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She’s been a princess, a firefighter, a Marine and a ballerina. After years of soul-searching, Barbie has finally found her true vocation. Meet Rev. Barbie, a plastic Episcopal Priest.
(Learn more about Episcopal Church clergy and leadership at Patheos.com)
Fisher created Rev. Barbie for use in her own youth ministry: “I thought the children would like to practice playing with the vestments and learning what they are,” she told Religion News Service. Over the years, Barbie’s many vocations have served as inspiration for young girls. And although Mattel has not endorsed Fisher’s improvised Reverend Barbie, the plastic priestess has emerged at a critical moment in Christian history, especially for women.
Debates rage within Christianity about the role of women in ministry. The Episcopal Church began ordaining women in 1976, but that policy and others have led to a schism within Anglicanism. Many evangelical and Pentecostal churches still keep women out of senior leadership positions as a matter of theology, and the Catholic Church, of course, does not ordain women to the priesthood.
Rev. Barbie’s timing, like her fashion sense, is impeccable. Lisa Miller’s Newsweek cover story this week asks “What Would Mary Do?” and explores the current Catholic sex abuse scandal through the perspective of women. The article concludes that greater female involvement in the upper-echelons of the church could have led to a child-first response to the abuse. Miller’s findings mirror the analysis of the Vatican’s own newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano which declared in March that women in leadership could have helped the church better address and perhaps prevent the crisis.
In the sorrowing and shameful situations in which the molestation and sexual abuse by ecclesiastics on the young entrusted to them come to light, we can hypothesize that a greater, non-subordinated feminine presence would have been able to rip the veil of the code of masculine silence [“omertà”] that in the past often covered over in silence the denunciation of misdeeds. Indeed, women, religious and lay, would be by nature more inclined to the defense of the young in cases of sexual abuse, ridding the church of the evils that these guilty attitudes have procured for it.
If the church is looking for “non-subordinated” women to join its leadership, the generations of Catholic women who grew up playing with President Barbie are eager candidates.
What would Rev. Barbie do? And how would the church be different if real women could rule?