what if we gave a pentecost and nobody came?

By Diogenes (articles ) | Aug 31, 2006

"If the fans don't want to come out to the park," said Yogi Berra, "there's nothing you can do to stop them." The complainants sympathetically treated in a recent NYT article on the "stained glass ceiling" could do worse than to reflect on Berra's observation.

It is often easier for women in the mainline churches -- historic Protestant denominations like Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, Episcopal and the United Church of Christ -- to get elected as bishops and as other leaders than to head large congregations, Dr. Stonehouse said.

People in the pews often do not accept women in the pulpit, clergy members said. "It’s still difficult for many in this culture to see women as figures of religious authority," said the Rev. Cynthia M. Campbell, president of McCormick Theological Seminary, a Presbyterian seminary in Chicago.

The argument gets its wires crossed by treating authority, which is the institutionally delimited prerogative to demand compliance of others, as if it were the same thing as leadership, which is the personal quality of persuading others to follow one's initiative. Those who have attained the first, alas, are not always endowed with the second. People who are skilled in the arts of compulsion -- who know, e.g., how to manipulate bureaucracies so as to consolidate their own power and humiliate their opponents -- seldom fare well with those who have the liberty to stay home and ignore them. It's easier to get hold of a shepherd's crook than a flock.

The Rev. Cynthia M. Campbell's whinge notwithstanding, cultural attitudes toward women have nothing to do with the flop. Mother Angelica was able to assemble a "congregation" via her television broadcasts many times greater than her local male hierarch could have done, even though the hierarch benefitted from traditional Catholic attitudes toward authority and gender roles. Why? Because Mother Angelica had something important to say about Christ, while her bishop, given an open mike and unlimited air time, would almost certainly launch into the same lessons as the Rev. Cynthia M. Campbell.


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  • Posted by: - Sep. 01, 2006 10:39 AM ET USA

    I thank God I am a Cathoilc. Next, we'll be reading about affirmative action programs in protestant ordinations and parishoners wondering whether the "fire and brimstone" sermon is meant to invoke fear and trembling or if it just PMS.

  • Posted by: Ignacio177 - Sep. 01, 2006 8:40 AM ET USA

    They say that the proper position for doing theology is on your knees. That is true too for pastoring and preaching. After the sermon it always remains clear if the preacher prays.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 01, 2006 5:25 AM ET USA

    Vision without Action is a Daydream; Action without Vision is a Nightmare. Perhaps this is what vocations are in free-fall; the Bishops have the authority but lack leadership qualities, e.g. vision. Oh yes, the original Pentecost was not sought by the cringing Apostles, it was thrust upon them. AMDG

  • Posted by: sparch - Aug. 31, 2006 5:21 PM ET USA

    Having been able to download only a portion of the article, I can not tell if those interviewed pursued the power and the prestige, or if that was the slant that the New York Times put on it. It is a time of confusion. The first woman interviewed still expressed doubts about being ordained. The New York Times does not have the same conscience. The emphasis on serving may have been edited out. Only a thought.

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Aug. 31, 2006 3:43 PM ET USA

    Another modern woman who had no trouble attracting souls was Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 31, 2006 3:24 PM ET USA

    It's Protestantism - if you arent getting the job (and power) you want---start your own congregation and succeed or fail on your abilities. That never occurred to them. I read the original article and none of the women said anything about a pastor serving - it was about power and prestige. It sounded like a whiny article in a women's business magazine about lack of opportunity in the corporate world. I know several men Protestant Pastors and it is all about serving for them.