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Why I left

I remember sitting in church as a teenager, listening to our parish priest define men and women’s roles in the family.  “The husband,” he said, “is the head of the family, and the wife is the heart.”  Mum couldn’t understand why I was so vehemently rankled.  “But that means the man makes all the decisions, and the woman is, well, a pump.  A pretty important pump, but still…”  Even at that age, it struck me that there was something very wrong with this altogether too facile allocation of roles.  Don’t men have hearts?  Don’t women have brains? 

With time, the church’s image of women became distressingly clear.  Early on, we were invisible.  Priests began their sermons with “My dear brethren,” and the language of Scripture and liturgy was firmly androcentric.  Again Mum tried to pour some oil on my troubled waters.  “It’s understood that we’re included under the male pronouns,” she said.  But would the men feel included if the priest began with “My dear sisters”?  Our struggle for inclusive language was to be long and hard-fought, and not entirely successful.  For instance, the church reversed its decision to use inclusive language in the revised catechism, leading to such absurd pronouncements as “God is neither male nor female.  He is Spirit.”  (Oh, it is to weep!)  

I had returned to school to study pastoral ministry when the question of women’s ordination was just coming to the forefront.  In the course of my studies I had the opportunity to examine many of the church’s documents relating to the question of women as priests, but it was a passage from Inter Insignioresthat would decide my fate.  It read, “When Christ’s role in the Eucharist is to be expressed sacramentally, there would not be this “natural resemblance” which must exist between Christ and his minister if the role of Christ were not taken by a man: in such a case it would be difficult to see in the minister the image of Christ.”  In other words, women cannot become priests because they do not image Christ in his maleness.  I read those words and felt as if someone had kicked me in the stomach.  I couldn’t believe it –  at first.  My church would never hold such a thing to be true, much less teach it.  Surely the church understood that the image of Christ lies not in his beard and Y chromosome, but in his compassion, his forgiveness, his self-giving, his love of all.  And are we not as likely to see these attributes in a woman as in a man?

I stayed in the church a while longer, but I was broken.  I could not abide an institution that could not see Christ in me.  I did not leave without deep thought and much sorrow.  But in the end, I simply had no choice.  I started attending my local Presbyterian church, and before too long I was preaching and leading worship services.  And my joy returned.  Yes, joy worshipping the tartan-clad God of the Scots!  Imagine!   And our minister for the last seven years has been a woman, and her presence and her ministry have done so much to heal me.  Which is not to say everything is perfect now.  My hackles went up again when, because of economic reasons, our church purchased bibles of a dreadfully sexist translation.  But I am not crushed by these circumstances anymore, secure in the knowledge my congregation sees me for what I am – not some mindless pump, but a woman, the very image of Christ.     

We all must find our way in this world.  I’ve been blessed to find mine.

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One Comment

  1. Fausto
    Posted July 16, 2014 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Awesome article.

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