Our Voices: “Little Lady”

This summer, I’ll be sharing a series of short personal stories from the Our Voices, Our Stories booklet published by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Justice for Women program.  It is available in full on the program’s website, and is described thus:

“Rooted in the gospel, truth-telling is a part of all social change, no less so when confronting patriarchy and sexism.  This booklet of true stories, written by a variety of people across the ELCA, serves to encourage listening and dialogue about tough realities surrounding gender.”

 Here is this week’s story, contributed by an author who chose to remain anonymous:

I wish I could tell you who I am because telling the truth is important. But as you’ll see from my story, you can’t ignore power and politics.

At a congregation council meeting early in my call as an associate pastor, parishioners came to raise their concerns over being a Reconciling in Christ congregation and allowing PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Gays and Lesbians) to meet in the church building. The members who came to the council meeting were upset, saying that we were promoting homosexuality. They were very angry and vocal and the council allowed them to say whatever they wanted.

I couldn’t remain silent anymore when one of them, a retired white man, expressed his “tolerance” by saying, “I will sit next to ‘one of them’ just like I’ll sit next to a nigger.”

I stood up and said, “You cannot use language like that in the church. You are welcome to your opinions, but your language is unacceptable. You’ll need to leave if you cannot keep your comments appropriate.”

He told me, “You need to sit down, little lady. I can say whatever I want.”

No one in the room came to my defense.

I sat down because there was nothing else I could do.

And I learned early on about power and the church and my place, as well as that of my silenced sisters and brothers.

The invitation stands to allow these stories to spark conversation and more truth-telling:

“It is the hope of the Justice for Women program that you will be able to use these stories to educate yourself and others—and to add to them.  Only by naming and looking at the problems of sexism and patriarchy are we in a place to begin to understand them.”

For more stories and the full booklet, stay tuned to this blog, or click here.

 

About Caryn Riswold

Caryn D. Riswold is a feminist theologian in the Lutheran tradition. She is Professor of Religion and Chair of Gender and Women’s Studies at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois, where she has worked for over a decade teaching undergraduates to think critically and creatively about religion. She earned her Ph.D. and Th.M. from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, holds a master’s degree from the Claremont School of Theology, and received her B.A. from Augustana College in her childhood hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.


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