The Status of Women In Church and Society
The following blog series are contributions from the panel on the status of women in church and society held at the September 2012 Social Ethics Network (SEN) meeting of the Presbyterian Church, USA.
A group of five panelists were gathered by Rebecca Todd Peters of Elon University and Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty of Bellarmine University. Those who were able have contributed their throughts to the Feminism in Religion Forum. Participants were asked to consider some of the following issues as raising critical questions for the status of women in church and society:
* The assault on women’s health care and reproductive rights in the U.S. and the push within the PCUSA to change denominational policy.
* Recent comments made by Todd Akin regarding “legitimate rape” and the underlying assumptions about women.
* Changing norms for women’s leadership in church and society and the assumption in the PCUSA that women clergy can “rise to the top” to enter pulpits in tall steeple churches. (Only 4.7% of head of staff positions in the largest churches in our denomination are filled by women. This is problematic, but a deeper issue relates to the assumption that all clergy should see “rising to the top” as the goal of their ministry.)
* Changing norms for career paths for dual clergy couples (climbing the lattice vs. climbing the ladder).
* The “death” of the liberal church and institutional structures designed to advocate for women, people of color, etc. and the implications for continued advocacy work.
* Shifts in the population are challenging the historical assumption that the majority of U.S. citizens identify with whiteness. Immigrants today are coming primarily from Latin America, Asia, and Africa. The largest numbers of immigrants to the U.S. are Hispanic and Latino/a; a slight majority are women. As a denomination, many are aware of these changing demographics, but the PCUSA is neglecting to pay careful attention to the intersection of race and gender.
Rather than plan a traditional panel, each participant posed a question. Grace Ji-Sun Kim is the first to blog on her question relating to immigration and women in the church. The following individuals were part of the panel conversation and here are their questions. Live blogs are linked from the participants name
Grace Ji-Sun Kim, Moravian Seminary
In a globalizing world, people are continually moving and immigrating from one place to another. Within the States, we have immigrants from all over the world who are immigrating into the States for a new life. As immigrants come, they are greeted by cultural, social, language and religious differences. At times, it is difficult for immigrant women to connect to the wider society due to the limitations set in place by their own cultural and social barriers. For such immigrant women in our churches, what is our role in embracing and welcoming such women so that they can integrate themselves within society and become a powerful voices and leaders within our churches. When certain voices from parts of our society is missing, then society as a whole is losing out. We need to hear and integrate the whole of humanity and especially the voices of immigrant women who have been marginalized and silenced.
Luciano Kovac, World Student Christian Federation
What impact can feminist theologies have domestically in the political realm in regards with US foreign policy, war and global dominance? How can feminist theologies and women’s work in the church and society influence a real change of paradigm to move effectively from the “necrophilia of patriarchy -Mary Daly- (militarism and resource pillaging) to the life-giving garden of sharing and enoughness?
Erin Keys, First Presbyterian Church of Greenwich, CT.
From where I sit it seems that there is very little separating “rising to the top” in the church from “rising to the top” in any other career field. In an institution that is founded upon the principles of 1) The limits of our own humanity and 2) The created right for human flourishing do we really wish our success to be so closely aligned with that of the rest of the world? What is the cost to our clergy if we continue the way we are? What is the cost to those in our pews if we offer no alternate understanding of “success”?
Kate Ott, Drew University
How, within church contexts, do we keep/press/name the connection between theology and policy considerations related to women? (e.g. Roman Catholics who object on grounds of Religious Liberty because they don’t want to have the theological debate about contraception or mainline leadership that allows an increasingly conservative theology of a minority to dictate sexuality/gender related policy)
Letitia Campbell, Emory University
In recent years, progressive church folks have fought to secure recognition for a wider variety of families (LGBTQ families in particular) and have defended the role of the government in addressing social and economic inequalities (in the face of powerful neoliberal efforts to dismantle regulatory and social welfare functions of the state). These projects have been important strategies within broader social movements. But do they also signal a deepening investment in the institutions of family/marriage and the paternalistic/interventionist state, and a corresponding retreat from more thoroughgoing (feminist, liberationist) critiques — of compulsory ideals of the family, for example, or institutionalized forms of state violence and coercion? What do we lose when/as/if these frames of analysis and critique — and these forms of social imagination — become less visible, less commonly articulated? And what might we gain if we didn’t begin with this posture of defense and reform in mind?
What questions do you have about the status of women in church and society?