And fairly often I ask myself, why is it that I spend time on addressing what is, in the light of all this, the slight injustice of the silencing of women in our churches? Maybe I should follow the oft-repeated advice, both friendly and unfriendly, and leave--and work toward alleviating greater injustices elsewhere. Give up, shake the dust off, move on.
The answer that rises up inside me, every time, is: I can't give up on the Church of Christ. Not yet. I still have the hope, the conviction, that the church can be a force for good in the world, that the church can be a haven and a prophetic voice and a transforming reality. I still believe that the church can be an agent in addressing these injustices and righting them. I believe the church can continue Jesus' work of healing and helping and honoring those who have been hurt and ignored and abused and silenced and forgotten and left in the ash heap with their wounds and sorrow.
I believe we can. But I don't think we are.
And I don't think that we can truly address these systemic, chronic, life-threatening abuses--either globally or locally--unless we can hear the voices of women, who can tell us what's really going on.
And if we don't allow the voices of women to be heard in our assemblies in the worship of God--if we don't allow the voices of women to be heard in our leadership decision processes--if we don't listen to the voices of the women in our own midst... how can we pretend to listen to the voices of women suffering inside and outside the walls of our churches?
How many of our churches are active on these issues? How many of our churches are concerned with the rampant and ever earlier childhood sexualization of girls and the continuing sexualization of women in US culture? How many of our churches are actively concerned with sexual slavery and poverty? How many of our churches are active partners with local shelters? How many of our churches are viewed as safe places for women in abusive relationships?
It's not about whether or not women preach from a pulpit, or serve communion, or lead singing. It's about whether or not women's voices and experiences are welcomed, heard, taken seriously--in worship and out. It's about whether or not "women's issues" are issues that the church takes seriously as human rights issues, and what the church is doing to support women who need support and healing and hope.
If women can't even speak in our churches, where is it that we can be heard?