The United Methodists get this issue right -- finally
Sen. Roger Marshall of Kansas can't be serious, can he?

Things may be getting a bit better for Catholic women

In the Catholic Church, the "women religious" (you may know them as the nuns) have always occupied what many consider an awkward (or maybe liminal) place. They aren't -- and so far can't be -- priests, but neither are they lay people.

Pope-womenAnd even though people inside the church have been working for centuries to elevate the role of women in the church, it's an excruciatingly slow process.

But as this National Catholic Reporter story reports, since Pope Francis took office, things have become decidedly different and better for the women religious.

"It's a different time," said Sr. Marlene Weisenbeck, a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration. She is president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

The NCR story further quotes her this way: "There are new people in the dicasteries, we have a new pope who has led the church on the basis of being close to one another and being transparent. . .It's a different time and the agenda has changed."

It must be gratifying to many Catholic women to know that some progress has been made. But even in other religious traditions in which women are allowed to be ordained as clergy, there still are practices and prejudices that those women continue to struggle to overcome.

To add to this picture, this NCR story describes in more detail how "calls for fuller participation of women in church leadership have been heard throughout the multiyear synod process, beginning with the global consultation process in 2022-23, followed by continental assemblies, then a monthlong summit last October at the Vatican."

Did efforts to keep women subdued and away from the tools of power begin with the metaphorical story of Adam and Eve? Maybe. If so, how foolish to structure our world not on reality but on a story that never happened, at least in the way it's told.

I grew up with three sisters and no brothers. I fathered two daughters and no sons. And in my blended family, only two of our eight grandchildren are male. So I've long had a stake in how females are treated. And in many places today I still see an unlevel playing field.

It would help if all of us could see the world through female eyes. Every time we subject women to pay differentials, to being seen as merely sex objects, to blocking how high they can rise in this or that field (including religion), we denigrate God's creation. So let's give the Catholic Church a small cheer for what its women religious see as progress. But let's not stop there.

(The photo above came from this site, a Global Sisters Report of the National Catholic Reporter. It was published with this caption: "Pope Francis greets Claretian Missionary Sr. Jolanta Kafka, president of the International Union of Superiors General, during a May 5 (2023) audience with participants in the plenary assembly of the union at the Vatican. (CNS/Vatican Media)"

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Yes, the United Methodist Church, as I wrote here recently, has done the right thing by removing its ban on ordaining LGBTQ+ people to be pastors, but as this RNS story notes, there's lots of work ahead for the denomination to accommodate itself to this new, better, more inclusive reality. The story reports this: “Just because you remove language from the Book of Discipline doesn’t mean that your work is over,” said the Rev. James Howell, pastor of Myers Park United Methodist Church in Charlotte, N.C., one of the state’s largest United Methodist churches. “There’s a huge amount of work to do.”

That work includes educating members about the long-running practice of misreading the Bible in a way that the Bible seems to condemn homosexuality. It includes helping both straight and gay pastors know how to relate to each other in ways that diminish no one from any sexual orientation or gender expression. It means explaining what the church got wrong -- and how -- when its Book of Discipline insisted that homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching.” It means making sure that individual churches don't begin to divide up into "straight" or "gay" congregations. And it means seeking forgiveness in a way that doesn't lead to what German Lutheran martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer called "cheap grace." My own denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), has been at this kind of work since 2011. We've made mistakes and we've done some beautiful work. So let's learn from each other.


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