Breaking glass may seem like an easy task, but Laura Alyssa Platé proves that it is harder than one might imagine, especially in the church.
Platé, a religion and history major, presented her senior capstone, “The Journey to Dismantling the Stained Glass Ceiling,” at the 2020 Piedmont Symposium. The glass ceiling refers to an invisible barrier that specifically affects women and minorities in their professional growth. When talking about the stained glass ceiling, Platé is specifically referring to the barrier for women and minorities and their professional growth in the church. This barrier still exists, Platé said, and her presentation focused on the steps needed to ensure this stained glass ceiling does not exist forever.
Platé’s idea for her capstone came in her first year at Piedmont when she took a class about the life of the biblical figure Paul. As the final paper in this class, the students had to pick a topic Paul talked about, do some research into his opinion and apply it to the modern world.
“For that paper, I chose to write about women in ministry. I loved writing that paper, that class is still one of my favorite classes because of that paper,” said Platé. “I chose that topic because I have struggled with a call and seeing where God wants me and wondering if that might be in ministry.”
Ministry can mean different things to different people, and for Platé, ministry has a personal definition through her father.
“If ministry means being a congregational minister, then there are churches where it’s still not allowed for me, which definitely hits close to home,” she said. “Also, I see my dad always support women in ministry when he was a Southern Baptist minister. He came out of the priesthood because of that.”
Tim Lytle, professor of philosophy and religion, is the faculty adviser for Platé’s Capstone presentation. Since all religion majors have to present their Capstones in the spring, Lytle had another student he was advising, John Hollis Meyer.
“They both did a great job in adapting their presentations to fit the time constraints and the media constraints of the Symposium,” said Lytle. “It wasn’t what we had hope for when planning the Symposium, but as a way to adapt to the current circumstances, it was a great success.”
Campus minister Tim Garvin-Leighton, more fondly known as Rev Tim, attended Platé’s Symposium presentation.
“Laura Alyssa’s topic is timely, as more and more women go into Christian ministry and many of them seek ordination. Her section on the redemption of Eve was fascinating,” said Garvin-Leighton. “I believe that she was able to convey her main point that women in ministry does not go against the Bible.”
Doing a presentation on something you’re passionate about can be a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, you are able to research a topic you love, but on the other hand, you become aware that there are people who do not feel the same as you do. This is one of the biggest issues Platé faced when she was writing her Capstone.
“When I was going through my research, I had to force myself to read things that I disagreed with so that I could argue against them. I would think to myself, ‘you have to read this so you can explain why that’s not true,’” said Platé.
In order for women to have a place in ministry for the future, there are some changes that need to be made. One suggestion Platé makes is a separation of church politics and church theology.
“Even the people that believe that women should be in the church share culpability of the way that women aren’t allowed to leave their mark behind a pulpit,” said Platé. “My hope with that is that the conversation has to continue until there is a defined answer. Having people that are willing to have those hard conversations and not walk away from the table is really important.”