Why Women Must Lead

When Susanne first decided to participate in one of the “sister marches” to the Women’s March on Washington last Saturday, the one in our state capital of Des Moines, she thought there might be 1,000 people present. By the time she left from Iowa City, she had heard there might be as many as 10,000. Yesterday, the Des Moines Register put the number at just over 26,000! By all accounts these solidarity marches around the world exceeded a million and far surpassed what was anticipated.

In addition, contrary to the window-breaking thugs in Washington DC on inauguration day, these marches were entirely non-violent. Not one arrest was reported across the United States and I would not be surprised if this was the case all over the world where similar demonstrations took place. This is, in part, why I have titled this post “Why Women Must Lead.”

First, an illustration: When the good people of the Diocese of Massachusetts elected Barbara Harris in 1989 as the first woman bishop in the Episcopal Church (and therefore in the worldwide Anglican Communion) they peacefully — and perhaps unknowingly — revolutionized the Episcopal Church. Barbara was welcomed warmly into our House of Bishops, but her first years were lonely as the sole female voice in the “good old boys” club of that HOB.

This, until she was joined by other women, first other “suffragan” or assistant bishops, then later a few “diocesan” bishops and finally, in 2006 our first female presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori. Gradually, as the number of women in the House of Bishops reached double figures and became increasingly influential, we began to notice a change. The conversations became more civil, the leadership more collaborative, our concerns began broadening out to include attention to marginalized persons across the spectrum, debates about issues of human sexuality became more informed as their complexities and nuances became better understood. In short, women bishops changed us!

The United States of America desperately needs such change now. Hillary Clinton might well have ushered in, or at least advanced, such change. But her election was not to be for a variety of reasons — Clinton fatigue, mistakes she made in life and in campaigning, Russian interference, a rural and blue collar population which became convinced (against all reason) that Donald Trump was on their side and would bring about changes in an economy which seemed to have passed them by. We (and perhaps soon, they) are only beginning to realize what a tragic mistake that was.

Precisely because Donald Trump was elected by a coalition of angry white men and women who (tragically) either think like them or were intimidated by them, we need the leadership and example of the kind of women we saw in the streets of this land and others last week. Women who know something of what it is like to be marginalized and silenced, but will be no more.

Women who have utmost in their minds the well-being of children and families. Women who, in their own bodies, know something of the wonder and complexity of human sexuality and who seem naturally inclined to move beyond the kind of dualistic thinking (in this and other issues) which seem to dominate so much of the rhetoric and “wisdom” of this age. Women who seek consensus and collaboration in leadership rather than silencing, shaming, and bullying.

It is my fervent hope that those “marchers in pink” and those of us who love and support them may find ways to make the Women’s March far more than an event. As important as such events are, what we need now in a Movement.

A sustained movement informed and led by women.

One Response to “Why Women Must Lead”

  1. Jane Stewart Says:

    Bravo, Chris! Beautifully articulated truths.

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