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Women in Christian Clergy: Women and Religion I
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Havens, Helen [panelist]; Shannon, Angela [panelist]; Holmes, Cecile S. [moderator]. Women in Christian Clergy: Women and Religion I. October 27, 1998. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library. Web. April 23, 2014. http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/living/item/25.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

Havens, Helen [panelist]; Shannon, Angela [panelist]; Holmes, Cecile S. [moderator]. (October 27, 1998). Women in Christian Clergy: Women and Religion I. University of Houston Women’s Studies Living Archives Recordings. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. Retrieved from http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/living/item/25

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

Havens, Helen [panelist]; Shannon, Angela [panelist]; Holmes, Cecile S. [moderator], Women in Christian Clergy: Women and Religion I, October 27, 1998, University of Houston Women’s Studies Living Archives Recordings, Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries, accessed April 23, 2014, http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/living/item/25.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

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Title Women in Christian Clergy: Women and Religion I
Creator (LCNAF)
  • Havens, Helen [panelist]
  • Shannon, Angela [panelist]
  • Holmes, Cecile S. [moderator]
Date October 27, 1998
Description This is an interview with Helen Havens and Angela Shannon, two local Houston area reverends, conducted by Cecile Holmes. They begin by talking about the difference, importance, acceptance and their own personal experience of being women involved in priesthood and theology. They talk about all aspects of women in religion (facilitating the knowledge of women in biblical history, the concept of masculinity in the bible, and women's roles) recalling their own personal experiences and stories.
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Women--Texas
  • Women in religion--United States
Subject.Name (LCNAF)
  • Havens, Helen
  • Shannon, Angela
  • Holmes, Cecile S.
Subject.Geographic (TGN)
  • Houston, Texas
Genre (AAT)
  • interviews
Original Item Location http://library.uh.edu/record=b4555844~S11
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see the UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the “About” page of this website.
File name 2011_17_013.m4v
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Transcript Living Archives Series, transcript Women and Religion I: Women in the Christian Clergy An interview with the Reverend Helen Havens (Rector St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Houston, Texas) and the Reverend Angela Shannon (Pastor, Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church, Houston, Texas), conducted by Cecile Holmes (Houston Chronicle Religion Editor) on October 27, 1998, at the Menil Collection, before an audience and videotaped. This interview is part of a series sponsored by the Friends of UH Women’s Studies. NB: This transcript has not been proofread, not all speeches are attributed, and there are some gaps (indicated with asterisks). 10/27/98 EG: All right. Welcome everybody. I’m Elizabeth Gregory, Director of the Women’s Studies Program at U of H. Welcome to the first program in this year’s Living Archives Series, which is sponsored by the Friends of Women’s Studies. This series aims to present a sense of the complex history of women’s lives in Houston and of the struggles and changes that have characterized that history. The interview format was developed as an extension of the program’s Women’s Archive at the U of H, to serve students, scholars, and the community as a whole. The focus of the Archive, which is located in the M.D. Anderson Library on the main campus, is both the oral histories of Texas women and the papers of Houston area women’s organizations. The Living Archives Series provides a means of focusing public awareness on the need to document women’s history, as well as on the Women’s Archive and Research Center, or WARC. The Friends of Women’s Studies support the WARC. If you are not a Friend, please consider joining. There are membership forms at the desk. Among the member benefits is free admission to Living Archives events. This year’s Living Archives panel will include panels on Women and Sports and Women and Money, about which you’ll be hearing more soon. Tonight’s panel on Women and Religion is the first of what we hope will be a series of panels on the subject, about which there is much to be said, and to which women of many different experiences and backgrounds can speak. Tonight our guests are the reverends Helen Havens and Angela Shannon. Both are distinguished in their own rights and in the fact that they are female members of the Christian clergy. Reverend Havens has been the Rector of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church since 1981 and, a more recent Master of Divinity, Rev. Shannon has been pastor of Augustana Evangelical Church since March 1997. They will speak tonight about their experiences as women clerics. We’re honored to have them here tonight. Our interviewer is Cecile Holmes, the religion editor of the Houston Chronicle. Following the interviews, there will be an opportunity to ask questions. Please you write your questions on the cards distributed when you came in. After the program we invite everyone to stay for refreshments. Please join me in welcoming the Reverends Helen Havens and Angela Shannon, and Cecile Holmes. CH: Thank you, Elizabeth. I want to begin tonight by asking each of you a little about the historical backdrop of the careers that you now have. Many American Protestant denominations now do ordain women as priests or as ministers. But that has not always been true. How do you think the advent of that truth has changed the profession of the priesthood or of the ministry? Do you want to begin, Helen? HH: I’d like to begin, and I was mentioning in the hallway-- I’d like to begin by just saying a word about Vassar Miller, distinguished poet, whose papers are in the Archives at the University of Houston. She’s in the hospital very ill, and so keep her in your thoughts and prayers. She may not survive this bout with, with pneumonia. And I saw her this afternoon and told her I was coming here and that I would bring her greetings to you and so I just wanted to begin with that. When I-- I love Cecile’s questions, and I found them invigorating and so my-- the words that came out when I first thought about the question she asked is, with women being part of the ministry, it’s more wholistic. It’s a better representation of the godhead. It’s more warm, human, pastoral, inclusive, less hierarchical, less authoritarian. * both men and women we speak of the ministry of all believers, and all includes women as well as men. Getting more people involved in the life of the church. Sharing leadership, shared ministry, mutual ministry. Less formal, more personal. We think of-- we speak of ministers or priests as being representative of the community representing the community to God and God to the community, and if only men are being the representatives, the community is not being fully represented. Wonderful story of a little girl at our church. I’d only been there maybe two or three years and I had a guest preacher who happened to be the Dean of the, the, our seminary in Austin. And this little girl ran up to her mother and she, and she clearly had had a new experience when she saw Dusty McDonald, the Dean of the seminary. And she said, Mommy, Mommy, there�����s a man here today dressed up like a priest. Uh hmm, that’s right. Uh hmm. HH: Saying just a little bit more in a slightly more reflective way. The entrance of women into the priesthood has expanded the range of gifts for ministry and brought more wholeness to ordained ministry. It just feels so wonderful. It’s good to have both. I’m not saying let’s just have women. It’s good to have both. It’s more complete. At the outset of women’s ministry, ordained ministries, many of the women were older, many were older than myself at that time. And since I was ordained in 1976, deacon and priest ‘77, I’ve been at the, ordained ministry for quite a while. So these women who had some other life experience brought the richness of that experience into the ministry, as opposed to women who are very young and just beginning their, their careers. Generally speaking, women bring more sensitivity to inclusiveness. They just do. They just are. And I, and I, I, I feel it’s just so natural. I mean women have a gift of making people feel welcome around the dining table, and it doesn’t matter who you are or what age you are or what your rank is. Women want people to feel comfortable and at home. And-- But I don’t want to exclude men in all this. Obviously some men are, are marvelously inclusive and warm also. But generally speaking, was what I said, women often have greater concern for social justice. I mean I automatically assume a woman will have a concern about the hungry and the homeless and people who experience prejudice of any sort, that they will just respond more quickly and naturally to that, partly perhaps because victims of the lack of social justice are often women and children. So we’ve experienced it ourselves and we know. Women’s experience of God is and has been different because we are different creatures than men. And women bring this experience into the mainstream and uphold it as valid. And I just was thinking about it. There’s a wonderful woman priest, [Ala Bozart] Campbell. She writes a lot of poetry. She writes about baker woman God, and she, she, she writes about baking and cooking and washing. And many books, much literature has talked about birth and birthing and you can-- as you talk about advent, the season of advent leading up to Christmas and the pregnancy of Mary. Women bring in their experiences, which in, in some respects, of course, are different from men. I think I’ll stop there. Angela *. AS: Well, I would say the same, but on a different note, inclusivity meaning all women of color because the hegemonic forces in church are mainly male and white. And while in the ELCA we have ordained women for, let’s see, about thirty years now, and eighteen of those years witness women of color entering the ministry, and that has added a different wrinkle as well, because the implications of race, and sex automatically will have implications for class as well. So what I bring as an African-American Lutheran pastor is the womanist perspective that takes seriously black woman’s experiences when doing theology. And I was in China for the women’s conference, and we had this big tent thing and they were talking about, Well, you know, we need to talk about the paradigms that we have used. We have emulated the white male model it’s not working now. And I found it really curious because there was a-- get this, she’s just marvelous if you can ever have her here. Dr. Rifaat Hassin. She is-- Oh yeah, dynamite. AS: Isn’t she great? She’s dynamite. She is a Islamic feminist, you know. This is great. But anyway, she was giving a lecture and she was going on and making some marvelous points. And then Betty Friedan came in and the whole room stopped, and they really dishonored this sister’s lecture, you know. And I said, Wait a minute, you say here that need to stop using these paradigms, but yet and still you’re rude to this sister of color. And so I spoke to that because we really have to be mindful of what we’re doing. If we’re saying that we gotta get rid of this, you know, hegemonic paradigm and so what do we do? Replace it with our own? And, you know. So I think the womanist perspective calls for inclusivity, wholeness and what shalom really means, you know. That’s what I believe womanists bring to the table in terms of ministry. Because sometimes we need each other to remind each other of our own creatureliness and humanity. And when one’s missing from that table, we all miss out really. CH: Can you define a little bit more completely--because I think this may be new to some people here--the idea of womanist theology. I mean, I’m familiar with the term but I don’t think it is as familiar as feminist theology, and I think it’s an important-- and you’re one of my resident experts. AS: Uh huh. Yeah. I’ll see what I can do. 1983 In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens by Alice Walker, she gives a definition of, of a womanist. And in black folklore when a little girl got out of her place, she was told that you being womanish, you’re acting womanish. And what Alice Walker did, she reinvented this term. And when you’re acting womanish, you’re acting responsible, in charge, and you’re serious, you know. And so this womanist loves humanity, loves femaleness, loves roundness, loves food, loves good music, loves life, you know. But at the same time takes in account-- a key word for a womanist is wholeness. One of the critiques that womanist theology brings to the table is this. With the advent of black theology, you heard a lot about men. And when you talked about black theology, you were talking about black men doing theology. And when you talked about feminist theology, we were talking about white women doing theology. There’s a marvelous book that says, all-- The title is All the Men Were Black, All of the Women Were White But Some of Us *. And so, and so what womanist theology does is take black women’s experience as a point of departure where talking about theology -- after all, theology is creatures talking about the creator. So it’s taking ourselves serious, being responsible and in charge. CH: One of the questions I sent the two of you, and I think it applies here, was I asked you how you thought outsiders, including non-Christians and/or perhaps people who are part of Christian denominations that do not ordain women, how they view you and how often you have interaction with them and what that may be like, both good and bad. I’ll start with non-Christians because they’re the ones who are intrepid enough to just admit we’re an enigma. You know. Okay. AS: Out of seventeen thousand ordained clergy in the ELCA, African-American women are forty-five. I’m number forty-three. We walk around with, you know, our numbers on our sl-- I’m number forty-three, so. I had an experience of doing internship in India as a vicar, and in my process we have to do an internship for a year. CH: Towards ordination? AS: Towards ordination. And I chose to go to India. And at that time, I was the first woman to attempt and do an internship there in a hundred and fifty-three year history of the church. But anyway. They were like well, What are you and what do you hope to become? A pastor, you know. What? Yeah. CH: These are the Indian Christians. AS: The Indian Christians as well as the Indian Hindus and the Indian Muslims. What are you up to? Well why are you doing this? Don’t you all have the virgin Mary? I said, Yeah. And then I would get questions about Goddess worship. Well we have Goddesses. We respect women. I said, but yeah. So then, well-- This is the living archive series, since this is all for posterity, I’ll try to clean this up. You know. Yes, you have Goddesses so why do you go home and mistreat your wife? You know. The discussions were more candid when asked would I come here and even in some Lutheran bodies. Oh we’ll have to be nice and polite to you because this is what the national church says but we’re not really liking it one bit. So what I respect about outsiders or non-Christians or other Christians from other denominations that don’t necessarily accept women as priests and pastors and ministers, I respect-- Oh I lost my train of thought. CH: Their candor? AS: I respect their candor, you know. And just, just out and out say it. As you’ve experienced, I’m very direct, and I’m always interested not in the good reason, but the real reasons. So sometimes I get a little impatient and go to the real reason and just upset the apple cart. CH: Helen, do you want to chime in and then I’m-- I’m going to do a followup on this particular question with both of you. HH: Okay. I am drawn to other denominations and other world faiths. I always have been. And I think somehow people sense that or know that. So I’ve had, I feel, as I thought about the question, I feel that I’ve been quite well received. I’ve been in programs and services at the Rothko Chapel that have been multifaith. I love doing that kind of thing. Back in the eighties I was on a weekly television program called Religious Roundtable, and there were people of different faiths and denominations there. We had a, we had a good time. Rabbi Sam Karff was one of the, the reg-- I was a regular and so was he. And they, they took us off the air because we didn’t fight enough. What they wanted was blood and guts. And we were too civilized. We thought we were doing a marvelous job in discussing the issues but-- at any rate. I guess we were on for a year or longer. One story that I love from years ago. A very close friend of-- My husband is Sandy Havens there in the navy blazer. Close friend of ours, Barbara Schloster, a woman priest. She happens to be very short. She was very pregnant. And she and I were driving somewhere. And I think maybe I was driving my car, bumped another car. And so, it was a large car. You couldn’t even find out-- see where my car had bumped. But at any rate, this man charged out of his car and he was mad and his wife got out of the car and she was mad, and I got out and was just trying to explain, said let’s look and see what the damage is. Barbara got out of the car, and their eyes grew wide, particularly his. Wider and wider, said, My God, my God, it’s a woman priest. It’s a pregnant woman priest. He almost fell down and worshipped at her feet. It was, it was like furious, it was like, it was, it was wild. When my husband and I were traveling in Greece, we were-- stopped at a hotel and the young man who was son of one of the owners, he was so excited to hear that I was member of the clergy, he wanted to give us a clergy discount. And the next morning his elders took a dim view of that. We couldn’t understand what they said but it was really quite funny. We had a day school. St. Stephens is just down Alabama. A few blocks at Alabama and Woodhead. And we have a day school and we have chapel and I passionately believe we should teach all world religion in the classes and, and have representatives from, from the religions come to chapel, and we have some teachers of other major world religions, and parents, and draw them in. So we have a multicultural committee at St. Stephens which is dedicated to educating about and eradicating racism, sexism, and homophobia. So, at any rate, it’s-- obviously there, there is a lot of prejudice out there. In fact I think the prejudice that hurts me the worst is from ultra conservative Episcopalians. And they, they can take a very dim view of me. CH: I guess that was-- that’s, that’s right in line with the followup. Is the resistance and/or the prejudice that you meet perhaps stronger among people more like yourselves than among people who are radically different? And that’s sort of what I’m hearing. Or is it perhaps more subtle as it comes from, from those quarters? Both and. Uh hmm. AS: Yeah I find it really interesting that the folks who think they’re very liberal tend to be unwittingly the most hurtful. I say to some that you can be-- you can appear innocuous, but the danger is all the same. You understand what I’m saying? Then there are the ultra conservative Lutherans that take a dim view as well. So it’s both and. It’s about the encounter. And then there are some people, because they lack the exposure, they just don’t understand. There’s a-- I tell a story about a lady in my church when I first appeared on the scene. Boy did she-- she wanted absolutely nothing to do with me. CH: Because you were the first woman and the first-- AS: First African American. CH: And the first African-American pastor in Augustana’s history. AS: That’s exactly right. CH: And it is a predominantly African-American congregation. AS: Yes, it is, uh huh. CH: Okay. Go ahead. AS: She wanted absolutely nothing to do with me. It was like, I’m not doing this. Ahhhh. This lady would seize out every time I appeared, you know. CH: Kind of tough every Sunday morning. AS: Right, but you know-- Then one day a moment of repentance for both of us came, as she-- We have a morning service and whoever is willing and able to take in assisting then. And so I had my back taking care of things on the altar to, to her. When I turned around, there she was. I said, Oh Lord, this lady’s going to beat me up on Sunday morning. You know. But she had-- she was there with tears in her eyes and, you know, which was really moving for the both of us, because we cried all the way through because that was truly repentance for the both of us. There was a true turnaround and change of heart. Sometimes just because there’s no exposure. CH: Okay. HH: A couple of stories that come to mind. When I was first ordained I was on staff at St. Francis Episcopal Church here in Houston out in the Memorial area. And we started, really under my leadership, a sort of a lay school of theology, and there were-- with other Episcopal churches out there. And so we were having a 7:30 a.m. meeting, and nobody likes to go to a 7:30 a.m. meeting. Well one of the other Episcopal priests just blew his stack about some inconsequential thing. We were talking about, you know, setting up classes, and, and I was thunderstruck. I was chairing the meeting. I was thunderstruck. And later it just-- I, I realized that I think what he was resisting was my leadership. And he just, he just couldn’t stand it. And I think it-- in the struggle for women’s ordination in the Episcopal Church, as we wrestled-- and people a good number of years ago now, because it, it was passed by our General Convention in 1976. But people would quote theology and the Bible and all sorts of things. But we finally really came to understand it was more a gut reaction. How people responded to women in their gut. What their experience was. In the final analysis that’s what really-- they covered it up with other things. I was at a conference of church wom-- Episcopal Church women from five diocese up in northwest Texas. They were terrified that I was coming. They kept sending me word that I wasn’t to speak. And I kept sending them word back politely, I knew I wasn’t to speak. I wasn’t on the program, but I was a woman of actually two of the diocese. And so I came and many of the women were sort of angry--not that they said much. But finally late at night they asked me to, they asked me to speak when the program was over. So at ten o’clock at night and we had a wonderful discussion. We were there several days. Turned out that the women who were angriest about it all turned around within those few days we were there together. Strong, capable women were more likely to feel what? Threatened or envious or have some feelings about it. So that’s another, that’s anoth-- and then one dear older woman, hesitantly in the bathroom, brushing her teeth, and she kept looking over her shoulder. And she said, You know sometime I have doubts, but listen to them out there. They never have any doubts. I just thought it was wonderful. You know, this renegade woman, ordained woman that she dared to open to and I assured her that we all have doubts, even the women out there do. And so, at any rate. CH: That��s a good story. One of my questions was about what perhaps has most infuriated you and, or has most frustrated you. I think I want to hone that a little and say, What professionally has perhaps been the most difficult in terms of the practice of ministry, the being of clergy, that you feel like maybe you��ve now, if not mastered, at least got sort of a handle on it. It’s not quite as bad as it was before. And whichever of you would-- Who would like to answer? Well. Defer. Yes. HH: I was-- jotted down some notes and then I came to-- I wrote down and read blocks by three bishops. So the experiences that I have, I want to dwell on one more, on one more than others. But the first one is how the Bishop-- I’m not going to name names because that’s not important. I think it is important to record the experience. I was the first woman to seek ordination in this diocese, and I was the first woman ordained in the diocise. Another woman was ordained by this diocise here. So technically she’s the first woman of this diocise. But at any rate, I was the first. And so how I-- what I want to spend time on is how I was treated as I was put through this process. But then secondly, we’ve already alluded to the Bishop’s elections. That was a difficult, frustrating period in the experience at times. Thirdly, there’s quite a story about when St. Stephen’s called me as Rector and the Bishop blocked that and how we managed to unblock it, which almost was a miracle. CH: It’s a very difficult process. HH: Very, very difficult. But everytime I saw him he kept saying, Helen, it’s great. St. Stephen’s is still interested in you. And so I was foolish enough to think he really meant it. And I-- CH: Uh hmm. HH: I didn’t go into-- I should have gone into see him. He had doubts, massive doubts, which came out. But that’s not the story I want to tell. But then fourthly, fourthly, one of the Bishops had the opportunity, if he had done the normal thing. There was a vacancy on the standing committee, which is the, the, the most important committee in the diocese. And if the Bishop should, you know, ascend into heaven tonight, the standing committee would be in charge of the diocese. Very important committee. And he had-- I’d stood for election, came in first runner up, and he had the opportunity to fill a vacancy. And actually the standing committee should have filled it, but he filled it. And he could have-- The normal thing would have been to put me in, but he didn’t. And so at any rate, that’s, that’s tough. But the one I want to talk about is, I-- you talk with your rector when you feel called to, to, to ministry. Obviously you talk with your family and sort of make peace with your family before you and go and do this thing that is so unusual. And, and then letter to the Bishop. And then you have to go through a psychological exam and then see a psychiatrist and physical exam and your academic gr--a whole battery of things. The psychological exam was given by a man who was employed by the Bishop. And I-- and the Bishop called me an hour before he performed his daughter’s wedding. I thought that was an odd time to do it. But I was out running, jogging to get rid of the stress, because I didn’t know what the Bishop was going to say. And so he told my husband that I was emotionally disturbed and in need of extensive therapy. I can laugh now, but I tell you, we couldn’t laugh then. It was horrible. Horrible. And so our rector, wonderful Jim Tucker, he said to the Bishop, Well, Helen is happy to, you know, get some counseling. Everybody can use some help. She just certainly doesn’t think that she’s perfect and what-- And he slipped one time and said, No, I like that answer. I mean it was clear that’s what he was hiding behind, so has not to have to put me through the process and so that I could be ordained. Sandy has something to say. Good. Sandy Havens: You, you left out a phrase. HH: Alright. SH: From the Bishop. HH: Alright. Okay. That’s right. SH: * confused about your sexual identity. HH: And as Sandy said, you know, the exams were written for men. And so, you know-- CH: the psychological-- HH: --the psychological tests-- CH: Yes. HH: --were written for men. So of course if I was a woman I wouldn’t come out too good. At any rate. Fin-- We were so horrified, we-- I was going to school. I was doing seminary work here at St. Thomas-- well at St. Mary’s Seminary out in Memorial and taking classes at Rice. And so I was busily proceeding. And we just didn’t do anything about if for a while. Finally I said to Sandy, We’ve got to face this. I have been labeled emotionally disturbed and in need of extensive therapy. He was afraid that I-- it would be a self-fulfilling prophecy, and that I would become crazy. I went back to the psychologist and he wouldn’t tell me what was wrong with me, which I thought was strange. And talked about-- He cried, he cried, which made me sort of say, Why should he cry? And he told me I should give up my compulsion to get ordained. And I said, Well look I’m going to finish a degree. You know an advanced degree is worth something, even if you can’t get ordained. Ultimately later he told another Bishop who was the one who actually ordained me. That Bishop did the things that bishops do. They called to see, How’s Helen? Is she okay? He said she really is. I found a little wrong and she went and got some help, which I did with a marvelous woman thera-- ,therapist, Elizabeth Veech. And who was very helpful and told me I really wasn’t crazy, but helped me see the stresses and the strains I was being subjected to in all of this. And so anyway, because the psychologist gave a truthful and positive answer to this other bishop, he was then punished by the bishop here. Said that that wasn’t your information to give out. That was my information to give out. It’s a, it’s a miracle I ever got through the process. And but, I’m very, very grateful to God that, that I did. But I wrote down at the bottom of my-- this, this question “blocked by three bishops.” And so that’s really, that’s sort of a sad commentary that it’s hard for women or people to enter in, for black women to enter into something that they haven’t been able to do before. And when you sort of follow all the rules and your grades are good and you do the training and that you really are blocked in that way. And so I, I’m very grateful to God that I was able to weave with the help of marvelously supportive friends and family, weave my way through the obstacles. CH: Actually * You, I, I think you’ve, you’ve, you’ve faced some of those yourself. AS: Yes, I mean, I’m, I’m-- As I listened to your story, I said, Hey there’s some real similarities there. Well the first was with my family. I had an experience, a numinous experience of being called, and so I knew that God had called me to the ministry. How that would work itself out was not sure. So I told my mom about this, at which she just, you know, kind of went through the roof. And after she kind of came mid ceiling down, she looks down and she says, Hey can you get married if you, you know, if I’m a pastor? I said, Yes, mom. And she’s like, Oh, okay. So she stopped levitating as she came, came down. My father, on the other hand, women can’t carry the gospel. And this is a man who told me that I could do anything that I could set my mind to, and I believed him. It my grandmother who was the, the pivotal person that said, Look here, leave that baby alone--thirty plus years old. But she’s ninety-two; she can call me a baby. Leave that baby alone. If God can make the rocks cry out, surely God can make women cry out. And my grandmother is a very important character for me in spiritual formation. She’s the one who took the initiative to teach her grandchildren the Lord’s Prayer and the things of God. And I remember one of the things we do when I go and visit her, I comb her hair. And she has this just wonderful long, white hair. And we just comb it and talk. And she told me about a dream that she had fifty something years ago as she-- In this dream there was some very sad, mourning women, and they were wringing their hands asking, Could anyone get a prayer through? And she says, I believe I can. And so she begins to pray, and when she prays, these women have disappeared but there’s-- I���m not real sure; a Jungian analyst would have fun with it. But when she finished is there are twelve headstones and then there’s an angel of the Lord and he lifts these headstones, and he sees all of these women, and the angel tells her, I’m praying for women to come up in ministry. And that means excel, you know, in the black parlance, you know, with the old folks talkin’. And she says, Never did I dream, Angela, that you would be a part of this, this as well. And so she’s grateful to God for that. And so with knowledge that God had something special planned for me to do, I did it. When it came time to finish all the things you have to do. We have the candidacy process and the seminary process that you have to complete. My senate was very supportive of me. Just very supportive. But then there’s the process whereby we have the ELCA draft, and they get all of the candidates together. Not-- well their paperwork in one room and the bishops argue over who they’re going to get, who’s the first draft pick and, and what not. So I was drafted to Metropolitan Chicago Senate. And one thing about women of color, and they will tell you, in fact we’re in conversation about ordained women of color with the ELCA right now. We get the worst calls. CH: Right. AS: You know, and once you get in there and you do the impossible, by God’s, you know, will, then they want to take it away from you when, when you’re done. So I was all set to go to this miserable little congregation that was really in pain. And I’m not saying they were miserable, but they were miserable because of the pain that they had experienced at the hands of the last pastor that was there. They were so angry with pastors that they took the placard that said “Pastor” from this nice plush office and put it on the broom closet. You know. And so I would go to the bishop and say, Hey these people are really hurting. This is what happened. Are you aware that what’s in there? And he would say, Oh really? I say, Yeah. And then I’d go back and I find something else. Did you know this was in there? And he says, Really? And then one day. You know how you talk with your friends and you find out the real story? They say, Well you know before he became bishop he was the liaison person to that parish. Oh wow. I was really angry then. So I had an appointment with him. I said, You knew all the time what was in there. And he says, Well yeah and I suggest you take this parish because if you don’t take this parish it may be a long time before you get ordained. I said, Wait a minute, let me tell you something, Mr. Pastor sir, I am second career, which means I can work and feed myself. You don’t hold the keys to life, death, or breath, Buster, and God will take care of me. When I got home I said, Oh my God what have I done? But I was tough, you see. You know. I was tough. And ultimately it did work out and I’m here and-- CH: Well did you go to that church? AS: No. She didn’t want to be * AS: No. And I was so mad at that Bishop. I said, You know that’s just like putting a pork chop necklace around my neck and giving me a dinner bell. I’m not going in there. I was so mad. But that’s what happens to women. And I would venture to say women of all colors in the ministry. Let’s just, you know-- And, and I have to believe, because I do believe in the transformative power of love and I believe in Jesus Christ, but I-- the real carnal side of me says, They intentionally do this. You know. Women often can get set up in the ministry. And once given these impossible tasks, when they turn the situation around then the, the ecclesiastical authorities will come and, and try to take that from them. So I’m very fortunate I’m at Augustana Lutheran Church. It’s a, it’s a church that, that’s thriving. And even some of my male colleagues have come from various places in the country and say, Shannon, how did you get this? Just blessed, I guess. Yeah. But, you know. It’s just, you know. I’m, I’m just listening to you how different that we are and, and how similar our stories are. Because I would venture to say that I’m like third generation ordained women, woman, but the stories are quite, quite similar. CH: Very similar. Let’s shift track course just a little bit. I had to ask this question because this is an archival history project, and I want to know what each of you think. But we can’t stay here till tomorrow morning, and a, the question was, If God is beyond gender, how would each of you describe God? AS: Can I? CH: Sure. AS: For me, God is, is--and that sounds right--love. Not that sappy maudlin stuff that, you know, dribbles into sentimentality and oozes all over the place. I really don’t have much patience for that because that’s not the act of transformative kind of love that we really need--the love that is unafraid to approach and confront and struggle just like a-- Jacob’s struggle with the angel at [Jabock]. He left limping, but, but transformed. So I believe that the kind of love that struggles with you, that’s how God is for me. But I like to tell a little story, and I won’t take too long. One of the church fathers said that which cannot be assumed cannot be saved. And as long as women or anyone else cannot see themselves as a part of God’s never ending plan for redemption and salivation for the entire universe, if you can’t see yourself as part of that, you cannot really feel that God in fact does love you and embrace you. One of my friends, he was-- he had this [kalees] artistry kit or something, and he says, You know--and it was his project--he says, You know, Angela, there’s this scurrilous character named Jesus running about the place, and I have this composite kit and I’d like for you to describe your Jesus. And so he had these transparencies. And so at first we, we chose the hair. And then we chose the eyes. And then we chose the nose, and we put them all together. And at the end, he says, You want to see what your Jesus looks like? I said, Sure. And he pulls this composite together, and I look at it and I start laughing. And {Jinks] says, Why are you laughing? I said, That Jesus looks like me. And he says, No. Of course he does, he’s black. I said, Uh uh, I said, That Jesus looks like he-- I said, He could be related to me. He says, No. I said-- Then I got a baby picture. I said, Now that Jesus looks like this little girl’s father. So that which can be assumed can be saved. When you can look at yourself and see yourself as part of that great salvation story, God has gotten to you and has gotten all on the inside of you. So that’s why I think it’s important that when we go to different places, ‘cause I have collection of different colors of Jesus, you know. You know, a Mexican, Mayan. Jesus is Indian. Jesus is-- Because we have to be able to apprehend that for ourselves, and then, and I believe only then, will we apprehend that, that, that pure energy and love. CH: I would hate to have to take that question second, but I know- [all three talk] HH: Again, the word. My, my just first response to this, to the question. Theologian Paul Tillich has described God as the ground of our being. Uh huh. HH: Which, you know, isn’t as sexy or, you know, or as human as some other ways to describe God. But, but that helps. I, I, I jotted down, God is present, warmth, light. In stillness you can know God, you can hear from God, be loved by God, and love God. God ceaselessly ministers to all of us, all the time. But many of the time, many of us are busy and just are too busy to receive the God who is there ceaselessly ministering to us. Over the centuries, people have tried to make God more accessible, and they have gone too far in making God like a human being. So most of us--I don’t know about people with dark skin--but most white people have grown up believing God was an old man with a long, white beard. And many people, if you would stop them on the street, that’s what they’d say if they would admit it. And we know theologically that isn’t correct. God is all and everything and is not just male but it’s male and female, but it’s without body parts or passion-- Sure. HH: --we say in the Episcopal Church. So women have led the church in expanding our images of God to other metaphors, which we could name and they’re very Biblical and adding some feminine imagery. Right? We don’t want to get rid of the masculine imagery-- Not at all. HH: --but add some other. Make it, make it more complete. Make it more representative. And we also-- Bishop [Spong] is a-- perhaps that, in the Episcopal Church, might ring a bell with some of you because he’s in the news a lot. And, and he’s really wrestling with sort of the, the boundaries. He’s into the frontier of theological thought. And so he upsets an enormous number of people by saying that theism is dead. And by, by saying this, what he’s meaning is a personal relationship with God is dead. And that is, you know, makes many people very angry and threatens them. Somehow all of the-- It’s wonderful that there’s all this religious ferment and that people are-- There�����s always books and articles and covers of magazines wrestling with these questions about who God is and how we can know God. And so I, I can take great comfort and get nourishment from the, the theology that I grew up with of how Trinitarian theology of God as father or creator, redeemer and Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit as a wonderful, feminine spirit present inheriting the Earth and inspiring all of us. So, so I can, I can value the Christ that I know, but I can also say a whole lot more. And I also am drawn to process theology which says, It’s not over. It’s not done. It’s not finished. God is in process. We are in process. We are in relationship. And so God is continuing to become as we are continuing to become. And that keeps God alive and vital to all of us. So it’s a good question, Cecile. It really is. Maybe too good, maybe too good a question. CH: Wonderful answer. How are we on? Can we continue on? As more women move into positions of leadership in the church and beyond the church within the larger denomination in the religious studies programs and theology schools across the country, How do each of you say American religion changing? Maybe where was it and where are, where are we going? Here’s a broad question, isn’t it? That is. Uh huh. AS: Let’s see. It’s kind of-- You’ve kind of got me stumped there, but I’ll see. I’ll take a stab at it, because I am coming from an unapologetic womanist stance, and that in and of itself encounters a lot of resistance in-- because I often see myself as a part of the traditional black church as well. I tease back and forth with colleagues and I tell them, you know, I’m a missionary from the Lutheran Church to you. You know. And depending on which, which company I find myself, I would say that to the Lutheran Church as well, it’s like I’m a missionary from the African-American traditional church. In the Af-- And I can speak more eloquently about the traditional black church. Uh huh. AS: There, there’s a lot of changes going on because-- Well women were acc-- are accepted as evangelists, and this time women are asserting themselves more simply because, like mainline denominations, women hold the financial key. The biggest givers. Yeah-- Yeah. AS: --they’re the biggest givers. And if women across the country just decided one Sunday just to withhold, you know, those offerings because--I hate to say it but--the guys just aren’t writing those checks. You know. They tell the wives to write them too. You know. * writes check *. We would have some serious reverberations. And women in the African-American church are saying, Look, well you have to take us seriously. No more of this evangelist stuff or being a good mother of the church. We want some decision making authority in the church as well. Do you think that’s actually coming? Oh yes. Okay. AS: Oh yes. I always refer to my grandmother ninety-two years old and if she shows the pastor her watch during the sermon, he’s going to start wrapping it up. You know. * So I see that coming. What I’m also experiencing is a lot of African-American women going to mainline denominations because of the ease of ordination. Now this is not to say that it is easy, but there are-- there’s a different fight there. Uh huh. AS: And if you’d grown up African-American or in-- of any personal color- Uh huh. AS: --in, in the United States, you know how to run that maze. See there’s something to be said about having to fight at home-- Uh huh. AS: --in that nurturing community, as opposed to fighting in the sustaining community. See when I fight in that sustaining community, I’m going to come home to my nurturing community where I don’t feel like fighting. I just want to be. You understand? CH: Yeah. I think so. AS: Uh huh. CH: I think so. Okay. Helen? HH: In the, in the church. You’ve heard with-- heard stories tonight and, and I, you know, invite all of us to challenge, insist on the church as well as, as well as other parts of society to, to honor the gifts of women and insist that they are included, that the fight is, is not over, and that that’s very, very clear to all of us. And so women’s gifts are equally valid. They’re needed in the church. And so I hope the day will come when there are more equal numbers. The statistics in the Episcopal Church in this diocese are very poor in terms of women in leadership positions. And Muffy Maroney, lay woman, member of St. Stephen’s, carefully keeps those statistics. I meant to bring them with us tonight, but they’re shocking. And it’s, it’s not enough. I mean I’ve been ordained for a-- since 1976. That, that’s a long time. But, but we still have amazingly few women in positions of leadership. And that’s-- We, we need to continue to work ceaselessly about that. In religious scholarship it’s been said that women’s participation in religion and religious experience has been a hidden history. I’ll tell a quick story. The Reverend Alice Callan is on my staff now. She is a published person, has her doctorate in church history. And she wrote a chapter for world religions book on Christianity. Sent it to the publisher--this was some years ago--the publisher sent it back and said, Put in more women. Which she was just stunned at and thrilled at. And my daughter and I said, So who did you put in? And, and we will never forget. We were in our kitchen at our kitchen table. And Alice opened her mouth and began from Biblical times, coming up through history, people that I, I didn’t know were accomplished in their own right. They were often related to somebody I knew who was famous. So but there are women scholars like Elizabeth [Schussler Theorenza], Elaine [Pagels], Rosemary [Ruther], many other women who are working diligently in this part of God’s field. And, and are doing work to help us understand women’s-- the, the history so that it will not be hidden, that, that they have made incredible contributions throughout history. We just don’t know about it. In the Episcopal Church the women’s history project is trying hard to remedy this ignorance on our part and doing work on women in groups who have made significant contributions to the church and to society. Women mystics of past centuries are becoming better known now. I, I-- Hildegard of [Bingan] is one of my favorites, and I didn’t know about her until relatively recently. Eleventh century phenomenal woman. I don’t think we have time to go into her history. But extraordinary woman. And Catherine of Sienna is my patron saint because I was ordained on her day. And Juliette of Norwich is another favorite of mine. I think these are becoming better known. And that’s wonderful. Women wielding power on national committees. Women are more likely to bring their gifts of shared leadership and empowering others to those committees and helping them to, to function very successfully, rather than wielding power. Wielding power is perhaps more what our male colleagues have done for many year. Women generally are more enabling of others and comfortable with shared ministry. It’s been fascinating to me over the years. I loved it when one of the members of St. Stephen’s said, Helen, there are many more women actively doing ministry at St. Stephen’s when, than when the former minister who was a man was here. And that’s real great, because people love to say, you’re going to drive-- you women are going to drive all the men out of the church and they won’t do anything. All you’ll have is women. And so for them to say the opposite of that is marvelous. I-- Muffy, is it about eight women bishops we have now in the Episcopal Church? And there are about three more in the Anglican communion. So eleven worldwide. In terms of leadership in interfaith organizations, many of you probably know that the current head of the National Council of Churches is a woman. The Reverend Doctor Joan Brown Campbell. And offering-- having women in those positions of leadership is a wonderful role model and encouragement to others, both women and men, that women can pr-- do have gifts of leadership and can function very successfully in those roles. At times it seems easier to have women in leadership of national interfaith organizations than in individual local parishes. Oh yes. HH: Somehow that worked. And I want to make, I want to make sort of a passionate plea, and, and I think it’s really a true thing. I think among the many issues that women really care deeply about, it is the, the, the saving of our, our globe, our world, our environment. All of the ecological concerns. You know, we’re destroying our world. It won’t, it won’t be here. And our church and many churches are worrying about women in leadership positions or about issues of human sexuality. And that’s, that’s what makes the headlines rather than Are we destroying our air? Are we destroying our land? Are we overpopulating? Really vital, deeply spiritual issues. And I, I think and hope women will continue to stand up and raise those issues for all of us. Yeah. AS: It’s my hope too, but I think that we need to be a little more [integrous] about that enterprise, especially when we’re interfacing with each other across racial lines, because sometimes I find that is the convenient scapegoat. Let’s talk about creation instead of talking about how we treat each other in creation as creatures of God. You know. So. HH: Well. I, I care about that too. AS: Sure. HH: But if we destroy the world we won’t be here to relate. AS: Right. And I, and I hear wh-- and I hear exactly what you’re saying. But again. It’s, it’s about creation and all that it contains. HH: That’s right. AS: And sometimes it’s creation theology, I feel, can be a smokescreen and a side issue when we’re not dealing with one another. And it’s about relationship in that. One of the things that I miss terribly. I belong to a group of women--international women, white women, black women--that we sit down and have a face to face every-- every month we would do this. We would start with the breaking of bread. And sometimes we would want to break each other’s faces by the end of that, that day. But commitment, but the commitment was to genuinely stay in the struggle. And it was hard. It was very hard sometimes. But we were committed and, and, and connected by our baptisms to really treat each other as children of God, as genuine sisters. And that’s a process. And after having gone through that with these women for about five years, we can say, Well let’s talk about the creation. Let’s talk about saving, you know, the environment, because we really want it, not for just my children, but for our children. You see what I’m saying? HH: I do. And, and I also see that, that, that, that this, the, I can see the struggle because I believe deeply in what you’re saying about the, the interpersonal relationships and that, that too often people who are in the majority are oblivious, insensitive to, if not downright cruel in their treatment of people who are in a minority. And, and, and, and I deplore that. And I also don’t want to have to not talk about destroying the world we live in-- AS: Right. HH: --until we’ve got that solved. So, so that would be my anxiety. I, I want to have the discussions and we do that at St. Stephen’s and we’re committed to that. I want to have those. AS: Right. HH: But I don’t want to postpone worrying about the environment until we get that solved. AS: Right. But I, I-- HH: I want to do both. I want to do both. AS: And that’s what I’m saying. HH: Yeah. AS: We need to do both-- HH: Right. AS: --and, and what I have noticed that sometimes it’s either or. HH: Oh, no. AS: Yeah. HH: Not for me. AS: Yeah. And the whole womanist-- Yeah. AS: --enterprise-- Yeah. AS: --says, wholeness, let’s do it. You know -- simultaneously as God enables us, -- Good. Uh huh. AS: Hey, we reach to do it. CH: Hey. And, and, and in the interest of wholeness and a circle, we’re gonna take, we���re gonna look at a couple of questions from the folks who have joined us for the evening. What? We got another one. Okay. CH: This-- this is from the audience. Does the compensation of women in the ministry, in your opinion, reflect the national average of about seventy cents for a woman compared to one dollar for a man? HH: Yes. CH: Would you care to elaborate on that? Reverend Havens? HH: All right. It’s, it’s a, it’s very diff-- even getting jobs is very difficult. I had women from Presbyterian, Methodist and other churches say to me some years back, We’re so grateful to the Episcopal Church for the struggle being so visible. The, the struggle to ordain women in the Episcopal Church was the number one religious news story for two years in a row. These other women said, We can be ordained but we can’t get jobs. And the job-- that, that is still very difficult, and we can name very capable women clergy here who could not get a second job, who could not move into becoming a pastor or a rector of a church, and they had to leave the diocese. I was sort of one of the few fortunate ones who was able to do that. And, and I credit the marvelous people at St. Stephen’s for providing the leadership. And that didn’t come from the hierarchy. It came from the people in the parish who had the wit and the will to figure out how to do it. And so it-- so even getting a job is hard. Moving to a better job, and so obviously, financially women are not as well compensated as men. I think women are approximately one third now of the entrants and actual people studying within seminaries across the United States. But there have been several different studies. One of them was done in the ELCA. Uh huh. Most of them show that many women in the ministry do reach a certain point and find they can’t go any farther. They can get a good job as an associate pastor or an assistant rector or as a chaplain. But if they want to move into a position with better money and more authority, that frequently does not happen. It’s a v-- it seems to be very rare, and may be changing, but. There’s some scholarship going on that right now. And again I would say to people that I’m not familiar with all different churches and how ministers are called or hired, but a lot of it depends on the leadership in the local church. And so speak up and ask that women be seriously considered. I said to one of our bish-- I said to our bishop some years back, Would you consider asking, requiring that every church interview women? They wouldn’t have to necessarily hire-- Uh huh. But they would at least be exposed. They would have the experience. And there are some wonderful stories of churches who did that-- Right. --and found that the woman was the best candidate. And did-- Yeah, there’s a bishop-- --hire her. --on the East Coast that insisted that you interview women. And if you’re not going to interview a woman, you just have to wait. And as a result, there are more women in leadership there than in various places that I know. My process was extra hierarchical because the, the people in my parish were looking for a black pastor. And I arrived. And what they, what, what they did, they contacted the seminaries to see who was graduating, you know. And that’s how they got wind of me. But they would have never done that had not the call committee said, Gee we want a black pastor. And it’s been really interesting because I arrived black and female and responsible, serious and in charge. * Member of my church there. CH: What role do you play in facilitating the knowledge of women, both in Biblical history and in the history of the world? And then there’s a note here that says, The Bible is so male dominated in theme and word. AS: It is. But as Helen said, the emphasis on the spirit as well. I think it’s real important that we continue to embody the gospel, because the gospel is incarnational. You know, Jesus took on flesh and we represent that for people. Just like the story you told. As a little girl who says to me, There’s the pastor, and she flies into my arms. And it’s, it’s really nice. Because when I was her age, at about two years old, I couldn’t say, There’s the pastor, and the pastor looks like me. Or, you know, to hear other colleagues share and say, Gee, you know, one of the kids today says, Hey, mom, there’s a girl God there. You know. So those things are kind of important. But at the same time there is female imagery in the Bible. And what we need to do is lift that up for people. There’s a lot of Biblical illiteracy running around here. And I don’t care what church you’re part of, mainline or-- I’ve become acquainted with this thing called word churches. Uh huh. AS: They tote these Bibles around and they have it all highlighted and colored up, and they’re just as ignorant as the rest of us. You know. The thing of it is, to lift these stories out for people and to give people an opportunity to, to, to interpret the stories for themselves. You find marvelous things, you know, when you just give the things to folks and see what they come up with. I mean the, the folks in the pew are not nearly as ignorant as some folks would have them to, you know, believe that they are, because they have serious contributions too, and we do this thing together. So I think it’s important to continue, for women to continue to go into the parishes and, even though it can be rough at the local level like you did say, and sometimes it’s easier to be a part of the national committees and to deal with the day-to-day struggles in people’s lives, which is a gift as well. But to continue to have women, ordain women in the parish, to, to continue to lift these stories out for women and, and let folks get at them. It’s really juicy stuff. * HH: One of our bishop’s wives said to me once, strolling in the garden at St. Stephen’s, I just, I just need to tell you that it always makes me feel good to see you when we come here and know that you are sort of the, the, the leader of, of this parish church. It affirms me as a woman. And so, you know, if a woman can, can hold the highest position in the parish church, that answers the question about all of the women and all of the girls in the church. And you can just see it. I can see. I’m sure you can when you see young women, girls, and especially ones that might be visiting and aren’t there all the time. The wonder in their eyes. It is just glorious. You can see them. Because, you know, they might not be able to use the words “It affirms me”, but you can see it in their smiles. Uh huh. HH: And it’s, it’s, it’s wonderful. And I agree with you, we, we-- all of us need to lift up the stories and take a good look at Jesus. Who did he associate with? Who did he affirm? He was, he was a real feminist, a womanist. AS: He was a womanist. HH: He really was. Uh huh. Yeah. That’s not distorting anything. Right. He really was. And, and also take, take a little pleasure in realizing the women were there. They were there. Uh huh. Not only at the cross. They were there on Easter morning. The woman at the well. The woman who dared to touch his cloak and was healed. Story after story after story. And part of it, the women’s faith, Jesus’s confidence in them for claiming his *ship, to the woman at the well. Anyway, it’s glorious stuff. And so tell it as it is. Again as wi-- with Alice Callan as she wrote or, you know, added women to the history of Christianity, the more we tell the stories, future generations will go up seeing women ministers and hearing the stories and knowing that women have always been a part of the history. And, and that will change things. I have a devil’s advocate kind of question here-- Okay. --but, weren’t women often labeled crazy when we stood up, stood out, or disagreed? Weren’t? Weren’t. We st-- Were not women often labeled-- We still are. We still-- I didn’t have to prompt. AS: No. We still are. Why would you want to be a pastor? You know. I could ask you that question. AS: Yeah. And sometimes I ask myself that. You know, why w-- Surely, God, this is a calling. Because I could not put myself up to some of these things that, that, you know, just happen, in a, in a daily, your daily workaday life. Have you ever been called mother? HH: And father. Uh huh. AS: Yeah, uh huh. Or, here’s a new one. I don’t know if you had this one. Pastoress? HH: Priestess? I’ve been called priestess before. AS: Yeah, yeah, I got the priestess. There’s a lot who call me that. I want to, I want to ask, I want to ask the rest of this question. Oh, I’m sorry. No, that’s okay. AS: But on a serious note, no one could-- you know, you’re still considered kind of crazy, and when-- I think women’s presence as ordained people threatens the hegemony, and so well, Were you a little unbalanced? And I, and as I recall my own psychological, they said that she is more tough minded than typically is found in the clergy population. And she can be suspicious at times. Well I’m black and female in America. I’d better look over my shoulder sometimes. What is that? You know. So of course. And, and here’s the, the, the final straw that * a woman of any kind of authority whether she’s a pastor or she’s, you know, good at what she does in her other jobs or in her workaday world. When they really want to shut you down, She has confused-- she’s confused about her sexuality. You know. So of course. But-- HH: And of course when they, when, when they’re younger and they have children at home, then, then, then that is-- serious questions are asked about aren’t they depriving their children in their family. Uh huh. HH: And don’t they belong at home. And how since our children are now grown and we have grandchildren, I don’t get asked those questions. AS: Or if you’re single like I am. Well why aren’t you married? You just hard to get along with. You know. So. You just learn to live in that, you know, that synapsis. Being accused of God knows what. And know that God has called you and it really will teach you who you are and what you’re made of. CH: When you live that synapse, the person that wrote this question wants to know, if either of you praise to mother God or father God and uses inclusive language. And we want to know, Angela, what else did your grandmother say? AS: Oh she says a lot. Now I love your grandmother’s stories. AS: I love grandmother. You can answer that-- Okay. --and then we’ll go back to the inclusive language. AS: Okay. Living in the crazy part or? CH: The question says, Angela, what else did your grandmother say? AS: Okay. My grandmother-- CH: I’m not editing these questions. AS: My grandmother is great. You know. When I wanted to go to India. I’m very close to her and I didn’t go, you know. I said-- We have these candid conversations, and I said, Hey, Grandma, what if you die while I’m in India? She says, Don’t come back. I said, What? Don��t come back for the funeral. I said, Okay. And she says, I’ll see you at the communion table that very next week. She has this understanding of the priesthood of all believers and the understanding of, of the saints that have gone before us. That we somehow meet at that communion table and we converge there until Jesus comes for us all. So I mean she empowered me to leave. When I was sixteen, she writes every-- she wrote every sixteen-year-old woman--it was a rite of passage--a letter. And her last words in that letter-- and I still have this--is “Seek divine guidance and reach for the stars, for they both can be yours.��� And I’ve always carried that with me. My grandmother-- There, there’s something about what I call grandmother theology, because it just gets all in you. And speaking with my African-American girlfriends, we have that grandmother theology, but as I have read other things, like God’s Fierce Whimsy-- CH: Uh huh. AS: There’s, you know, that, the wisdom of, of, of the elders that’s so entrenched. But it’s particularly entrenched in my culture. The womanist writer Jackie [Gran] in her opening, in her dedicatory page, she dedicates her book to her grandmother, who, she says, Who at the hearing of the w-- hearing of Jesus’ name moved in a coma. Katy Cannon dedicates her book, Katy’s Cannon in fact, to her grandmother. So you have a lot of this grandmother, womanist theology going before it even had a name, you know. Alice Walker talks about her grandmother. These grandmothers are just really the strength of our lives. Even in Beloved, the grandmother who was great. The grandmother is a, a prominent figure, you know. And I pray to Mother-Father God, since you must know, dear. And I don’t know that I sit there and I use *. Let me see if I’ve got this inclusive language down when I pray. But God is spirit, you know. And so in that-- yeah I kind of switched the question you, *. Sometimes I get these streams of thought and they just go sshhh. But God is spirit and, and praying to that God, you know, the faith that sustained my grandmother is a faith that sustains me and sustained me all through seminary. And it did not necessarily have neat theological and Trinitarian categories. But one of the things in the black community, we say, God is as Jesus does. So if you can say Jesus, you can say God. You know. CH: Helen. HH: Won, won, wonderful answers, and I can be for me quite brief. In my personal prayers, yes I pray to mother God. And when I’m reading Psalms substitute a masculine-- I put a feminine pronoun for a masculine. It, it, it’s so much fun. It’s wonderful. And it, it, it’s, it’s not, it��s not doing any harm. In the Episcopal Church we’re really required to use the prayer book sort of as written. We’re not supposed to take liberties with it. But in your private prayers you can pray any way you want, and you can-- The Juliette of Norwich wrote gloriously about Jesus our mother, and St. Augustine had feminine imagery for God. And so we can too. Many of us are very enamored with the New Zealand prayer book, which is another-- The Episcopal Church is an Anglican church. So is the Church of New Zealand. And it’s prayer book has a wonderful rendition of the Lord’s Prayer in which there’s mother-father God and many other marvelous things. And so I use that in my daily prayer too. And then a wonderful prayer our daughter wrote, which, which, which is a rendition of the Lord’s Prayer, many years ago. And, and it’s so lovely. And it, and it’s couched in feminine imagery and it’s so beautiful. And I treasure the fact that she wrote it. CH: Would-- different, different question, but I think can come right in after this one. Would religion benefit from having God be neither male nor female? Well. God is, sort of, there’s no way to adequately define God, and so, and so I don’t really know what the questions says, because God is neither male nor female or God is all in everything. And both/and continually. Uh huh. Okay. So do you suppose the question meant without gender because I think most of us would agree, theologically God is not male or masculine, but the problem is the language that we’ve all grown up with. God is couched in masculine terms. Father and, and, and Lord and all the masculine pronouns. And has a long, white beard. And has a long, white beard. And, but, but I don’t think theologically most people really-- I don’t think theologians or churches-- Theology is really, thank God, is male. Perhaps a lot of individual persons do, but in that you grow up with the language-- That’s why inclusive language-- is so important. --is so important. It, it, it makes people angry. It’s a real red button that makes people angry quickly. We have, we have always used, when we had permission, newer liturgies and inclusive language liturgies to get people used to hearing something else so that their experience includes more, more options. It’s like a smorgasbord. Not just the language we’ve grown up with, which we’re not advocating throwing out. Now we’re using the term balance, balanced language, and so-- Uh huh. --some of the language is the familiar masculine imagery for God, but then add, add balance by using some other. We have some wonderful new materials which we’ve asked for permission to use, and I’m waiting to hear from the bishop if we, if we can use them. But they have been authorized by the church nationally. CH: Helen, are the three bishops repentant still around? That’s exactly the way the question is phrased. I really believe in accuracy. Helen, dash, are the three bishops repentant still around. I think it’s important * the question * audience *. HH: One, one is deceased, and so-- CH: That’s convenient. HH: --we’ll, we’ll, you know, we’ll have to consult a higher power. And I think the answer probably is no. And that, that’s sort of sad, too. I think the deceased one was repentant. Which was just wonderful. He was very touched that I came to his mother’s funeral. I was just sort of surprised. Why should he-- why should that be so important? But perhaps it showed him a human side of me. Perhaps he saw me as sort of this really scary person who was breaking new ground, and it threatened him. And that I should do such a simple thing as come to his mother’s funeral, just like a normal human being, out of, you know, respect and courtesy. That seemed to touch him and seemed to turn him around. CH: This, this sort of moves to-- This question moves to a slightly different point. Both of you chose to work in established churches, which have patriarchal hierarchies. Did you ever consider moving outside the church for a religious framework, and how do you feel about the women’s spirituality movement which does-- I can’t, I’m sorry, I can’t read this one word. --which does go outside established churches? So when did you consider going outside of them and into-- how do you consider-- how do you feel about the women’s spirituality movement and it’s movement outside? HH: I can answer that somewhat. The questions are all good, and we could spend lots and lots of time on them. But I was happy to be an Episcopalian. I was born a Congregationalist on Martha’s Vineyard, but there weren’t many Congregational churches in Texas. And so I love being an Episcopalian. I think, for me, part of it was I got to know some of the leaders, men and women but especially women, of the women’s ordination movement in the Episcopal Church. And they were such extraordinary people, and it was, it was so thrilling--difficult as it was and awful as it was at times--being in their company. And there were times when I felt so alone in Texas and none of them were here. And I would think, I���m gonna quit, I’m gonna quit. And I’d cry, I’m gonna quit. I can’t do this. And then I’d think, I can’t let them down. Uh huh. HH: I can’t let them down because and then it���ll make it harder for the next woman here because the men will say, See, you know, they just quit, you know. They say they want to do something but then they quit. So, so I think, I think the support that I had here form family and from a close circle of friends and that companionship with that General Convention of Episcopal Church Men in Houston in 1970. And that gave me an opportunity to meet them, and that was an extraordinary opportunity for me, so that I became part of the movement nationally form 1970 on. You had a connection. HH: So there was a connection in, in the sisterhood. And some of the women-- I need to at least mention the Philadelphia ordinations in, in the summer of 19-- 75. --74. Four. Yeah, you’re right. In Philadelphia. You’re right. HH: And then there were eleven women ordained there irregularly because they didn’t have papers and permission, but the three bishops ordained them, and they-- the ordination stuck and were validated later. Next summer there were three more in Washington, DC. And that probably scared people into realizing that these were going to continue. Uh huh. HH: And the church better buckle down, do its homework, and, and pass women’s ordination. Which is what they did in 1976, and I was part of that whole process which was very thrilling. So I think I wanted to see it through in, in, in, in, in this, in, in, in the Episcopal Church, so I didn’t ever seriously consider--in weak moments I did of course--but if there could have been a wonderful country where things would have been better-- CH: Then maybe it would have been okay. Are women in charge of the money decisions within your respective churches? That’s a very interesting question. I think I’ve got that right. On, on, on the local level or, or-- I’m sorry-- --the national level. CH: I think, I think probably either one. You might want to talk on either. Yes, Id’ say. With our church council and the meetings of the congregational meetings we have, of course women are in charge of the money. At the-- locally? AS: Locally in my parish. But I would say differently at the national level. I mean we even have what’s called a commission for women in the ELCA, but that commission is, is not as powerful as a division. We have divisions in the church. And so a commission in the Lutheran Church can be dissolved at any time. So you kind of have a semblance of power. You have what I call all light and no heat. So, you know. Okay. Do you want-- I, I would say that it, it depends on the gifts and talents of women. We’ve had women treasurers of the parish because they’re capable and they can do a, a beautiful job. Again because I believe in people using their gifts that I have encouraged people with gifts in the financial arena to use them. And so I delegate those things to people who do those things, have great skill at doing those things. It means I don’t have to be worried about them, and I’m very comfortable sharing leadership. I have a layman who is in charge of administration in the parish. And he worries about all the employment issues and insurance and on and one and it’s absolutely wonderful. He’s gifted at that and I don’t * to be. We meet together regularly. CH: In deference to your voices and your time, you’ve both been wonderful. We did have one question and I’d like to ask each of you to maybe take two sentences and kind of close our time with it. I think it’s a great question to end on. It says, What kind of activities can white women and women in color-- of color engage in to overcome the barriers between them. AS: I would say constant conversation. We even have had a conversation, was it yesterday. I would like to see a cross section of women go to see the movie Beloved together. And then you know go to dinner and, and let’s talk about that. And I think there’s some wonderful theological things in that movie. But more importantly to break bread and talk with it with another to share our stories and enter one another’s space, because you just can’t go in and say, Let me see, you know. To, to, to really break bread with one another, to share, to build trust, because if the truth be told, women, whether you’re black or white or blue, we really don’t trust one another because, you know, hegemony has told us, well you know, I don’t know about women. You have to watch those creatures there. But we need to interface and do it with some kind of integrity and just be very honest with another about who we are and what we do. CH: Helen. HH: I, I, I agree and I welcome that and I’d like to invite you to come to St. Stephen’s. AS: Well thank you. HH: And preach and be with us on a Sunday morning. AS: Wonderful. HH: We have a wonderful women’s group that meets twice a month. I’d also love to have you come there and talk with us and. I, I’d love to explore those possibilities with you. I think often our lives are so very busy and I think women are particularly prone to not do things that are sort of strictly social. So that often women’s-- women clergy groups don’t get very far because I think there’s no real agenda there. We don’t see the agenda and so we think that’s not a good use of our time. AS: Right. HH: We could be visiting somebody in the hospital, and they don’t but-- So I think that would be a wonderful agenda. AS: I’d love to. And that would * it. We’re gonna do it. We’re gonna do this. CH: As we end, I want to personally thank both of you for coming this evening who came. You came purely based upon my invitation and Elizabeth’s. You didn’t know much except we were going to sit, sit you down and ask you questions. You’ve been incredibly gracious and delightful and just as interesting as I expected you to be. Thank you very much. AS & HH: Thank you very much. Footnote: the two reverends have since exchanged pulpits and met with each other on a number of occasions. Women in the Christian Clergy
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