Friday, July 04, 2008

Feminine Incarnation

The first hour or so of my work day is usually spent drinking coffee. I have about three different coffee shops that I tour weekly catching up on what is happening in the community as well as touching base with a number of people who are not formally attached to any denomination (as well as with some of the Roman Catholic women who feel a female priest might understand their concerns and issues more than a male one.)

Today I had a few interesting conversations with people from a variety of backgrounds. (Actually, most of them are men at 8:30/9:00 in the morning. The women tend to go for coffee around 10:00/10:30. In general, coffee row is segregated in the morning but not segregated at 3:00 in the afternoon. This would be a pattern started a number of years ago when lifestyles were different.) One of the people I had coffee with was a friend/parishioner that I had helped out and spent a bit of time with a month or so ago. He had had a letter from a mentor of his in response to an update on what was going on in his life. In the letter the mentor mention something about the 'woman' priest.

Now, it is interesting that the person who wrote the letter - a very well educated man - felt the need to distinquish 'woman' priest as opposed to just priest. (It is also interesting that the spelling and grammar in that whole sentence would have been edited in vivid red on any university paper.) Is there something about the fact that this particular priest is a woman. My guess is, that had I been a man, that he would not have written 'you man priest' (He wrote 'you woman priest' so the spelling/grammar mistake in the quotes is his and not mine.).

This comes at a time when I have been following discussions about female bishops in the UK. There is a letter/petition sent to ++Canterbury and ++York from priests and bishops suggesting that their consciences might compel them to walk away should women become bishops without allowing enshrined discrmination structures to protect those who believe women have no place in ordained ministry. I find all this negativity and questioning interesting.

Of course, when I read "woman" priest it got me on one of my feminist rants. My poor coffee partner has actually heard most of it before as it is a common theme when I talk about our hierarchal, patriarchal church. But today, I thought of something else. It is probably something that I have read somewhere but it finally came together for me this morning.

Part of the problem with accepting women priests is basing one's objections on tradition - looking to the writings of the early church fathers who negated Jesus' full inclusion of women and elevation of the feminine from the pits that men had placed it. It is based on a dualistic philosophy of masculine/feminine - and either/or proposition. The masculine is considered superior and postive. The feminine is considered inferior at best and negative at worst. The masculine celebrates the intellectual which is the vastly superior condition - mind over matter sort of thing. The feminine is seen as body and nature which is much inferior and to be dominated.

Embodiment is considered much less than the mind and to be avoided as much as possible. Anything that reminds us of our earthly ties is not to be practiced. But here there lies a conflict with the very faith we profess. What is the key event in our faith? The Incarnation! And what is the Incarnation if not embodiment? God chose the defining event of history to be feminine. Yes, Jesus was male. But the Incarnation was feminine!

So for those who believe that only males can be priests because of traditions that developed around misunderstood ideas of masculine and feminne - why did God chose a 'feminine' way to save creation? The Incarnation is not celebrated because of its male traits (ie - intellectual) but because of its feminine (ie - embodiment and relational).

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

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