This past electoral campaign brought up issues that were disturbing to many women. The criteria for fitness for the office of president for the woman candidate, such as comments about the clothes she wore, were standards seemingly not imposed on male candidates in the race. The comments surrounding women’s bodies were also alarming. These conversations brought up a sort of PTSD for some women, as they themselves have experienced sexual harassment and discrimination.
A recent PC(USA) Gender and Leadership in the Church research project found that eight out of ten women teaching elders have experienced discrimination, harassment, and/or prejudicial comments due to their gender, and four out of ten feel that they have experienced gender bias in hiring, promotion, or selection for an official position within the PC(USA). (To see these findings, go to www.pcusa.org/genderandleadership)
While we celebrate the many women ministers and heads of staff in the PC(USA), and also that the 222nd General Assembly (2016) elected two clergywomen as co-moderators–the first all-women moderatorial team in the history of our church—I am saddened by the stories of sexism and discrimination that many clergywomen, in particular, still share with me.
This is the very time to recommit to a common goal to create an awareness of sexism and institutional racism in the church and to create an environment in which women Presbyterians can serve fully in ministry and leadership.
Rhashell Hunter, director, Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)