On Sunday, we will consecrate three new deacons at Virginia-Highland Church. Two of them are women. That is what got this church kicked out of the Southern Baptist Convention in the early 1990s. Now, nobody in the congregation will even bat an eye. Our parish council elected officers at a retreat last Saturday. All of them are women. I didn’t even notice until I wrote an article about it for the bulletin. Unlike most mainline churches, our congregation is really young and about 50/50 men and women. Gender is only an issue when we remind ourselves that we still have to work to ensure that scripture and music and liturgy reflect that we all are children of God.
The president of Hartford Seminary, where I am teaching, is a woman, and I have been following the developments at Union Theological Seminary in New York where the woman president is trying to creatively address some of their financial challenges by selling air rights. It’s a complicated issue, and I don’t have an opinion one way or another. As I read one white man’s scathing critique of her, however, I wondered if someone should point out that the first woman president has having to attempt to rescue a noble institution after almost 200 years of male leadership. I don’t mean to blame the men, but I do notice that we don’t often turn over our institutions in the best of shape to a new generation of women leaders.
Hopefully Virginia-Highland Church will be an exception. This year, we are doing better in almost every way than the church has done in nearly 50 years. It is exciting to me that the new leaders we have elected, and the new deacons we will install, are about to lead us into a new day. Our theme this Sunday is “Every Member a Minister.” Now, every church says that, but, until we all begin to live as ministers of the grace of the Living God, it doesn’t mean a lot. The church has to empower us, yes, but we have to take that identity into our souls. We have to let it define us and give us courage to live and lead, never letting culture define us, regardless of our gender, sexuality, race, education, or mood.
Rev. Michael Piazza