Saint Lydia, Prevail Upon Us

A Homily for the Sixth Sunday of Easter

Text: Acts 16:9-15


 

Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who has sent us faithful witnesses to proclaim the Gospel. Amen.

Question: How many of you attended a church with a woman serving as pastor before you were 18? Show of hands.

saint lydia

If you grew up in the old LCA or ALC, you wouldn’t have seen a female pastors until after 1970. Even in the theologically diverse realm of “General Protestant” military chapels during the 1990s and early 2000s, while I met the occasional female chaplain, they were far and few between. It wasn’t until I got to college that I joined a ministry with women serving as fully ordained pastors. In fact, when I started seminary in 2010, even though some predecessors of the United Methodist Church began ordaining women in the late 19th century, my class was the first at Candler to be majority-women.

And if we look around the world, we see that women in ministry are the exception, not the rule. Given that half of the world’s Christians are Catholics and that a wide variety of Protestant denominations actively bar women from ordained ministry, the reality is that the majority of Christians have never heard a woman preach in the pulpit.

In other circles of the Church, women are not only kept out of the pulpit but kept off of congregational councils and committees, prohibited from teaching men in Sunday school, confined to “women’s ministries” like wedding planning, and relegated to a “second-class” status. Continue reading “Saint Lydia, Prevail Upon Us”

Come So Far, So Far To Go

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The Risen Christ Appears to Saint Mary Magdalene

It’s remarkable to sit back and think about this past summer and the historic wave of women elected to the episcopacy within the ELCA. In less than fifty years (forty-eight this month), the mainline Lutheran tradition went from not ordaining women to going six-for-six on new bishops.

Let that sink in: fifty years ago, women were not ordained to the ministry of Word and Sacrament. Now, they make up just over a quarter of  our Conference of Bishops.

As the Religion News Service reports, the percentage of women in ministry is on the rise across mainline Protestantism. Continue reading “Come So Far, So Far To Go”

“Prominent Among the Apostles:” Women in Ministry and #ChurchToo

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St. Junia, “Prominent among the apostles”

As #ChurchToo continues to unfold, the call for women in leadership has grown both in traditions which ordain women and traditions that do not. Even before the latest round of abuse revelations, the Catholic Church was beginning a conversation about ordaining women as deacons. Now is the time for full equality, and that means ordination. Continue reading ““Prominent Among the Apostles:” Women in Ministry and #ChurchToo”

A Response to #ChurchToo: Giving Rise to Women’s Voices

Given what has become a near-daily horror show of sexual abuse allegations in the Church* and across the theological spectrum, what hope is there?

I hear the critics now. “Our only hope is in Christ! We are wretched sinners, and this crisis is because we don’t place enough trust in God!”

Ok. Yeah. Sure. That’s true. So let’s follow this line of thought to its conclusion. Let’s put our hope in God and listen for the Spirit. What’s she calling us to do? If we are the Body of Christ, what healing work are we to do with his hands?

More than empty apologies, more than mass resignations, more than long-delayed exploratory committees, we need women’s voices. Continue reading “A Response to #ChurchToo: Giving Rise to Women’s Voices”

Ponder Anew: Let Women Proclaim the Resurrection

There’s no shortage of reasons to ordain women, but the most effective argument I’ve ever heard is this:

Jesus Christ, on the first day of the new creation, sent Mary Magdalene as the first person to proclaim the Gospel in its entirety, to tell the world that Christ is risen. (Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!)

Jonathan Aigner at Ponder Anew picks up on this as he laments that he’s never heard a woman preach on Easter Sunday. Even though our Lord sent women out on that first holy morning, even though Mary Magdalene is the Apostle to the Apostles, women are so rarely in the pulpit on Easter morning.

For my own part, going on now thirty Easter sermons, I can only remember hearing a woman preach this most holy feast one year.

Gender inequality is still a very real problem in the Church, even in traditions like the UMC and the ELCA that ordain women. I know many women in ministry serving as solo and associate pastors, but off the top of my head, only know of one serving as the senior pastor of a parish. The way most parishes divide preaching responsibilities, with the senior preaching Christmas and Easter, that means that men are in the pulpit on Easter morning even in churches served by women in associate roles.

And so, as Aigner suggests:

Let’s follow Jesus’ example. Next year, let’s have a woman in every pulpit, preaching the good news of the resurrected Christ. In fact, let’s do the same thing every year.

Until next year, I leave you with two sermons from the Rev. Anna Tew and the Rev. Katherine Museus, faithful women and talented preachers serving Christ’s one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church who were in the pulpit on Easter morning, sharing the Good News and envisioning a resurrected community.