I’d hoped to be off to the gym by now, but we’re waiting on a friend of Zack’s to pick him up for a final visit, so I’ll get in some quick thoughts on A Church of Her Own: What Happens When a Woman Takes the Pulpit by Sarah Sentilles. Sentilles discusses sexism in mainline Protestant churches, but barely touches Unitarian Universalism, which given her background as an Episcopalian is understandable, but still disappointing because it would be interesting to hear how the narratives our women UU ministers resemble those profiles included in this work. I think there would be a lot of similarities. Theologically UU women wouldn’t be discussing how they had to fight the battle of not having to image Christ to consecrate Eucharist, but UU women would most certainly tell similar stories of serving under male senior ministers who intentionally and unintentionally thwarted their ministry and sense of self, sense of ministry and behaved outrageously covering the range from borish to outlandishly sexist.
I was heartened by Sentilles sharing of wisdom from the like of Gordon Kaufman and Katharine Jefferts Schori. Harvard Divinity scholar and theologian Kaufman on the task of theology from his book The Face of Mystery:
“The central question of theology is a practical question: How are we to live? To what should we devote ourselves?” Sentilles continues – Christian theology (and I would add ANY theology) that does not contribute significantly to struggles against inhumanity and injustice has lost sight of its point of being. For Gordon – and for me – (and for Me, Rev. Tony, too) – theological work is imaginative work. Because he takes God’s mystery seriously and believes we must always acknowledge our “unknowing” with respect to God,” he understand theology as a human construction. The words we use to talk about God are human words, infected with our limitations, interests and biases. We must engage therefore, in relentless criticism of our faith and its symbols, always knowing that we might be wrong (my emphasis).
Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding Bishop of the Episcopal church is pastorally eloquent in her discussion of how she approaches those who disagree with her both as woman priest and bishop and her stance on accepting and welcoming openly gay priests and bishops:
I think the opportunity for conversion only comes in relationship, and therefore I am willing to say that people who don’t understand these issues or who don’t understand why I may see these as issues of justice need to be in the conversation, too or else there is no hope for change.
Sentilles offers an opportunity for the church to the lead in making the workplace more humane.
Because ministers’ schedules are already different than the schedules of other professionals, churches have an opportunity to take the lead in rethinking what a workweek might look like – flexible hours, day care on site, living wages, job sharing, health care for all. Churches could reframe the problems faced by working mothers, helping people recognize that they are challenges faced by working parents (her italics) and communities as a whole.
I would love to hear and read comments by UU women ministers who’ve read this book.