Dear Jordan, Hannah, Amanda, Yuri, Hannah and other young women who grew up in the PCUSA,
Don’t ever take for granted the privilege of being a woman brought up in the Presbyterian Church USA. Like me, you have had a voice in your congregation, in your Presbytery and even at the national level of our denomination since you were confirmed as a full-fledged member of the church. Neither your youth nor your gender has prevented you from being leaders in our church community.
This is not true for all women. Not all (not even most) women raised in the Christian faith have shared your experience.
There are women who are moved to tears when you ask them to be the liturgist in a worship service because they have been led to believe they don’t have the authority to do so.
There are smart, creative and confident women who have to muster up the courage to speak in a meeting where men are also present because they have been taught that their own opinion never trumps that of the men in the room.
There are women who are among the most faithful and effective leaders of a congregation who have pangs of doubt that what they are doing may not be pleasing to God because maybe what they grew up believing about a woman’s place in the church was right after all.
There are women who still have voices of friends and family telling them they have chosen the wrong path by being a actively involved in the leadership and ministry of their congregation.
There are women who have left behind a church who wouldn’t have them, but still desperately miss the tradition in which they were formed.
So be aware that your experience as a woman in the church is the exception and not the norm. Be encouraging to those women you meet who are trying to figure out how to live out their calling in light of the constraints their faith tradition has placed on them. Be loving to those whose experience has caused them to turn away from church altogether. Be an example to those who still believe that a woman’s place is not behind the pulpit or on the session or in the moderator’s seat. And never take for granted the privilege of being raised in a church that values your voice and has helped it (and you) to grow.
Rev. Anne Russ