Breaking Through the Stained Glass Ceiling

Breaking Through the Stained Glass Ceiling

Maureen Fielder (ed), Seabury Books (New York)

As we scan the political, economic, judicial and academic landscape these days, women are ascending to leadership positions in unprecedented numbers.

The trend is also true for women in the world of religion. As the host of Interfaith Voices, a public radio show heard on 71 stations acrossNorth America, Maureen Fiedler has interviewed many of these women, now published as this collection of lively Q&A sessions. It focuses not only on the discrimination faced by women in religion but documents the emerging leadership of women in several faith traditions.

It provides human stories that document the fact that this dream of gender equality in the world of religion is being realised. In fact, the acceptance of women leaders in religion appears to have reached a tipping point in many faith traditions. Gender equality has become an accepted norm, culturally and theologically. It’s now a question of how soon the new order of equality is actually realised.

The increase in women’s leadership does not mean that we are headed for a religious feminist “Nirvana” in the next few years. But we are seeing the front edge of a trend that will — and must — continue for many decades until women’s leadership in religion is taken for granted. Still, realism demands that we recognise the formidable obstacles that remain.

This egalitarian movement has become so pervasive that religions that continue to exclude women from official roles face a new cultural reality that accepts and believes in gender equality — in the West and increasingly in other parts of the globe as well. Such faith traditions might well engage in an “examination of conscience” on this issue if they want to thrive in the 21st century.

Peter Harvey

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