Equity Live 2!

The second “Equity Live” features Rev. Dr. Alfie Wines, who initiated events on the theme “I Wish Someone Had Told Me: Women Gifted and Called to Ministry and the People Who Love Them.” Starting with these events and her blog article on the Equity for Women in the Church website, she developed a book titled I Wish Someone Had Told Me: Equity for Women in the Church, scheduled for publication this year. The book, with Dr. Wines as editor, will include chapters by clergywomen and clergymen, seminary and university professors, and family members of clergywomen.

In this second “Equity Live” Rev. Dr. Irie Lynne Session interviews Rev. Dr. Alfie Wines about her participation on the board of Equity for Women in the Church, about the Equity book project, about the difference between “equality” and “equity,” and other issues related to gender and racial justice. In this illuminating conversation Dr. Wines, a Hebrew Bible scholar and pastor, stresses the importance of responsible biblical interpretation to gender equity and justice. She illustrates by correcting misinterpretations of the first three chapters of Genesis and demonstrating that God’s original intent in creation was the equality of female and male.

Equity for Women in the Church partners with The Gathering, A Womanist Church in creating “Equity Live” with a mission of dismantling the interlocking injustices of sexism and racism that impede clergywomen. Equity for Women in the Church is an ecumenical movement to facilitate equal representation of clergywomen as pastors of multicultural churches in order to transform church and society. The Gathering’s social justice priorities are racial equity, dismantling PMS (patriarchy, misogyny, and sexism), and LGBTQ equality.

Although the number of women in theological education has increased to almost 40%, only about 10% of pastors of all Protestant churches are women. The percentage of women of color who find places to fulfill their call to pastor is much lower. In many denominations the percentage of women pastors of all ethnicities is lower than 1%. The average compensation of female pastors is much lower than that of male pastors, although clergywomen are more likely to have seminary degrees. A recent article in Christianity Today reports that the average salaries and benefits of female pastors are 27% lower than that of male pastors, although three-fourths of female pastors have seminary degrees and only a little over half of male pastors hold seminary degrees. “Equity Live” addresses these inequities, bringing change through the power of diverse voices advocating for women in ministry. “Equity Live” will contribute to gender and racial equity in church and society.

You’re invited to support Equity Live.

Many people would like to believe that we live in a post-sexist world because of the strides that have been made toward gender equity. Unfortunately, we know that gender inequity is still prevalent in every sector of our society, and often unashamedly in the church.

The #MeToo movement that raised widespread awareness of the prevalence of sexual abuse and violence empowered women to break their silence about the abuse they have suffered in churches. #ChurchToo stories are a powerful reminder that sexual abuse isn’t limited to Hollywood.

Male dominance in the leadership and language of churches forms the foundation for this abuse of women. When males are given God-like status, they are more likely to feel entitled to do whatever they like and females not to question their authority.

Despite advances that have been made over the past decades, there are still alarming numbers of people who have only experienced male pastors and religious leaders because of the erroneous teaching that the Bible mandates that women should not and cannot serve as church leaders. Females experience prejudice and discrimination in churches through the theology, language, and practices. Congregants are trained and ingrained in patriarchal understandings of the Bible, misogynist views of biblical passages, and distorted theologies that promote the relegation of women in the church and the larger society. Often congregants learn in Sunday school and sermons only about male biblical characters who are revered as God’s chosen ones, while females sit on the sidelines of the stories. They are taught about a male God who sent a male Savior who called male disciples. So in the minds of many, images of the clergy and leadership are exclusively male. For this reason, churches are frequently male-centered, male-dominated, and male-privileged in their practices even though females consistently make up the majority of church members. A recent Stanford University study demonstrates that images of God have impact beyond churches. The pervasive depiction of God as a white male leads people to believe that white males should be leaders in all sectors of society. “Equity Live” works toward gender equality in church and society.

Often because of the church’s culture, the vocation of ministry is not even a consideration for females. When they do express their calling to serve in leadership positions, many are told that they are only allowed to serve as missionaries, teachers, or children’s assistants but never over a man. Women and girls are informed that they can work in the kitchen, but not in ministry. It is permissible for them to dust the pulpit, but not stand in it. They are allowed to clean the robes, but never wear one. It’s fine for them to prepare and serve meals, but never behind the Communion table. “Equity Live” addresses these inequities in order to effect change on an individual and systemic level.

“Equity Live” conversations will include “Calling in the Key of She,” a program of Equity for Women in the Church, created by board member Rev. Andrea Clark, that provides churches with resources to develop and maintain “female-friendly” congregations who live out their beliefs that God equally loves, calls, values, affirms, and embraces the gifts of all females in the church. “Calling in the Key of She” guides congregations to work toward justice and equality for women and girls, and in so doing to transform everyone. The goal is to move beyond imagining to working to create equitable congregations in order to create a more just world.

Please join our ministry of transforming church and society. Your tax deductible donations go to the 501(c)3 nonprofit Equity for Women in the Church, Inc.

Donate to “Equity Live”!

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MLK Day Worship Services: Where Are the Women Preachers and Leaders?

Rev. Dr. Irie Lynne Session

Today at the Dallas citywide Dr. Martin Luther King Day worship service, there were no women preachers. There are many outstanding Black women preachers in Dallas, but not one was included in the service. In most of the MLK services I’ve attended, I’ve noticed this absence. Around the country today in MLK worship services, others are asking, “Where are the women?”

Rev. Dr. Irie Lynne Session, co-pastor of The Gathering, A Womanist Church and board member of Equity for Women in the Church, not only noticed this exclusion, but she became the change she wanted to see. In addition to calling out the problem, she became part of the solution. Nevertheless, she preached! She often says, “If they won’t give you a seat at the table, create your own table.” Today she did just that. On short notice, she gathered a group at Central Christian Church, and she preached a powerful sermon.

Rev. Dr. Irie Lynne Session

Rev. Dr. Irie pointed out that not only are Black women preachers excluded from MLK services, but Black women leaders of the Civil Rights Movement are excluded from these serviceswomen such as Coretta Scott King, who partnered with Martin Luther King Jr. in leading the movement. Rev. Dr. Irie proclaimed that just as Black women’s voices and actions were vital to the Civil Rights Movement, Black women preachers and all of us are vital to the movement of dismantling racism, sexism, patriarchy, misogyny, and other injustices in our world today. She emphasized the justice issue of healthcare for all in her sermon “A Specialist She Could Afford,” drawing from the Gospel story of Jesus’ healing the woman who had suffered hemorrhages for twelve years (Luke 8:43-48).

Coretta Scott King, leading a Civil Rights rally
Rev. Dr. Irie Lynne Session & Akilah S. Wallace, Executive Director of Faith in Action, wearing a shirt with pictures of Black women leaders

Rev. Dr. Irie’s sermon and our discussion afterwards, other MLK Day worship services, and my participation as a ministry partner in The Gathering have helped me see how I have been both oppressor and oppressed in church and society. As a white American, I share the sin of my race that enslaved African Americans, segregated them, and denied them freedom and dignity and equal rights. I especially feel the need of repentance of the sin of participating in the white Christian church that instead of following our mission of justice and equality has too often perpetuated injustice and inequality, by biblical misinterpretations and/or silence in the face of racism and white supremacy. Injustice exerts its most profound damage when wrong is supported in the name of right. When wrong becomes systematized, the very concept of justice is reversed. Dr. King wrote in Strength to Love, “Millions of African Americans, starving for the bread of freedom, have knocked again and again on the door of white churches, but they have usually been greeted by a cold indifference or a blatant hypocrisy.”

Rev. Dr. Irie Session and Rev. Kamilah Hall Sharp, co-pastors of The Gathering, along with Dr. Martin Luther King, have helped me see how I’m also among the oppressed. In Why We Can’t Wait, Dr. King wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” The exclusion of women’s voices is an injustice. Exclusion and marginalization of women is a threat to racial justice and to any kind of justice everywhere. The church has too often perpetuated this injustice with biblical misinterpretations and/or silence in the face of sexism. Dorothy Cotton, who worked closely with Dr. King in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, acknowledged the sexism that existed in the Civil Rights Movement, but she believed that had he lived longer, he would have come to see women as an oppressed class. The logical, ethical conclusion of MLK’s reaching, writing, and activism is gender as well as racial justice. Theologian Dr. James Cone stated: “As we blacks will not permit whites to offer plausible excuses for racism, so we cannot excuse our sexism. Sexism, like racism, is freedom’s opposite, and we must uncover its evil manifestations so we can destroy it.”

Dorothy Cotton, leader of Civil Rights Movement

Just as MLK used love and non-violent resistance against racism, classism, and militarism, today I believe he would also work against sexism. That’s exactly what Rev. Dr. Irie did today. In the power of Love, she resisted sexist exclusion and created an MLK Day worship service where her voice and the voices of other women sounded the call to freedom and justice for all.

Rev. Dr. Irie Lynne Session
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“Sound Forth the News that Wisdom Comes Christmas Carol Video

Sing and celebrate the good news that Wisdom comes to bring new life to birth!  How we need Wisdom and Her new life in our world! This video comes with the hope that Wisdom will guide us to co-create with Her a world of justice, peace, equality, love, freedom, and joy.

Sound forth the news that Wisdom comes
to bring new life to birth.
Arise with hope, Her labor join,
and peace shall fill the earth,
and peace shall fill the earth,
and peace, and peace shall fill the earth.

No more let fear and custom hide
the path of Wisdom fair.
She leads the way to life and joy,
with gifts for all to share,
with gifts for all to share,
with gifts, with gifts for all to share.

Joyful are we who heed the call
of Wisdom in our souls.
With Her we break oppression’s wall,
so love may freely flow,
so love may freely flow,
so love, so love may freely flow.

Crown Wisdom Queen of heaven and earth;
Her reign will set us free.
Fling wide the gates that all may come
join hands and dance with glee,
join hands and dance with glee,
join hands, join hands and dance with glee.

Words © Jann Aldredge-Clanton, from Inclusive Hymns for Liberating Christians

This Christmas season gives us a wonderful opportunity to take action for social justice, peace, and new life. Christmas carols are popular throughout our culture, not only in churches. We can sing these well-loved tunes but with inclusive lyrics. By including biblical female names for Deity and visual images representing diverse races, we contribute to gender and racial justice and equality.

One of the most prominent female names for Deity in the Bible is “Wisdom” (Hokmah in the Hebrew Scriptures and Sophia in the Christian Scriptures.) “Happy are those who find Wisdom. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with Her. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all Her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of Her; those who hold Her fast are called happy. Prize Her highly, and She will exalt you; She will honor you if you embrace Her. She will place on your head a fair garland; She will bestow on you a beautiful crown” (Proverbs 3:13,15,17-18; 4:8-9).

The first photograph in the video is of Rev. Sheila Sholes-Ross, co-chair of Equity for Women in the Church. Equity for Women in the Church is an ecumenical movement to facilitate equal representation of clergywomen as pastors of multicultural churches in order to transform church and society. Our mission is not only to advocate and network for clergywomen to facilitate access and congregational receptivity, but also to dismantle patriarchal and white supremacist church practices and structures so clergywomen can thrive in pastoral positions.

Through inclusive leadership, as well as inclusive language, churches can help create a culture that gives equal power and value to all genders and races. Churches can help change male-dominated religion and culture at the root of gender injustice and violence. By making changes in leadership and language churches can stop contributing to this culture that gives greatest power, privilege, and value to men. Equal representation of clergywomen and laywomen as leaders and inclusive worship language make powerful contributions to the transformation of church and society. Many churches, along with Equity for Women in the Church, are working toward this transformation.

May we reclaim Wisdom in our churches and our world. She will set us free to be all we’re created to be! “Sound forth the news that Wisdom comes to bring new life to birth”!

Video Credits

Performed by: Shannon Kincaid

Visual Art:

David Clanton: “Tree of Life” and two dancing children photos

Alice Heimsoth: seven photos inside Ebenezer/herchurch Lutheran, San Francisco

Mirta Toledo: “Saint Sophia”

Shannon Kincaid: “Oprah & Child” and “Queen Maeve” paintings

Elizabeth Zedaran: “Flow”

Mary Plaster: “Sophia, Divine Wisdom”

Instruments:

Keyboard: Ron DiIulio

Guitar: Danny Hubbard

Bass & Percussion: Jerry Hancock

Produced/Arranged by: Ron DiIulio

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“Celebrate Sophia’s Birth” Christmas Carol Video

Many years ago when I began writing and speaking about expanding divine images, a friend gave me a t-shirt that has on it a manger scene with an arrow pointing down to the baby with these words: “It’s a girl!” With just three words this t-shirt expresses a profound truth in Scripture and Christian tradition. Incarnation comes in all genders.

I grew up hearing, “You may be the only Jesus some people see.” But all the names and visual images of the Divine were male and white. Most churches today still use language and visual imagery that give messages of Incarnation as male, and many churches give messages of Incarnation as white male. Incarnation expresses the truth that Divinity assumes human flesh, not just male flesh, not just white flesh, but all human flesh. Incarnation includes all of us—all genders, all races, all cultures.

“Celebrate Sophia’s Birth” seeks to express the inclusivity of Incarnation. Sophia is the Greek word for “Wisdom,” linked to Christ in Scripture and Christian tradition.

A prominent biblical female divine name and image is “Wisdom,” Hokmah in the Hebrew Scriptures and Sophia in the Christian Scriptures. She was also prominent in early Christian tradition. But most churches have excluded Her and other female divine names and images and continue to exclude them. This exclusion supports male-dominated churches and culture.  Reclaiming Sophia and other biblical female divine images will help dismantle patriarchy and white supremacy in church and society.

Wisdom (Hokmah) in the Hebrew Scriptures is depicted as creator, sister, mother, preacher, liberator, redeemer, establisher of justice and peace. “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all Her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called happy” (Proverbs 3:17-18). In the New Testament Wisdom (Sophia) is linked to Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul refers to Christ as the “power of God and the Wisdom (Sophia) of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24), and states that Christ “became for us Wisdom (Sophia) from God” (1 Corinthians 1:30).

Depictions of Sophia (“Wisdom”) have traditionally been dark or a combination of dark and light. Ruah (“Spirit”) and other female divine images are also often represented as dark. Sophia and other dark female images of the Divine support racial as well as gender equality.

Sing and celebrate Sophia, Tree of Life! Give birth to peace, justice, equality, and love in our world. Celebrate Sophia and give birth to new life!

Video Credits

Performed by: Spiral Muse (Lana Dalberg, Dionne Kohler, Kathleen Neville-Fritz, and Alison Newvine) from album Sing of Peace, recorded at Joe Hoffmann Studios, Occidental, CA

Lyrics: Jann Aldredge-Clanton

Visual Art:

Mary Plaster: “Sophia, Divine Wisdom”

photo from The Gathering: A Womanist Church

Elaine Chan-Scherer: “Mary Magdalene”

Alice Heimsoth: photo in sanctuary of Ebenezer/herchurch Lutheran, San Francisco

Katie Ketchum: Sing of Peace album cover

David Clanton: “Tree of Life”

photo from Equity for Women in the Church event

Sing of Peace
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“Come to Our World, O Christ-Sophia” Christmas Carol Video

Our world is in deep need of healing. As we join together to labor with the Divine and to sing of healing, justice, peace, love, and kindness, we create a better world. We give birth to Christ-Sophia, who provides a foundation for equality and justice. Christ-Sophia empowers us to make the Gospel vision of new creation a reality.

This Christmas carol video expresses longing, hope, and celebration of the birth of Christ-Sophia.

Come to our world, O Christ-Sophia, Wisdom;
our hearts are longing for Your peaceful way.
Lead us from fear and bondage into freedom;
with You we labor to bring Your new day.

Transform our world, O Christ-Sophia, Wisdom;
the poor and wounded await healing days.
Give us the power to sound Your call to freedom;
as equal partners, we show Your new way.

Led by Your Truth and Life within us growing,
we follow You on Your pathways of peace.
Filled with Your grace, Your loving kindness showing,
we share our gifts and our visions release.

REFRAIN:

Our weary world still longs for new creation,
for peace and justice coming to the earth.
Hope springs anew; we sing in celebration;
O Christ-Sophia, blessed be Your birth;
O Christ-Sophia, blessed be Your birth.

Words © Jann Aldredge-Clanton                                

It’s been a joy to collaborate on “Come to Our World, O Christ-Sophia” and other inclusive carols with “Spiral Muse,” a splendid music group from Ebenezer/herchurch Lutheran in San Francisco. Alison Newvine, Dionne Kohler, Kathleen Neville-Fritz, Lana Dalberg, and I had a wonderful time creating an Advent/Christmas album, Sing of Peace. My gratitude also goes to Katie Ketchum and Pastor Stacy Boorn for creating the beautiful album cover, to Elaine Chan-Scherer for contributing her lovely artwork to my videos, and to all the other wonderful people at herchurch for singing my hymns for many years.

“Christ-Sophia” is a biblical symbol of the Divine, making equal connections between genders, races, and religious traditions, thus providing a foundation for communities based on partnership. Christ-Sophia brings change to church and society by forming a theological foundation for gender and racial equality, dismantling patriarchy and white supremacy and creating egalitarian communities.

Sophia, the Greek word for “Wisdom,” is a biblical female divine image. New Testament writers link Christ to Sophia (“Wisdom”), a feminine symbol of God in the Hebrew Scriptures. Wisdom (Hokmah in Hebrew) symbolizes creative, redemptive, and healing power. In their efforts to describe this same power in Christ, the apostle Paul and other New Testament writers draw from the picture of Wisdom. The apostle Paul refers to Christ as the “power of God and the Wisdom (Sophia) of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24), and states that Christ “became for us Wisdom (Sophia) from God” (1 Corinthians 1:30). The book of Proverbs describes Wisdom as the “way,” the “life,” and the “path” (4:11,22,26).  The Gospel of John refers to Christ as “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Bringing this biblical connection of Christ and Sophia to our worship can inspire partnerships that contribute to peace, justice, and equity in our world. For a fuller explanation, see In Search of the Christ-Sophia: An Inclusive Christology for Liberating Christians.

Video Credits

Performed by: Spiral Muse (Lana Dalberg, Dionne Kohler, Kathleen Neville-Fritz, and Alison Newvine) from album Sing of Peace, recorded at Joe Hoffmann Studios, Occidental, CA

Lyrics: Jann Aldredge-Clanton

Visual Art:

Mirta Toledo: “Saint Sophia”

photo from Equity for Women in the Church event

Elaine Chan-Scherer: “Black Madonna: Our Lady of Tender Mercies”

photos from Nevertheless She Preached conferences

photo from The Gathering: A Womanist Church

Sande Harte: photo of circle of women, Alchemy of Women’s Collective Wisdom and Power

Alice Heimsoth: photo of candlelight service in Ebenezer/herchurch Lutheran, San Francisco

Katherine Skaggs: “Black Madonna”

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