I've just returned home from a wonderful celebration in Hanford, Ca with the people of th Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. This was a momentous occasion because the bishop of the diocese recently encouraged and coerced the diocese to vote to join the Anglican province of the Southern Cone, because he believes the Episcopal church has gone astray in ordaining women and gays and lesbians. It's been an ugly situation but light is being shone on it and a new, healthier church is being built in San Joaquin. I am so privileged to be a part of it.
Since I'm new here, I haven't had to struggle under the bishop's leadership as so many have. He did tell me, when I met with him and requested a license to serve here as the canons require, that he would not allow me to serve as a priest in this diocese because I am a woman. But today I got to! It's odd that this is an exciting thing, that in 2008 my gender would still matter so much that it's significant that I was allowed to serve publicly as a priest today.
But patriarchy is alive and well. This is just my story about it. There are so many more people - women AND men, straight and gay, black and white, of every economic class - that are not allowed to be who they feel called to be because they are a threat to those with power OVER others. That's what patriarchy is about. Throughout history its often been men exerting power over others, but certainly women participate in patriarchy, too. It's not about the gender of the person holding power, but about how a person uses authority and power. Is it a weapon used to manipulate others? Is it used to make someone feel better than others, or to make up for a feeling of inadequacy? Is it internalized so that someone loses sense of even one's own value?
Patriarchy exists in all of our societies and in all of our religions. Many are working to undermine it, and today's celebration was a move in that direction. But let us not think that somehow we've overcome patriarchy. We have all learned its lessons too well. May we struggle to embrace the commands to love one another, to practice compassion for all living things, to spread shalom and salaam. May we all be willing to relinquish power over others so that we can all enjoy the true freedom of equality and dignity.