Monday, July 19, 2010

Celebrate Seneca Falls

Today in 1848, the first U.S. women's rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York. Among the demands made by the women assembled was the right to vote.

I could make the argument that it's historical events like this one that set us on the road towards expanded pulpits, although it would be many more years after women started exercising their right to vote (in 1920) before we'd see women in Protestant pulpits. The major exception to that sentence would be the Pentecostal churches. The Pentecostal branch of Protestantism was more open to women preachers early on, since the movement was founded by women.

Of course, I must admit that we're still far away, very far away, from full parity. We still see very few female senior pastors compared to males. We still see very few female bishops, when we compare those numbers to the bishoprics held by males. But we've made amazing progress in the 162 years since the Seneca Falls Convention.

What I find most exciting about the various human rights movements of the past few centuries is how the idea of rights for one group expands to affect other disenfranchised groups. I'm a Lutheran, and as a denomination, we're still wrestling with the idea of homosexual people serving as pastors. Last summer, the Lutheran Churchwide Assembly passed legislation that allowed homosexual people in lifelong committed relationships to serve as pastors, but also allowed churches to decide not to invite homosexual pastors to serve them.

And of course, there are still plenty of mainstream Protestants who aren't comfortable with women serving. The work is not done.

And I'm not even taking on the Catholic church.

But today, let us celebrate Seneca Falls. Let us celebrate those few brave women who dared to dream of a more inclusive world. Let us offer prayers of gratitude for those women and for human rights workers everywhere. Jesus constantly reminded us that we're to look out for the poor and the oppressed. Those who work for human rights show us ways that we might fulfill Christ's mission.

1 comment:

Obie Holmen said...

I recently attended the bienniel convention of Lutherans Concerned North America. This is the principal LGBTQ advocacy group within the ELCA (Lutheran) church. While the convention was very celebratory regarding the pro-gay actions of the ELCA church wide assembly a year ago, many speakers echoed the theme of remaining advocates for those on the margins even as the LGBTQ community is accepted into the mainstream of the ELCA. Speaker after speaker spoke of continuing the fight for social justice for all.

I have blogged about the convention on my own