I serve God as a priest in Christ's, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. Not a call I asked for, mind you, but one born of Christian obedience to the One who claimed me in baptism and shaped me to be a priest for the sake of the people God loves. And in spite of this ...
I hear from at least one person why I my call as a priest is not legitimate because of I am a woman.
Every ... single ... day.
Yes, it is born of the culture of patriarchy in which I live that posits the superiority of men over women - to the great damage and detriment of men and women (and all gender expressions in between). The "great" legacy of western civilization is grounded on men having power over women and children. This same culture was inspired by God to write our sacred texts ... with just enough gender bias to make sure the status quo of power was maintained and enshrined within them to make God the "source" of male superiority ... even to the point of being described and spoken of as "He" and "Father" ... never "She" or "Mother."
Every ... single ... day
I am told I cannot be a priest in Christ's Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church because I am a woman.
The message isn't always directed at me personally ... but it is out there. Maybe it was an evangelical pastor of a mega church who claimed women were to be "houses" for a man's penis (oh yeah ... that's my single biggest aspiration in life), or a Facebook troll who excoriates me in a theological exchange in a discussion group and questions if I really am a priest, or the extended family member who quotes Ephesians 5 at me to tell me I am doing harm to my family by going to seminary, or the male clergy colleagues (even within my own tradition) who will trumpet from the mountain tops how supportive they are and blessed by the ministry of women ... but who will, when the chips are down, act in grossly condescending passive aggressive ways which tell me their respect for my ministry and that of my sisters is only cheap talk.
And sometimes I even get a "two for one" special ... where I have to stand up more than once a day to claim the call of Christ face to face with people I do not know who feel the special need to tell me what the Bible "says." That was my day yesterday ... a two for one special.
The first came at an outreach event to the poor and struggling in our community. A former parishioner, an elderly woman, came over to our church's table and said, "I was a member there for 50 years." Wearing my clerics, I turned and introduced myself as the new priest and extended my hand to shake hers. She gave me a startled look and reluctantly gave me the "dead fish" handshake. She told me her name ... I knew of her and I knew she and her husband left the church over women's ordination. She was quick to tell me, "My son is a priest. He had a call from God." And I spent the next 5 minutes hearing all about her son and his call from God to be a priest before she wandered off.
The second came later that afternoon. I received a phone call that a parishioner had been rushed to the emergency room after having a seizure. I stopped to get a big cup of coffee (I needed it at this point) and fill up my car with gas. Again, I was wearing my collar and a younger man stopped me at the gas pump ...
"Um ... the thing around your neck ... are you a ... uh ... a ... minister?"
"Yes, I am an Episcopal priest."
"I have a question for you, if you don't mind."
"OK ... sure. What is it?"
"What do you make of 1 Timothy 2:12? How do you understand your role in light of that? I'm really curious and not trying to troll you." (Hint: when you have to tell me you are not trolling me ... you are)
For those of you who don't know "chapter and verse" ... 1 Timothy 2:12 says: "I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent.""Well ... my own Biblical hermeneutic begins with a historical/critical interpretation to view the Scriptures in light of the culture and place where they were written and the audience to whom they were written. I take the Scriptures to be inspired by God but written by people who understood their experience of the Holy through their own cultural lens. To say that everything from a 2,000 old book, no matter how holy it is, applies 100% to our time, place and culture is not appropriate."
"OK ... but how do you decide what you choose to believe and not believe? Really, I want to know, I'm not trolling here." (Hint: if you have to say that a second time ... you really are trolling here!)
"We don't interpret the Scriptures alone - it is always within the context of a community and grounded in prayer."
"I see your point because we don't apply the passages about slavery anymore. We can read those in a different way today and maybe apply them to employer/employee relationships. But it still doesn't explain how you can be a minister in light of 1 Timothy 2:12."
"This is a bit too complex to stand here and discuss at a gas pump. I am on my way to the hospital because one of our parishioners was rushed to the emergency room. I need to go ... now."
"Oh ... OK ... uh ..."
"God bless you sir."
One day we may come to a place where we regard these passages of female subservience and male domination the same way we do the ones about slavery - as a throwback to a time, place and culture which is no more.
But we are not there yet.
One day, I hope I can just be a priest in Christ's Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church ... without the word "woman" or "female" as an adjective tacked on like I'm some kind of misfit.
One day ... I pray that the gifts and graces of all God's children will be celebrated and allowed to blossom and flourish regardless of the bodily packaging this transitory life has dealt them.
But until then ... I will be questioned, grilled, condescended, ignored and rebuffed. It appears God has given me and my sisters this cross to bear