The Rev. Casey dunsworth

serves as Associate Campus Pastor to the Belfry, the Lutheran-Episcopal Campus Ministry to UC Davis

and as Program Director for LEVN, the Lutheran Episcopal Volunteer Network.

"Preach it, sister," I am bold to say.

My dearest ELCA, thank you. Thank you that I am not only allowed but encouraged to speak, preach, teach, and lead in whatever situation I find myself. Thank you for giving me a scholarship to attend seminary, to follow this dream I have of making a difference in the church and in the world. Thank you for all the amazingly powerful female classmates with whom I share in this awesome experience.

Sure, we haven't always been allowed. Sure, some parishes still won't call us. But as a national body we have declared -- more than a generation ago, now -- that women are called to this vocation and should be given equal opportunity to serve the people of God. We as a national body have declared that the voices of women are welcome in the pulpit, in the classroom, and in the boardroom.

Today, I eavesdropped on a conversation between two women studying at an evangelical seminary that does not afford them the same. They are free to pursue degrees in things like "discipleship" and "Christian education" -- they'll be leaders of women's groups and Sunday school -- honorable, necessary, faithful work -- but they are relegated to domains not led by men. They're also encouraged to pursue marrying their male classmates, who are studying to be preachers and teachers and leaders.

One of these women was lamenting -- confessing, even -- to the other that sometimes, the deepest desire of her heart is to be a preacher. She was mad at herself for this sin, she said. This sinful, prideful desire. She said that it should not shock her one bit that Satan had this kind of power over her -- that the right thing to do was to suppress these feelings, because they were dangerous. And that her desire to preach was empty, because the Spirit would not give her words to say if she stepped into a pulpit. Her desire to preach was completely self-serving, she said.

I wanted to say something. I wanted to weep. I wanted to yell at the top of my lungs that she should be allowed to do the same! That it was not sinful and prideful to want to preach the Gospel to her people -- that's what we do here! That's what each and every one of us is called to do. And she can preach the Gospel to her fellow women and she can teach children and that will be wonderful and she will do great things with her deeply faithful servant heart. But if she feels so loudly called to this vocation, she should be able to honor that.

And that, dearest ELCA, is why I love you with my whole heart. Because you allow and encourage me to yell at the top of my lungs about the God who loves me. And about Jesus the Christ who came to teach and to serve and to save. And you allow and encourage me to speak truth to power -- to your own power! -- when injustice scars our communities. You allow and encourage me to participate fully in the life of this Church.

We the ELCA are not perfect. But we're not called to be perfect. We are called to love and serve to the best of our ability, whatever our ability is.

I am weepily grateful that I have not had that fearful conversation. That I have not been afraid to stand in the pulpit and proclaim the good news. That no person in a position of power in this Church has ever told me, "you can't." And that I have never told myself that I can't.

There is not a way for me to solve the problem that this woman finds herself facing. But what I can do is keep using my voice until she can use hers. Because I am allowed an encouraged to use my voice.

And for that, thanks be to God.

As We Gather at Your Table

Oh, Great God, Give Us Rest