Friday, 20 October 2017

Calling it out

"Mission will only happen when clergymen get back to preaching from their pulpits and go out knocking on doors." Those were the words of an elderly colleague in a meeting I was recently part of.
His words were applauded and no one called him out.
I was stunned into silence.
It triggered in me a return to an incident I'd had with two other male colleagues over the summer who decided to take me to task on my use of social media. On that occasion, too, I was silenced by their complete lack of awareness of their inappropriate and bullying approach.
In many ways, 25 years into ministry, I shouldn't be surprised by the shocking gender injustice that is all too common in the church but I feel no better equipped to deal with it than I did when I started out.
It seems to me that, if I am always the one who calls it out, that will diminish the other important work that I do. If, however, I remain silent, the stupidity and discrimination continues.
I have in fact lost a number of friendships with male colleagues since following God's call out of the parish and into a new role in the church. It would seem that I've climbed out of the box in which they deemed I belong.
What's more - I find it hard to tell if the gender discrimination is getting worse or if it's my tolerance that has decreased. But what I do know is that life is too short to be considered as anything other than a beloved child of God, called and commissioned by one who created and celebrates my gender, one who honours all created in the image of God as unique, gifted, loved.
Think of all those stories in the gospels of Jesus and the women around him : the woman at the well; the woman with the alabaster jar; the Syrophonecian woman, the haemorrhaging woman; the woman caught in adultery; the women at the cross; the women at the tomb. In the gospels, Jesus' encounters with women are transformative for him, for the women and for those around. Those, often nameless women are the saints I celebrate and whose stories encourage me when others seek to diminish. Those are the saints whose stories encourage me to persist when others would prefer I remain silent.
Thanks be to God for all the faithful women on whose shoulders I stand and may I make the path a little easier for those who follow behind.

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