Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Women Clergy and the Stained-Glass Ceiling


Unlike in Roman Catholic parishes, Episcopal laypeople have a strong say in who is selected as pastor. Sullins suggests that inequality remained in the Episcopal Church as a result of embedded cultural values which did not change much over time, even as the wider church body allowed for women’s ordination. This bore out in the way women clergy in the Episcopal Church climbed the ranks of larger church institutions and bureaucracies, while encountering frequent opposition at the parish level. The more democratic selection process of rectors—the equivalent of pastor—often worked against women seeking to advance in church ranks. On the parish level, even a small group opposed to the idea of a woman pastor could exercise an informal veto on the selection process.

A generation after Priesand was ordained a rabbi, women comprised about four percent of Jewish clergy, divided across the Reform-Conservative spectrum. Those early women rabbis saw their role differently than their Protestant counterparts. Protestant women ministers saw themselves in a more spiritual vein, more often feeling themselves called by God as religious leaders. Women rabbis saw themselves more as community leaders and advocates for social justice, particularly regarding issues around women’s rights.

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