As a young child, the hot debate in the church my family attended was whether or not women would be allowed to become deacons.
In middle school, I read a story called “The Boy Who Called God She,” and excitedly told my mom about the possibility that God is feminine. She furrowed her brow and scoffed, “I guess he didn’t get the whole Father, Son, and Holy Ghost thing.”
The house church I was part of asked me to become leadership, and I quickly responded, surprising even myself, “I can’t, I’m a woman.”
It took a lot of work for me to realize I had the freedom to use feminine pronouns, that there’s plenty of biblical support for a feminine God and female leaders, and to give myself permission to begin unlearning the patriarchy inserted into Christianity, and even to allow the good news of Christianity to form me into more of a feminist.
When I was writing my application essays for The Seattle School, I had a sentence about the work of the Spirit, noting what a better leader She is than I. Every single person who edited my paper wanted me to change the She to a He. “It sounds like you’re making a statement.” Well, I am making a statement, I would respond. “No, but, it sounds like you’re being argumentative for the sake of being argumentative.” One after another, every friend and family member attempted to convince me to drop that one capital S.
I stopped arguing theology with my community. I kept the “She”, I told them, because if the school is going to reject me for calling God She, they might as well reject me for having a womb. It was a belief. It was a statement. It was a test.
I turned my application in with the “She” intact. And was accepted to The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology with great enthusiasm.
Looking back, what’s more interesting to me than any theological stance is the conversations I had with people who love and care about me, people who support me in my desire to earn my degree in Divinity. The same people who were telling me I could be a leader in the church as a female were also telling me that a feminine pronoun is dangerous, argumentative, deeply undesirable. I don’t know how to reconcile this.
I wish I could write that the community here has been immediately accepting and understanding, that it’s been entirely safe within these walls. The truth is, there’s nowhere to escape the difficulties of being engendered. When the meanest insult on the playground is “you’re a girl” and actions are invoked with “a real man would”, reaching adulthood unscathed isn’t a possibility. Although there are no pure safe-havens, there are oases where the conversation can be unfolded, the engendered lens evaluated, the future re-imagined. The Seattle School is not only a lively oasis for women and men, but seeks to ever-expand into the desert.