The Role of Young Activist Women in the Lutheran Church

Sally Fifield

UNCSW16 - 4I was raised Lutheran, identify as Lutheran, feel comfortable in the Lutheran Church, but I struggle with the church. I question the space the church has made for young women, like me, who crave an institution that questions the status quo, that demands justice, dignity, and protection for all our neighbors, and that puts social justice and activism in the center of the church.

Growing up in the church I was encouraged to participate in service projects and mission trips. While in hindsight that work was problematic in the relationship dynamic it created, it did lay a foundation for faith in service and in action with the community. I craved this active and moving faith that was modeled for me.

As a young adult I have looked for new home churches that reflect my ideals and values, but have found that the way church is structured now is for middle class, white families that are comfortable with tradition. When you are looking for the faith-based activist community for young single 20-somethings, you might want to invest in a community outside of the church. Continue reading “The Role of Young Activist Women in the Lutheran Church”

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How to Walk Up Lexington Avenue…

…While Female and Wearing Both a Clerical Collar & Knee-high Red Leather Boots

Andrea Roske-Metcalfe, Associate Pastor at Grace Lutheran Church of Apple Valley, MN

  1. AndreaBe female.
  2. Be ordained.
  3. Be in Manhattan and, if at all possible, have plans and credentials to attend sessions at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

  4. As you prepare for the day, put on a dress with a clerical collar and knee-high red leather boots.

  5. Leave your hotel room early in the morning and walk up Lexington Avenue, in search of coffee, before the first session begins.

  6. Note the odd looks that people give you (when they don’t completely ignore you, as do most New Yorkers), and remember what you are wearing. Breathe in, breathe out. Note that it takes more energy than it should to be a walking contradiction. Plan to go to bed earlier tonight as a result.

  7. Locate a Starbucks and stand in line.
  8. Barely register the fact that a man has gotten in line behind you, until it becomes quite clear that he’s trying to get a good look at your collar without being too obvious, which isn’t working.

  9. When the man says, “Excuse me, but what *are* you?” remind yourself that he hasn’t had any coffee yet today, either. Smile your best smile and say, “I’m a pastor!”

  10. When the man registers this and then asks, “So, are you like the Mormons?” remember to breathe in, and breathe out. Ask him, “What do you mean?” and then immediately realize that a simple “no” would’ve sufficed. Tuck this realization away for next time. Reflect for a nano-second on the fact that there will always be a next time.

  11. When the man leans in closer and asks, in a tone reminiscent of trying to pick someone up in a bar, “Do you have to wear that special underwear?” take a brief moment to consider your options. Recognize that your least-favorite response is also the safest. Choose safety, every time. Glare at the man long enough to make him understand that you find both him and his question repugnant and then say, quite curtly, “No.”

  12. Go back to looking at the menu above the register, even though you knew what you would order before you walked through the door. Recognize that this man, knowing as he now does that you aren’t wearing Mormon underwear, is quite possibly still thinking about what kind of underwear you are wearing, especially now that he knows you got to choose it yourself. Resist the overwhelming urge to use any and all self-defense moves on this assho- I mean, customer. Order your coffee and head to the bathroom.

  13. When you find the only unisex bathroom stall occupied, wait patiently, hoping the underwear customer will be gone when you are finished.

  14. When the bathroom door opens, and the man who comes out is startled by your presence, find it odd that he stops for a moment to look you up and down, before he sneers at you and then chuckles. 

  15. Connect the dots after he leaves and you walk into the bathroom stall, only to find that he has left the seat down and pissed all over it, not in the manner of a man with bad aim, but in the manner of a man who gets off on the idea that whoever comes after him will have to clean up his mess; this marking of his territory. Realize that he didn’t necessarily expect to see who that person would be, but that in his wildest dreams he probably couldn’t have conjured you up; try not to think about what he’s thinking about right now. Breathe in, breathe out.
  16. Because you really need to go, wipe the seat (and handle and floor and wall) with what finally amounts to half the roll of toilet paper. While you do, make connections between this man and the group of male Ivy League students you heard about in a session yesterday. (They were asked, by someone researching the effect of pornography on men’s brains, to list one thing they wanted to do to a woman, but never had. Every single one said, “Come on her face.” When asked why, they said it was a matter of power. When pushed further, they were able to articulate, “It’s because we know that women hate it.”) Try again not to think about what this man is thinking about right now; this man who somehow needed to prove himself by pissing all over a Starbucks bathroom. Breathe in, breathe out.

  17. When you have finally finished your surprise janitorial duties and used the bathroom yourself, grab your (now lukewarm) coffee and continue up Lexington Avenue.

  18. At a stoplight, when a cab pulls up and three men tumble out, appearing still drunk from the night before, move over to give them plenty of room. When one of them spots you and yells, “Hey, are you a priest?? Are you a priest?!?” simply smile and nod, especially given that this is the most tame encounter you’ve had all day, and it’s not yet 8:00am. Walk on, with your head high, as he yells behind you, “Hey, I’ve got some confessing to do!” Laugh to yourself, because you know no other way to survive.

  19. Arrive just in time to help lead worship for a group of ecumenical women at the Church Center of the United Nations, where it is so busy and chaotic that you forget about what has just happened until lunchtime.

  20. Stand in line for lunch at the U.N. cafeteria. While you wait, notice a woman approaching you. When she greets you, with a thick east-African accent, saying, “Good afternoon, Reverend! How are you?” realize immediately that she seems to know you, but that you can’t place her. Say, “Please remind me how we know each other!” When she responds that you have never met, but that she saw your collar and simply wanted to greet another sister in the church, smile wide and embrace her.

  21. After this woman leaves, remain in line, waiting to pay for your pre-packaged sushi. Notice the tears welling up in your eyes.

  22. Breathe in.
  23. Breathe out.

Justice for Women for the Sake of the Entire Body of Christ

Melissa Pohlman, Pastor For Community Ministry at Central Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, MN

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Melissa PohlmanThere are moments and times when I expect things to be different and then they are not. When things are exactly the same as they have always been, I chide myself for being fooled once again, for giving people and institutions more credit than they deserve.

Being in spaces where women are working so hard to bring about gender justice has been invigorating and exhausting. Most days I remain hypervigilant to the words I choose and how my choices impact all those who surround me. Words that used to be synonyms in my mind now hold delicate nuances based on the stories from women who have entrusted me with their moments, stories told at times to entire rooms packed full of other women. Continue reading “Justice for Women for the Sake of the Entire Body of Christ”

On the Shoulders of Giants

– pausing to give thanks as we begin-

The first time I came was for CSW56.
ELCA World Hunger had graciously invited me to translate for la estimada Irma Rodriguez Leon during the LWF side event. What that actually meant was that I had flown in in the pocket of one of the bravest women I will ever meet. Ask me about Irma. What was framed as a role that I could play was truthfully an opportunity to receive.

Together we exited the elevator to join in the Ecumenical Women orientation. A nun at the registration table handed us little button pins that said “Jesus Loves Feminists.” Irma and I giggled with gratitude. She said bluntly, “Well, he is one!”

That year, the progress hoped for at the CSW was seriously thwarted by religious groups whom are also claimed and loved by Jesus. I have spent the last four years trying to reconcile how this could be. My guide in healing and growing has been to watch the women who have spent their lives marching toward justice, unweighted down by the moments of despair, seeking freedom ceaselessly. What ground could be more holy than these strong shoulders upon which we are invited to stand? Irma, Leymah Gbowee, Cristina Rendon (to name a few CSW Lutherans who endlessly inspire me and whom I think you might enjoy learning about).

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Lutheran women group with Kevin O’Hara, Dennis Frado, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Leymah Gbowee (4th in from left). Delegation: Jeannette Ada Maina, Mikka McCrakken,  Daniele Schmidt Peter, me, Irma, Grischdl Maier, Jessica Arneson, Christine Mangale

Continue reading “On the Shoulders of Giants”