An Open Letter to The Young Women of the PCUSA

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.

In Christ,


Rev. Anne Russ


6 thoughts on “An Open Letter to The Young Women of the PCUSA”

  1. While I’m deeply disturbed by PCUSA GA; I have absolutely no problem with women in the pulpit or in other leadership roles in the Church. After all, the first evangelist after the Resurrection was a woman, Mary Magdalene.

  2. I appreciated reading this, as I do take my freedom to participate in my faith for granted. I can’t imagine it any other way.

  3. I think it’s wonderful that women raised in the traditions of the PCUSA can do all the things listed in this open letter–that they have this fullness of experience in their faith. But to compare and judge that notion of the fullness of the faith against the way other faith traditions understand that fullness (including women in those faith traditions)–and that that is what this letter does, it compares and judges–is sad. It would have been nice if the author could have celebrated the PCUSA without having to lament (bordering on condemn) others.

    1. I wasn’t trying to condemn any tradition–in fact, I didn’t name any specifically. I did want the young women I’m addressing in the letter to know that many women have had some very negative experiences at church–because of their gender–so that they can be aware and sensitive to that in their own ministry. Naming the experiences of women in my church isn’t being judge-y. It’s just telling the truth.

  4. Women’s inclusion as officers and clergy is the great accomplishment of many women and men who came before us. Presbyterian Women and the founding women, trained, nurtured, supported and were determined that the church know women’s strength, talents, commitment, knowledge and love for the Presbyterian Church and its mission. With Bible study, mission work and support, communication on justice issues and world wide mission efforts, Presbyterian Women is a vital part of women’s participation in the PC(USA). Many officers and clergy were first trained as Presbyterian Women. Were it not for PW, much of the justice work done in the first twenty years of reunion would not be continued. History is always a good way to inform the present and remember those persons who made our advances a reality by working diligently in the past.

  5. Beautiful words, Anne. I’m going to print them and add them to my young daughters’ bibles. Your mother Nancy is dear to me!

    I read this as a proud celebration not a condemnation.
    Thank you!

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