This past Friday I had the privilege of attending “God Girl,” a play written by Rev. Kristine Holmgren that was performed at the History Theatre. The play was a story about Holmgren’s journey through seminary. She and other women encountered sexist roadblocks that many in the Presbyterian Church knowingly and unknowingly placed against them. As a Presbyterian pastor in the Twin Cities Area Presbytery I’ve talked a few times to Holmgren, but know her more through reading her writings and watching her ministry.
The story was a gutsy one to share. Holmgren faced obstacles of sexism in every scene—from a man knowingly walking into her shower with at what was previously a male shower, to professors who would only call on men in the classroom, to a lecherous supervisor who groomed her towards sexual harassment. The scenes are tough to watch, but it’s important for all of us in the church to watch them. They share a history that many of us who believe in full equality in the church for women need to know and appreciate.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) has made tremendous progress towards equality in the church for women since the early 1970’s. It is now taken for granted that women can be ordained. My sister is a pastor in the Presbyterian Church and the church would be less of a place if we didn’t recognize her gifts. I tell people who come to Chain of Lakes that if they can’t accept women in leadership in our congregation and in our denomination that this might not be the faith community for them.
Even though the issue of women in church leadership seems to be a fight of the past, we can never take this for granted. Over half of the people who attended a church in Anoka County this past weekend attended a church where women are second class participants. Other Presbyterian denominations have failed to realize that Jesus fought against the sexist standards of his day by embracing women as leaders. I have no doubt that he would celebrate today when women share Communion behind the Table. And despite the progress in the Presbyterian Church (USA) the glass ceiling still exists. Most of the largest churches in our own Presbytery and in our denomination are led by men.
Holmgren and many like her were pioneers. They paved a hard way so that today we can enjoy a more brilliant church. Kudos to the History Theatre for sharing her story.