Yesterday evening we attended a small gathering of church people at a lovely woman’s house. The intent was for people from the church to get to know one another outside the realm of post-service coffee hour. I’d seen all but one of the other attendees around; the one gentleman I didn’t know usually attends the earlier Sunday service.
Conversation remained light, for the most part. Toward the end of our time together, some reference was made about the “troubles” in the church. I said something about it’s interesting to watch what is happening with these dioceses that are splitting. And that’s all I said.
Quickly this gentleman I had just met spoke up, “Well, I know personally the bishops of the four dioceses that are leaving, and they just feel they can not reconcile their theology with the church. That Jefferts Schiori, she’s a tiger, she is. She’s not a theologist, she’s an ichthyologist, with an emphasis on the ich.”
I was stunned. I quickly made a decision not so say anymore for the sake of a pleasant evening, and apparently the others in the room made the same decision, because there was silence for a moment before moving on to another topic.
After we left the gathering, I spoke to my husband about my shock over this gentleman’s obvious disrespect for the presiding bishop, his very possible misogyny, and his factual errors:
1) She isn’t a theologist, she’s an ordained person. She has an M.Div, not a Ph.D in Theology, or even an MA. There’s a difference. From the information I can find, neither are the bishops of the rogue dioceses theologists either.
2) As for the ichthyologist reference, certainly this is a reference, and an irrelevant one at that, to Jefferts Schiori’s previous career in oceanography.
3) And why the heck call her a “tiger?” The only reason I can see is to disparage her.
4) All this completely misses some of the major points of the conflict anyway. If the bishops don’t want to be in the church, they are free to leave, but they can’t take entire dioceses and church property with them. Among other things – many other things.
This gentleman and the bishops are scared white men. Afraid of change, afraid of smart woman, afraid of truly discerning messages that might challenge their status quo. They use their age and their position to declare that theirs is the only possible truth. But we already know that.
I also realized that what bothered me most about the conversation was this man’s personal attack on the presiding bishop mostly likely because of her gender – and that I didn’t stand up to that for the sake of a “pleasant evening.”
What the heck has happened to me?
I didn’t used to be this way. I would challenge what I thought was wrong. Granted, I would sometimes push too far in that direction, and knew that I needed to find better balance. Last night it seemed like the pendulum had swung too far the other way. Yes, it probably was a no-win situation, but to have remained so silent makes me disappointed in myself.