It’s time—past time, really, that we gather as an interfaith community to state, unequivocally, “Gender equity shouldn’t stop at the doors of our churches, synagogues and mosques.” That’s why I’ll fast at the end of the month with Equal in Faith: Women Fast for Gender Justice in Religion.
On August 26, women of many faiths will mark National Women’s Equality Day by joining together in a nation-wide fast for gender justice and the equitable inclusion of women in their religious traditions. Sponsored by the Women’s Ordination Conference and Ordain Women, organizations seeking priesthood for women in Roman Catholicism and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), respectively, the day-long fast will culminate in an interfaith prayer service from 6:30-7:30 PM at St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church in Washington, DC, a congregation noted for its long-standing support of civil and religious equality.
Those who cannot attend the service in Washington, DC are encouraged to participate virtually through Equal in Faith’s Facebook event page. In particular, Equal in Faith’s organizers, of whom I am one, invite those who join us in fasting to post a personal statement in support of gender equity in their religious tradition on our Facebook event page.
I’m certainly not the first to acknowledge that religion and its foundational documents can be interpreted either to liberate or subjugate women. [i] Since fasting and prayer are spiritual practices common to many religious communities, I join Equal in Faith’s organizers in hoping that such interfaith events will underscore our faith-affirming belief in the ability of religion to do the former. A quick Google search or, more productive, a perusal of past posts on Feminism and Religion, document not only the fact that women and men in many traditions join us in this belief, but also that religion matters and has far-reaching influence in the broader community.
In a recent panel presentation on the Ordain Women movement in the Mormon church, Kate Kelly borrowed the phrase “peak patriarchy” from a discussion on climate change and land management.[ii] Just as we’ve nearly reached “peak oil,” which describes a situation where sources of oil are finite and, ultimately, reach a point where production peaks and they are unsustainable, Kelly asserts we’ve reached a point of “peak patriarchy.” Patriarchal institutions, including churches, are increasingly unsustainable.
I believe we have a choice. We can either perpetuate inequality through silence and inaction, or we can work together now for more just, equitable, and sustainable religious communities. How? By joining with organizations like the Women’s Ordination Conference, Roman Catholic Womenpriests, Ordain Women, Baptist Women for Equality, Ordain Women Now in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Women of the Wall, Muslims for Progressive Values, to name just a few, and participating in events like Equal in Faith. I hope to see you, either virtually or in Washington, DC, on August 26. It’s time.
Lorie Winder has an MA in Humanities from Brigham Young University and is the former editor of the Mormon Women’s Forum Quarterly, an LDS feminist publication. She is one of the organizers of Ordain Women and Equal in Faith: Women Fast for Gender Justice in Religion.