I am at the CREDO conference for retired clergy of which I wrote in an earlier post. I cannot say that I am having a terrific time. Eight days of meetings meant to help me reenter daily life with renewed vigor and vision is about four days too long, as far as I’m concerned. Besides, I’m not unhappy with the state of my vigor and vision. But it has been worthwhile in its own way.
At one of our evening gatherings someone noted that we are a very white, male gathering. Of the 39 of us, only a handful are women, and none are of any color other than pasty white. Partly it’s a generational thing. Clergy of our age come from a time when there were few ordained women, and fewer clergy of some ethnicity other than Northern European. Most of us, it seems, were raised in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, thus narrowing the scope of our backgrounds even further. So it should not come as a surprise that we are old, white and male.
However, we are also the generation whose legacy to the Church has been the ordination of women, the slow transformation toward a more inclusive Church, and a recommitment to economic and social justice here and abroad. Stumbling but persevering efforts to include anti-racism and anti-sexism training for all ordained and lay church leaders, implementation of programs to protect our children from sexual abuse, and a decades old screening process to weed out potential abusers from the ranks of clergy wannabes, are also legacies bequeathed to the Church from this generation of old, white males.
It’s not that we did all these things willingly or in unison. We have also been a cantankerous, stubborn, and skeptical generation that often had to be pushed, pulled and kicked into the future. Some small portion of us couldn’t take it and bolted for the presumed safety of newly formed ersatz “Anglican” denominations, or the golf course, whichever came first. But the fact remains that it is a generation that held the reins of power in the Church, and guided it in new directions, as it was led to do through prayerful discernment of God’s will.
That’s not a bad legacy. Now the questions is, how does one leave all that behind and get on with life in a new way?