Saturday, July 25, 2009

On Sexism & Sermon Cooking

The Feast of Mary of Magdalene was Wednesday -- July 22 -- but at All Saints Church since we traditionally transfer her feast for observation on Sunday, tomorrow I'll be preaching on the lessons appointed for her day.

I remember when that was considered kind of an edgy-if-not-radical thing: moving "her" feast day out of the shadows into the center ring on Sunday (so to speak.) That was in the pre-Da Vinci Code Days when the work being done to reclaim Mary Magdalene's identity by feminist scholars was finally leaking into the pew and pulpit. It seems a very long time ago.

I'm calling the sermon "Mary Magdalene's Manner of Life" ... and while it's still cooking in the sermon oven ("place rack in center of oven and bake at 325 until done") I've been working at it awhile -- and wondering how to work in the important feminist voice in a way that's appropriately contextual.

I mean really: in a church with a woman Presiding Bishop which just finished a General Convention with a woman President of the House of Deputies and in a parish with a long history -- not to mention current staff & vestry -- of women in leadership ... what was there to say that was "2009"????

And then I checked my email. And there I found this link to a piece by Ruth Gledhill of The (London) Times that included this bit:

Worshippers at a Church of England cathedral are being offered a two-track Communion service with a separate supply of “untainted” Communion bread for those who object to its being consecrated by a woman priest.

A special container, for the hosts — unleavened bread representing the body of Christ — which have been previously consecrated by a male priest, is brought out during Sunday morning services at Blackburn Cathedral if a woman priest is presiding.

The special arrangements, which have been condemned by supporters of women priests, were introduced because of the recent installation of Dr Sue Penfold as one of three residentiary canons. Even though she is legitimately ordained and employed, it means that when she is celebrating the eucharist those who dispute the validity of her orders can make sure they receive “untainted” sacrament consecrated earlier by a man…

Yep. And these are some of the same guys who are blaming the fall of the Church of England into irrelevancy on the Bishop of New Hampshire? Honest to Pete, you can't make this stuff up.

So I'm back to sermon cooking and grateful for the contextual "wake up call" that interlocking oppression is interlocking oppression ... the same root issues that made racism "news" this week connect sexism and heterosexism and ALL the "isms" that keep this human race from being the human family God created us to be.

Hmmm ... that just might preach! :)


Katie B said...

St. Mary Magdelene was one of my favorites in Sunday School. She was the reason we had Easter eggs! Of course, now I am a grown-up and have much more "serious" reasons to like her a lot. I am excited to watch your sermon on her (by the way, the online videos of the sermons at All Saint's are a great idea).

JimB said...

I read that piece from England and nearly gaged. I suspect we need a new teeshirt with the slogan "Why fight oppression? Donatism lives."

It occurs to me to wonder what these idiots do about the wine? Or did I miss the Bible verse saying that wine kills girl cooties? never mind, I don't want to know.


Valerie Leyva said...

I know we all can be (and are) internally inconsistent, but...

I used to attend a church in South Carolina in the 1980s with an ordained woman on staff. One of the choir members would make a big scene about going to an out-of-the-way communion station to avoid receiving the bread from her. It didn't seem to matter that she actually presided at the Eucharist that morning...

rick allen said...

Wat it tells me is that the old Anglo-Catholic position has become intolerable to a growing majority, and old committements about "repecting diversity" have given way ridiculing statements about girl cooties.

What neither the High-and-dry party nor the evangelicals could do to the Anglo-Catholics is being accomplished by those whose slogan is inclusiveness. There's some irony in that, I suppose, but perhaps also a serious suggestion that inclusiveness is as devisive and one-sided as any other ideology, and can only go so far in papering over substantive differences.


And what it tells me is that a church that continues to base its 21st century theology on 6th century biology -- denying the ontological ability of women to serve as efficacious bearers of a sacerdotal presence (as I was told my +Bill Wantland many moons ago) -- is losing its larger message of God's love, abundance and service to the Good News of Jesus Christ to its patriarchial bias and bigotry.

There are plenty of Anglo-Catholics who have transcended patriarchal sexism. Let's rejoice and be glad in them ... and then let's all build an inclusive church together.

Amie said...

I would chuckle if I found myself anywhere near humour over this. This constant cry that "revisionists" are not being true to their word because they are excluding those who don't agree.

One of the most gracious men I know was the priest at our Anglo-catholic church. We all knew he did not agree that the ordination of women was right. He was collated as Archdeacon at the same service as my ordination to the priesthood. He even sang the ordination prayers for me. I have the utmost respect for this man and his beliefs and his integrity.

Another priest I have worked with also struggled with women's ordination. But he doesn't let that get in the way of the possibility that God calls each of us to care for God's people. We actually find that when God's call to us to serve in the world is our focus, we work quite well together.

There is a difference between the way these two men - who have the deep respect of people on both sides of the issue - respond and those who narrow God's abilities down to falling within a prescribed formula and sex and rigidly refuse or cannot be open to the creative work of the Spirit. There is an openness in the two men I mentioned that provides for openness from those around them. If I were to call down these two men or exclude them then you would have a leg to stand on complaining about our intolerance.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

Lapinbizarre said...

An interesting bit of Gledhill's piece, which I've already mentioned on another blog today, is that Stephen Parkinson, a spokesman for FiF UK, said "I can’t understand why the women priests put up with it”. Damn right, Fr Parkinson! This, to me, is the bright spot of this story, since it suggests just how out of line the Blackburn Cathedral action is. It also indicates that some of the FiF guys, in spite of themselves, are getting used to having the girls around. From occasional statements of regret I've seen on an English Anglo-Catholic blog, I gather that quite a few former FiF C of E parishes are now in the Affirming Catholicism camp.

Of course one approach would be to have a woman priest distribute the Reserved Sacrament whenever a man presides.

mimi said...

I'm curious as to whether or not there are women among those who feel the need to have the bread untouched by a woman priest or only men. That would be interesting to know and analyze.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

So, I've only got one question: Who they heck does anyone think MADE the flippin' bread before Jesus - or any man - consecrates it?

Just Me said...


As a woman, I suppose I'm qualified to answer your question.

During my 2 years at ICS, there was a woman priest who prsided over the morning Eucharist. I was overwhelmed with the decision whether or not to receive the Brad & Wine from her.

Honestly, I was really caught off-guard by my reaction; I had only been attending an Episcopal church for a couple of years at that point.

I then spent the next 3 years or so in deep study over women priests trying to reconcile the internal conflicts.

I haven't been in the position of receiving the Bread & Wine from a woman priest since then, but I would hope that I wouldn't have the same internal crisis as I did the first time.

uffda51 said...

Inclusiveness is divisive?

So, restricted country clubs, segregated schools, Japanese internment camps, and racist real estate CC&Rs, all of which were endorsed by generations of Episcopalians in this country, were actually, in fact, not divisive? But a church which proclaims, "Whoever you are and wherever you find yourself on the journey of faith there is a place for you here," is divisive?