In God’s image – An institutional audit.

I want to conduct an institutional audit about how well the church teaches and embodies the truth that God is neither male nor female and that every man and every woman is made in Gods image.

Church teaching:

My church does not explicitly teach that females are a lesser sex. It doesn’t explicitly say women are not able to be as close to God as males are. But it matters that my bishop & pope believe that sex/gender makes females unable to “image Jesus”, receive holy orders, have canonical authority over a parish or school, or preach a homily. So what does Catholic Church teaching actually say about the identity of females. Who are we? Who are we to God? In Genesis we are told we are created, male and female, in God’s image. Paul gives instruction that there is to be neither Jew nor Greek, woman or man….etc. Sacramentally, females are baptized into the body of Christ; able to receive the body and blood of Christ; able to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. I need all of this core identity teaching in one place…because it seems to me that it contradicts itself. We need guidance on what teaching is primary.

(Has this work already been done ?)

Liturgy:

It matters if we only call God, Him at Mass and never Her. (He, Him, Lord, King, Master, Father, Son) Even my six year old asked why we come to Mass since “it’s only about boys”. We need inclusive language throughout the Mass, including the Creed. (Has this work already been done ?)

Preaching:

It matters if only men preach our homilies. Women are able to understand and discern the message in the gospels for our time. I want women preaching at Mass a minimum of 1 x month so that we can hear from different points of view. Also, so that the women and girls of our parishes can see themselves as someone who can break open God’s word with authority from the pulpit.

(Has this work already been done ?)

Liturgical leadership:

I think every liturgist/liturgy committee needs to have a goal of inclusive liturgical leadership (gender, race, age and how long a parishioner). This will include altar servers, readers, cantors, preachers, presidents, Eucharistic ministers, children’s liturgy leaders, and ushers. This should be regularly tallied, evaluated and adjusted.

(Has this work already been done ?)

Music:

I think every single song needs to be edited to provide inclusive language. There should be a set of criteria that liturgists can apply to each song to see if the lyrics distort God’s image or has adverse pastoral impacts.

(Has this work already been done ?)

Faith Formation:

I want us to have/create inclusive criteria, a scoring system, and a certification for inclusive resources for faith formation, religious education, sacramental prep and hymnals. Let’s banish the days of promoting a male God and a male-centered Mass with only pictures of altar boys and male priests in the children’s missal! Where does my second grade daughter fit into this? (Has this work already been done ?)

Restore Diaconate to Women – Holy Orders:

I want to find other Catholic leaders who might be called to the diaconate. I want to discern this call in relation to the bishop. Maybe he’d let a cohort of 5 or 10 women go through the Deacon’s candidate discernment process and training…even if we cannot yet be ordained…just to see what happens.

(Has this model already been tried in another diocese?)

Pastoral Impact:

I want to be able to show the cost and impact of not embodying the truth that every man and woman are made in God’s image….I’d like to have an advanced communications strategy to convey an impressive number of stories and examples of unintended adverse impact.

Authority and Decision-making:

Women will have a role in real decision-making in parishes, diocese, and in the Vatican. I don’t know what this looks like.

There will be gender balance in the college of Cardinals. Cardinals, which do not have to be ordained priests, will include women from around the world.

Local synods in every diocese will occur no less frequently than every 5 years so that there is a robust mechanism for input from every Catholic in the diocese. There will be annual surveys assessing the cries of the people to more deeply understand any suffering happening in members of the body of Christ. There will be annual requests for input from parishes. This will help to break the insulation of the bishops.

Resources for Engagement and Input:

I want to create a survey.

I want to create a list of interview questions

I want to create a discussion guide for women’s leadership in the Catholic Church.

I want to create a video with numerous stories of gender inclusivity…both the sorrows and the dreams.

6 thoughts on “In God’s image – An institutional audit.

  1. Dear Lisa,
    I love this “holistic reordering.” I would love for our parish and our diocese to take this “audit”.
    I think that having a video and walking through this as a parish would be so fruitful. I could see doing this as a parish renewal or in the company of other parishes as a synod. I think seeing God’s image in others cannot be denied. It will always be truth. Lead the way! These bones can come alive. Thank you.

  2. I want to second what Lydia said about this being a “holistic reordering.” I think that phrasing you used in our small group meeting really gave name to what you are doing. Your work is comprehensive yet succinct and accessible. Have you thought about reaching out to Future Church and Women’s Ordination Conference who are doing some of this work now? This is an incredible vision and I think your strength is your organizing background and the action oriented way you are approaching these issues!

  3. Lisa, thanks for sharing this vision. I so wish for greater accountability and transparency — and the word that comes up for me as of late is follow-through. A report can be rendered, but as others have mentioned, it is so much deeper: it is a “holistic reordering.”

    I noticed the repetition of your parenthetical statements as you wonder if these initiatives/projects have alreayd been done. Perhaps they have, and I know all of us could point one another to meaningful resources, but I wonder what it would be like to sit with the question of how God is inviting and beckoning you into this vision and work — regardless of whether or not a report or inclusive language lectionary or whathaveyou exists. As you write about several arenas of the church, does one stand out as asking for your energy? One that would just is yearning for your indelible mark and your gifts?

  4. This is wonderful, Lisa. You’ve given this a lot of thought, and I appreciate it. With regard to liturgical leadership, well, all of it, I’ll take this back to Saint Thomas More. This is beautiful.

  5. Inclusivity? A work in progress as they say. Over and over. In its ritual books and documents the Church does far worse than secular publishing, often by design. Even in a healthy and progressive parish, it’s an on-going struggle and efforts in this arena are not always well received. The images and language we use for God touch us deeply, often not consciously. Changing them triggers a lot. The fate I might wish on whoever coined the phrase “politically correct” probably isn’t printable here.

    I lived through the inclusive language wars of the 1980’s and 1990’s in liturgy and music (with the scars to prove it). There are good ways and poor ways to approach inclusivity. The poor ones never help. As a liturgist, I can say there is a lot of excellent work out there documenting why inclusivity is important. My library is probably a bit dated but includes seminal work and I have a stack of documents from the period. In liturgical music we’ve made some progress. Contemporary composers are more aware. Some are quite gifted in using poetic imagery that expands our sense of God. Some pieces are simply unredeemable and should be abandoned. A topic I’m always happy to dialogue about.

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