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MARYLAND: Diocesan Priest tells Boob Joke; Ignites FACEBOOK Firestorm from Women Clergy

MARYLAND: Diocesan Priest tells Boob Joke; Ignites FACEBOOK Firestorm from Women Clergy

By David W. Virtue, DD
October 21, 2017

A boob joke by a retiring Episcopal priest in a sermon at a recent diocesan conference fell flat, provoking a firestorm of clergy misogyny charges by a number of women priests, which ignited on the Maryland Episcopal Clergy Association (MECA) FACEBOOK pages.

Fr. Bill Ticknor, who retires after 45 years at St. James, Lothian, MD, made the boob joke in a sermon at the closing Eucharist. He was invited by Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton, (one of a handful of black Episcopal bishops) to preach the sermon. He was apparently not reprimanded by the bishop for his comment.

First out of the FACEBOOK discussion was Grey Maggiano, who said he spoke with Bill+ and then asked, "can we all (especially us gentlemen) agree that boob jokes have no place in a sermon?"

He then went on to write this; "Because of a combination of recent events around clergy conference-inappropriate stories in sermons, behavior during social and informal times and language used by presenters in formal presentations; as well as the large number of female clergy in our diocese that responded to the #metoo campaign with stories of harassment in the church and at the hands of other clergy -- perhaps we should consider how the Diocese of MD can improve our approach to preventing AND responding to sexual harassment.

"More than that, how can we combat certain behaviors that have become normative and accepted even though they are inappropriate? Does the Episcopal church have our own version of "locker room talk" -- sacristy talk?

"Among issues raised in the prior Facebook thread was not just the behaviors themselves, but that and many clergy, particularly female clergy being uncomfortable raising these issues for fear of being targeted or ignored."

Stewart Lucas wrote, "Thank you indeed. And yes. But I was also grateful for the other thread because it was highlighting larger issues of trust that we were asked to think about. If we don't find that level of trust among ourselves, I will not feel safe having of these conversations."

Spencer Hatcher wrote; "Trust and accountability are linked here. These conversations are risky and they require a recognition of power and an openness to hearing how and when that power is misused whether on purpose or by accident. Intent has to stop being the end of the conversation."

Adrien Dawson wrote; "I would venture to say that it is not currently an environment of trust."

Anjel Ayrer Scarborough wrote, "As a safeguarding trainer, I believe you've characterized this correctly Grey. We discuss the issue of naïve offenders and I do believe most of our brother clergy fall into that category (there are a few, however, who are more than that). In addition to being on the receiving end of clergy colleagues who are inappropriate, I'd also like us to look at when laymen do this to female clergy. Powerful men holding vestry and warden's positions in congregations have targeted female clergy with sexual aggression and there is no disciplinary rubric for that."

Ken Phelps wrote, "I think MECA needs to come together in conversation around this issue...let's also talk about how and when we can come together and get them on the Nov. 2 agenda."

Adrien Dawson countered, "...something is bothering me. **unvarnished honesty alert** Your tone (to Grey) is very protective and accommodating of the 'accidental' misogynist. I believe you are trying to create a safe space for me to be challenged about their behavior. And you say in a 'protective of women way' that women fear being targeted or ignored and speaking up about harassment requires vulnerability. I do know that my speaking up has been met at times with dismissal or another joke about feminism or being too sensitive or whatever is convenient to brush away a critique of male behavior. The truth is -- I don't fear those things, I just expect them. I simply don't believe men want to look into the real reason why women's bodies, sexualized femininity, age, attractiveness, are all free content for jokes and jabs around titillating power imbalances. I don't think that men have the will to examine it and why a culture of demeaning half the population is acceptable. So, in a way, I am not afraid, I have just given up on Male culture choosing to change...It is an issue of participating in a patriarchy that still believes deep down that women are weak and ours to dominate and own. Malicious or not, we have all been acculturated to believe that things "girly", "like a girl", "pussy" are synonyms for weakness. And male synonyms for power and domination. Men are taught to either possess or make fun of femaleness. Women are taught to put up with it and minimize or accommodate the impact on our lives. We are all complicit. We don't have to be malicious to participate in relationally destructive behavior."

Anjel Ayrer Scarborough later wrote, "I was suspended from Facebook for my #meToo posting. She later wrote, "Honestly, I've had more sexual aggression directed at me since ordination than I ever did in private industry."

Monique Ellison wrote, "I feel like I am being handled so as to control my responses to behavior that is out of control. I am not ready to talk about trust, respect and vulnerability in a system that...has disrespect for the norm."


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