For some reason, growing up I was never bothered by the fact that our pastors were always male. And the ushers. And the elders. For some reason, that just seemed, well, normal. And natural. It was just how things were, and I never even thought of them being any other way.
I began belief hopping when I realized that I had too much respect for my own ability to think and reason and come to conclusions to simply sublimate all of that and obey my father. I couldn’t do it. Suddenly, I couldn’t let my father choose my beliefs or my faith or my spouse. And so my journey out of patriarchy started not with the gender of the pastor or the ushers or the elders, but with me.
When I became Catholic, it only seemed normal to me that priests were all male. Why would they not be? Even as I came to adopt the label “feminist” the fact that priests were universally male didn’t bother me. Because, well, that still felt normal. And shortly thereafter I left Catholicism, and since then I haven’t really thought about the gender of the clergy, or of ushers or elders.
But the last time I visited my parents, something changed. I went to church with them as I usually do, just out of respect, and when the ushers came up to distribute communion it suddenly felt all wrong. I looked at the eight or so well-dressed men, and my stomach turned over. And for some reason, this felt like a milestone.
The patriarchal gender order, both in the family and in the church, may have been normal for me as a child, but I have now been living in the mainstream world and embracing feminism for long enough that that gender order no longer seems “normal.”Instead, it makes my stomach turn over.
And now I get it. I get the anger feminist Christians feel as they are told by male Christian leader after male Christian leader that their role is to follow.
As I watched the ushers I felt distinctly that something was missing. The women. I looked at the ushers and felt invisible because I did not see myself there. And suddenly I knew what egalitarian evangelical women feel as they listen to male pastor after male pastor and what egalitarian Catholic women feel when they see male priest after male priest cycle in and out of their parishes.
It was something that, for whatever reason, I hadn’t felt before.
But now I do.
And I’m glad that I do, because now I feel that I can truly stand in spirit alongside my feminist sisters of whatever denomination and truly from the bottom of my heart wish them luck as they seek to bring gender equality to a religion that has for so long been patriocentric.