another open letter to my hypothetical daughter, and to every girl who is everything but hypothetical.
Yesterday, the Church of England measure to allow for women bishops did not pass.
I don’t know where I stand on this matter, honestly. Egalitarian or complementarian? I’m not sure what term to slip on, and I don’t know if I really want to wear either of them. For that matter, I think taking the whole, vast spectrum of thought about gender roles, equality, and leadership in the church and boiling it down to two little words – pick one – means those words will be inadequate.
(Words are tricky, darling. Know this – words have power and beauty, they can create life and hope and joy. But they can be slippery and complicated and entirely impossible sometimes. Keep that in mind.)
All this to say: I don’t know, really, how I feel about this yet. I’m not an expert. I haven’t done the research, studied the Scripture, carefully weighed argument. Do women belong in leadership positions, should be allowed to be bishops? This Church that I have come alongside, whose traditions I have come to love, where I have cast in my lot, at least for the time being – they say no.
And I don’t quite know what to say in response.
But this I know: that someday, daughter, you will come along. You will be beautiful and special and blessed and unique. And you will be gifted, dear one. Given a talent, a passion, a gift from the Lord that you are to cherish, nurture, grow. A gift to share, a gift to use for Him, a gift to glorify His name and make Him known.
What if it’s teaching? What if it’s preaching? What if it’s leadership?
Will I have to look into the face of my one-day, some-day daughter, and tell her that yes, you are gifted with leadership, called to the episcopate, but no – you are not allowed.
This thought breaks my heart. Perhaps the one side is right, that women should not be in positions of leadership over men – but I cannot reconcile that thought to my heart. Because I know that there are women gifted to rise up and lead, to shepherd and protect. I can’t believe that this gift is given only to men, that this calling is taken away from my gender because of our gender.
Maybe by the time you receive this calling, things will be different. Perhaps then, women will be able to be teach, preach, lead.
Maybe this is not my daughter’s gift, my daughter’s calling. Maybe she is not called to lead, not called to be a bishop, but maybe there is another little girl who is.
And to her I would say: cherish that gift. Nurture it.
You, full to bursting with love for the Lord. Full of passion and steady in faith. You who have a desire to guide and teach and prepare the way. You who want only to make His name known.
Do it. Make His name known.
Sing His praises and dance in His joy. Speak the truth in love to whoever will listen. Declare His glory to the heavens and the earth, and let no one stop you. If you can do it within the Church, do it there. Do it everywhere.
Take your bursting heart, take your gifts, and run with them, child. For this I know, that He has begun a good work in you and He will bring it to completion. Inside the church walls or out.
Love, your someday mother.