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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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