From Arise, by Mariam Youssef is a community organizer for gender justice in Coptic-American communities. She is currently a doctoral student at Claremont Graduate University in women’s studies in religion. Mariam also serves as the vice president of the Southern California chapter of The Brotherhood of St. Moses the Black, an organization that focuses on social justice and racial reconciliation in Orthodox Christian communities. She hosts a monthly podcast called On Social Justice, engaging biblical and patristic Christian texts and thought in discussions on social justice issues.
Mariam will be speaking on women of color creating safe spaces at their churches at CBE’s 2015 LA Conference.
Women of color enter our churches with the burden of being both invisible and exoticized. It would be tragic if our church communities were responsible for perpetuating this experience instead of offering healing and acceptance. Moving forward, we must be conscious that we can interact with women of color in ways that reflect their full dignity and humanity in the church.
We must make space for women of color to be seen and heard in the church. We need to be given equal opportunities to occupy positions of leadership. Our voices cannot be silenced. Church leadership should proactively seek us out. For many of us, after decades of feeling invisible, we are afraid to speak out on our own unless the platform is opened for us. Our churches must make serious efforts to mentor and disciple women of color with leadership gifts and to offer repentance for the ways women of color have been made invisible in the past.
If all or most of the teachings from the pulpit reflect a white male experience, where are women of color made to feel like they belong? If women of color are included or represented, we need to be aware of how this is done. Consider the ways that your church talks about and presents images of women of color. If they are treated as other, exotic beings, this needs to be reconsidered.
Significant positive changes have been made over the last few decades to bring white women into church leadership. We are thrilled and grateful for the progress of our sisters. However, this progress has not extended equally to women of color, as we continue to be ignored and exoticized in our church communities. We pray that churches around the world would truly recognize women of color in their congregations as full members of the body of Christ, made in his image, equal to serve.