Dear Presiding Bishop Katharine,
Throughout your tenure there has been a mountain of criticism of you and of your performance as Presiding Bishop. Hilary Clinton’s wardrobe was critiqued when she first came on the scene, never enough skirts and dresses, always too many pants suits. But she was the first woman to run for a major party’s nomination, so it was to be expected. President Obama has been criticized for, among other things, not being “black enough.” He was the first black American to serve as President, so I suppose we shouldn’t have been surprised. Likewise, as the first female Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, I suppose we shouldn’t have been surprised at the criticism hurled in your direction. But, it’s worth reflecting on the possibility that it’s not really about you.
Targeting the trailblazer seems to be a fatal flaw we humans have. Shame, judgment, and blame, are all tangled up in our “analysis” of those who dare to do a new thing. So for what it’s worth, you’re not alone. It was never going to be easy for the first female Presiding Bishop.
All personal adulation or loathing aside, you have done a remarkable thing for women in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. Thank you.
Many female clergy know what it’s like to stand in the receiving line every Sunday and endure sexist comments from parishioners and visitors alike. What you went through as the first female primate in all of the Anglican Communion feels unimaginable. It is appalling. Keeping order in a house of equals, most of whom are older men, seems like an antiquated challenge, or at best, a joke. Speaking on behalf of 50% of the population is a terribly daunting request. And yet, that never seemed to be a part of the consideration as your critics willingly lamented all that you’ve done wrong.
For all those who will stand upon your shoulders, we give great thanks for the sturdy foundation you provide. Our prayer is that it will never again be as hard for a woman to step into that role. Thank you for all that you have done and who you have been in our midst.