The Rev. Whitney Edwards
She said to me, “You will be that ally.”
Institutions like St. Christopher’s reassure the Rev. Whitney Edwards that the next generation will inspire constructive discussion about women’s issues. “We are raising a generation of people that are learning to be allies,” she said.
Steeped in the moral grounding that religion offered during high school at St. Catherine’s, Mrs. Edwards later travelled the globe to witness God’s work firsthand. Her spiritual journeys included a stay with members of the Maori tribe in northern New Zealand, who shared with her their Anglican traditions and prayer book.
In America, she served as a chaplain in the prison system for seven years, a challenging yet rewarding post that taught her much about empathy, along with a passion for God’s most difficult yet most positively impactful callings. “Everywhere I went,” she said, “God was doing amazing things.”
While serving on the Episcopalian Board of Yale’s Divinity School, she encountered gender discrimination during the process of assigning ministers to congregations. She explained that incredibly bright women were sent to smaller congregations, while less-qualified men occupied more prestigious ones. Some Roman Catholic boards, she said, preferred no priest over a female priest, and those congregations without leaders went spiritually “hungry.” The idea that “women getting positions often means that men didn’t” disenchanted her.
Similar experiences arose during her journey to become ordained. She was examined by huge committees and told she would go far because she had “nice legs.” She elaborated: “What it showed me was that my sexuality and my desirability would always be a factor as a priest.”
To her and many of her female peers, the idea that strength came from body image was demeaning. She finds strength in Galatians 3, which states that humanity has one identity in Christ above sex, and sees that passage as a lens through which to view human relationships.
Despite such frustrations and disappointments, Mrs. Edwards keeps faith that St. Christopher’s is guiding classes of men who will stand up for women. While male and female opportunities vary, their goals align, and she believes that to be the perfect opening for constructive discussion.
To the Rev. Edwards, the best thing boys can do to better understand women is to form neighborly friendships with them, saying “Women can really be the best of friends.”