By Pastor Devin Strong, Spirit of Peace Lutheran Church.
March is Women’s History Month — a celebration of the contributions and accomplishments made by strong, determined women in history, culture and society. Unfortunately, it’s wedged in with March Madness, St. Patrick’s Day and the beginning of spring and is often overlooked. Despite strides towards a more gender-equal workplace, only 8.2 percent of today’s Fortune 500 companies are headed by women. And, while it’s notable that 24.5 percent of the national heads of states are women, it’s still not evenhanded. For many years, women were historically underacknowledged, not because they weren’t involved in important discoveries or conquests, but mainly because, for thousands of years, men wrote and translated the majority of historical documents. Let’s finally give this celebration due recognition!
Last year, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) celebrated its 50th anniversary of the ordination of women, yet women pastors still face serious gender bias and sexual harassment. Female pastors typically serve smaller parishes, very few are heads of staff, and their pay scale is often lower. Of the 65 synods (similar to dioceses or regions and means “to walk together”) in our denomination, only a handful are headed by female bishops, although our presiding bishop (the bishop to the bishops) is a woman, Elizabeth Eaton, so, we’ve made some progress there! The inequality experienced by female clergy is present in many denominations across the globe.
Churches should be vanguards for these and other equal rights; yet, clearly, we still have a long way to go.
Regarding Women’s History Month and our faith and Scriptures, it’s important to note that the first witnesses to the resurrection were three women: Johanna, Mary Magdalene and Salome.
How stunning to think that, were it not for the witness of women, Christian churches would not even exist!
We owe a debt of gratitude to those women, as well as to the women in our own lives who led and mentored us spiritually. Women are often credited with making sure children attend church – sometimes even getting their husbands to join them! We tend to celebrate those “out front,” but so much of the behind-the- scenes caregiving ministry is carried out by women -- not because they’re less busy, but because they’re often more connected. If women have particular gifts in that and other areas, why should they struggle in terms of being honored in leadership?
Unlike the church, Jesus was all about crossing boundaries. He was incredibly open to ministering with and for women, and had some of his best conversations with them. In fact, the longest conversation he had with anybody was with the Samaritan woman at the well. But, as we moved into an institution of organized religion, males took over. Today, we’re trying to swing the pendulum back, but my female colleagues would probably say we’re lagging behind, which grieves me. The church should be the most progressive, open and welcoming institution of all.
In honor of Women’s History Month, I invite you to join me in thinking about the mothers, grandmothers, sisters, friends, and educators who were instrumental in our Christian journeys. How about we give them a call or write them a note to say thank you for being an inspiration in our faith and in our lives? Yes, we’ve got a long way to go, but gratitude is a great place to start!
God loves you, and so do I!