In the June 28 issue of Time, David Van Biema writes four sharp mini-profiles of women in “tall-steeple” ministries. Women’s ordination remains a volatile issue in many denominations, fraught with feminists’ charges of discrimination and traditionalists’ charges of compromising the faith.
Van Biema gives sympathetic hearings to Bishop Vashti McKenzie of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, who says women must be better than men if they wish to advance, and to PCUSA Moderator Susan Andrews, who expresses no doubt that she can “do the organizational part of ministry as well as, if not better than, men.”
But his most interesting profile is of the Rev. Carol Anderson, rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Beverly Hills, Calif. — not because she’s an Episcopalian, but because she’s the least predictably ambitious in her focus:
“A woman who really has a passion about doing ministry and doesn’t have an ax to grind,” she says, “can get a decent job.”
Van Biema’s profile hints at another fascinating aspect of Anderson’s ministry: she is liberal on homosexuality but otherwise preaches a Reformed theology that many male Episcopal priests would dismiss as fundamentalist. All Saints was the first Episcopal congregation I know of to adapt the Alpha Course for gay seekers.
In her early-career memoir A Priest Forever, radical theologian Carter Heyward once wrote about how she and Anderson would joke about the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church” as a myth. They’ve followed very different paths since then.