Here are two two linked items (priests and bishops); linked in the sense that I'm posting links to them but also linked in the sense of being connected. In each case, people are fighting for equality and an end to oppression in a religion from within.
In the" priests" story, Catholic women are telling their brethren and sistren that they are just as worthy and as holy in the eyes of God as men--and priests and nuns are risking excommunication to support them.
At the "bishops" link, an openly gay Mormon man writes about the need for his church to be more accepting. [Full disclosure: Mitch has been a friend of mine for years.] He has posted his photo and his real name on his page, although by doing so, he risks excommunication, just as the priests and nuns in the NPR story do.
I once told Mitch that there were churches that welcome LGBTQA congregants. And Mitch replied that he should not have to go to a church that didn't feel the "right" one for him; he should be welcome in his own church. That changed my view of churches and acceptance. It is not enough for some churches to accept that LGBTQA people or women or Group X are fully human and fully equal. It is not enough for some churches to say that all people are loved by whatever god(s) they worship. All people have the right to serve or worship (or neither) as they are called to do, not as someone else deems them worthy to do.
This issue is tricky and complicated; freedom of religion, in its most basic and literal sense, does mean the right to choose and interpret scripture, to fashion doctrine, to take a stand on moral issues. (Or to choose no scripture and no doctrine.) But in a larger and less legalistic sense, freedom of religion means being free to choose your religion or to choose no religion. That sense has an important legalistic application, which is separation of church and state; if religion is imposed on us, we lose the right to choose. But it has a moral sense, too, and Mitch articulated it perfectly: No one should have to "settle" for a religion because it is one of the few religions that accept him or her.
This is, in a sense, a struggle for the souls of churches. Will they grow, become healthier and more loving, or will they become ever more constricted and constricting? Will religion as an institution be given over to hate and intolerance, to those who would legislate morality and impose their views on everyone else--or will it become more open, replacing prescription and proscription with acceptance?
Love it, hate it, or take a more rational view of it as a human, and therefore complicated and flawed, endeavor with both good and bad in it, religion remains a powerful force in the world. It is good, I think, to celebrate the times when any human beings take a stand for equality and justice, in any context. When people are fighting a religious oppression from within, they are doing a double good--fighting for equality AND working to change the nature of an oppressive institution. It takes guts to stay and fight instead of walking away; but walking away only creates a situation in which those left behind are increasingly hardened in their oppressive tendencies and power accrues to the least worthy.
And so I celebrate these priests and their supporters and the bishops who ordained the first women. And I celebrate Mitch, whom I am proud to call friend. And I and invite you to join me (or, of course, disagree).