Kate Rae Davis writes about Eagle & Child, a community within The Seattle School for Master of Divinity students.
Eagle & Child is the social group for Divinity students – since the MDiv program is smaller, Eagle & Child creates space for us to meet together across cohorts and share food, drinks, and struggles. Recently, towards the end of a gathering, someone asked how the first year students were doing. I looked around at the guys from my cohort (and yes, ‘guys’ is the appropriate word; I was the only woman from our year in attendance that night). They were silent, so I started speaking about what I knew was a problem for a few of us: the search for a church. MDiv students are urged to find a denomination in which they would consider being ordained, and encouraged to do so early in the program.
I started speaking about the frustrations of trying to find a church that was welcoming, especially for a theology student full of questions and doubts. I hadn’t planned to go into it, but soon I was recounting that my new husband and I had finally, after months, found a church we thought would be home, and the disappointment when we found out that the church is Presbyterian Church in America, a denomination that refuses leadership to women. This particular church was very careful to hide that fact, and when I asked the pastor his stance on women in leadership, he politically said “that’d be a conversation better had in private.”
Which we did. And as we continued the conversation in private, I noticed he was turning his face and body more towards Keller than me. He said I could do an internship there, “with limitations, of course.” He told my husband that they would “never ordain” me, because “the Bible is very clear on women’s roles in the church.”
Really? Very clear? Then why this chasm forming between us? Why won’t you say this to my face? I tried to picture the situation through his eyes, but only came up with questions. Did he not respect me enough to speak to me? Was he simply more familiar talking with a man? Did he think that I had lured my husband into an “unbiblical” view of leadership through that nuclear bomb of coercive power that some men seem to think that women hold between their legs? Or was I no better than the golden retriever in the room, told to be quiet in order to be more easily ignored?
Keller was clearly flustered that the pastor was addressing him; I’m usually the voice of my own life. When the pastor said he “would love to have us as part of the community” and finished his speech with something about “appropriate roles”, it was obvious Keller had to say something to correct the assumption that by appealing to the man of the house, this woman would be set straight.
“My mother is ordained in the PC(USA),” the Presbyterian denomination that ordains women. It was a statement from a place of confusion and pressure, but it was somehow fitting. It wasn’t me who had turned him feminist; he was raised with powerful women. (In fact, it had been him who turned me toward Christian feminism.)
I recounted a summarized version of this to the dozens present at E&C that night. It had been a few weeks so I thought I could share but a few sentences in, my throat was closing and my vision was fuzzy with tears. I took a deep breath, felt Keller’s reassuring hand on my back. I remember being frustrated that no one looked away to give my tears privacy, but in hindsight I’m so grateful that they accepted my hurt; these are individuals who will not turn away from Christ’s suffering on the cross, either.
Later in the evening, a handful of women who are further along in the program gathered around me, shared hurt and frustrations. No one tried to make it better, but speaking about the discrimination somehow helped. This is what Eagle & Child is for, is what the church is for: the whispers of ‘me, too’ and ‘you’re not alone.’
Kate Rae Davis is a writer working on her Masters of Divinity. Her literature degrees allow her to pretentiously cite poetry in thick-framed glasses; she gains street cred from theologically heavy tattoos. In rare breaks from reading and writing, she can be found practicing yoga, making Harry Potter and Star Trek references, or in the kitchen. Originally from West Michigan, Kate lives in Queen Anne with her husband, their dog, her violin, and two white elephant tea pots.