When I am Ordained, I Shall Wear Purple

From Fulcrum:
When I am Ordained, I shall wear Purple

by Mia Smith

With acknowledgement to Jenny Joseph’s original poem

When I am ordained, I shall wear purple
with killer heels and bright red lipstick
And I shall go round preaching from the Bible

…The liberating truth that Jesus calls women
and tell those who say otherwise that it is they,
not I, who are bad theologians.I shall sit down with fellow clergy
when we are tired of fighting for equality
and going the extra mile with grace when we are put down,
And we will make up for it:
by encouraging one another as Scripture says,
and praying for those who abuse us,
and rejoicing that we are suffering
(but just a little bit) for Jesus,
And we might even eat some chocolate.I will adopt the ordination name “Junia”,
and remind those who object,
that there may be a boy named Sue somewhere in the world,
but there probably isn’t.

But now we must face the world,
Who think we are traitors to our sex
For working for the Church
And face our brothers and sisters who think
We are being unbiblical
And face those in our Churches
who have failed to notice the pain this week has brought.
And we will go in the strength of Christ.
We will not turn our backs on our calling
Because God is not finished with the Church,
And He is faithful.But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am ordained, and start to wear purple.

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  • Thank you! Made me smile. Been in ministry 22 years and not yet ordained.

  • NC

    I hope this is a bad joke. Is she implying that the persecutors and abusers from Matthew 5:11 = opponents of women’s ordination? That’s sick!

  • Sue

    That some of those mentioned in Matt 5 are those who persecute women who are trying to obey their Lord who called them to preach the word? What’s sick about that? Those who condemned Jesus to death thought they were obeying scripture, too.

  • Fr. Gregory Crosthwait

    This is a depressing piece of evidence of the quality of this debate.

    Ordination isn’t about rights. It’s about self-sacrifice.

    I’m sad it’s been a hard week for some. I really am. But if that writing really reflects the outlook of its author . . . nevermind . . . I have my own problems. God help us all.

    May all the baptized know the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings. May some of the baptized–those who are called and ordained into holy orders–preach Christ, him crucified, and faithfully administer his holy sacraments. And may those consecrated Bishop guard and defend the faith of the undivided Church with the “some” in holy orders, for all the baptized, so the one Lord Jesus can be known and loved.

    Jesus mercy. Mary pray.

  • I love this, thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • Gloria

    Lovely poem. Father Gregory, your theologizing this poem is rather annoying. Easy for you to say that ordination isn’t about rights when you have the right for ordination.
    Thanks for posting this beautiful poem.

  • Fr. Gregory Crosthwait

    Gloria, nobody has the right to ordination, male or female. I didn’t and don’t intend to annoy. It’s been a long day. I’m out.
    Grace and peace.

  • scotmcknight

    Fr. Gregory, long day it may be … but you entered the conversation with a barb so you can expect some response. The issue of “rights” is a tricky one since there is a sense in which women have no rights/opportunities for ordination because some read the Bible that way and there is a church tradition on that score. Men, on the other hand, qualify for the first consideration because only males can qualify. I have never thought “rights” is the best way to frame this conversation, but we need to be careful how we talk about “rights” here when the person of power and privilege, and here I’m only talking of being males, renders judgment and makes decisions about females and uses language about it not being about rights.

    I have gone on record, in my Blue Parakeet, that this is an issue of calling and giftedness and not rights, but genderedness enters (and therefore a kind of rights) when some say no woman can have that calling or gift.

  • SteveSherwood

    It is easy for those of us who have rights and opportunities (including myself) to see things as others selfishly grabbing for power or rights. What about those who have for centuries felt called, but have been blocked from responding? I liked it a great deal. More gracious than I’d be in the same shoes.

  • great piece, great response Scot, Father I also understand your concerns as well, I have my own issues as well, they are primarily with my self. I am divorced and remarried. I had a difficult time earlier in my life and experienced some deep hurt and failures as well. I am a member of the UMC which believes that grace and calling are extended to us sometimes in spite of our past. Re women and ordination; there is neither male nor female in Christ. God bless for the post and God’s peace to you all as we walk this journey together…..

  • Erin

    Thanks for posting this, it made my day too. I wore bright purple when I presented a paper at ETS last week to reflect a similar sentiment!

  • Okay, then, I’m back in.

    In Protestant fellowships, as far I’m concerned, a woman can hold any office: Sr. Pastor, Lead Pastor, Elder, Deacon.

    Once the claim is made with respect to continuity with Catholic orders, then I believe the priesthood and episcopacy are restricted to males.

    My preferred approach is in an article by Kallistos Ware entitled, “Man, Woman, and the Priesthood of Christ” (don’t know the policy about posting links here, so I won’t). I find the sub-section entitled “Royal Priesthood and Ministerial Priesthood” of particular interest.

    I paid a price in my former jurisdiction (TEC) for holding to a traditional view of the ministerial priesthood. So I’m impatient with the idea that only one side is paying a price in this season. In fact, the current measure failed in the Church of England, in part, from liberals voting against it because there were insufficient protections for the traditionalist minorities (catholic and evangelical). I think both sides are losing because the issue is devolving to power politics.

    Scot, I dearly wish this issue didn’t involve power and privilege. Thank you, though, for helping me with a blind spot. I suppose that’s a mess that has been thoroughly made over the years and that largely by men. I’ll learn to speak more carefully.

    If I have a correct (or incorrect) theology of holy orders but have not love, I am nothing.

  • Jerry

    Scot, I have been in ordained ministry for 22 years and have always advocated for women in ministry even opening the pulpit to women when other colleagues would not. I agree with your position. BUT, I do agree somewhat with Fr Gregory about the tone of the debate and his comment that no one has a right to ordination. And you are correct that it should be about calling, gifts and graces (and I should add recognition of those by the church. Sadly, this poem seems to be written out of anger and bitterness, understandable, but bitterness nevertheless. So the C of E rejected women bishops (for now). Goodness, they are still far ahead of most evangelicals.

  • StephL

    If this conversation (in the comments) is to center on the concept of rights, it is just as easy to frame the ones voting “nay” as being too focused on rights … The right not to have the church impose something on them that offends their conscience.

    To want to see others treated justly is not a bad thing … To pursue “rights” … rather than wrongs. It’s a matter of which rights…. And few if any of us can keep the rights of both parties in perfect balance. Our heart goes out in large part to one side or the other, without being calloused to what it means for the other side.

    I liked the poem. I am guessing the tone might be better understood by looking at the original poem that inspired this one … about a woman becoming old and wearing a red hat, no? Haven’t looked it up, but if i am correct about the original poem, there is a note of defiance in it–against age and conventions of beauty for women–appropriate defiance that hints at an inborn identity that cannot be ruled over by others. Again, I like what this poet has done here.

    Particularly in the last stanza. It is helpful in seeing what women who want to be ordained (I am not one) experience, what they live, what emotions they feel … Faced with the world’s reaction and the reaction within the church, both from those who oppose them and those who ignore them.

    A poem is a good way to explore individual and collective experience.

    Perhaps the other side ought to answer with a poem too? 🙂

  • NC

    The people who are taking the most abuse in this case are those in the C of E who have tried to obey their Lord and (misguidedly or not, and for many different reasons) decided to vote no to the measure set before Synod. And this “poem” is heaping on the abuse. Fulcrum, the source of this text, is a forum for up-beat evangelicals who sadly seem to see it as one of their main task to prove their trendiness by disparaging their more traditional brothers (and sisters!). Aren’t there more important tasks in the mission of God?

  • K joy

    Awesome poem! Thanks.
    One thing…I find it interesting that many times when women write or speak out with heart about issues, some will critique it as her being “angry” or “bitter”. UGH!!

  • Roy

    What a great poem of lament. I love the raw honesty of anger and bitterness. It’s real. But there is also strength and hopefulness.

  • metanoia

    In June of 1980, I was “ordained” as a minister. This after a licensing period of 3 years. 6 months later I tore up my certificate of ordination and commenced being pastor to two wonderful churches for over 30 years unrestrained by denominational boundaries. I have had the privilege of serving alongside gifted men and women with a number of them being members of my staff. Each was recognized for his or her giftings, grace and more than anything else their humility to serve. The preoccupation with being “recognized” by men, denominations, and churches has created an unnecessary adversarial environment. There is plenty of room and places for serving the Lord without imposing on denominational constraints. Just find a place where you can exercise your gifts and talents and be content with knowing that your calling is recognized by God and the ones who respond to your call. Want to be a bishop? Go ahead and plant about 8-10 churches and oversee them as the office requires. IMHO There is no need to join a good old boys club, even if it is to make a point.

  • Sherlock Holmes

    Metanoia, my friend, may I offer you another perspective? When you faced the same thing, you made a choice to leave. These women simply made a decision to stay, and to try again. “Unnecessary” is a bit judgmental, don’t you think? After all, they seem to be trying to help the body of Christ, be the body of Christ, where they are called (just like you did).

    What the issue has become and yes, how it has been handled, communicates poorly to women who are not Christians. Labeling this poem “angry” and “bitter” when it is not meant to be so, for example, does not help the conversation with them either. It’s from a place of extreme pain, yes and I have no idea about the website it came from, but it’s a poem. It’s supposed to express some angst! It would rather be useless to others if it didn’t have something in it that people identify with–that’s the point of a poem.

    SO if you’re newer to poetry and understanding this woman, here’s some help as to why this is not likely an angry, bitter, burn down the gates tirade. First, it expresses what a lot of women feel. A hope that one day they will be recognized as women–not women trying to be like men, but just women. How God created them with calling and gifts that weren’t exactly their choice to embody to begin with. Second, it expresses that angst rather mildly but highlights the struggle between that angst and offering grace. Some might miss that the poem describes legitimacy, identity, and acceptance. Third, and perhaps why some miss what the poem describes, is that men usually don’t care about lipstick or their wardrobe choices–that’s the clue! Educated women don’t usually speak of such things at the fear of being stereotyped. If she wanted to be harsh and condemning, she would not have softened her image by using such feminine visualizations. This is no rant–it’s a cry for recognition and legitimacy.

    I could be wrong of course.

  • metanoia

    Sherlock Holmes, my friend, why beat your head against a wall when there is another legitimate alternative? My use of the word “unnecessary” cuts both ways. The men of the church as well as the women have created an unnecessary adversarial relationship. Let’s assume that the women in the Anglican church got their way. The history of these types of protestations reveal that whatever is gained is balanced by a loss. You often end up with two lesser effective groups of the same historical root, each claiming that they are the faithful ones to scripture and tradition.
    My point is that the energy expended to fight an “unnecessary” battle can best be expended fulfilling the call. Is our commitment to the denomination, or to the Gospel? I say to these women, “Take charge of your own destiny and be released from your yoke of bondage!” There are plenty of groups, similar in tradition, who will gladly welcome you.

  • StephL

    There are two adversarial positions, but there are also 2/3 majorities (or almost a 2/3 majority in one of the three houses), for women. A majority, a large one! I suspect that if several female leaders said, “All right then, we’re moving on; we are not waiting another three years for the next vote,” it would seem rude and angry, dismissive of the minority who voted against the measure, retaliatory maybe, and I think many more would follow these female leaders out of the church than would leave/will leave when the measure eventually passes. That is what the numbers say to me.

    Precisely what you wanted to avoid, metanoia.

    It is also worth noting that when a vote concerns gender, of which there are two, it is a huge issue for humanity, the people in the churches, divided into male and female. It is as big of an issue to wrap our minds around as another dichotomy: Jew versus Gentile. It was a costly and hurtful thing for the early church to deal with, very divisive, but I am glad they faced it, argued about it, wrote about it so that we have the scriptures we have. And a two thirds majority requirement is very considerate of the minority, contrasted with the slim majority with which many political elections are decided.

  • StephL

    So… Paul didn’t shy away from staking out a position in a divisive issue with two sides to it …. And while I am aware he is criticized for distancing the Christian faith from its Jewish roots too much, while he was alive, he seemed to fight pretty hard for Christian unity too.

    This vote was twelve years in the making and the issue has been discussed for decades. The Church of England accepted a decision that came down to a handful of people in one of the houses voting nay. And they set up their church governance to work that way, to require a two thirds majority in three houses. They show a desire to preserve unity. I think they have done very well and have behaved admirably … In the broad strokes. (I don’t know all the details.)

    I think there is really only one point where the poem, back to the topic, deserves any of the criticism it has received. There is one point where you hear echoes of a conversation: you have bad theology, no you do, no you do, etc.

    But then again, to say that you disagree with someone’s position usually means you think they are wrong, thinking incorrectly. It’s just a bit insulting to phrase it as “bad theology,” although it is honest.

  • metanoia

    StephL: To juxtapose the gender issue with the ethnic issue in my mind is not equivalent. No one is shutting out women’s access to salvation. The Body of Christ is much bigger than the Anglican church. Women have made great strides in securing access and acceptance in other streams of the church. I just don’t see why anyone would want to force themselves into acceptance when that acceptance is already available. But they are certainly free to engage in the “battle” for as long as they want. I would prefer to use my energy in spreading the influence of the kingdom and in doing so can easily show “new converts” that there is neither male/female, free/slave, rich/poor in the Gospel.