate soul of the United States, so too, will this election year, should Hillary Clinton clinch the Democratic nomination, raise the anxiety of sexism and mysoginsm in this country. 

Nonetheless these efforts to raise our corporate soul to greater awareness of these long held prejudices against women and people of color is met with a growing sense of anxiety. Our society is deep in what Murray Bowen, founder of the Family System’s Theory, calls “Societal Regression.” Edwin Freidman, a proponent of Bowen’s theory, writes in “Failure of Nerve” that the last time society went through a major regression based on anxiety and fear was in the Middle Ages. This angst and fear of change produced the crusades and instituted an idea that the world was flat and that nothing existed beyond a few known countries and continents. This regression was broken open when some explorers dared to break the fear and set sail across the waters. Fear was replaced by creative imagination. We have once again been in a societal regression, says Bowen, since the late 1950’s, post WWII. One might say we are deep in the throws of it now, with our fears right out there controlling what we do. We react through fear not create through imaginative responses. This, by and large is the response to white people, mostly white men, those who have been the dominant culture, losing their power. The world is not what it was, and it is not yet what it will be. The theory states that if white people could work toward resolving our own anxiety about who we are, and the anxiety that differences in class and education and wealth produce, we wouldn’t need to create scapegoats of people of color or women on whom we project our real anxiety. This is a simplistic explanation of a complex theory. You can learn more if you go to Murray Bowen’s Family System website and if you choose to study Family Systems. My point is, we are living in anxious times and making decisions based on anxiety and fear, reactive processes that never lead to people making the best decisions. As a society we are reactive, looking for the next person or group of people to scapegoat, to whom we can project our anxiety so we don’t have to deal with what is really going on. 

My response to the rising tide of anxiety has been to choose to be less anxious and become more creative and self aware. I turn off the news and unsubscribe from email organizations that promote fear. I work on myself and how I can be a better person and how I can grow in my awareness of how I treat others. I’m doing what I can to become aware of the long held unconscious systemic and institutionalized biases that I have been raised with, so that I can try to behave differently. That means that I have to consider carefully the impulses in me to react and label other people. Calling Hillary Clinton a liar is just the tip of the iceberg, there is so much underneath that must be seen and dealt with.

For more on this topic read Soraya L. Chemaly at Role Reboot

Soraya L. Chemaly who writes about gender, feminism and culture for several online media including Role/Reboot, The Huffington Post, Fem2.0, RHReality Check, BitchFlicks, and Alternet among others. She is particularly interested in how systems of bias and oppression are transmitted to children through entertainment, media and religious cultures. She holds a History degree from Georgetown University, where she founded that schools first feminist undergraduate journal, studied post-grad at Radcliffe College.

And Murray Bowen’s Family System’s Societal Regression at The Bowen Center

The Rev. Terri C. Pilarski, EWC Convener

Terri has been ordained for sixteen years. She has been the Convener of the EWC since 2012 and is currently the Rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Dearborn, Michigan.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

UNCSW Episcopal Church Delegates, Diane Wright

The UNCSW began March 14. The Episcopal Women's Caucus and The Episcopal Church Women have partnered to help support the Episcopal Delegates to the UNCSW. In the comments section are instructions for donating. 

Here is Diane Wright's story:

I spent my formative years living in developing countries where opportunities for women and girls differed from those in the US. This early exposure influenced my academic pursuits in which I focused on international human rights issues both in my undergraduate and legal studies. And in the ensuing years, my interest in issues affecting women and girls has grown and I have pursued these passions through my work in my parish, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Arlington, VA, and the Diocese of Virginia. 

Through my faith community, I am involved in various ministries affecting women and girls including as i. a member of the Executive Board of the ECW of the Diocese of Virginia and delegate to the Triennial Meeting of the National ECW in Salt Lake City this past July; ii. a leader of our parish Junior High Girls group where we gather bi-monthly with 15-20 girls for fun, fellowship and prayer; and iii. a thought leader for the “Faith and Females” initiative in the Diocese of Virginia which focuses on topics of interest to younger women. And through my professional work I have consulted on issues affecting women on corporate boards and represent women entrepreneurs. This passion for women and girls has merged with my interest in international outreach. Several years ago, I facilitated the collection of sewing machines to be sent to the women of our sister parish in Honduras to provide them with opportunities to learn a trade and thus contribute to the economic development of their community and their families. And currently, I am building relationships in the Diocese of Central Tanganyika, Tanzania hoping to work with the diocese and our partner parish to help improve sustainability in the local communities by empowering women. 

Through my participation in the UNCSW with a focus on the empowerment of women for sustainable development, I hope to gain knowledge to further our ministry, both at the parish and diocesan level, in Tanzania, and to disseminate information on novel and broader initiatives. We are called through our baptismal covenant to strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being. Through my ministry and my participation at UNCSW, I pray that God uses me as a catalyst to give greater voice to women and girls within my community and the greater Anglican Communion in order to foster a more just world in which men and women have equal voices and opportunities.

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Sunday, March 20, 2016

UNCSW 2016: Sarah Watkins

The UNCSW began March 14. The Episcopal Women's Caucus and The Episcopal Church Women have partnered to help support the Episcopal Delegates to the UNCSW. In the comments section are instructions for donating. 

Here is Sarah Watkins' story:

I am a UNCSW delegate from the Diocese of Texas. I am a member of St. James' Episcopal Church, Austin, where I serve on the vestry and worship with an emerging Latino missional community.

For the last decade, I have been heavily involved in local, state, and national efforts to end the warehousing of people with disabilities in nursing homes and other institutions. As a woman with a significant physical disability who depends on the paid support of other women to live my daily life, the fight to end unnecessary institutionalization and extend quality community-based services to anyone who needs them is deeply personal.

I currently serve as president of Community Now!, a grassroots organization working to right-size the system of large, publicly-operated institutions in Texas and expand alternatives to institutionalization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. I also volunteer as a legal assistant with a local immigration attorney who represents women and children locked up in detention centers for fleeing violence in their home countries.

I come to UNCSW passionate about the many intersecting injustices faced by women with disabilities and women immigrants, including physical and social isolation; increased risk for sexual and other forms of violence; and economic marginalization. I am particularly excited to use this opportunity to highlight the need for global action to promote the community integration and full potential of women and girls with disabilities. I look forward to encouraging The Episcopal Church and our faith partners to engage more fully in the ongoing work of seeking social justice for women, girls and all people with disabilities.   

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

UNCSW: Delegates from the Episcopal Church - Gillian Payne

The UNCSW began March 14. The Episcopal Women's Caucus and The Episcopal Church Women have partnered to help support the Episcopal Delegates to the UNCSW. In the comments section are instructions for donating. Below is Gillian Payne's story.

My name is Gillian Payne, I am a seventeen year old high school senior from Appleton, Wisconsin. I am avidly involved with multiple organizations that support the empowerment of women; including volunteering at the local women’s shelter, working with an organization to end sex trafficking, and starting a Gender Equality Club at my high school aimed towards educating students on issues ranging from gender stereotypes to the rape epidemic in developing countries. I am a delegate for the UNCSW because I hope to create a life based around empowering women through education and economic equality. As I will be attending college next year, I hope to take the information I learn at the UNCSW to cultivate change all over the world, and especially here in Wisconsin. 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Leland Lee, UNCSW Episcopal delegate in 2015

Why the UN Commission on the Status of Women Matters
Lelanda Lee

My 21st century experience of feminism and women’s issues has evolved as I have gained elder status (soon to be 67 in March) and a deeper awareness of women’s and children’s lives in global communities beyond the USA. I applied to be appointed by then Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori as part of a 20-person delegation to represent the Episcopal Church, which has official status as a member of the UN’s Economic and Social Council, to the UN Commission on the Status of Women’s 59th (UNCSW59) annual gathering in March 2015 in New York City. I hoped to learn the issues, represent my church, and connect with women from around the globe, and I was not disappointed.

It had been 20 years since the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995 in Beijing, when then first lady Hilary Clinton said, “. . . human rights are women's rights. . . . And women's rights are human rights.” As I studied the Beijing Declaration, I could see its important elements echoed in the Millennium Development Goals (2000-2015), which were subsequently superseded by the Sustainable Development Goals of September 2015 that also track the work done at UNCSW59. 

My experience as a delegate turned out to be a journey of self-awareness and renewed passion for championing women’s and children’s rights. When I left New York at the end of 12 intense days of participation, I felt humbled and impatient. I was in awe, listening to the stories told by my global sisters of all ages about their heroic stands for gender equality, women’s empowerment, and women and girls victimized in human trafficking and in war-torn villages. Many of my global sisters face considerable social and cultural pressures, including physical abuse and violence, while standing up for the rights of women and girls. Being with UN women from around the world reminded me that I came of age in the mid-1960s as part of the Civil Rights and Women’s Movements. I couldn’t wait to get home to continue the work of sharing our stories and lobbying for gender equality.

I have long felt the sting of rebuke in facts about the USA that point to a mean-spiritedness and gender inequality unbecoming a developed country – facts such as:

  • We have fallen into the 74th percentile of gender equity worldwide, ranking 28th behind Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Ireland who were the top five, and even behind Rwanda and the Philippines at sixth and seventh, respectively.1
  • The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (aka CEDAW), adopted by the United Nations in 1979, is an international bill of rights for women, which all but seven member states of the UN have signed. The non-signatories? – Palau, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tonga, and the United States.2 This should not be surprising when considered in the context of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which failed to garner its needed ratification by 38 states after passage in both houses of Congress in 1972.3 We are still waiting.
  • Worldwide, 188 countries guarantee paid leave for mothers of newborns, with the exception of nine nations, which include the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Suriname, Tonga, and the United States.4 It’s not like we can not have children if humanity is to survive!
  • The National Committee on Pay Equity reports that based on median earnings of all full-time, year-round workers in the USA, in 2014 women earned $39,621 or 78.6% of the $50,383 that men earned. The statistics for women of color are even more dire: African American women earned $33,533 or 66.6% of men, and Latina women earned $30,293 or 60.1%. The Census Bureau is quoted, “The female-to-male earnings ratio has not shown a statistically significant annual increase since 2007.”5
  • Women elected to serve in national parliaments placed the USA in 72nd place out of 139 rankings (including almost 50 ties), behind Uganda, Algeria, Afghanistan, Iraq, China, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.6

Within the very first day of orientation at UNCSW59, I heard named the wide gap between the aspiration of various nations to accord women and girls gender equality with men and boys as evidenced by legislation enacted by the nations, compared to the actuality of how those laws are implemented and enforced. UNCSW is not all flowers and cake, but is about truth and reality, from which the world’s women do not shy away. The Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, minced no words when she said, “Implementation has been weak” and that there has been a collective failure among the member states. She pointed out that even in Iceland, considered the most advanced nation democratically and in terms of gender equity, and which has significant laws addressing violence against women, statistics still show that one in three Icelandic women gets beaten by a man. 

Director Phumzile also called out the tokenism that exists in the quest for gender equality, citing the need to overcome stereotypes. Women don’t get hired or are passed over for promotions when there is a stereotype that women will be unreliable workers, because they put their children and families before their work responsibilities. Women are not paid the same wages as men, because there is a stereotype that women aren’t the breadwinners in their families. I, as a long-time anti-racism trainer, could relate to the idea of stereotypes causing impediments to progress in seeking gender equality.

At UNCSW59 I also heard repeatedly how wrong it is to use religion as an excuse for subjugation and violence against women and girls and how that practice must be stopped by all religions. It was striking to hear this admonition from women of many faiths and to be in solidarity with global women fighting the same evils in their country contexts.

In April 2015, I had the opportunity to keynote an interfaith gathering of over a hundred people from numerous faith traditions in Mid-Michigan to urge them to be proactive in holding conversations within and across their faith communities to address issues like stereotypes, inheritance laws, birth registration, and unpaid caretaking, and how these issues foster gender inequities. Each of us can learn to deconstruct and parse issues of equity, and we can raise our consciousness and that of our faith communities. We can enter the public conversations on gender equity, support equity legislation, and hold our elected officials accountable for implementation of equity laws. 

For an individual woman (or man) participation in UNCSW is an exhilarating and cathartic experience. There is something exciting about being in the company of 10-12,000 people who care deeply about gender equality and women’s empowerment and who are doing something about the issues in their own countries. There is something cathartic about hearing and discussing issues of vital importance from people involved directly in finding solutions and seeing how scalable and replicable their work can be in other contexts. There is something personally transformational about the hope and energy that other people’s good works and passionate thoughts engender in one’s self. I especially commend applying to become part of a future UNCSW delegation to anyone who is seeking renewal and new energy after a lifetime of being a faithful disciple and helpful leader. UNCSW will both change and affirm you and your purpose. 



Lelanda Lee is a lay leader from the Diocese of Colorado. She served on the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council (2009-2015) and as Chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Advocacy and Networking for Mission (2012-2015). An EfM (Education for Ministry) 1999 graduate, she blogs for Emerging Voices on and at her blog What a Cup of Tea

The Margo Fund