One Eye Shut: On the Need for Women’s Voices

Catholic How engaged in a fascinating exchange with the Reverend Laura Everett, the Executive  Director of the MA Council of Churches, last evening on Twitter.

The topic centered around this event:

“The ERLC Leadership Summit will address the gospel and human sexuality to equip pastors and church leaders to speak to these critical issues in their own congregations. This event will be held April 21-23, 2014, at the Southern Baptist Convention building in Nashville, TN.”

You can find the speakers here. Two of the twenty-five are women.

Here is an excerpt of our conversation:

We asked @RevEverett if the invited women ought boycott the event; she responded:

I don’t mean the rest of this post to be about the Southern Baptist Convention or their Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.  What I do mean for the rest of this post to what Catholics can find instructive about @RevEverett’s words and the situation of the Church in contemporary America.

Compare the above with what John Allen reported on Saturday in the Boston Globe:

The lineup for the new Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors also includes Irish laywoman Marie Collins, who has said she was raped at the age of 13 by a hospital chaplain. When she tried to report the abuse years later, she said, she was told by church officials that “protecting the good name” of the priest was more important than remedying a “historical” wrong.


The pope tapped three clergy and five laity, including four women. The panel’s members come from eight countries, with seven from Europe or the United States.

My point in bringing this up admits that there are many inside the Church who express dissatisfaction with the roles of women therein.  There are also many who express this dissatisfaction from a place outside the Church.

Despite these two caveats, it appears to me to be incumbent upon Christian leadership to create opportunities for the inclusion of women in theological, pastoral, and practical conversations.  Such efforts will take time and energy, but the fruits will be great.  This means actively seeking women to present on pastoral topics and teach theology; it also means creating situations in parishes where women can break open the Word of God with their brothers and sisters; furthermore, it suggests that those who possess the ability to make these things happen ought to do so.

Let me make this perfectly clear: the reason for my proposing this is not to institute some type of ordination consolation prize, or as a stop along the way to some type of doctrinal change: the reason is much deeper.  The moral failure to hear – or, more practically, create situations, for women to speak – the voices of women impoverishes the Church as a whole and weakens its evangelical witness.  It’s as impractical as walking around with one eye shut: you’re going to keep bumping into things for no good reason.

And men, quite frankly, need to insist upon the creation of these situations.  Pope Francis has given no indication of changing the stances of his predecessors regarding the ordination of women to the priesthood; he has, however, in his appointments of women to the new commission regarding the protection of minors, seize an opportunity to include women in our conversations.  While this model of theology may not (nay, will not) satisfy many women and men, Francis does provide here a model of conversation that is sorely needed.

There are many opportunities which exist on a regular basis to engage in incisive pastoral conversations.  The only way this will happen, however, is for those who inhabit the majority (in this case, men) to insist on the balance of the parties involved in the conversation.



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