Archive for the ‘women in leadership’ Category

The President’s Pastors

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

The president has quietly collected a handful of pastors to meet with him on the phone for private prayer sessions  and for discussions on the role of religion in politics. Three are black. Two are white.  All of them are men.

Their names are well known. They are all ministers with major religious followings.

The Rev. Otis Moss Jr., veteran of the civil rights movement, Pastor Emeritus of Olivet Baptist in Cleveland, Ohio and father of Rev. Otis Moss, III, the young man who succeeded Obama’s former pastor Jeremiah Wright at Trinity UCC in Chicago. Bishop T. D. Jakes and the Rev. Kirbyjon H. Caldwell, both pastors with entrepreneurial savvy who pastor mega churches in Texas  also served as occasional spiritual advisers to President George W. Bush. Another pastor, the Rev. Jim Wallis, leans left on some issues, like military intervention and poverty programs, but opposes abortion. And Rev. Joel C. Hunter, former president-elect of the Christian Coalition of America, pastors a Florida megachurch and is the author of the book “Right Wing, Wrong Bird: Why the Tactics of the Religious Right Won’t Fly With Most Conservative Christians.”

Presidents have through the ages tapped pastors for spiritual support, policy advice and political cover. The Rev. Billy Graham was a counselor to at least five (Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan and the first George Bush).

The ordeal with his former pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright has probably made Obama skittish about the idea of trusting his soul (and reputation) to one pastor or of casting his lot with any particular church there in DC. Although many churches and pastor have been eager to get him and the First Family to visit and join their church, I’m from friends in the know there in DC. What a circus church services  are likely to become if the First Family should show up. Forget about the crowds that gather whenever President and Michelle Obama step out at night for dinner at a restaurant. I guess setting up conference calls with his favorite pastors is the next best thing the president can do. Well, at least Obama is being spiritually counseled, I suppose. But what can of counseling can we expect him to get from these particular spiritual leaders? Moreover, we can only assume that the wife and children have come up with their own spiritual disciplines.

Too bad life as  President means that you sometimes have to choose between God’s House and the White House. Yeah, yeah, yeah, God is everywhere. And one doesn’t have to attend church to find God and spiritual nourishment. Still I’m just saying…

I happen to believe that there is something special about belonging to a community of worshippers and regularly attending services with your family. Too bad the Obama girls won’t get to experience singing in the children’s and youth choirs. Too bad the family can’t attend Wednesday night bible study. Too bad they won’t know what it is to hear “amen” ring out from the pews during Sunday worship and not know what it is to stand up and clap when Usher Board #3 marches in in grand style on the Sunday of their anniversary service.

Still, the President has his own personal pastors. I guess that’s a good thing.

obama in church

First Black Female Rabbi

Friday, June 19th, 2009

alysa stanton first black female rabbiA blog for thinking women of faith must stop and congratulate  Alysa Stanton on becoming the first black female rabbi.

I remember all that I endured as a doctorate student in Old Testament/Hebrew Bible in the 80s there at Princeton - the sneers, the condescension, the sexist comments, the racist gestures. I can only imagine what Rabbi Stanton experienced in her journey to become the first black woman to earn her rabinnical license from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati.

Did I mention that some of my most painful memories as a doctorate student and as a young Old Testament scholar were the reactions of Jewish colleagues to my being a black woman in Old Testament. Even now I still get the question, “So, you really can read Hebrew?”

Hey, but this post isn’t about me. It’s about Rabbi Alysa Stanton, America’s first black, female rabbi who starts on August 1st as the rabbi for Congregation Bayt Shalom in Greenville, N.C.

I had to smile when I read what sisterblogger Prof. Tracey wrote when after congratulating the rabbi on her achievements, she ended with “I respect the hard work for the achievement, but I still can’t help thinking….why?”.

“Ten years ago, if someone said I was going to be a rabbi, I would have laughed,” Stanton, 45, told “Me, a spiritual leader?” Like myself the rabbi is a former Pentecostal. Hmmm…I wonder… Oh well, you can read more about Rabbi Stanton’s spiritual journey here.

Rabbi Stanton is the first black female rabbi in this country. And for that she deserves our heartfelt congratulations, our deepest admiration, and our sincerest prayers.

You Baptists…

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

Thought I’d poke fun at my Baptist friends today here on the blog. That’s right: Baptists. You know the ones who open their mouths and say things like, “I’m Baptist. What religion are you?” Don’t get upset: I’m married to a Baptist so you Baptists can’t be all that bad. In fact, every now and then you Baptists actually get it right. You actually act like Christians. LOL.

Take the Baptist church in DC where I spoke earlier this week. Okay, I confess: I preached a revival there. I spoke the choirfor their two Sunday morning services  and again on Monday and Tuesday nights. Baptists got me to do a revival. Something I rarely, rarely do at this age. I haven’t preached a revival in y-e-a-r-s.  Only a special Baptist church could get me to get me to do a revival. And Covenant Baptist Church in Washington, DC is a very special church. For one thing, it has a husband and wife  co-pastor team: Rev. Dr. Dennis and Rev. Dr. Christine Wiley, pastors, scholars, progressive theologians, and activists. Dennis has a Ph.D. in theology (specializing in liberation theology) from Union Seminary in New York and Christine has a D.Min in pastoral counselling from Garrett Evangelical Seminary. It was beautiful to behold the two of them ministering together. Equal authority. Equal burden. Equal pay. That’s what I’m talking about.

But having a husband and wife co-pastor team is not the only thing that makes Covenant special. The church is an open and welcoming congregation to all peoples, regardless of race, gender, and sexual orientation.  Of the seven houses of worship in Washington with predominantly African-American congregations that are welcoming to lesbians and gays, Covenant is the only Baptist church that welcomes and affirms gay and lesbian congregants. Gotta admit that the church went through a difficult patch a few years back when the pastors officiated at a union ceremony for a homosexual couple. Hundreds of members left the church because they  unable and/or unwilling to embrace a theology that embraced same-sex loving couples. Three years later the church is growing and rebuilding and a serves as a testimony to God’s love for all people. Now I like to think I’m pretty progressive and have worshipped in some pretty progressive environments, but I must say I was delightfully surprised to step up onto the pulpit this past Sunday morning where I was to speak for the Women’s Day service and find that the worship leader was a transgender woman in a man’s suit . “Alrighty Jesus,” I said to myself as I took her hand and smiled. I looked out at a  congregation  which on one hand looked like any other black Baptist church I’ve visited: young and old, DC natives and transplants from the south, male and female, poor and not-so-poor, young and old. And others. Lesbian and gays, some were couples with children, and some were not. And a sprinkling of white faces. “Perhaps I’m glimpsing what the Kingdom of God is supposed to look like…” I thought to myself as I sat there singing and clapping with the rest of the Covenant congregation.

Finally, special shout out to St. Paul Baptist Church in Philadelphia for breaking with tradition and calling a woman Rev. Dr. Leslie Callahan to be the 5th pastor in the church’s 119 years of existence. Dr. Callahan is Assistant Professor of Modern Church History and African American Religion at New York Theological Seminary. Kudos to St. Paul Church and Pastoral Search Committee for their courage and vision. Those of you in the Philadelphia area should drop by St. Paul on Sunday, May 31st should go over and support my friend Leslie on her first Sunday there in the pulpit.  (Can’s join her on Sunday, leave her a message on her blog.) Leslie joins a small, but growing number of black Baptist churches across the country who have had the courage and good sense to call women to be their pastors.

Ah yes, you Baptists aren’t so bad afterall. I like Baptists today.  Even the one I’m married to.

(By the way, you Baptists: Christianity is a religion, a world religion in fact; and the Baptist tradition is one of many denominations, sects, subgroups within Christianity like Catholicism, Methodism, Episcopalianism, Pentecostalism, etc.)

The Face I’m In

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

ross You may be wondering what a woman’s face has to do with the topic of gendering God. A whole lot. I just don’t have the time right now to help you see the connection. But it’s there for the thinking woman to intuit.

I can’t believe I’ve been thinking of dying my hair. Getting rid of my grey.  “And you call yourself a womanist (feminist)!” mockingly says the man who lives in my house (who, by the way, is adamantly opposed to the notion). I am ashamed to say that the pressure is getting to me.  Not so much to look younger, but the pressure not to look older than I have to.  We spent a wonderful evening at dinner with friends last night. Between sips,  I noticed that I was the only woman around the table with grey hair. And I wasn’t the oldest woman at the table. Rashad

Every time I stand in the pulpit with this mane of grey, natural hair that has a mind of it own, I know that for the first 15 minutes most folks can’t hear a word I’m saying for wondering where in the world I get the chutzpah at my age to stand before audiences with wild and nappy grey hair like mine. Most days I love defying convention and am proud of the skin I’m in.  Flaws and all. But I gotta admit, there are other days when I look in the mirror and wonder where the 30, 32, 36 year old face I remember so well went.

Speaking of face.  What about those lines around the face? Aging gracefully. What the heck does that mean?

No matter how good you are at what you do, no matter how qualified you are for the job, there’s that pressure on you as a woman to look sexy.  To have gravity defying skin. To stay thin. To look glamorous.  To appear any age younger than the age you are. To nip, tuck, and botox the signs of aging away.  Don’t think so? Name some of your favorite black actresses from the 80s and 90s who are still in front of the camera.  It’s conventional wisdom that Hollywood has no use for a woman over forty. Hollywood is not the only place that turns out women to pasture once they hit 40. winfreyClergywomen too feel the pressure. Every time we stand in pulpits before the scrutinizing eye of audiences there’s the pressure to look glamorous.  Sexy.  Young-er.  Ageless.  Respectable. Ask evangelists like Joyce Meyer and Juanita Bynum.

Strange isn’t it? God is spoken of as male. But it’s women who are expected, like God, to never grow old. To look the same yesterday. Today. And Tomorrow.