Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Bishop Eaton's Election - cheers go up!

I love Mark Hanson, the former presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  Every time I've heard him or seen him, I've been amazed by his pastoral presence.  He is kind, faithful, generous with his time, dedicated to the church and a spiritually attuned preacher.  He has led the ELCA through stormy waters.

Because of his myriad qualifications and gifts, I assumed he would be re-elected, so when a friend posted on her FB page that there was a women in the running for Presiding Bishop, I did what I usually do:

Math 

This is something most women pastors I know do (it seems as if most groups who represent a minority in leadership do this same thing).

Out of 65 local bishops, only 9 are women.  That's less than 15%, and that's after 40+ years of ordaining women.   I didn't think there was reason to cheer when one finally made it into serious contention.

Well, a woman just got elected.  Our new presiding bishop is The Rev. Elizabeth Eaton. (Incidentally, she wasn't the woman in contention yesterday. Church elections aren't like governmental elections).

With the news, my phone screen filled with exuberant texts from female clergy friends.

These cheers have nothing to do with our respect for Bishop Hanson. These same friends love and honor his gifts, as do all the pastors I know.  He has been the right leader for these past twelve years.

Still, we cheer. We cheer because clearly, Bishop Eaton also has great gifts.  We cheer because we trust that Bishop Eaton will be the right leader for the future and we cheer because her gender did not disqualify her.  These cheers have everything to do with knowing just how hard it is for a female leader in the church to survive, much less thrive.

There's some social media chatter that she was elected because she was a woman and so those who cheer for her are sexist.  To those folks, I ask that you keep in mind that in most of the world's religions, women can't serve as clergy/leaders; in other words: being female is an automatic disqualification. When the last Pope was elected, the only qualification was that he be male.  He didn't even need to have already been baptized, as long as he was willing to be baptized and then ordained.

We didn't elect a pope; but we did the equivalent for our relatively tiny church - the ELCA.  This election indicates that the stained glass ceiling really is cracking. I love Bishop Hanson, and I join my voice to the chorus of cheers for Bishop Eaton. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Words for the week: all kinds of greed.


I spent last week at a workshop called "writing pastors, working pastors." It was at the Collegeville Institute at St. John's University - a community I highly recommend.  Twelve pastors and three facilitators were there for a week of writing, critiquing, and sharing our love for language. 

I went into the week feeling insecure about my writing which, in turn made me feel competitive.  We each wrote a piece for the workshop which was distributed ahead of time.  I am embarrassed to admit that as I read the essays, I had a bit of a "survivor" attitude.  I sized up the other writers and tried to assess their merits relative to my own.   I didn't want to come away with a book deal.  I just didn't want to be kicked off the island. 

In the mornings we met to discuss questions like: why write? why not write? who are we writing for?  how do we write revealing and embarrassing stories about our family members without them being angry with us? (that last question was easy: don't.) 

In the afternoons, we lovingly critiqued eachother's writing.  I was initially terrified by the word "critique" but over the course of the week, this became my favorite part.  We encouraged one another even as we pointed out how we could each improve.  There was no competition, only graceful nurture and respect.

The facilitators helped us see that each of us has a unique voice.  They ended the week by encouraging us to be generous with each other.  “There’s room for you all” said one, “help each other out.”   I began the week with 12 competitors; I ended the week with 12  cheerleaders.

That experience became the basis of my sermon last week.  The gospel was Luke 12:13-21 where Jesus says "be on guard for all kinds of greed."

There’s more than just financial greed.  In my case, I struggle against the greed for praise. There’s also greed for attention; for job promotion; for the quality of relationships you see others have; for spiritual insight; for another person’s abilities etc etc etc.  And the crazy thing is that greed and its companions – jealousy and insecurity– appear in our lives even when we have plenty.    

That's why the community at Collegeville was such a grace.  Because of the abundance of love, nurture, and encouragement, my greed was replaced with generosity.  

Thanks y'all! - Sarah

AND, the treat of the poem of the week from C.R., Peace Lutheran's resident poem-hound: 

Hyacinths, by James Terry White

If thou of fortune be bereft,
And in thy store there be but left
Two loaves-- sell one, and with the dole
Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.