Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings New York City

Feminine Leadership Needed in Religious Institutions

by Rev. Chelsea MacMillan and Ilene Sameth

While the number of women in leadership roles is expanding in many industries, women often have to prove themselves just as capable as their male counterparts, if not more so, to achieve equal recognition—and even then, equal pay does not always follow. In many religious institutions, however, the topic of women in leadership is hardly granted a discussion. For millennia, these institutions have barred women from traditional leadership positions, depriving communities of the wonderful gifts a woman can offer.

Of course, we know that people of all gender expressions possess both feminine and masculine qualities. In the corporate and civic worlds, qualities traditionally regarded as feminine, such as empathy, vulnerability, humility, inclusiveness, generosity, balance and patience, are increasingly recognized as essential for bringing people together in cooperation and mutual empowerment—not only for improved productivity, but also for happier, more fulfilled employees or community members. Yet there seems to be nowhere that these qualities are more urgently needed than in religious organizations, as tensions rise within and between various groups.

The feminine tendency is to consider the well-being of the whole, to nurture the unity that lies beneath our differences. We can see this tendency in many earth-based traditions: everything arises from the Mother, and all her creatures live in reciprocity with her and one another, every one of us an expression of that source of life. This philosophy is mirrored by the heart of embodied mysticism that underlies all traditions. Ravaged by the effects of competition, greed and violence, our world is crying out for the loving embrace of the feminine.

At One Spirit Learning Alliance, we have long welcomed all genders, all ethnicities, the LGBTQ community and anyone who does not resonate with traditional patriarchal structures. We train people in spirituality and spiritual leadership on the forefront of a sacred consciousness that expands and includes rather than constricts and excludes. Where other doors are closed, ours is open wide.

One Spirit Learning Alliance supports women in leadership and would like to support you on that journey. We offer all readers of Natural Awakenings, no matter your gender identity, a discount of $75 on any application to either our Seminary program or our Interspiritual Counseling program if you apply by May 31st, 2017. Contact [email protected] for more information about our leadership programs or visit