Sunday, July 02, 2006

Beliefwatch: God's Girls

Newsweek Belief Watch had this recent article about the leadership of women in the different denominations:

July 3-10, 2006 issue - When Nevada Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori this month became the head of the U.S. Episcopal Church, she wasn't just the first presiding bishop of that faith—she became the first woman in American history elected to lead a major Christian denomination. Although there have been influential religious women in the past, like the 1920s evangelist Amy Semple McPherson and modern-day megapreacher Joyce Meyer, only two other American women have reached the pinnacle of a religion's organizational chart: Mary Baker Eddy, who founded Christian Science in 1879, and Ellen White, who helped to found the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1863. So what, if anything, does Jefferts Schori's election mean for women seeking a similar path?Women make up 61 percent of all Americans who attend religious congregations, but they still struggle for their place in some denominations. A national study led by researchers at Hartford Seminary found that only 12 percent of the clergy in the 15 largest Protestant denominations are women. And some 112 million Americans belong to denominations that don't ordain women at all, including Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Southern Baptists, Mormons, Muslims and Orthodox Jews.But there are indications that times are changing. Just this month, the U.S. Presbyterian Church elected the Rev. Joan S. Gray as its "moderator," a one-year position akin to being named ambassador. In recent years, both the Disciples of Christ denomination and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, a major organization of the 1.5 million-member Reform Jewish movement, have elected women leaders. The liberal religious group the Unitarian Universalist Association now has more women clergy than men; 60 percent of its active clergy are female, which is the highest rate in the nation.
Thirty percent of students enrolled in Master of Divinity programs are women. But according to Adair Lummis, coauthor of the recent Hartford Seminary study, it might be easier in 20 years for women to earn top positions like Jefferts Schori's than to increase their presence as senior clergy in many local congregations, where congregants' attitudes might still favor male pastors. The stained-glass ceiling "has certainly been punctured," said Lummis. But it's yet to completely shatter.
—Holly Rossi and Lilit Marcus
© 2006 Newsweek, Inc

See Beliefnet's chart on various faiths' policies on women leadership

Rev. Joan Gray new moderator of the 217th General Assembly (2006) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Gray has been an intentional interim pastor. She is currently between interim pastorates.

Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schor is 52, ordained priest in 1994 and was elected bishop of Nevada in 2001. She received a degree in biology from Stanford University in 1974 and a doctorate from Oregon State University in 1983. She received a doctorate from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in 2001. Before ordination she was an oceanographer with the National Marine Fisheries Service in Seattle. The new Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church is elected every nine years to serve as the Chief Pastor and Primate of the Church.

I am not Episcopalian, so I don't pretend to understand the process or her election as Presiding Bishop. However, I have read that her election has sparked controversy. What I don't get is how does someone go from being ordained in 1994 to Bishop in 2oo1? Not to be critical, but wouldn't you want a couple more years under your belt to be a Bishop? Much less then to be the Presiding Bishop. Sigh, I guess I chose the wrong denomination when I was searching for a place to Minister in the early 80's after the Southern Baptist Convention closed the door on the Female Clergy. But when I was looking they were not ordaining women in AL. I guess I should have waited. No jealousy here. When I started out as a minister I was headed to the top, no messing around for me, right to the top. But you know what, something happened on my way to the top, God changed my mind and heart. I really would not want to be Bishop today with the stress of leadership, the controversies, and all the work you have to do. I respect that she is now Presiding Bishop, perhaps, it is in God's plans for her to lead, after all the leaders he chose in the Bible weren't who most people would choose were they? They were always the most unlikely men and women. But God knows what God is doing. I don't and I am not going to mess with God's direction. But I will say I am one of God's Girls, serving God, and God's people.


Purechristianithink said...

Yeah, I'd wondered about that "ordained in 1994" thing too. She has other work/life experience, which in some ways may have prepared her better for this position than more years in the church--but still PRESIDING Bishop after only twelve years in the priesthood? It still freaks me out that I've been ordained longer than my current EP (Executive Presbyter--the sort of Bishops of the Presby world.) Maybe I'm just getting old . . .

revabi said...

I think we are getting old. I was told in an email that she had made a lot of connections as a lay person that served to her rise. Sort of like we see in the United Methodist conferences, the more connections and networking the better positions, appointment you will get. That is true in the business world too.

I wondered what the title was in the Presby world of the Bishop, sort of as you said. Thanks for letting me know. Hang in there.