WDL 5: A surprising turn of conversation...

WDL 5: A surprising turn of conversation...

Published: Jun 17, 2011 by Maria Gwyn McDowell

The afternoon (yesterday, I am a bit behind) was opened to comments.  Rather than summarize, I am simply going to post peoples (slightly edited and nameless) comments, some of which I found very surprising:

When I graduated from seminary, all of us, men and women, were given a cross as a sign of the Bishop’s blessing to teach.  While I preached before receiving the cross, I discovered that wearing the cross makes a difference, it is the indication of an official blessing from the bishop to serve, indicating reciprocity and responsibility.  It makes a difference.

There is a problem with being invisible, there is nothing to let people know that I have particular gifts.  Is there a way that my gifts can be visibly recognized?

I was given a card so that when I went to a hospital, I could offer a lay hospital ministry.  Is there something like this for others?  How about a card which allows for recognition and endorsement of offering a lay hospital ministry?

Female chaplains not welcome at AAC, in part because they are not ordained, and in part because of things are in ‘upheaval.’  Yet this is the time, because there is flux.

The Greek word for service is diakonia, seen in the diaconate.

My daughter told me, “I don’t want my daughter raised in a sexist church.”  Now, she is episcopalian.

There is a church in [US State] has women serving by holding candles.  In Damascus and Beirut, at the cathedrals, the girls served at the altar with the boys.  In Michigan, they did not enter the altar, but they held candles with the boys, wearing different robes.

It is great for all these women to get together, but who is educating the priests and the hierarchy?  

The way this is going to happen simply by people doing what they are called to do.  We cannot wait for people to give us the okay.  I worry about women saying, “I won’t try.”

We are being hurt the most from the grand-daughter perspective.  I can think of 10 people who left the church because their non-Orthodox wives saw a row of men and wanted nothing to do with the church.  This exclusion is not Orthodox, but it is how they church looks, like a place that excludes women.  

I am often befuddled that we do not bless all of our ministries, at the beginning of each year.  Another appearance of exclusion is the lack of women readers.  Why is it so hard?  There is fear, fear on the part of people who hold power.  We need to talk about the elephant in the room.  It is hurtful, it does not build up the church.  How can we ignore the resources given by women?  The devil may not want to be us successful, but how is that effort manifest?  How can we not have a blessing for women who are readers?  What does it say that a man is acknowledged but a woman is not?  It is one thing to say that we simply need to step forward and do it, but there is a cost to this.

What are women going to do for ministries?  Can the seminary get creative, develop residencies and internships to identify and pair students with people who are already working.  What about a commitment to offering scholarships, residencies, internships, we will put you through it, offer support, extend a natural ministry which offers support.

We have girls serve in our liturgies.  It is very important not to have the girls serve just because there are no boys.  What does this say to the girls?  As for chaplaincy, this should be an ordained ministry.  The military chaplains do not know how to minister to the dying.  

Many of the converts seem more invested in maintaining the traditions than those who grew up in the church, especially regarding women.  Ethiopian nationals do not enforce many of the traditional practices, such as boys lining up before the girls for communion.  This isn’t even done in Ethiopia any more.  Converts are zealous about being good Orthodox, and perpetuate gender traditions without realizing that is what they are doing.

What do you say to such converts?  Read One Flew Over the Onion Dome.  It is fear not of power, but of change.  The fear is if you ordain women to anything, even a reader, it initiates a slippery slope to the possibility that women might become priests.  That is the fear, especially amongst Episcopalian converts, and many think it destroyed their church.

I am a convert, came in in my 50s.  In the beginning, when something is so new to you, to finally have a little bit of structure is helpful, nice.  At the time, I didn’t see the difference between little “t” and big “T”.  But rules are important for children, and converts need to grow, without being judged or condemned.

I joined in April.  Orthodoxy is ancient christianity untouched by American racism.  It isn’t Jesus, Paul, and Luther.  I came from the episcopalian church, and becoming Orthodox could be a step back.  But my choice is generational.  If my children were still young, I couldn’t make that choice for my daughter, who would want to know why she can’t stand up there with the boys.  But I can make that choice for me, now, and deal with the complexities.  As long as it grounded in the scripture.  We need all the people, the gradualists and even the prophets.  It is a very American problem, to choose one’s religion.  If we do so prayerfully, it is good to remain content, to be gradualists, or to be prophets.  We need all of them.

Is it appropriate for us as women to seek recognition?  It does not seem like fighting these things is spiritually helpful for us.

The people here are not talking about personal recognition.  We are working in the vineyard, we are coming from the place that God has told us to work in, and we are struggling with running up against road blocks that recognition would help.

Being told, “you can’t do this because you are girl” inflicts spiritual damage.  This is what our children are being told.