Just Looking? Women and the Church.
The Role of Women in the Episcopal Church
In the Bible, in the book of Galatians, Paul writes, "male and female, all are one in Christ Jesus." In other words, there is no distinction in rank between men and women. Whereas in past centuries (and still in some church bodies today), women were held to a lower level, in the Episcopal Church this just isn't so.
Are Women Ordained?
Yes. The first women were ordained as priests in 1977. In fact, our former Assistant Priest, the Rev. Dr. Barbara Schlachter (retired), or as she prefers to be known, Barbara, was among the women ordained in that first group.
Do Lay Women Serve in Worship Services?
Yes, and at Christ Church they are very active. They serve as lay readers, chalice bearers, acolytes, lay preachers, directors for musical groups, ushers, heads of committees and commissions, Vestry leaders and members. There is no role in the parish a woman cannot take on -- and do well. At Christ Church we try to look at where God wants someone to serve; what special abilities and talents God has given that person to do that task. We don't want gender to get in the way.
Are there opportunities for women to explore their relationship with God and each other based on their femininity?
You bet! Twice each year Christ Church sponsors a Saturday just for women. In the autumn, this is for Christ Church women only. In the spring, all women are invited. These are opportunities to delve into new areas of theology (it's presented in a fun and interesting way!), self-expression and so much more. But perhaps the best part of the experience is the strengthening of relationships among the women in attendance.
Is God a Woman?
God is a spirit. God is neither man nor woman, but has both male and female characteristics. which is where we humans get our male and female characteristics, for we are created in the image of God! In the Episcopal Church we believe that God combines those aspects of gender, in a perfect way, into one divine being. Human beings come in the divided format: male and female.
So, yes, there are masculine aspects of God (Father, Son, protector, sustainer) and there are feminine aspects of God (Holy Spirit, comforter, creator of life). As human beings, our understanding of the divine is limited, so we can't fully understand God. But we know that God has characteristics of our human male and female psyches.
For many centuries the Church has relied on the masculine attributes of God in its teaching. Many 21st-century women have difficulty relating to a solely masculine Godhead. So at Christ Church, we use the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, which has inclusive language (he and she, rather than he; sons and daughters, rather than sons) and we encourage both men and women to expand their understanding of the feminine characteristics of God in their lives.