Shattering the Stained Glass Ceiling

Throughout this General Convention, ISSUES has been profiling women leaders – almost all of them young women of color – who offer the vision and skills to assist us to live into our call to radical welcome in this venerable old Church. Many of them have advocated that, charged with spiritual energy by our baptism into Jesus Christ and our renewal and deepening of that baptism in Eucharist, we move outside our church walls and our bonds of familiarity to seek the Holy Spirit at work in those we have not yet met, have not yet even noticed, all around us, and to partner with these new friends to bring healing and wholeness to a broken and unjust world.

We have been profiling these young women in ISSUES precisely because they are the people our church most often overlooks when opportunities for broader or wider leadership open up. As the Episcopal Herald pointed out in “The Stained Glass Ceiling” on June 30th, only 20 women have been ordained bishop in the Episcopal Church since the ground-breaking consecration of Barbara C. Harris in 1989. In the same 26-year period, 233 men have been so ordained, an 11-to-1 ratio, lower than the 10-to-1 ratio of the House of Bishops at the moment – 18 women, only 3 of whom are bishops diocesan, compared with 178 men. In short, we are sliding backward. A myriad of gender disparities – in salaries; in the level of resources in the parishes calling women to leadership; in the calling of cathedral deans and cardinal rectors, among them - underlie this highly visible failure of imagination. They are disparaging to women in general and are worse for women of color.

This is a tragedy, and not just for the women who are being overlooked. It is a tragedy for our Church, a church that is being called out of “business as usual” into a brave new world filled with people of many faiths and no faith at all, a world desperately in need of the theologically hospitable spaciousness of the Episcopal Church. A world in need of a church with our high valuing of the power of the Incarnation in each and every human being; our sense of the sacramental nature of Creation, disclosing God’s goodness to all who have eyes to see; and our prizing of the Spirit’s creative movement, continuing to do new things calls us to live more fully into God’s Kingdom, God’s Commonwealth of shalom.

- The Rev. Holly Lyman Antolini


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