Monday, June 18, 2012
We've Come a Long Way Baby..........Really?
I get this a lot. A woman in the ministry is trying to break the same glass ceilings as in corporate America. I have heard and read this term, "The Stained Glass Ceiling." Whatever the case, it's all glass and more times than not, that glass is often times difficult to break. I always envision a big hammer that I use. I keep hitting the glass, but I'm only making cracks here and there. It doesn't break and my arms get tired sometimes.
I belong to one of the most progressive African American denominations when it comes to promoting women, I am an African Methodist Episcopal minister and proud of it. However, my denomination was very late in ordaining women as elders. Would you believe that it was in the late 1960's that a woman was allowed to become an itinerant elder? Well, it's true! Now we are talking about ordination -vs- licensing. We women were allowed to be "licensed", but not ORDAINED.
Ok, now we've gotten past that and here we are today. We've come a long way baby.......but have we really? Since my my last ordination (elder's orders) I have been met with opposition from men and YES, women. My leadership abilities have been called into question many times. As long as I'm directing the choirs, serving food, teaching Sunday School and looking cute, they're cool. The moment I open my mouth to make a suggestion, implement a policy or preach there's a problem.
My mother was very strict about her children learning a little something about everything. I play Jeopardy as a hobby, I've read the Bible from front to back more than my 43 years on earth, doing research is fun to me, I have over a thousand books in my personal library and I've read them all. I learned how to change my own oil in my car, I can change my own tires and truth be told, if I had the equipment and tools, I could probably put an engine together as well as take it apart. My mother always envisioned her children being able to walk into a state dinner at the White House and being able to speak with whomever about whatever. I take those skills to my secular job as a purchasing manager. I know how to watch my budget. I know how to negotiate better pricing to save my facility money in these tough economic times. I know how to manuever in and out of my male dominated field. My vendors respect me and I respect them. They don't pat me on the head and say, "Let the big boys handle it and go sit in a corner and be cute." I have proven myself to be a force in the Purchasing world. They are my colleagues. That glass ceiling for me has been broken......BUT......I still have that stained glass ceiling to break.
Many women preachers run into that ceiling and receive cuts, bumps and bruises. Cut-When you go to a staunch Baptist church and the pastor of that church tells you that you can't preach from the pulpit, BUT you can preach from the floor. Bump-An older woman in the church that the bishop has assigned you to tells you, "I don't know why the bishop sent a WOMAN because this church has only had MEN. I hope you don't get overly emotional and (if you're single) you need a husband and you wear to much make-up and jewelry. Man!!! Bruise-You come with the idea of a Capital Development Program for your church, which passes, but they pick a MAN to run it, although you have more experience. OUCH!!
It hurts, but we keeping hitting that ceiling with that perverbial hammer. Some have broken through. The elections and consecrations of women Bishops McKenzie, Tyler-Guidry and Davis was a pioneering feat in the AME Church history, however, with twenty episcopal districts, there are only three women, that's only fifteen percent (15%). I know that we will have more women who will become bishops, presiding elders and preachers. It's slow going, but I am encouraged. We've come a long way baby....BUT......Have we really? I say yes, but we still have so much further to go.