Is it time for a Vice President in charge of Revolution? Make any sense to you?
Sometimes a book (or play or film) comes along that introduces new ways of perception or making sense. One of these (a classic, not a new title) is "Vice President in Charge of Revolution" an autobiography by Murray D.. Lincoln co-written with David Karp. Lincoln was the president of the U.S. National Corporative Business Association from 1941 to 1965.
For decades I've been moved -- in deep, deep ways -- by things this book is clearly trying to tell me about who we are and how we got that way. Now I take the book's message with me into the corridors of power, the arenas of politics, institutional valhallas -- and the fascinating ways we choose to communicate. Indeed, I am using it as a text for an informal gathering of Episcopal assistant (suffragan) bishops in Los Angeles even as I write this piece. Episcopal bishops used to be males. Now there are widening circles of women who are bishops. Women postulants for holy orders enrolled in Episcopal seminaries are legion. All this represents real change in the composition and order of a clerical base in the church.
Our meeting of suffragan bishops in Los Angeles even as I write this represents both genders. This new kind of mixing is really more indicative of the emerging church than separation and isolation. It shatters merely traditional roles, changing them forever. When only males were bishops (church leaders), women played supportive roles. Of course, they lacked leadership credentials of the highest order. It was a man's world (with or without a clerical collar) . There were women saints. Women always kept the church going. But credentials? They tended to remain in the bottom drawer which was locked.
In 1974 Ms. magazine asked me to write a cover story that was rather revolutionary in itself. It was entitled: "Who's Afraid of Women Priests?" I wrote: "The ordination of 11 women to the Episcopal priesthood set in motion new and disturbing feelings. And it raised anew the question: what is priesthood?" This question forces men to examine themselves in an altogether new way. Men who are afraid of the liturgical kiss of peace in the eucharist, for example, find themselves confronted by the question: What is struggling within me to be discovered? One of these men honestly explained his fear: "If I should show feeling and emotion in public and in church, if I should touch or embrace another man or woman, what would happen to my self-respect? The image I l like to project? What people think of me? l'm just not free to do that. I'm not free to be myself, to find out who I am as a person."
What I wrote in Ms. magazine in 1974 inescapably came up in a mixed-gender meeting of Episcopal bishops in 2014, I found. The idea of receiving the Host from the hand of a woman appparently confronts a number of people with grave difficulties. The matter of kneeling down before a woman to receive the sacramental Body of Christ is laced with ambiguities. Could this stem from the life experience of praying "Now I lay me down to sleep," and later "Our Father who art in heaven," while one was mentally on one's knees before a male God? Certainly the male priest (or bishop) before whom one knelt in church to receive Holy Communion was a surrogate figure of that same bearded and patriarchal God.
A huge question now involves a Vice President in charge of Revolution. Do we want to hire him or her? Will we accept him or her? Do we want to introduce change into our lives? Can we tell the truth in love?