In a world in which most religions begin with God the Father or some sort of male image of the divine, and are founded by male figures such as Moses, Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad, do we undervalue Motherhood or the role of women in faith?
I grew up in a home where there was definitely a preferred way of interpreting scripture and a real prejudice toward those who did not believe like “we believe”. One of the stickiest issues in my upbringing was the role of women – in the church and in the home. Looking back to my childhood in the fifties, it was clear that growing up in my household meant women were subservient. That understanding was generational and came out of the patriarchal manner that scripture was interpreted in my parents’ and my paternal grandparents’ church of choice. It was a pretty oppressive way to grow up. Needless to say, a lot changed for me as I began to question the way theology was embodied in my family of origin. I was fortunate to have three Catholic families in my life who helped me begin to grasp the theological role that Mary plays in the Catholic church as a willing servant to God – willing to bear the purposes of God.
I was fortunate, as an adult, to find my way to a PC(USA) church – the church of my mother’s family. It has been Presbyterians who taught me about grace. It was my Presbyterian church that called a female minister, Rev. Louise Lawson, to lead us in worship and discipleship. And most important, it was the women of Germantown Presbyterian Church who expressed to me that they believed I was called to be a Minister of Word and Sacrament. Presbyterian women formed me theologically and made visible my call to serve God with my gifts. It was a woman. Dr. Mitzi Minor, who taught me Greek and helped me interpret the Apostle Paul’s words about women.
And it has been men and women in the denomination I cherish and have made vows to, The Presbyterian Church (USA), who have confirmed my call to ministry, to leadership and to service to God and God’s people. There are many stories of women in the Bible that I now understand through the lens of biblical criticism in socio-historical, rhetorical, literary, theological and hermeneutical contexts. Women played an enormous role in leadership and discipleship in the patriarchal era in which the biblical writings were first recorded. And in this present day, faithful women in the Presbyterian Church have been midwives to the call of God in my life.
My patriarchal father never did think that it was right for me to be a female minister. He never once heard me preach. But I will always remember, with great delight, that he cried tears of pride and joy the day I was ordained as Minister of Word and Sacrament.