By Rev. Tiffany Ashworth
When I was a kid, I told my parents that I wanted to be a pastor’s wife. At the time, I articulated my sense of ministerial call as such because I couldn’t dream what I couldn’t imagine. And in a world of white male leaders that touted female submission, my context was so that I simply could not make sense of my pastoral inclinations in any other way. Because of this, even though my drive to serve the church remained strong, I came up against enough “women don’t do that” pushback that I abandoned plans to begin formal biblical and theological studies and altered course. To make a very long story short, it was painful.
Seven years after that decision—years that involved some serious theological, ideological, and spiritual transformation—I for the first time entered a church led by a female senior pastor, Rev. Amanda Diekman. She was just a year older than me and a young mom, a brilliant preacher (still one of the best I know) and an incredibly skilled practitioner. Perhaps most striking was the character of her leadership: she did not force herself into traditional male leadership norms but led fully and wholly as herself. She did not merely put forward her fierce intellect and unwavering grit to the neglect of her emotional intuitiveness, nurturing way, and vulnerable spirit but rather allowed the entirety of who she was to shape her pastoral identity. The first time I saw Rev. Diekman lead, I wept. Her presence confronted me with a ministerial possibility I had never before envisioned and gave me the hope that, if there was a place in ministry for her, then perhaps there was one for me too. She is the reason I am myself in the process of becoming an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)—a reality I could never have begun to fathom as a child all those years ago.
On Saturday night, Kamala Harris exhorted young women watching to “see yourself in a way that others might not see you, simply because they’ve never seen it before.” And this is what Vice President-elect Harris, my former pastor, and countless others have empowered women to do: to see ourselves in ways we’ve never dared to see ourselves before. But that’s not all. Through carving out space for women in otherwise male-dominated spaces, they have also—and perhaps far more importantly—given us the chance to re-envision and remake old ways in light of how our presence at the table challenges and informs them.
Watching Vice President-elect Harris’s speech brought me back to the first time I encountered Rev. Diekman. That same wonder and awe overtook me as I watched a woman enlarge my daughter’s ability to imagine for her own life. I was also overcome with gratitude that, for my son, this was an equally powerful moment in its assault on harmful portraits of maleness that so threaten to degrade his own humanity: For when women assume power, they provide us an opportunity to redefine it as something other than invulnerable, distant, and dominant—a major win for everyone.
Kamala Harris is not a savior, but she is indeed a critical first. And I hope her presence marks a meaningful first step not only in welcoming women into powerful positions but in allowing them to determine their shape.
Tiffany Ashworth lives in Pasadena, CA with her husband and two young children. She is one internship away from earning her MDiv and is in the ordination process with the PC (U.S.A.). At present, she is enjoying ample time outside with her kids and is soaking up some much-needed soul care with a spiritual director.