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.