Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Women in Ministry

posted by xscot mcknight

I’m asking for your cooperation today. First a question about women in ministry and then some guidelines for participation. The question: Why is it that, in denominations that have chosen to ordain women, ordained women are not being appointed or called to churches of 350 or more members? Now the guidelines:
First, I don’t want this post to turn into a debate about whether or not women should be ordained. I know some of you think that women should not be ordained. If you are tempted to write in something like “Because God doesn’t want women ordained,” please don’t. This post will be one for you to watch and listen to, or choose not to read; it might be good for some of us to hear how others think about these matters.
Second, if you participate in a denomination that does ordain women, I’m particularly interested in what you think of the article in the NY Times about this topic. I will make a few points to generate discussion, but do read it if you can and then come back and let us know your thoughts.
Third, I’m very much interested in what you (if you participate in an ordaining-women denomination or are open to such) think; and I hope my readers who disagree with women ordination will listen to what these others think.
Fourth, I’m especially interested in why this is the case in the Evangelical Covenant Church, the sponsoring denomination at North Park University.
Some facts from this article:

“Women now make up 51 percent of the students in divinity school. But in the mainline Protestant churches that have been ordaining women for decades, women account for only a small percentage â?? about 3 percent, according to one survey by a professor at Duke University â?? of pastors who lead large congregations, those with average Sunday attendance over 350.”
” People in the pews often do not accept women in the pulpit, clergy members said. â??Itâ??s still difficult for many in this culture to see women as figures of religious authority,â? said the Rev. Cynthia M. Campbell, president of McCormick Theological Seminary, a Presbyterian seminary in Chicago.
The Rev. Dottie Escobedo-Frank, pastor of Crossroads United Methodist Church in Phoenix, said that at every church where she has served, people have told her they were leaving because she is a woman.
At a large church where she was an associate pastor, a colleague told her that when she was in the pulpit, he could not focus on what she was saying because she is a woman. A man in the congregation covered his eyes whenever she preached.”

Women are now in major positions in denominational leadership and in the academic community, but are not finding their way into the local church pastorates of larger churches.
NY Times Article: By the way, the picture is of Alise Barrymore, our former campus pastor, and at Emmaus Community church where I recently preached. What a great church she is co-pastoring!



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Ken Schenck

posted August 30, 2006 at 4:57 am


My denomination is the Wesleyan Church, and we have had women ministers since the late 1800′s. Our early history was also historically ultraconservative (no jewelrey, no dancing, etc…), so we bust any stereotype that denominations that ordain women are liberal or recent. But we have seen a decline in woman’s ordination since WW2. And as the NYT article indicates, we have few women senior pastors let alone pastors of large churches in our fellowship.
A couple possible factors in this trend come to mind. One is a backlash from the rise of “secular feminism.” All woman pastors were now lumped together with “evil” and “liberal” feminism. Also, men as a whole were not threatened by the “exceptional woman” when society as a whole did not empower women. But after WW2, with a more wholesale empowerment of women, a more absolute stance with greater political force began to emerge.
Next, conservatisms have a tendency to cross religious and political boundaries. The conservative political activism of the 80′s blurred into religious positions. So now supporting the NRA somehow becomes associated with conservative Christianity simply because it is on the Republican platform. And since we vote with the Southern Baptists on abortion, we now tend toward their position on women in ministry. Everyone else is (not) doing it.
Finally, 2 Timothy 2 is a hard verse to avoid in a fundamentalist hermeneutic. When we were more pre-modern and isolated, it was easier to read past this verse. As walls between denominations fell, we were forced to reckon with it. And the level of exegetical sophistication needed to reckon with it is much higher than your average parishoner has. It requires us to take situation, context, and perhaps even pseudonymity into account. That’s a hard mountain to climb in a pre-modern or fundamentalist constituency.
My thoughts…



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Ted Gossard

posted August 30, 2006 at 5:11 am


Scot
We’re part of a Covenant church of the Evangelical Covenant Church denomination, which ordains women. Our pastor recently stepped down. There was a woman who was highly recommended to step in as our interim until we could call a pastor. But our church was not open to the idea of having a woman, even for that. (This is my clear recollection)
Most (including myself) do not come from ECC background (in fact at one point- ALL). I think a significant number in our church would be accepting of a woman as pastor. But evidently not enough of us.
I think, as has already been mentioned, we need to give women the opportunity, and work them in, regardless of whether everyone is happy about it or not. This needs to become a part of what we’re becoming, and being, as the Church by the Spirit. To be done sensitively and with wisdom, but to be done, nonetheless.
Otherwise our belief expressed in ordaining women to the pastorate, is not matched with our practice.
As for myself, the older I am (and I preach and love to pastor), the less I have a problem with a woman pastor. I accept such Scripturally, and my point here: in real life. Is the sexuality of men less problematical in being pastors? I think not. (maybe we don’t want to go here, but I do mention it)
(What about a denomination such as Vineyard. They let churches and pastors have opposing views on this subject.)



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Backwoods Presbyterian

posted August 30, 2006 at 5:31 am


I concur with Ken Schenck that the backlash against women’s ordination in my church-PC(USA)-is mostly tied to groups such as NARAL, Planned Parenthood, NOW, and the ERA. There is a conection being made by the people in the pews between radical feminism and women’s ordination. We have ordained women as Pastors for over 50 years and we have much the same experience you point at Scot in your post. There is still a considerable number of people-whether rightly or wrongly-who do not agree with womens ordination and have been silenced by presbyteries for the sake of political correctness.
As far as the New York Times Article it is dead on and fair I believe. This quote I believe is key, “People in the pews often do not accept women in the pulpit, clergy members said. â??Itâ??s still difficult for many in this culture to see women as figures of religious authority,â? said the Rev. Cynthia M. Campbell, president of McCormick Theological Seminary, a Presbyterian seminary in Chicago.”



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Jamie Westlake

posted August 30, 2006 at 6:06 am


I wonder what percent of men serve congregations with more than 350 in attendance? I’m a United Methodist (just back from vacation in New England) and we have a lot of conferences with very few opportunities for anyone to serve a church with 350 in attendance. In Florida, I can point to a number of highly competent, gifted women who are serving larger membership churches very well, and all of them have had to face folks who left, threatened to leave, weren’t open to their leadership, or treated them with utter disrespect.



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Isaac

posted August 30, 2006 at 7:02 am


It’s an interesting question, and I think there might be a couple of reasons and a coule of questions:
1. What’s the percentage of male to female clergy in the denominations, and what’s the percentage of female clergy who actually apply for these jobs? The issue might be one of self-selction. My priest in my hometown used to serve the largest Episcopal church in Atl., and she left to serve a small-town parish because she wanted the change and liked smaller parishes better.
2. In The Episcopal Church, where I used to serve as a youth minister, and in the Church of England (where I serve now), there’s still a lingering aesthetic that male leaders, particularly liturgical leaders, look “more correct” than a female one, and choose accordingly. “Good liturical sense” is a frequent note in the vacancies section of the Church Times, so I wonder if liturgical churches are also looking for an aesthetically ‘pleasing’ leader in addition to someone who an keep the books balanced.
3. The more interesting bit in the Times article is the deployment of women clergy to ‘troubled’ or ‘dying’ parishes. I think this sends a message that women clergy are either A). banshees announcing the death of a parish or B). their role is only as a parish ‘healer.’ It’s not without some degree of irony, then, that ++Schori has been hailed is either the death-knell or the savior of the Episcopal Church.
I think all of these are essentially cultural reflections of what we picture the ‘role’ of women generally, and not something endemic to the perception of women clergy as being radical feminists. Large congregations require leaders just as large and just as strong as the congregation; and strong women are still perceived as being ‘bitchy’ (pardon the expression), regardless of their competency in the pulpit.



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Norton

posted August 30, 2006 at 7:14 am


Just a random thought… Women have been allowed to hold top governmental offices for some time now (governor, senate, house, president, etc.) And though there are a few women involved here and there, it’s a very small percentage.
Is this related? Could this be a larger question about American culture?



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John

posted August 30, 2006 at 7:16 am


I’m also a FL United Methodist. I think some of it is demographics (right now, larger congregations have a more conservative bend). But there is also certainly a stained glass ceiling. And I would say the UMC is more culpable than some other denominations b/c the pastor does not work for the local church, he/she works for the conference and is assigned to a charge.
From my personal experience, it seems there may be a resistance to placing women in preaching positions in general b/c some folks may be put off by it. There doesn’t seem to be the same resistance to women in other pastoral positions, such as counseling. (We had a husband/wife team in our church back in the early ’90s. I admit I was put off by it whenever she preached, I think b/c I had never experienced a female preacher before.) And I think this resistance to placing women as preachers is amplified in large churches b/c that is where the money is. And that is quite sad.



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Trevin Wax

posted August 30, 2006 at 7:27 am


David Murrow addresses this in his book “Why Men Hate Going to Church.” Without coming down on one side or the other of this debate, he puts up statistics that show mainline churches that have women as pastors are virtually empty of male leadership… and male participation in the pews.
If I remember correctly, Murrow says that in spiritual matters, many men have difficulty with the idea of a woman as their spiritual leader. This might explain why some churches may officially approve of the idea of ordained women but still be resistant to implement their belief.



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paul

posted August 30, 2006 at 7:30 am


i think that in general there is a part of the church body that do not want a women in ministry, and they do not rest on difficult biblical verses. for example, my grandmother has nothing against women in ministry in theory. However, she just “hates listening to women teach…men just do it so much better>”
The fact that many people are just used to men teaching and leading is hard to change i guess…i think this is at least a part of why people do not like women leading congregations (and the bigger the congregation, the more likely you are to encounter more people like this…)



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RJS

posted August 30, 2006 at 7:34 am


This is a tough issue.
First, why are women not being appointed or called to churches of 350 or more member? I would guess that some of the major reasons are: (1) Lingering uncertainty with in the congregation of the Biblical propriety of women as pastors. (2) The necessity for nearly unanimous support in the call of a senior pastor. (3) The cultural inability of many to view women as intelligent, charismatic, personal leaders. (4) The small candidate pool – likely created by the reluctance of many committed Christian women to fight this battle. (5) The strong impression that women in leadership in a “voluntary assembly” will simply drive men away.
Second, all Pastors will have people leaving a congregation for some real or imagined failing. The comments about people leaving a church are red herring. Come-on think about the reasons people give for leaving in any church or situation. In my experience all Pastors are subject to personal attack on some level or other. I am not a pastor, but my grandfather, father-in-law, brother-in-law, and two uncles are or were pastors.
Third, I was somewhat disappointed by the emphasis on “getting ahead”. I am not really naïve, this is clearly an issue with many male pastors as well – the whole “success” thing. But shouldnâ??t people enter the ministry as servants surrendered to the will of God – not to get ahead? Of course it is a NY Times article so the slant is not really surprising.



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Allan R. Bevere

posted August 30, 2006 at 7:34 am


I think many of the comments already made have been quite insightful. One of the matters that I think bears mentioning is the issue of whether a pastor is apostolically oriented or chaplaincy oriented. Pastors in the former category place central emphasis on evangelism and outreach and they can tend to be the type of pastor that gets called to larger congregations. Growing congregations are growing for a reason. In fact, when one looks at the former large churches that are now in decline, at some point there was a definite shift from apostolic oriented ministry to chaplaincy oriented ministry, where the emphasis on pastoral duties centered around maintenance ministry. The pastor is there only for to take care of the congregation instead of leading the church in ministries that reach out in order to make disciples.
It is estimated that 70 to 80% of the pastors in mainline denominations are chaplaincy oriented, which explains in part, at least, the decline of most mainline churches.
The question I am asking here, and I honestly do not know the answer, is whether part of the issue (clearly not the only issue) is whether most of the women entering the pastoral ministry are chaplaincy oriented. There are certainly a high percentage of men oriented in the same way, and they tend not to pastor larger churches, and my experience has been, that when they are appointed to large parishes, it does not go well. I also know of two women in our conference who are very apostolically oriented as pastors and they have served larger churches.
It is more complex than this, to be sure, but I think it is worth some consideration.



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kent

posted August 30, 2006 at 7:36 am


Being a part of the Covenant church I can tell that the leadership is aggressive in promoting women in ministry. But, they have little authority to place anyone. So in congregations of any size, let alone 350 or more, it hard to place a woman in the Covenant. I serve in the most receptive conference in the denomination and I would be stunned if more thant 35% of the church would be open to a woman senior pastor. This has nothing to do with my personal, and positive, opinion of the issue. We are federation of independent congregations that operates on a congregational call system. We appoint only the church planters.
Add to this fact that in the Covenant right now there are less than 45 places open for a senior or solo pastor for any church of any size. So the “competition” for a call is higher now than it has been for a while. Add to that in the Covenant we have probably less than 200 churches which qualify in the 350 and above range and the pastors of those chruches are not moving. Opportunity is not great in the Covenant for women.
We are also conservative, more so than the leadership, which is not unusual. The president of the denomination declared two years ago at our national gathering that women in ministry was one of two issues he wanted our denomination to be known for. I do not believe the majority of the churches shared or shares that opinion. Interestingly enough it is often the women in the congregation who object most loudly.
Regretably it may be another decade before women are routinely placed in the larger churches of the Covenant.



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Jamie Hollis

posted August 30, 2006 at 7:44 am


It seems that while there are denominations that are technically ok with women being in the pulpit, we still have some serious prejudices to work out. My grandmother has always told me that women can do whatever they want, but when I point out that she has male doctors, male pastors, male everything, she tells me that she is just old fashioned and doesn’t like change. So, it’s ok for women to do those things, but when push comes to shove, she’ll pick a man over a woman in those positions any day.



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Susan

posted August 30, 2006 at 7:53 am


A contributing factor that should be mentioned is the evangelical church’s extreme senstivity to anything that will hinder the number of people in the pews. We are obsessed with numeric growth. No one is going to want to bring on a woman as a pastor if they think it will cause people to leave the church. If that is how decisions are made (we hire the pastor who we believe will ‘grow the church’ —for any reason!) then women will struggle until someone finds a way to make women-as-pastor a “popular” idea that will draw crowds.
Also, as Ted writes, “…our belief expressed in ordaining women to the pastorate, is not matched with our practice.” I think he’s on target.
This whole topic just makes me incredibly sad, as a woman. The gifts of God are not “better” when they are in a man than in a woman and in fact, many women have worked very hard to develop teaching and expository skills, are full of compassion and wisdom for God’s people, and are less interested in building an empire and more interested in truly shepherding people. Men have had it so much easier. I have seen men with aggressive personalities rise to leadership just on energy and assertiveness alone, while women have to jump through all the hoops and fill in all the blanks and dot all the “i’s” etc. and still are not allowed places of ministry.
Men, the ones currently in the “power seat” in most churches, must be the ones to rally for women. I believe this with all my heart. If men do not believe women should be using their pastoral gifts, no one will. Men could do SO much toward this effort, if they wanted to.



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riddle

posted August 30, 2006 at 8:11 am


“Men could do SO much toward this effort, if they wanted to.”
Susan,
As someone who supports women in ministry, can you talk more to me about this line? I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts.
mark



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John

posted August 30, 2006 at 8:12 am


“Men, the ones currently in the â??power seatâ? in most churches, must be the ones to rally for women. I believe this with all my heart. If men do not believe women should be using their pastoral gifts, no one will. Men could do SO much toward this effort, if they wanted to.”
I’m wondering if this in itself what is part of the problem. That the men in the power seats right now are often opposed to women in ministry at all?



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Nick

posted August 30, 2006 at 8:15 am


“preferences and prejudices within their denominations that keep them from leading bigger congregations and having the opportunity to shape the faith of more people.”
more specfically some causes of a lack of female pastors of large congregations may be:
1) church members who are still unsure theologically on the issue of women in ministry, prevents full support
1) churches that are divided on the issue, prevents full support even once women are in positions
2) women who have always been weak and dependent on men, don’t step up as leaders and don’t fully support those that do
3) men who have always thought of leadership as a masculine quality, won’t fully support
4) for many who theologically agree with women pastors, they still simply aren’t used to it, it will take time to give full support
5) overly aggressive male leaders who monopolize influence, not enough agressive female leaders who assert their God-given opportunities to influence



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theajthomas

posted August 30, 2006 at 8:27 am


Iâ??m a pastor on the Atlantic District of the Wesleyan church. We believe in Women in ministry, we ordained the first female pastor in Canada back in the 1800′s, and currently women in ministry is on the rise. I had a conversation with several pastor buddies about why there weren’t more women in ministry. We came to the basic conclusion that itâ??s because our average member (male or female) would have a hard time following them. I have no idea why women (my wife included) say they would have a hard time following a woman but we did come up with a conclusion for guys.
Basically guys want to follow a leader who could kick our butt (not to be confused with just being cantankerous). Most women pastors Iâ??ve known don’t give off that impression. I know at least one around here that does and I would follow her in a heart beat. Maybe some women in ministry need to develop a bit more of a visible toughness. Before the PC police arrest me for that let me say that men have been required to soften up, and sensitive up for generations. If you are going to lead both sexes you need to be who they will follow. I think itâ??s sort of an â??all things to all peopleâ? deal.
While I believe that scripture support women in ministry the truth is that if you surveyed the bible to see how many women led their days equivalent of a 350+ church the numbers would be pretty small. Could it be that God isnâ??t hung up on a 50% split? Could it be that God calls and equips a significantly higher percentage of men? Is there something in the way we are typically wired that makes it so a man who has what it takes for high level leadership is above average but a woman with the same abilities is downright rare? Whatever the case I think the cause of women in ministry is advanced far more by the respect paid to the truly great female pastors than by some sort of statistical analysis or quota program. One great woman pastor will accomplish more for that cause than 100 mediocre ones placed in a position because of their gender not their abilities and calling.



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Jamie Arpin-Ricci

posted August 30, 2006 at 8:44 am


Having grown up in the Evangelical Church of Canada, I was not often exposed to talk about restrictions of women in pastoral leadership, but neither did I see it practiced. Being in a small rural community, the congregation was made up of such diverse beliefs, I’m sure it was avoided (at least in the public arena) for the sake of “peace”.
While it is not quite the same, I have spent the last 12 years working with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) where the official stance of the organization is strongly affirming of women in all levels and positions of Christian leadership (articulated in the book “Why Not Women?”, see YWAM Publishing and in an exhaustive inductive study paper, “I Commend To You Our Sister” which I can email to interested parties).
However, in practice, it is still a slow process. While YWAM is probably ahead of many denominations in this regard, it is still quite common to see the leadership of ministry centres to be predominantly male. Outside of the Western world, this is not as surprising given that many cultures are more presently rooted in patriarchal systems. In North American particular, I’d have expected more progress in this area.
Of the leadership structures within YWAM that I am most familiar with, I can say with great confidence that there is a strong affirmation of the value, with no obvious hesitation. In practice, I think people are going to have to come to terms with how deeply these values shape our choices and practices. In this way, it is very similar to the racialization of faith. Where most of us would be STRONGLY affirming of racial equality, most of us likely practice something different (often unconsciously). The same holds true with this issue.
Great thoughts from other commenters.
Peace,
Jamie



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Mike Swalm

posted August 30, 2006 at 8:44 am


Great questions, Scot. And very interesting discussion subsequent. I too believe that the problem primarily rests in congregations who are either theologically unsure, opposed, or reticent to hire a female senior pastor.
I can’t tell you the number of people, men and women, who say that they wholeheartedly agree with female pastors, with the caveat that they don’t want to sit under a female SENIOR pastor.
Some of the reticence may be borne from a fear that a female senior pastor would preach with an agenda of feminism (an argument i hear rather frequently) and would neglect the gospel.
As to women in churches of 350 plus, my opinions are driven from my experience, which is right now in the baptist church, where the local congregation has complete control over hiring and firing…this exacerbates the problem, seeing as many of the above posts discussed the hermeneutical difficulties inherent in interpreting the 1Tim passages and others.



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Susan

posted August 30, 2006 at 8:52 am


Mark,
What, specifically, are you doing “in support” ? That will help me answer your question. : )
-Susan



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Kate

posted August 30, 2006 at 9:02 am


“Whatever the case I think the cause of women in ministry is advanced far more by the respect paid to the truly great female pastors than by some sort of statistical analysis or quota program. One great woman pastor will accomplish more for that cause than 100 mediocre ones placed in a position because of their gender not their abilities and calling.”
Excellent point, theajthomas, but I wonder how many great female pastors have been passed over (or not even considered) because a congregation would rather have a man simply because of his gender. I don’t want women placed in any position, whether sacred or secular, if they are not qualified, but the issue cuts both ways. There is certainly no lack of unqualified men in positions of authority, both inside and outside the church.
P.S. I love my male pastor, but would love it if our brilliant female associate got more chances to preach and exercise her skills.



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Brad Boydston

posted August 30, 2006 at 9:04 am


Someone wrote: “If I remember correctly, Murrow says that in spiritual matters, many men have difficulty with the idea of a woman as their spiritual leader. This might explain why some churches may officially approve of the idea of ordained women but still be resistant to implement their belief.”
In my experience as an ECC pastor the people most resistent to female pastors are other women.
The number of women pastors has been increasing steadily over the past decade in the ECC. We’re still not close to where we think we need to be but we’re moving in the right direction. We are very close now to having women in some of the larger pulpits — assuming that is some kind of measure of success. (We may want to press on the definition of success — and perhaps it will be the women who help us with that.)
The largest and fastest growing regional conference in the Evangelical Covenant Church has a female pastor as superintendent. She is probably the most effective leader I’ve ever worked with. Interestingly, though, in spite of her presence and positive model, the churches in the conference are not rushing to sign a woman pastor of their own.
What will it take in our context to move forward? Time and a few more funerals.



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RJS

posted August 30, 2006 at 9:11 am


Letâ??s look at this from the cultural point of view for a moment. Being a woman in my mid-to-late forties, and one demonstrably willing to buck cultural expectations, I am of the generation that would have recently been placed in, or be coming into positions of major leadership.
First – attitudes change slowly. When I was young, I was laughed at or discouraged by many adults (not however, parents or grandparents) for even expressing interest in things consider male-only domains. Pursuing such a course anyway is not an easy thing – as it creates barriers and a certain degree of isolation. In the church environment I grew up in (evangelical not fundamentalist) the idea of a woman as anything other than a Sunday School teacher or a special event speaker (say Jill Briscoe or Corrie Ten Boom) was not taken seriously.
Second – even in secular academia, a supposed bastion of liberal feminism (I mean come-on I got an e-mail Monday with the subject line “It’s Great to be a Girl femtor program” – think about it) it is still difficult to be taken seriously. While my generation is not the vanguard – it is the first significant wave, at least in the sciences. I am still mistaken on a routine basis for a secretary, graduate student, or postdoctoral fellow, both here and when attending professional meetings. Every successful woman I know has found it a real battle on many levels and the failures or dropouts greatly exceed the successes. The subtle prejudices and accumulation of minor disadvantages can be overwhelming.
Third – the general Christian community is much less open-minded and is prone to define people on generalizations and build ministries devoted to those generalizations. I have come to detest generalizations because they always marginalize far too many. The stereotypes are endemic and entrenched in what we do and in what we say. It is very hard to be taken seriously as a woman outside of traditional roles. It is not clear that things will get better soon.



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Ruud Vermeij

posted August 30, 2006 at 9:14 am


Jamie,
I am interested in the “I Commend To You Our Sister” paper.
I you are allowed to distribute it, please email me a copy at respons_AT_solcon_DOT_nl.
Ruud



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Nick

posted August 30, 2006 at 9:28 am


i think a major factor limiting women in pastoral positions is our adopted model of a “senior pastor”. given our culture, men will seize theses positions and women are left in the dust. but if we start having pastoral teams of pastors of equal responsibilities, women will find their way into pastoral positions of influence they feel called to. i think if we reform the structures, many of our churches are theolgically ready to support woman pastors alongside men.
those that aren’t theologically ready, God will have to radically change their hearts and minds. unfortunately so many male leaders, and female followers, are stuck in the victorian era of christianity, and they honestly believe God designed men to lead, and women to follow. its so black and white to them. i think those who would support female pastors in their churches need to try to influence their church leaders in this direction, or else leave and support female pastors somewhere we the leaders are open to it.



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theajthomas

posted August 30, 2006 at 9:34 am


I’m with you Kate. I know lots of incompetent male pastors (some might say I’m one of them) who should find another role in the kingdom. I’m just saying thought systems are influenced by compelling examples not stats. We believe people can go to the moon, not because so many of us have but because we have a compelling example. We believe that an African-American woman can hold one of the most powerful positions in the US. Not because so many have but because we have a compelling example. We believe that the local church can be incredible effective in evangelism. Not because so many are but because we have some compelling examples. And on and on. I guess Iâ??m just saying that I wish we told more stories (like you did about the associate at your church) about great, current, female leaders in the church. Those compelling examples would do more than any amount of theologizing or statistical analysis. I believe the strongest leader we have in my denomination is a woman by the name of Joann Lyon. There isnâ??t a Wesleyan man alive today who can keep up with her. Her example will do more to convince the girls in my youth group who feel called to church leadership to follow that call than anything else. Letâ??s make sure we are telling people the stories of great female leaders in the church.



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Kate

posted August 30, 2006 at 9:40 am


I concur, theaj! I went to Houghton College, so I’m well aware of Joann Lyon’s example. We definitely need more people, men and women, telling the tales of women doing a great job. Narrative can change the world.



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Kate

posted August 30, 2006 at 9:40 am


And that narrative line is lame…and me trying to sound intellectual.



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Susan

posted August 30, 2006 at 9:49 am


Alan,
You may just using biblical terminology to describe the same phenomenon: the ‘kudos’ given in our culture for being aggressive and charismatic (personally, I think whether these qualities are from the Holy Spirit is often
questionable – - sometimes yes, sometimes no). It yields the numeric growth we are so obsessed with. I believe there are as many women as men who do NOT have these charismatic or aggressive personalities, and who truly have pastoral gifts, and should be leading churches, but they don’t “get to” because our emphasis has been on the big church led by a dynamic entrepreneur. The fact that
this happens seems more unjust for women because of the gender issue, but actually, I think it goes deeper than gender. I think itâ??s our attitude about what church should be like, and what church should be ‘about.’
You wrote, “Growing congregations are growing for a reason.”…
right…. because of the way we’ve emphasized a certain kind of growth: numeric growth over soul-growth. Identifying a possible shift you describe this “shift from apostolic oriented ministry to chaplaincy oriented ministry,” as basically an inevitable death-notice for the congregation, where “the emphasis on pastoral duties centered around maintenance ministryâ? where â?? The pastor is there only for to take care of the congregation instead of leading the church in ministries that reach out in order to make disciples.” This is a sad commentary on the current attitude toward soul-care. It kills your congregation? I question this.
You wrote, “It is estimated that 70 to 80% of the pastors in mainline denominations are chaplaincy oriented, which explains in part, at least, the decline of most mainline churches.” The “decline” of most mainline churches? Shouldn’t we thoroughly frisk statistics such as these, and their accompanying conclusions, because of where they seem to lead us? What if this is all just harmful legend? Is this really the reason churches are in â??declineâ? ?
This term “chaplaincy-oriented” ministry sounds to me like a euphemism for hospice ministry, and is not representative of the hearts or the gifting of many
many MANY men and women out there who do not have the “gift of apostleship” (again, I question whether this is really the situation, but whether what we’re
talking about is personality rather than Spirit-imparted gifts) but are excellent teachers and ministers and leaders, pastorally. Moreover, the gift of apostleship (such as it is) was never meant to replace the pastoral gifts. Neither were the apostles long-term leaders of churches! They established churches, trained and appointed PASTORS, and moved on. We don’t see this
happening in congregations, do we? We have emphasized the charismatic entrepreneur, the evangelistic preacher, the snappy speaker, and believed they could pull the weight of the entire church!
And finally, it is wondered “… whether most of the women entering the pastoral ministry are chaplaincy oriented….” This sounds like a backhanded way of making this a gender-issue, that most women are not “naturally” aggressive and CEO oriented (These latter qualities again confused with the gift of “apostleship”).
Could we talk about this: the possiblily that the whole system is so messed up that NOBODY should be appointed to these congregations any more. Perhaps the whole thing needs to fall apart before we can put it back together biblically again. What is so wonderful about these congregations over 350, besides the income potential for the leader?



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Jennifer

posted August 30, 2006 at 10:08 am


I wonder how much the women themselves are choosing to be in less-than-mega churches. It is much easier to be relational with a group of 350 than a group of 3500. She herself might find that more fulfilling since relationality tends to be a strength for women. I’ve known male pastors of large churches who could *never* survive pastoring a group of 350 because it requires something they dont have.



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Michael Kruse

posted August 30, 2006 at 10:09 am


I think several good observations have been made here. I am PCUSA and I was in a church with a woman pastor for nearly ten years. I have worked with women pastors in variety of settings.
One issue that has been hinted at here a couple times but not fully articulated is that other women are often the biggest obstacle to women pastors. My pastor talked about the fact that her biggest critics were the older gatekeeper women in the church. They would routinely be critical of the way she dressed. So she opted to wear a robe most of the time. Then they didnâ??t like her shoes or her voice was too high. I was in the presence of these women on more than one occasion when they made unabashedly sexist remarks about her. I have heard this sort of thing from other women as well. Interestingly, in ten years I donâ??t recall hearing men being critical of her in public or private, other than the usual disagreements over policies or decisions that any pastor would have.
I think part of what is being illustrated here is that there is no one answer. We are dealing with a complex web of sociological institutional dynamics. I read a very interesting book a few years ago called Ordaining Women: Culture and Conflict in Religious Organizations by Mark Chaves. It is sociological as opposed to theological analysis. Chaves points out that sacramentalist and inerrantist denominations have been the most resistant to ordaining women. He talks about the impact of centralized denominational structures (ex. United Methodist) versus decentralized structures (Evangelical Covenant) and the plight of women. Then among the latter he distinguishes between those that have had a history of strong womenâ??s groups and those who havenâ??t. The push for change in centralized denominations has come from the hierarchy. Decentralized denominations have a greater challenge because no matter what the leadership says the congregations still choose their pastor. Change in these denominations has tended to come through womenâ??s associations. Unfortunately, I donâ??t think Chaves addressed the issue of pastoring large congregations.
I really think there is a chicken-or-the-egg thing at work. The great majority of congregations are risk averse. A female pastor is still a new idea to a great many and therefore a risk. Even those how are supportive of the idea may ultimately be swayed by this risk aversion. So how do you get people over this aversion? You give them the experience of a female pastor. How do we get more female pastors? Get people to be less risk averse. I think the bigger the church, the more you get into a Jackie Robinson situation. As a woman pastor moving into a large church setting not only do you have to deal with the stresses any man is going to face but now you are also the poster child for a whole class of people. Almost messianic expectations are placed on you and critics are scrutinizing your every step. One woman pastor I have talked with rejected a call to large church because when she came face to face with the incredible pressure and expectations that were going to be placed on her she just decided it was it worth it for her and her family.
This is very complex problem.



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Michael Kruse

posted August 30, 2006 at 10:15 am


Susan Wrote #30:
“Could we talk about this: the possiblily that the whole system is so messed up that NOBODY should be appointed to these congregations any more. Perhaps the whole thing needs to fall apart before we can put it back together biblically again. What is so wonderful about these congregations over 350, besides the income potential for the leader?”
It does sort of make the male/female think moot if we have misunderstood ordination and pastoring in the first place doesn’t it?



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PS

posted August 30, 2006 at 10:17 am


The questions asked in #3 and #4 are very pertinent. Our pastor, a woman, said that no new pastor gets a chance at a big church, period. She said she wouldn’t want a church so big that she didn’t know the people.
A big church would, likely, have two pastors, so sharing the work could be an issue for a number of people, man or woman. However, a two pastor church might be easier for a woman pastor if she is in the childbearing role at the same time. Ditto for a male pastor, but people don’t think about that, do they?
And some big churches are so program orientated that the pastor is an administrator as much or more than a pastor. There are pastors who have a big church and leave it for that reason. There are probably pastors who never want to try that role.
Our church had zero backlash or back talk about getting a woman pastor.



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Jenny

posted August 30, 2006 at 10:26 am


Scot, I’ve been lurking for a while, and I really enjoy your blog. This post finally pulled me out of anonymity because it hits close to home. I am beginning seminary in the fall at Princeton; the discussion over women in ministry I have always heard ceased to be theoretical in my life as I made the decision to pursue ministry.
I have spent the last few years in a Southern Baptist Church with some wonderful, non-traditional SB people, though the church has changed recently, making your neo-fundamentalist posts all the more intriguing. I am very excited about the transition from a church very unsupportive of women in ministry to an environment not so hostile. It is very good, though, to see that outside of my bubble, it is not so rosy and will still be tough.
One observation I had this summer while sitting at a youth camp has been troubling to me. (I work with the youth group, and am pursuing youth ministry.) I realized that I have hardly ever heard a woman speak at a camp, conference, rally, etc., though these are usually nondemoninational. I can see why people are uncomfortable listening to women speak; they hardly ever hear them, even outside of a traditional church service. Why are completely independent organizations (as most camps I’ve attended are) so hesitant to put a woman up front? It’s particularly interesting to me that most people will agree that women as youth pastors are kosher, but even at youth events there are few women speakers or camp pastors.
I would say that another cyclical problem is that I was in college before the idea of ministry even entered my thoughts because, though my family always told me it was ok, I never saw a woman in a lead role in church. Even in the past year, I thought a mentor would be wonderful to look to for wisdom as I started this process, but after asking many around me, no one could think of someone to fill that role. I believe the lack of example and support network also discourages the process.



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Sam Robb

posted August 30, 2006 at 10:38 am


Jamie Westlake said, “I wonder what percent of men serve congregations with more than 350 in attendance?”
A quick search on Google turned up the following:
http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=48346
Of particular interest:
“Half of all congregations have fewer than 100 regularly participating adults, and one-fourth have fewer than 50. One in 10 have more than 1,000 adult participants.”
So, for *all* churches, then, the figure would be somewhere between 10% and 49%, though I would tend to guess that it would end up somewhere around 15%-20%. You can probably dig more detailed information out of the actual report:
http://fact.hartsem.edu/Final%20FACTrpt.pdf



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Erika Haub

posted August 30, 2006 at 10:45 am


In a conversation about why there are not women in the Covenant who are being called as church planters, the answer given by a person in upper-level leadership was that there are few women who are really gifted preachers. Church plants and larger churches tend to be, in many people’s opinion, more “personality-driven” (who the pastor is drives the growth) and preaching gifts are considered more essential–I have also heard this in church-planting training sessions and classes in the Covenant.
I know that when I preach, there is that sense of, “Wow. You are a really good communicator” as if people are a bit surprised. I have found that when people see me strong in the pulpit, there is a new receptivity to my leadership. I am certainly not saying that women are bad preachers in general, but I feel like there is at least that impression among many. I guess we just need Brenda Salter McNeil to keep preaching regularly at Covenant events and maybe this will change :)
On a related note, I remember delivering a great mini-sermon in a preaching class at North Park and when it was time to evaluate each other’s sermons I was told by an older male student that my eyelashes were distracting. I can laugh about it now but it certainly stung at the time.



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Susan

posted August 30, 2006 at 10:47 am


Michael,
You wrote,
“…other women are often the biggest obstacle to women pastors.”
That doesn’t add up. In order for this to be true, other women would need to have the majority power in a given congregation to hire a women pastor.
I doubt this is the case, statistically. I might be wrong but most elder boards and other types of comittees that have the power to find and recommend new pastoral staff are not usually made up of more women than men (if any women are on them at all). Every interview I have ever been to regarding church employment has been made up of mostly men, and on some occasions only men.



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Anonymous

posted August 30, 2006 at 10:51 am


Great Discussion « The Philosophical Pastor

Ordained Women
A recent article, Women clergy battle stained-glass ceiling, has been the subject of discussion on numerous blogs. As the Rev. Dr. Catherine Stonehouse (Dean of the school of practical theology at the Asbury Theological Seminary) says, …It is often e…—–
[...] Be sure to check out Scot McKnight’s blog today… [...]



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Kate

posted August 30, 2006 at 10:53 am


Jenny,
I’ve heard the same thing (lack of mentors/support) from women working as professors at Christian colleges. I’m beginning to think that those of us who are in this conversation presently will have to make an extra effort to be the women to claim our positions and provide support for up and coming women. There are women out there trying to do that already and it will get easier to find each other as the years pass. Admittedly, I’m shy and part of me doesn’t want to take responsibility, but if I want to be a leader and I think women need mentors, I have to prepare myself to be a part of that.



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Susan

posted August 30, 2006 at 10:56 am


Erika,
Is the solution, then, that women “measure up” to all the currently successfulmale leaders of large churches in terms of mimicking their methods and personalities?
I really wonder if that is the healthiest solution for our churches in the long run…



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Michael Kruse

posted August 30, 2006 at 10:57 am


Jamie and Sam, Jamie asked “I wonder what percent of men serve congregations with more than 350 in attendance?” Just to be sure we don’t all get confused, the article wasn’t talking about the percentage of women that are in large churches. It was talking about the percentage of large churches that have a woman pastor. In other words, if we looked at every church over 350 we find 97% men and 3% women as pastors.
Also, I know from the literature on Church organizational dynamics the most dramatic shift in how congregation functions happens when it grows into the 200-400 attendee range. Only a handful of pastors (male or female) successfuly make that jump. The “Pastor as CEO” model is inescapable. It most defnitely is not a small church on a larger scale. For that reason, I find it interesting that they chose 350 as a cut off line for this article.



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Kate

posted August 30, 2006 at 10:58 am


Erika, I’ve heard this argument, as well, but from my own personal experience it seems that people are more accepting of a mediocre (or even bad) male preacher because it’s what they are used to and any female preacher is criticized much more harshly because the people are being taken out of their comfort zone (to use a nice cliche). Unfamiliarity breeds contempt.



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Erika Haub

posted August 30, 2006 at 11:13 am


Susan,
Women will deny God’s unique gifting in how they have been created if they become imitators of who they are not. For any preacher, the challenge in the pulpit is to discover what is the unique voice you have been given, and to use that voice to faithfully proclaim God’s word. I spent a few years “imitating” so to speak, and only more recently am I truly comfortable in my own preaching skin. I would not commend imitation to anyone.



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Scott Arany

posted August 30, 2006 at 11:14 am


I used to pastor in the Seventh-day Adventist church. This is a denomination that’s currently undergoing a great amount of stress and friction because of women’s ordination. Approaches to this issue tend to vary geographically, with certain spots on each coast being more in favour of women’s ordination with things growing much more conservative in the middle of the country. The world-wide SDA church is staunchly against women’s ordination, which in itself causes a large rift between the world and much of North America.
Specifically, the Southern Californian Adventists are the most progressive in this area with our conference (Southeastern California Conference or SECC) recently changing the status of all ordained ministers to that of “ordained-commissioned.” We don’t ordain women OR men… we ordain-commission them. Kind of a silly semantics deal, but it works.
In the SECC there are (to my knowledge) at least two women pastoring churches at or larger than 350 members. One of those women is white, the other is African-American. There are a few other senior (or sole) female pastors with smaller congregations. World-wide, of course, this is extremely unique and unheard of. Additionally, there are many female associate pastors.
In my own personal experience, I find myself deeply drawn to a nurturing-type ministry, while one of my closest friends (and former coworker) is a female associate pastor who will one day make a totally awesome senior pastor with great gifts in the areas of teaching and evangelism… places that are still very male-dominated (even in liberal Southern California). She’s in good company with other female pastors I’ve worked with who have a calling to apostolic-type pastoral ministery.
(btw, shouldn’t a church have at least two pastors then? One for outreach/Apostolic-type ministery, the other for chaplaincy?)
While I can’t say that I have any theology to add to this discussion, I hope that the data and my experiences shared are useful.



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Erika Haub

posted August 30, 2006 at 11:16 am


Kate,
That has not been my experience (which is of course limited) but I can certainly imagine it being true!



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kent

posted August 30, 2006 at 11:18 am


There may be another factor at work in all of this. For the last 40 years the majority of pastors have been men. Numerically speaking the supply of men pastors has been greater than women pastors. So men occupy most of the positions at this point. Unless we are planting churches at a rapid pace, and we aren’t, then the men have leave their position to make room.
My church is not 350 in attendance, but I like my job, and sorry I am staying put. I am not alone. It ain’t about gender, it is my call and my family and my job. Here I stand and I ain’t movin’. Sounds rude, but that may play a part as well.



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Susan

posted August 30, 2006 at 11:24 am


Erika,
Thanks for that clarification. It is an important one : )



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Ted Gossard

posted August 30, 2006 at 11:27 am


I think one possible way the Lord may put on the hearts of leaders is to put women in places of leadership, as in pastoral. A pastor (of course, of a large enough church) could preach a mini-series on this, to get his congregation ready. Then, with the approval of the board, they would take on a woman pastor as part of the team. Of course this would have to be undertaken with alot of wisdom and prayer, etc. And unfortunately, not every church is ready.
(At our church (my commment was #2), by the way, I think our most effective leader, both up front -though we haven’t had the privilege of hearing her speak, and possibly even on the leadership team, is a woman.)



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Michael Kruse

posted August 30, 2006 at 11:30 am


Susan, we are probably coming from different contexts. I am Presbyterian Church (USA) and what I was describing was the experience of women I know who are in that context. Most of our congregation’s sessions (boards) contain women and are instructed by the Constitution to seek parity between the number men and women. Sessions lopsided either direction are usually frowned upon. Furthermore, many of our congregations have a Presbyterian Women’s affiliate in the congregation. They often are among the most active loyal members and have considerable financial power and influence. Jokes are frequently made by pator’s who foolishly got crossways with Presbyterian Women(PW). In our congregation, when change is contemplated, an attempt is always made to contemplate how the “back benchers” will react. This refers to a group of retired women who set on the back row of the church, give considerable money, and run the PW group. PW groups very considerably from very liberal to very traditional and conservative. In the church I was referring to, the PW were very much traditionalist but theoretically were supportive of woman pastors. But you would not have known it by the criticism.
While Evangelcial congregations have membership ratios of 50-50 to 60-40 women to men, it is not uncommon to see 75-25 splits in smaller mainline congregations. Even in mainline congregations with more balanced ratios, studies show again and again that women on average are more invested in and committed to(this is true across the Christianity) the Church community. They form networks in the Church that men don’t. Thus, even where there are a preponderance of men in some cases the informal gatekeeping power lies with women.
I realize what I have described varies considerably from denomination to denomination. I think what I have said here is reasonably accurate of the PCUSA context and the old mainline (Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, UCC, etc.) contexts. I think it is less so in some Evangelical settings but I think elements of it exist.



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Scott Arany

posted August 30, 2006 at 11:31 am


One more thought… should we even be that concerned over a church’s numbers as a standard of whether or not women are being accepted and successful in ministry? Granted, my bias is towards smaller and medium-sized churches, having worked or interned at many churches throughout SoCali from 100 members to more than 6000. Would it be better to see how many women clergy are feeling satisfied and successful in their ministries rather than how upwardly numerically mobile their career paths are?



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Richie

posted August 30, 2006 at 11:33 am


I think most people prefer men as pastors. I know my wife and I do. I don’t really know why other than I am used to it that way (BTW we prefer women to men as counselors and OB/GYNs…LOL). Since pastors are usually hired by their congregations, they select those applicants that best meet their needs?
Perhaps it’s prejudice. I think it personal preference.



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RJS

posted August 30, 2006 at 11:36 am


kent and others,
This is a complex issue – in the pastorate and in any field. Obviously the only effective routes for change involve new positions or turnover in existing positions. Turnover is slow and it takes quite a while for change to be manifest, certainly it will take a while for both “numbers” and percentages to increase.
The changes will be seen faster in smaller churches because the numbers are much greater, and I would guess the average turnover rate is also larger. People in what they perceive to be “good” positions are less likely to move on – and if they do move on it will be to another “good” position.
In any field, church or otherwise, the â??goodâ? positions are the most competitive positions. With more good candidates to choose from, “minor” factors become critical. In this situation some of the subconscious prejudices really start to influence the decisions.
Along with these issues, add all of the cultural and theological arguments and it will take a long time for any real significant changes to become apparent.



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Jennifer

posted August 30, 2006 at 11:36 am


Kent in #47…
You dont have to move :-) But you can create an environment where you are making room for women leaders to have a real voice in your own church – and for women who will go out to other churches. You are in a powerful position to help women who want to be in ministry. There are many women who flourish under the mentorship of a man who is committed to helping her break through things and assume the role God has made her for.



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len

posted August 30, 2006 at 11:38 am


Is it possible (self-selection) that women are less interested in large congregations where there is generally less relational connection and more program maintenance? I’m also interested in the wider cultural field.. the USA has never yet had a female President.. here in Canada we had a female PM for about six months and I think we may soon be there again. At least one of the differences in context has to do with our lack of NOW, ERA etc. We are inherently less conservative than the USA, and I think that difference is growing.



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aly hawkins

posted August 30, 2006 at 11:42 am


My folks are both ordained in the Church of God (Anderson) and my mom did her dissertation on this topic for the COG specifically. Why, at the Movement’s inception, did the COG have something like 38% women in pastoral ministry, and now it’s 6%, and the vast majority of those are in small (dying?) congregations? Her PhD focused on leadership development, and one of her conclusions was inadequate mentoring at key points in the leader’s journey toward being equipped. One thing she discovered in her research was that there is a big difference in the development experiences of women from different races: white women had similar experiences of mentoring to their male counterparts (mentored mainly by men); black women were mentored heavily by other women; and Latina women had the most difficult time finding mentors of either gender to walk with them and blaze the trail.
Since Mom’s the one who did the research, I’ll try to get her on here…she will have some good things to add, and you won’t have to hear it secondhand from me!



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kent

posted August 30, 2006 at 11:45 am


Jennifer # 54 – Our youth pastor is a woman, in fact all of the other staff are women…(just one guy, just one), well anyway she does an awesome job and preaches regularly, not just on the “crappy” Sundays either. We try to have women in all position of leadership, and soon may be the next year we will have woman chairperson.



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Chris Spinks

posted August 30, 2006 at 11:49 am


Two quick thoughts brought on by reading others’ responses:
1) I think this is a larger cultural issue. We have had women in governmental positions for a good while, yet the idea of a woman as president has only recently become a discussion point with any traction. We Americans are behind much of the rest of the world on this issue. A similar mindset seems prevalant in larger churches as well.
2) I think the larger and more important question is “Should churches grow to sizes larger than 350?” I am inclined to say “No.” If that is the case, then I also say, “Good for the women and men who are not pastoring larger churches. To me, they seem to be pastoring the way pastoring should be.”



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Kate

posted August 30, 2006 at 11:51 am


Richie,
Personal preference can often be based on prejudice. If we realize that is the case, we should take the time and make the effort to address our prejudices and change the way we make our choices.



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Michael Kruse

posted August 30, 2006 at 11:56 am


RJS wrote in #53:
“In any field, church or otherwise, the â??goodâ? positions are the most competitive positions. With more good candidates to choose from, â??minorâ? factors become critical. In this situation some of the subconscious prejudices really start to influence the decisions.
Along with these issues, add all of the cultural and theological arguments and it will take a long time for any real significant changes to become apparent.”
Well said!



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Dana Ames

posted August 30, 2006 at 12:12 pm


The comments I resonated with, most generally, have been by RJS, Susan, Michael Kruse and the latest from Kent (it’s about his call, family and job).
I think that for many there is a link between “female pastor” and “feminism”. I think it is fading, but it’s still in the mix.
I think the biggest problem is our sociocultural expectations around the position of “pastor” and where those expectations come from. Where did the “CEO model” come from and why is it still in place? The fact is, we see “pastor” as “boss”. Especially among mainlines, it IS a job.
Underlying the expectations is the pack of our notions regarding “leadership”. I’m not sure these have been adequately addressed, officially or unofficially. Michael, I think one of the reasons the PWs have had so much de facto influence/control is that for a long time that’s the only place/means those women had any significant input (for good or ill).
Len (55) wrote a list of six issues the church needs to deal with in these liminal times: #2 is what is leadership/authority about, and #3 is consideration of the text and context of where we are now.
(BTW Ted, Vineyard USA’s position is that any congregation may ordain a woman, but that ordination does not need to be recognized by any other congregation. However, the Vineyard churches in Canada officially recognize a woman’s ordination nationwide.)
Dana



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Susan

posted August 30, 2006 at 12:43 pm


Len,
you wrote,
“…women are less interested in large congregations where there is generally less relational connection and more program maintenance?”
why should that be true more of women than men? I know many men who are interested in relationally oriented pastoral ministry. The sad situation seems to be that this type of ministry is not valued, culturally, in America.



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Rachel McCauley

posted August 30, 2006 at 12:43 pm


This has been very interesting. But there is one point no one has posted about. Any woman in the child bearing age, and having babies, toddlers or middle school chidren at home, is looked down on for working full time. The stay – home mom versus working – mom issue has divided women. It could be a reason women don’t welcome a female pastor. Their attitude probably is “She should be with her kids.” Plus, aren’t the demands for pastoring a huge church such that she would have conflict with her kids? My guess is some women just don’t feel struggling to be accepted as a senior pastor is worth the family stress. I doubt you will ever see “job sharing” offered with the position.



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Dana Ames

posted August 30, 2006 at 12:45 pm


Rachel,
this is a prime example of why our view of pastoring/ministry as a “job” is skewed.
Dana



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Jim Darlack

posted August 30, 2006 at 12:49 pm


I agree with the thought that congregations have a knee-jerk reaction to women pastors based on their equating of feminism with women’s ordination. I come from a Pentecostal background. At the beginning of the Pentecostal movement many women served as pastors, preachers and missionaries. Pentecostals bucked the fundamentalist approach to women in ministry because “Jesus was coming soon” so the Gospel must be preached. It was a blending of pragmatism and devotion – I think. As Pentecostal churches lost their edge and began to be seen as respectable, I think that a lot of their eschatological fervor died down. I don’t know if this is cause and effect or if it’s just concomitant circumstances, but I wonder. Could the church benefit from a more radical view of eschatology that sees the immediate need for women in ministry? This eschatological view would pay more than lip service to the “Great Revearsal” but instead would seek to rehearse the reversal here and now as a part of our inaugerated eschatology, knowing that the consumation is on its way soon, so labors are needed.



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Scott Arany

posted August 30, 2006 at 12:50 pm


Regarding the gender roles mentioned by Rachel in 63: I was talking with a candidate for ordained ministry at a local Episcopal church. At one point we were discussing women in ordained ministry and he shared an interesting perspective. His view was that women were more likely to have time for seminary studies and pursuing ordination than men because of cultural/gender expectations for men to be family providers. Women, he said, actually have the time to pursue this full time while their husbands support them.
Also: Rachel wrote, “Plus, arenâ??t the demands for pastoring a huge church such that she would have conflict with her kids?” I would hope that this is a concern for male pastors, too.



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Michael Kruse

posted August 30, 2006 at 12:55 pm


Dana #61
“Michael, I think one of the reasons the PWs have had so much de facto influence/control is that for a long time thatâ??s the only place/means those women had any significant input (for good or ill).”
Agreed. Yet for women like my wife the PW holds no interest for her. Nor does it seem to for most women I know in their 40′s or younger. My wife has worked all her life and has a vibrant network of friends and connections through other avenues. The very concept is archaic to her. I take that as a good sign of how much things have changed, yet it highlights once again the reality that we are in era where church as it once was is fading and something as yet undefined is emerging. Unfortunately, the way most of these groups operate is part of that old order.
“I think the biggest problem is our sociocultural expectations around the position of â??pastorâ? and where those expectations come from.”
Bingo.



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Ken Schenck

posted August 30, 2006 at 12:59 pm


Jim in #65, I think another reason why Pentecostal churches and “proto-Pentecostal” holiness revivalists affirmed women in spiritual roles was because of the emphasis on Acts 2 and the end of the age… “your sons and daughters will prophesy…” The spiritual functioning of women was seen as part and parcel of the Pentecostal age. And clearly the emphasis was on the spirit rather than the body.
So women had the Spirit just like men, and the new age of the Spirit had dawned. The spiritual functioning of women demonstrated the arrival of the Spirit and so was to be sought after. It was a fascinating, yet intuitive recognition of Luke-Acts’ openness toward and recognition of the role women could play in the early church.



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Susan

posted August 30, 2006 at 1:02 pm


Scott (#66) I am really grateful you pointed out the fact that men should be concerned about how much time they’re able to spend with their children, too. Far too often men in pastoral ministry are “excused” from spending time with their kids while women are expected to pick up all the slack. This is not good for the kids, and sets a poor example for all in the church.



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Scot McKnight

posted August 30, 2006 at 1:07 pm


This has been perhaps the best conversation I’ve ever seen on a blog and I’m glad to be sitting here watching it happen!
Erika and Susan — do you think you are both getting at the same thing? That women’s roles for leadership, teaching, preaching are being shaped by what is most central to the church’s ministry? That we need to re-evaluate what the church’s ministry is all about?



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jason

posted August 30, 2006 at 1:18 pm


i’ll address this as a vineyard pastor. vineyard usa has officially adopted an egalitarian position, however there are many localized vineyard churches that reject this (after all, the vineyard really isn’t a denomination). so, currently, if you’re a woman in the vineyard who is convinced of a call to ministry then the door is wide open for you to plant a church or apply for any open position in an egalitarian vineyard church. in fact, there are large influential vineyard churches who have taken up this issue and go out of their way to recruit female candidates for hire or set them up for new church plants.
however, while i personally consider myself egalitarian i can’t ignore certain nagging observations about women in leadership:
1) humans seem to be a patriarchal animal. as far as i can tell even secular scholarship supports the conclusion that there has never been a genuinely matriarchal culture in the history of civilization. men are more dominant than women.
2) leadership by definition is rare. furthermore, the kind of leadership i think we long for in churches – bold, inspirational, transformational leadership that ignites both men and women to personal sacrifice in the name of a cause or mission – is very rare among men, but even rarer among women. for every margaret thatcher, golda meier, joan of ark, or deborah there seems to be a hundred martin luther king’s, ghandi’s, mao tse-tung’s, david’s, or moses’.
i think history (and scripture) teach us two things: men will follow women who possess a genuine, dominant leadership gifting, but such a gifting is very rare among women.



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Kate

posted August 30, 2006 at 1:21 pm


Perhaps it will seem like I’m playing devil’s advocate here, but does anyone else think that part of the problem could be attributed to women who have been (for whatever reason) unwilling to follow their calling, willing to remain silent? I include myself in the category of reluctant leaders, so this is a genuine question.



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RJS

posted August 30, 2006 at 1:27 pm


Michael,
I am not sure that the “something as yet undefined” will be much different in this regard. Especially with the apparent return to more conservative or fundamentalist norms in much of the church. Of course I come from a church where women in leadership has not been the norm and some discussions related to this have been fairly heated.
jason,
Leadership is rare – and may in fact be rare in women than in men. Add to that cultural influences that discourage leadership qualities in girls and young women while encouraging the same in boys and young men and the disparity grows much much larger.



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Kate

posted August 30, 2006 at 1:28 pm


Jason, your second point begs the questions whether there truly are fewer women gifted as leaders or whether women have historically been excluded from such positions in spite of gifting.



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Scott Arany

posted August 30, 2006 at 1:29 pm


Kate (#72), I wonder along with you just how many women would persue a call to pastoral ministry but don’t know that it’s actually OKAY and right in God’s eyes? I’ve seen women come to my university, perhaps expecting a career in religious teaching (schools, etc.) and for the first time learn that a woman can be a pastor! It’s amazing to see.



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RJS

posted August 30, 2006 at 1:35 pm


Kate,
I think that an unwillingness to incite division and dissension is part of the issue, even among women who think that it is OK in God’s eyes.
After all following Jesus should not be about “me” but about serving and loving God and others. And there are other ways to serve. If there is a battle, if it is divisive, will it be worth it – even if I “win”? I think that many women may be more willing to fight these battles outside the church than within the church.



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Scott Arany

posted August 30, 2006 at 1:37 pm


Regarding Jason’s point about “humans seem to be a patriarchal animal”… I’m curious: is this an inherent part of the created human nature, or are dominant patriarchal systems a result of the Fall? The pre-Fall relationship between man and woman seems to be (at least from my own readings and studies, your mileage may of course vary) definitively egalitarian and whole. Only when humanity falls and God pronounces the curse are the first seeds of patriarchy established.
The fallout from thousands of years of systems meant for a broken humanity certainly must be a factor in this discussion, no?



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Nick

posted August 30, 2006 at 1:40 pm


jason,
it is that true nearly every society has turned out patriarchal. but you seem to accept this as evidence of the way it is supposed to be! as an egalitarian i hope you would rebel against the way it has always been, and point out that the way it should be is an completely egalitarian society in which men and women share all roles and responsibilities, in church, family, and public life.
as for the observation that strong leadership is more rare in women than in men, again it is the problem we as Christians should seek to reverse, not evidence of part of God’s design of “complementing roles” for men and women. are you truly an egalitarian and simply negative about the situation, or are you still wondering if maybe the current situation is resulting from the way God designed us? Let’s get angry at sexism and inequality in our churches and be optimistic about reversing this sorry state of affairs!
kate,
i think everyone is to blame, both theologically ignorant and sexist men (and women) and passive women (and men). the men need to rexamine their scripture and presuppositions and the women who know it is their God-given right to follow Him in whatever church position need to rise up, protest the injustice, and obey God. let’s do something about this.



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bob smietana

posted August 30, 2006 at 1:42 pm


A few thoughts.
Woman pastors are relative newcomers in the pastoral call process, so they’re competing against large numbers of men who are above them on the ladder, who’ve paid their dues in smaller churches and have now made it to larger congregations.
Those male pastors also likely have friends/former classmates in the church hierarchy–among the bishops and superintendents who make pastoral appointments.
Preaching probably becomes the dominant pastoral gift needed for a larger church, so not only does a woman pastor have to compeete with older, more experienced men, she’s also got to be a great preacher (and be fairly charismatic) to be considered as a candidate.



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jason

posted August 30, 2006 at 1:43 pm


rjs and kate – good points, thanks for adding them. i’m quite sure that the reasons for this issue are deep, complex, and finely nuanced. however, i’ve known several strong leaders and the idea that a dynamic, dominant person of any sex could be “excluded” or “discouraged” seems to be a contradiction to the term. leaders rise to the top in spite of adversity…or perhaps even because of it.
part of my point was that i think this conversation may be significantly ignoring the leadership component of being a minister, as opposed to say the teaching component, or care-giving component. i have absolutely no doubt that women who are top notch teachers and care-givers are being discouraged and excluded unjustly or are simply unwilling to put themselves in contention because of a culture of chauvinism. i think these women should be encouraged, equipped, and set free. however, i still doubt many of them would end up leading large vibrant churches simply because such a position requres significant leadership dominance.



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Scot McKnight

posted August 30, 2006 at 1:44 pm


This has been good so far, but I have to say that the direction Jason took this is off track — what he said begins to question the premise of the post today. So, let’s get back on track:
Once again: assuming that God gifts women and that some denominations do ordain women, why are so few called to those larger churches?
There are lots of fruitful areas left for exploration: Are women being properly trained and mentored for pastoral leadership?
Is the opposition to women pastorates from men, women, or from a cultural milieu? Or, are there more conservatives in those mainlines than we may think?
And, of course, why are the Cubs so bad?
Is how we understand church more conducive to males than females for leadership?



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jason

posted August 30, 2006 at 1:51 pm


nick – what a great question! you’re right, i guess i am still wondering. thanks for exposing my ambivalence… :)



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Dana Ames

posted August 30, 2006 at 1:51 pm


Jason’s (71) comments are what I’m talking about. The notions of 1)pastor as “leader”, 2)what “leadership” is about, 3)what “leadership” in the church entails, 4)how those notions relate to the what scripture says in terms of narrative and specific points made by Jesus, Paul and others have remained unexamined as a whole (I’m not talking about constructing a precis from bible verses). Our notions and expectations are interwoven in our sociocultural “situatedness” to the extent that we can’t even see them to pull them out and examine them- unless we’re arguing some point, and even in that case they still tend to be largely ignored.
Dana



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kent

posted August 30, 2006 at 1:58 pm


As for the Cubs, not even Israel had to wander in the desert for over 100 years. They didn’t live in exile for 100 year. What in the name of all that is holy did they to make God so angry????
Oops, sorry. Scot started it!!!!



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Susan

posted August 30, 2006 at 1:59 pm


Scot,
You asked me and Erika whether ,
“… womenâ??s roles for leadership, teaching, preaching are being shaped by what is most central to the churchâ??s ministry? That we need to re-evaluate what the churchâ??s ministry is all about? ”
I believe this is on target. While women have been told that yes, finally, they will be allowed to persue pastoral ministry, the “criteria” for entering that ministry professionally has been arranged not according to developing people both male and female who are gifted with the pastoral gifts needed to nurture spirutal growth and maturity but according to what “works” most expediently toward building rapidly-growing institutions of faith (not necessarily churches). This trend has produced a double-whammy for women who are gifted to serve as pastors, but it hurts men, too, if they dont buy into the leadership model that has become so prevalent in much of evangelicalism to date.
So what is the church’s ministry all about? Is it about gathering an enthusiastic crowd of followers or nurturing people who know Jesus in a way that one flashy sermon a week and a tight staff of people-mobilizers who are experts at getting people to volunteer for nursery work, coffee-bar, and bookstore won’t deliver ?



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Rachel

posted August 30, 2006 at 2:00 pm


To add to Scot’s comment about women being properly trained and mentored..I don’t know how the “church world” works. But in business, it is hard to find someone who really understands how to mentor and wants to be one. Everyone wants to hear good advice and be guided, but you have to find someone willing to take the time and do it correctly. Too bad mentoring isn’t a college course.



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Nick

posted August 30, 2006 at 2:01 pm


i that imagine nearly all christian women intuitively know that God does not oppose their gender from being in leadership and pastoral positions. they don’t feel incapable of being an effective as if God designed them not to go there. so their theology, despite what they are taught, favors the egalitarian view.
the problem for women is the men. they face tremendous opposition in nearly every church by strong-willed men. they face some opposition from ultra-traditional women, but i doubt that amounts to much. i think many christian women are severely oppressed by this in the home and the church. i would say that there is a demonic stronghold over our church, culture, and entire world that keep women from accessing the places of influence God desires for them.
the world would be far more beautiful when men and women share all domains of life together equally, and this should start in the church. it seems secular culture, at least in the west, is far ahead of the church (and religion in general) in this area. this is a tragedy we have inherited. may it be our generation that changes things.



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RJS

posted August 30, 2006 at 2:02 pm


Ok for your questions:
(1) Are women being properly trained and mentored for pastoral leadership?
No, absolutely not. It certainly isn’t happening in our youth groups and among young adults in the church setting. Boys and young men are being mentored and encouraged, but in general girls and young women are not.
(2) Is the opposition to women pastorates from men, women, or from a cultural milieu? Or, are there more conservatives in those mainlines than we may think?
From the whole cultural milieu – expressed by both men and women within the church in particular and the culture at large.
(3) And, of course, why are the Cubs so bad?
Pitching, fielding, hitting, league, â?¦
You should do a post asking for favorite baseball stories – games your readers have attended.
(4) Is how we understand church more conducive to males than females for leadership?
In the context of our culture, probably – but this gets back to jasonâ??s points and discussion.



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Janice

posted August 30, 2006 at 2:05 pm


Kate – in #72. Does your call to leadership explicitly mean pastoring? The idea of women being called to leadership, teaching, etc – does it have to be about pastoring a church? (mind you, not saying it shouldn’t be, just wondering) Is the call to “pastor” or to ‘teaching’, ‘leadership’, ‘shepherding a flock’? Thanks in advance. This has been a great discussion



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Erika Haub

posted August 30, 2006 at 2:06 pm


Okay, you lured me in again :) The rap on women is always that we are the more relational creatures, and that some of the reason women do not thrive in leadership in some church settings is that we are less likely to be dominant/aggressive/strong-leader types. We are more about relationship, community and consensus and that is what we have to uniquely contribute and offer as complement to our male counterparts. If this is true (and I am not convinced), then I am surprised by what most people have told me about the Emergent movement where community and relationship are so greatly valued: that it is a conversation dominated by male voices and male leadership. I don’t know if this is true but it is what I have heard repeatedly.
Also, as a woman who has her MDiv, is serving in a pastoral role in a local Covenant church, AND who is at home caring for two small children (thus not working full-time in the pastorate), I am actually excluded from being ordained right now because I am not being paid for my current role at my church. Here is where that biological, child-bearing/rearing issue raises its ugly head, even in a denomination that clearly proclaims a value for women in ministry.



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Dana Ames

posted August 30, 2006 at 2:07 pm


Scot,
I think Jason’s comments, though potentially tangential, are actually germane, because they are helping to bring to light the things that we have trouble stepping back to see. I think the cultural milieu is what underlies the rest of the issues your questions address. It’s really hard to tease out the assumptions.
For example, the notion of pastoring “a large, vibrant church requires significant leadership dominance.” Jason, this is not personal; I see and hear these concerns in other places; just taking the opportunity to say that I see them as pointing to some ideas:
*Success in pastoring means having a large church.
*Large is the same as vibrant.
*Leadership entails some kind of dominance.
I think these assumptions, among others, need to be examined and challenged.
Dana



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Backwoods Presbyterian

posted August 30, 2006 at 2:09 pm


1) Not everything that people perceive to be bad in the world can be attributed to evil white men.
2) We need to be a little more gracious towards those with whom we disagree in this issue. Just becuase one does not hold to women’s ordination being the will of scripture does not make them a bigot, mysoginist or another buzzword.



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jason

posted August 30, 2006 at 2:19 pm


dana,
i agree those types of assumptions should be addressed, however just to clarify, scott is the one who brought up the issue of size with the question:

Why is it that, in denominations that have chosen to ordain women, ordained women are not being appointed or called to churches of 350 or more members?

i was only address that question. by “vibrant” i don’t mean large, i mean relatively healthy. lots and lots of small churches i’ve been in and around are vibrant. as far as dominance is concerned, whether that is a legitimate feature of leadership and whether leadership itself is a legitimate feature of pastoral work is obviously debateable, but as scott pointed out that is of track since this isn’t a thread about leadership (though i obviously do think it’s relevant to the conversation).
thanks dana!



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Michael Kruse

posted August 30, 2006 at 2:20 pm


Scot wrote in #81:
This doesnâ??t go directly to the womenâ??s ordination but a recent PCUSA survey should the following about political party affiliation.
Members:
R=53%, D=27%
Elders:
R=51%, D=30%
Pastors:
R=26%, D=49%
Specialized Pastors (ordained but not working in a congregational setting)
R=17%, D=64%
Is are the rank and file more conservative than the leadership from whom you learn the most about the PCUSA? No doubt. My point isn’t that party affiliation determines whether you will be supportive of women in ministry but rather that there is disconnect on a host of values.
Because of the fallout from events at the General Assembly in June (nothing to do with women), some congregations are now trying to withdraw. So far I have seen two congregations withdraw and attach to the Presbyterian Church in America which does not ordain women. What does that say about their commitment to women in ministry? How many other congregations are “lip service” congregations? Interesting questions that are hard to answer.



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paul

posted August 30, 2006 at 2:24 pm


“Is the opposition to women pastorates from men, women, or from a cultural milieu? Or, are there more conservatives in those mainlines than we may think?”
After reading what’s been posted today, it seems to me that although there may be some conservatives still left that disagree from a biblical interpretation standpoint, this seems to me to be a huge cultural issue. Some people just prefer men to women as leaders. Obviously we as christians come from a culture that did not value women as equal to men, especially in the pastorate/teaching roles. This still seems to be something that has continued into our present day churches.
But assuming God equips women with the same giftings, we should (ideally) be looking for the best gifting, not our personal (or cultural) preferences for leadership…
Another thought (coming off of the other blog topic about seeker churches)…if this discussion was happening a 100-150 years ago, would we be having this discussion about race? I mean, if the women in ministry (and not teaching in large churches) is a cultural issue (that we as a culture prefer men instead of women), then couldn’t certain Christians of our past have had discussions about preferences of certain races to teach/lead as oppossed to other races?



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Scot McKnight

posted August 30, 2006 at 2:24 pm


Jason,
Here are the comments you made, in your customary all lower case writing, that concerned me since I read it as questioning women leadership:
leadership by definition is rare. furthermore, the kind of leadership i think we long for in churches – bold, inspirational, transformational leadership that ignites both men and women to personal sacrifice in the name of a cause or mission – is very rare among men, but even rarer among women. for every margaret thatcher, golda meier, joan of ark, or deborah there seems to be a hundred martin luther kingâ??s, ghandiâ??s, mao tse-tungâ??s, davidâ??s, or mosesâ??.
i think history (and scripture) teach us two things: men will follow women who possess a genuine, dominant leadership gifting, but such a gifting is very rare among women.
I see two things are work: what does “dominance” mean? (Not a good word mostly.) And, by saying “very rare” it suggests the reason women aren’t in those positions is because they are only rarely qualified. If you do not mean these things, please say so.



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Scot McKnight

posted August 30, 2006 at 2:26 pm


Michael,
Thanks for that comment: fascinating numbers. I’ve spoken in lots of mainline churches and sensed this over the years.



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Allan R. Bevere

posted August 30, 2006 at 2:26 pm


Susan in #30
A response to several things you said:
My comments were not meant to turn this into a gender issue; although it seems to me that the very fact we are discussing it makes it that. I was simply asking a question of whether or not a higher percentage of women entering pastoral ministry were chapalincy oriented. I never started thinking about this until a former superintendent of mine, who was a woman and very apostolically oriented, suggested this very thing to me. It was her contention, that while most pastors in mainline churches (male and female), were chaplaincy oriented, it was higher among women. She also had an inventory that I and the other pastors had to take that helped to determine this. I also mentioned two female pastors I know who are apostolically oriented and who have happened to been appointed to large congregations. There is either something to this or it is just coincidence. Please note that I never suggested men were more apostolic than women; I was just raising the question of whether a higher percentage of women who are chaplaincy oriented find their way into pastoral ministry.
Second, I said that there are plenty of other factors to consider. I am well aware of the old-boy network, the sexism in the congregations, etc. I was just submitting my comments as something to consider further.
Third, I never suggested that apostolic orientation was to be identified with the CEO mentality. I am very apostolically oriented in my ministry and I have two CEOs in my congregation; I wouldn’t want either of them to be pastors.
Fourth, you seem to assume that large churches cannot be spiritual churches. As one who served as an Associate Pastor of a large church back in the late 80s and 90s, I encountered a deeply spiritual church that not only ministered to themselves (chaplain) but to the surrounding community (apostolic). Where did we ever get this idea that churches can only grow in one of two ways; they can only grow in numbers or in spirituality. When Jesus commanded us to make disciples of all nations, that included growth in both numbers (all nations) and in spirituality (discipleship).
Fifth, most pastors are a combination of apostles and chaplains, the question is to what degree are they one or the other. Chaplaincy is critical to the ministry of the church; what I am raising on the other side is the lack of apostolic orientation among many pastors and churches that fails to take seriously Jesus’ Great Commission that gives the scope of our disciple-making to all nations.



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Michael Kruse

posted August 30, 2006 at 2:30 pm


Sorry. The question I was addressing in #94 was Scot’s statement in #81
“Or, are there more conservatives in those mainlines than we may think?”



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Kate

posted August 30, 2006 at 2:30 pm


Janice, I’m not sure if my particular call is to pastoral leadership and I don’t think I was intending that to be the focus of my question. As of right now, I’m feeling led into the world of academia (religion/theology). From conversations with my female college professors (what few there were), I’ve found that similar obstacles face them when trying to break into this similarly male-dominated world.
I can’t find the comment that sparked my thoughts, but since entering the emerging conversation in the past year or so, I’ve also begun to wonder why a movement labelled as progressive still appears to be male-dominated…



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JH

posted August 30, 2006 at 2:34 pm


I also grew up in churches which understood Scripture to limit the role of the pastor to men. I am currently the pastor of a Baptist church (Baptist General Conference) where in the state of Minnesota we have only 1 woman serving as a senior pastor that I am aware of. I often hear cutting remarks regarding her by other male pastors. Which really raises a host of other issues.
My observation is that culturization has the biggest part to play in this transition. Regardless of whether you hold to a complimentarian or egalitarian veiw of Scripture, the degree to which congregations are comfortable with women serving as their direct pastoral leader is based on what they are used to – I believe. Denominational leadership has a completely different relationship to the congregant.
Might I say that I have numerous freinds who side with the men-only who have a very high regard for women. To assume that these men are bigoted or sexualize women into specific roles is to misunderstand their carefully thought out understanding of Scripture.
I have walked the line on this issue for several years now. I know that I would be counted as part of the problem because of this by some. However, I find that in my context of the larger Church, this issue is not a cut and dried one. Women and men alike wrestle with these questions in a way that is loving and truth-seeking.
Thank you all for sharing your stories and perspectives!
JH



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Susan

posted August 30, 2006 at 2:38 pm


Allan,
Thanks for unpacking your thoughts a bit more here. One thing I’m still unsure of though is what you mean by juxtaposing the titles “apostolic” and “chaplaincy.” Could you provide a bit more about what the bible says about this thing called chaplaincy? I’m familiar with references to apostolic ministry, but not to “chaplaincy” as a spiritual gift or as a ministry in particular. that is not to say I dont understand the job of “chaplain” –I’m just not sure I understand the way you’re using the word in contrast to apostlic ministry, and it causes me to wonder, further, if you and I share the same definition of “apostle” so perhaps some attention to defining terms would be helpful here. We might be using the same vocabulary but different dictionaries.



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PS

posted August 30, 2006 at 2:40 pm


A couple of thoughts about “leadership training” in seminary: Do the sems have classes having to do with “leadership” or perhaps personnel management, or managing a non-profit business? I know several young graduates of several sems and they have said that the sems didn’t offer anything like this. Yet pastors end up having to do much of this type of work unless there is a hired “church administrator.”
I’ve known of a couple of male pastors who were the “do-it-all” sort of pastors. Unfortunately, this set up the situation for the pastors that followed to look lazy, when, in fact, some of these other pastors were actually trying to empower the congregation members to be the “ministers” and “servants.”
So, as some of the comments have suggested, how do we define leadership? And do we really want churches that follow the pastor as the head-guy model?
Pastors are given theological training and, it seems to me, that is the one area that the congregation members usually don’t have. Theology and what follows from that should be the main focus of the pastor. The people can be equiped to “run the business.”
An aside that is probably sexist: Females are often more detail orientated, and as such, end up doing most of the work in the church anyway.



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Allan R. Bevere

posted August 30, 2006 at 2:45 pm


Susan:
Perhaps a biblical substitute for chaplaincy is pastoral. Shepherds, of course, take care of the sheep. That is their main concern, but they are not concerned about others outside the flock. There is, of course, a necessary pastoral element in ministry. Even the most apostolically oriented pastor needs to be a shepherd as well. I am just raising the question of degree.
Another thing that occurs to me here is something you mentioned in reference to whether our view of the church needs to be re-oriented, something with which I quite agree. Ultimately this discussion transcends gender issues and is ecclesological in nature.



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Denny Burk

posted August 30, 2006 at 2:47 pm


Dear Scot,
God has embedded patriarchy into the very structure of the created order (a la complementarian readings of Genesis 2, 1 Corinthians 11, 1 Timothy 2). It’s not surprising to me, therefore, that even those who disavow biblical patriarchy in principle cannot get away from it in practice. It’s written on their conscience.
That’s my theory.
Thanks,
Denny



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Nick

posted August 30, 2006 at 2:47 pm


i wonder what it will take to restore women alongside men in church leadership roles. thankfully christians everywhere are waking up to the reality that something is seriously wrong here, but can we ever hope to change the system if we passively tolerate the status quo? here are some questions i have regarding forming concrete plans to achieve this goal, which we should do. for others in this discussion, what are some practical things egalitarians can do to defeat gender complementarianism in the church?
should churches pro-actively encourage women to lead and discourage men from dominating the positions, sort of like affirmative action? should egalitarian male pastors voluntarily step down from leadership so that we can achieve a more balance?



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RJS

posted August 30, 2006 at 2:49 pm


Kate,
As a woman, and a college professor (although not religion/theology), you are absolutely right. The obstacles are similar. Many of the kinds of issues coming up here are identical or similar to issues discussed ad infinitum in my University to little useful conclusion.
However, I think things are getting and will continue to get better in academia. I am not so hopeful of the church – the issues here are a bit more complex, congregations are more conservative in general, and there is always the issue hanging in the background of the interpretation of Paul’s letters.



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Scot McKnight

posted August 30, 2006 at 2:49 pm


PS,
That last comment is the problem, isn’t it? If women are doing all the work, maybe we ought to redefine what we mean by “work.”
Denny,
I wondered how long it would take before you sent off a missive. And a “Dear Scot” to boot! Keep on listening, brother. We’re in for a lesson on this one.



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Backwoods Presbyterian

posted August 30, 2006 at 2:50 pm


So we should discriminate against men until is “equal”? That doesn’t sound very egalitarian to me. The way to eliminate perceived discrimination is not to discriminate some more.



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Janice

posted August 30, 2006 at 2:53 pm


Kate – from #100. Thanks, I was just curious. I wonder about spiritual gifts and the application of them and not necessarily in regards this thread here, but in general if our view of application or use of our gifts is narrow or fixated. And how we see ‘call’ related to all of that.
As a side note, I also found much of the emergent conversation male ‘dominated’ which struck me as odd. I’ve just begun a serious personal study/journey in the past few weeks instigated by the emergent conversations I’ve been taking part in in relation to womanhood in general. I’ll be checking in to your blog and of course back in here to read follow-ups. :) Thanks for the discussion.



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Susan

posted August 30, 2006 at 2:54 pm


Allan,
you write, “Even the most apostolically oriented pastor needs to be a shepherd as well”
It seem there is an equivocation here in the use of the word “pastor.” In other words, what you just wrote was in effect,
“Even the most apostolically oriented shepherd needs to be a shepherd as well”
or conversely,
“Even the most apostolically oriented shepherd needs to be a shepherd as well”
This is not making sense to me, and I am beginning to wonder whether your definition of “apostle” is a spiritualization of the word “leader,” which is not necessarily a spiritual designation at all.
According to scritpural references to these gifts, Evangelists preach the gospel; Apostles establish churches, and Pastors teach, lead, feed, and grow followers of Jesus (which make up the church, His body).
I might be wrong about this…so lets keep talking…



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Susan

posted August 30, 2006 at 2:55 pm


woops, forgot to close that italics tag. I only meant for the word “spiritual” to be italicized…



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Nick

posted August 30, 2006 at 2:58 pm


i said discourage men from dominating positions, not from obeying God in filling these positions. but its a plain reality that men do dominate church leadership positions, and we egalitarians believe that is wrong and unbiblical. im not advocating discrimination of any sort, only that we encourage a equal sharing of church leadership roles. men need to step aside and make room for women. it is so sad that we are even having this conversation. many “mature” christians have forgotten the basic, universal moral concept of sharing we all were taught as young children.



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bob smietana

posted August 30, 2006 at 2:59 pm


Not to throw cold water on the discussion, but without some context, the 3% figure from the NY Times doesn’t mean a thing.
Here’s a few things we don’t know:
1) How long it takes a seminary grad to make it up the ladder to be the pastor of a 350 plus member church?
2) How many (what percentage) of seminary graduates make it up the ladder that far.
3) What’s the average tenure of a pastor of 350 member church?
4) How long have women been ordained in mainlines, and when did they reach critical mass, so that the were in the pastoral pool in significant numbers?
5) Do those churches tend to promote from within or bring in outsiders?
6)What factors are most influential in getting to be the pastor of a 350 plus member church.
Those question would tell us how what percentage of women ought to be in pastoral leadership in 350 plus member churches-given the time needed to reach the pulpit of a 350 plus member church, the number of years women had been ordained, the number of openings in bigger churches during the time when women have been ordained, and the pool of candidate(ie, those be at the appropriate stage of their career when those openings were available.)
Then we’d know if the 3% figure is an anomoly or something to be expected that may change as women move up the ladder. My guess is that those demographic factors play a big role–not explaining everything, but a explaining a great deal.



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Scot McKnight

posted August 30, 2006 at 3:01 pm


Let me jump in between Allan and Susan:
Allan, I see your word “apostolic” as “pioneering, evangelizing, expanding” and “chaplaincy” as “local church mentoring, teaching, serving”. Is not the point outward and expanding vs. inward and nurturing?



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Allan R. Bevere

posted August 30, 2006 at 3:02 pm


Susan:
I think you are correct in pointing out the problem with the terminology. The fact that we call the person in charge of the church “pastor” reveals where we think the emphasis should be. It’s interesting, by the way, that some churches are now calling their leadership “apostles.” While I bristle at hearing this, since I would like to reserve that title for the originals, I think we must recognize that in today’s situation, pastors need to be apostles as well, since most denominations do not have people establishing churches and moving on; and even if they did, once the “apostles” move on, growth in both numbers and discipleship need to continue to take place for the church to flourish and be in ministry.



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Scot McKnight

posted August 30, 2006 at 3:04 pm


Bob,
Those are some helpful observations. For me, the number I’d like to know is what percent of pastors (male) get into churches that size; then see if the female numbers are about the same.
Anyone have access to such numbers?



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Backwoods Presbyterian

posted August 30, 2006 at 3:06 pm


But what you are suggesting Nick is that we “discourage” able-bodied men from becoming pastors. Is that not discriminating against men?



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Jennifer

posted August 30, 2006 at 3:07 pm


I think a huge barrier to women’s success in ministry is the lack of availabel mentorship. There just aren’t that many women pastors available, so young women hoping to go into ministry are left to look to their male pastors. And it seems to me that most male pastors are hesitant to take on that kind of relationship with a woman in the church becasue they are afriad of what others would think. This is likely true in the academic world as well.



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Allan R. Bevere

posted August 30, 2006 at 3:08 pm


Scot:
You are correct. Well said.



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RJS

posted August 30, 2006 at 3:11 pm


Bob,
These are of course key points – in any context where this issue (women in “good” or top jobs) is discussed. All of these things will influence the number of Pastors, VP’s, CEO’s, College Professors, etc. These “pipeline” factors have been discussed extensively in other contexts. I personally have sat through many pointless faculty meetings where this issue is discussed.
The 3% number certainly reflects pipeline, but it isn’t the whole story and doesn’t negate any of the other points being made here.



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Nick

posted August 30, 2006 at 3:13 pm


i think we should consider the core of this issue, which is “what are the innate differences bestowed by God between men and women.?”
i do not believe there are any innate differences between men and women besides the obvious physical differences (and even some of these may have been not the original design, but evolved to what they are today over thousands of years). i know many disagree, and suggest that women are more emotional, nurturing, or less agressive. but how can you show that these or any other observed differences are God-given and not developed by our culture and/or evolutionary processes?



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Allan R. Bevere

posted August 30, 2006 at 3:15 pm


Some further thoughts:
What I mean by chaplain ministry is basically shepherding the flock. The emphasis is on pastoral care of the current
congregation. While this is a necessary element, the evidence seems to suggest that most pastors are heavily pastorally oriented and lack the focus and/or the ability
in reference to evangelism and outreach in ways that are effective.
By the way, research also suggests that a high percentage of pastors are introverted, which is not necessarily a personality disposition compatible with an apostolic
orientation.
Now, before someone asks me where I read these studies, I cannot quite remember, but trust me, I have seen them.



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Dana Ames

posted August 30, 2006 at 3:18 pm


Bob,
those are helpful observations- and I wonder:
if we were to substitute
*”MBA grad” for “seminary grad” in #1
*”(other business-oriented) graduate” for “seminary graduates” in #2
*”COO” for “pastor” and “-employee business” for “church in #3
*”COOs” for “ordained”, “companies” for “mainlines”, “COO pool” for “pastoral pool” in #4
*”businesses” for “churches” in #5
*”COO” for “pastor” and “employee business” for “member church” in #6
-wouldn’t the same statements make perfect sense????
(not ragging on you, Bob- I’ve read enough of you here and on your own blog to see some of your heart, and I am acquainted with CCO, which I admire very much)
People, can we see some assumptions here?
Dana



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jason

posted August 30, 2006 at 3:27 pm


scott,
you’re right, dominant/dominance was a poor choice of words. what i mean is the power to influence or pursuade people toward transformation. obviously there are christ-like and decidedly unchrist-like ways of going about this, but i believe even genuinely christ-like leaders are still exercising this type of power; indeed, even more so.
why is that power historically rare among women? i don’t know. that’s why i characterized my observations as “nagging.” i certainly wasn’t trying to imply that it has anything to do with qualification in the sense of intelligence, education, worth, etc. my apologies to anyone who picked up that insinuation.
i hope the reason is that men simply struggle to submit to women out of sinful pride (after all, in the leader/follower exchange there is submission by the follower occuring even if it’s enthusiastic), but nick is right: a part of me fears that this is simply evidence favoring the complementarian position…which isn’t part of the discussion today.
still – and i think this is relevant to the discussion – i maintain that the capacity to lead is critical to pastoral work (becoming exponentially more important in larger and larger groups), is key to this issue of a lack of female pastors 350+ churches, and is largely not being discussed here. if women by and large are unable to exercise the power to influence men toward transformation due to inherent cultural forces then not only will they be unable to effectively pastor larger churches, but adding more recruiting, training, and education of women at the seminary level will accomplish nothing; the culture of the men in the pews must be changed.



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Scot McKnight

posted August 30, 2006 at 3:29 pm


Jason,
Thanks for that last comment; good points. Cultural resistance has been central to this thread today — a long one indeed!



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Mark Van Steenwyk

posted August 30, 2006 at 3:32 pm


Scot,
I hate to be pesky, but didn’t you promise us in April that you would do a series on women in ministry? ;)
http://www.jesuscreed.org/?p=980#comments (see #83).
Others have said this, but I’ll add my own voice to the sentiment: when one gets away from the notion of authority being vested in an “ordained” individual or one gets away from the clergy/laity distinction, this issue quickly becomes a different issue.
Our culture was forged by patriarchal leaders, so it makes sense that we’d have a “patriarchy shaped hole” in our hearts when it comes to what we want in a leader. We are trying to fit women into that hole. Instead, what we should be focusing on is changing the system that created the hole.



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Dana Ames

posted August 30, 2006 at 3:38 pm


Jason-
thanks for your remarks.
Mark-
Yes indeed. Exactly. Well, and succinctly, said.
Dana



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Kate

posted August 30, 2006 at 3:40 pm


RJS #107 – I’m glad to hear that the field I hope to enter some day is getting better in this area. We’re sort of in the same boat as far as church goes. After all, the church has a tendency to lag several decades behind the culture at large. On the other hand, I still feel compelled to try to do something about it, to make our community better.
Janice, thanks for your interest. It’s always nice to know someone cares. I’m sure I’ll continue to struggle with my own call and the call of women in general inside the church.
I can see what Nick is saying (please forgive me if I’m misrepresenting your position). It’s not that he thinks that men need to step down from the pulpit, but that they need to be more willing to share it, not just with women, but with any other person who is gifted to teach/preach/lead. This also requires congregants who are willing to share the responsibilities of sharing the gospel and making disciples that falls on every follower of Jesus.



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RJS

posted August 30, 2006 at 3:44 pm


Jason,
I don’t know the answers to your questions, and I don’t think that there is an obvious simple answer. But I am certain that some of the reason is competitve nature and sinful pride. There are a multitude of cultural references here.



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Susan

posted August 30, 2006 at 3:59 pm


Scot,
Re: #115
you ask whether the point is “outward and expanding vs. inward and nurturing? ”
it’s the “vs.” that bothers me.
We need activities that involve both outward and inward, expanding and nurturing. To pit these against one another, or to divvy the activities up according to gender or personality-traits … I’m not so sure this has served the body of Christ very well.
Allan,
Back to your comments in #11. Now that it is clear that what you mean by “chaplain” is pastor, what does it say to claim that an emphasis on pastoral ministry causes a church to go into decline? Did you mean numeric decline, then?
I’m wondering whether, if evangelists, apostles, and pastors all did thier work diligently, whether we’d need to make this some kind of holy trifecta where one of them needs to be the top dog? Must this be a hierarchy or an issue of emphasis? How would our churches look if they were more team-led, and with the apostles not allowed to keep hanging on to the church and using the title “pastor” when they are not pastoring at all (Paul never did that) but diligently training, mentoring (both men and women pastors) and moving on?



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Scot McKnight

posted August 30, 2006 at 4:03 pm


Susan,
The “vs.” you point to is how Allan distinguishes the two terms.



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Michael Kruse

posted August 30, 2006 at 4:09 pm


Allan #123
“By the way, research also suggests that a high percentage of pastors are introverted, which is not necessarily a personality disposition compatible with an apostolic orientation.”
Using the Meyer-Briggs inventory, about 12-13% of the population are Inuitive Feelers but almost exactly 50% of pastors are in this category. These are the “idealists,” the “spiritual questers.” You find a lot of them in the counseling field as well. This comes back to Allanâ??s â??Chaplainâ? model which I think is very prevalent both among what pastors want to be and what congregants want. Yet I am not sure this is what the Church is (primarily) called to be. We are back to Danaâ??s great questions. What is leadership and what is the Church supposed to be. The are many deeply embedded assumptions here.
In Chapter 6 of Greg Ogdenâ??s book Unfinished Business does a wonderful analysis of the word â??artios,â? which is the root of the word we translate as â??equipâ? in Eph. 4:12. As it is used in the bible he identifies three aspects.
1. Fixing what is broken.
2. Bringing into proper alignment.
3. Supplementing what is missing.
Ogden goes on to insist that a true pastor is good at one of these, maybe good at two of these, but no pastor does all three well. That is why equipping takes a community.
It seems to me we have a lot of spiritual questing going on. It seems we have a lot of institutional leadership going on. But where is the equipping that sends equipped â??eikonsâ? out into the world to be salt and light? And in fact pastors I know who have a vision for just this kind of pastoring are frustrated because their congregations are so steeped in this other baggage that is piled on. The curious thing about this is that based on the gender stereotypes we have, it seems to me women would be MORE qualified to pastor than men if pastoring were truly about equipping.



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Janice

posted August 30, 2006 at 4:21 pm


Kate – from #129 – Any comment/thoughts regarding Nick’s #122? Regarding innate differences between men and women? As I have begun the journey which I mentioned, this is one question that has nagged at me. Are there innate differences? Nick mentions, ‘besides just physical’ – but I have been wondering how much of the physical (more estrogen, or less testosterone being one example) really IS part of the difference? Is there a difference in the psyche of a humanbeing who is capable of carrying and nourishing new life in/with her own body? And I don’t mean purely from a societal level. Ever considered those things or know of any references/discussions?



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Susan

posted August 30, 2006 at 4:22 pm


Jason,
You ask in #125 “why is that power historically rare among women?”
I wonder whether it’s not power that is rare, but rather, it is rare that society has acknowledged powerful women. The Spirit of God is a Spirit of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Tim 1:7). So biblical power (an important disctinction) is inherent in the spritual gifts we are freely given. Perhaps that power is more typically discounted, when found in women, and goes unrecorded in history for the most part as it is never allowed to be developed and expressed…



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BeckyR

posted August 30, 2006 at 4:26 pm


Women know size doesn’t matter?
What would Freud say of this?



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jason

posted August 30, 2006 at 4:28 pm


rjs – sorry, it seems i’m better at making myself misundersttod than making myself clear. yes, there’s plenty of discussion here about cultural forces, what i meant was discussion about leadership as a skill for ministers?
1. are seminary students taught leadership skills?
2. are women in seminary taught specifically how to lead/exercise authority over men who will likely be hostile to their role?
3. are women taught what distinctively motivates men to follow?
4. are boys in the home taught the inherent dignity, intelligence, and worth of women? (huh, sounds ironically chauvinistic in a chestertonian way) anybody listen to eminem lately?
5. are blue-collar, non-college-educated men in the pews taught #4 as adults, and how can they be taught this by the church?
i wonder if we really recognize the enormity of this. we’re talking about changing a culture that is much, much bigger than corporate american male hierarchy. we’re really not talking about equality, we’re talking about the exercise of power. does anybody have an examples of cultures that have been consistently lead by women? if not, then we’re talking about bucking more than just the remnant of 1950′s patriarchal thinking.



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BeckyR

posted August 30, 2006 at 4:30 pm


Does godly power mean big churches?



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Kate

posted August 30, 2006 at 4:33 pm


Janice, I don’t want to take the discussion too much further from Scot’s initial intent. I do think there are differences between men and women other than just the visible ones, but I have also noticed that cultures tend to emphasize and exaggerate some of these differences. I’ve often found that my own behaviors and reactions are more in line with what our culture considers masculine, but I am definitely a woman. There have been some good discussions going on at href=”http://www.jasonclark.ws/2006/08/25/exploring-the-role-of-women-in-missional-churches-of-the-western-world/”> lately and I have done a few posts myself. If you would like to discuss these things further, my email is voicecrying at gmail dot com.



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Kate

posted August 30, 2006 at 4:35 pm


okay, so i really tried to make that a link, sorry for the stupid looking website address.



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Backwoods Presbyterian

posted August 30, 2006 at 4:36 pm


#129
I would certainly question whether it is necessarily a bad thing if the church is behind the culture.
I am reading a consensus that:
1) Men are part of the problem not the solution.
2) Women who believe in a traditional role, believe that because their development in a patriarchal society directs them to think this way.
3) This belief is backwards and inherently wrong.



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Allan R. Bevere

posted August 30, 2006 at 4:42 pm


Susan:
First, when I make the distinction between apostolic and pastoral, I do not mean for them to be mutually exclusive.
Second, when I mean decline, I am primarily referring to numbers, but understand I am not suggesting that every church that declines in numbers is failing to fulfill its apostolic responsibilities. I know of churches that were vibrant and vital 150 years ago, but because of the shifting of population and other factors, the congregation now finds themselves in the middle of nowhere. Growth in numbers in that situation is not likely though not impossible. This does not mean, however, they are no longer vital spiritually.
What I have in mind was the church where I served as a youth pastor while in seminary many years ago. It was a church that in the 1920s and 30s was a growing neighboorhood church on the outskirts of the city. Over time the children grew up and moved out to the suburbs but continued to come into the city for church. As the make-up of the community changed over the years, they did not. The church continued to do their thing oblivious to the changing face of the community. When I went there in 1984, there was only one family from the neighborhood that attended the church; everyone else was from outside, from the “burbs.” They were content all those years to serve themselves and to hire pastors that would be their chaplains caring only for them willing to welcome visitors through their doors as long as those persons got with their program.
About three years ago that now small and aging congregation sold their building to a highly apostolically oriented church. Today that church is bursting at the seams with people attending from the neighborhood, with all sorts of ministries taking place weekly.
Your question concerning hierarchy or matter of emphasis is right on. The other thing that occurs to me as we are having this discussion, is that we cannot forget that pastors do not grow churches either numerically or spiritually, churches grow churches in these ways. The most dynamic and gifted pastoral leader can only lead a congregation in such growth. The folks in the pews must be willing to do what it takes to be a congregation that reaches out and makes and nurtures disciples.
As more than a few superintendents have told me over the years, every church they work with wants to grow, but what they think will make that happen is the right pastor; the question they need to ask is are they the right congregation? Are they willing to whatever it takes to make disciples? How often the church wants to make disciples, but only on their own terms.
I take a very team oriented approach to ministry. I think our current cultural and social situation does not lend well to the notion of apostles traveling around, unless denominations are actually willing to create such an approach to ministry. Pastors must shepherd and they must lead in outreach. The irony here is that it seems to be only the larger churches who have the ability to hire staff to focus on specific aspects of pastoral and apostolic ministry. Of course, it can be done in smaller congregations with volunteers, but more persons in the church are quicker to volunteer to minister to people they already know in the church, then to strangers on the outside, though there are certainly exceptions.



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Janice

posted August 30, 2006 at 4:43 pm


Kate, understood, thanks and I will follow up with you and the website both! (wondering if it isn’t all interconnected though…. :) )
And BeckyR, funny #136. ;-)



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RJS

posted August 30, 2006 at 4:47 pm


Jason,
This is an interesting set of questions. Th answer to all 5 is likely no. I think that the answer for #1 is no based on what I’ve heard, here and elsewhere. I am sure that the answer for #2-5 is definitely no. These are, in fact, very important issues. After all, the church is about working with people where they are, not counting numbers and getting ahead.
You are absolutely right – there is an enormity to this that is much bigger than corporate America or than academia. (The church is messy, while academia is boring and eccentric I’ve heard, and corporate America is driven by the bottom line)
As an aside, I watched a team building activity in our High School youth group recently, and it shocked me. In the group I watched, the boys decided what to do and did it with the girls watching on from the outside and acting as spotters. The spokesman for this group then informed the larger group that his group had worked well together with everyone participating. He was clueless. The adult leader in the group also had no clue what had just happened. It wasn’t even on his radar screen.



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Jenny

posted August 30, 2006 at 5:20 pm


I think all of this discussion points to a skewed view of church leadership. If we count for five spiritual gifts (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher), we have only really talked about pastor and teacher, with an occasional apostle reference. This is natural since that is what is usually talked about in church. Could our closed view of church leadership be contributing to keeping women out of church jobs? Also, we keep measuring a woman’s pastoring ability by her preaching/teaching abilities, but it seems that those are two different gifts according to Paul. So church today is used to the way men enact one of our spiritual gifts and that seems to be a deciding factor of women being given leadership positions.
Also, the job of leader of large churches today is also likened to CEO; what percentage of CEO positions do women hold in our country? If the CEO-model were not the case, would we have more women in those roles?
I second RJS’s baseball story idea in #88!



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Mike

posted August 30, 2006 at 6:35 pm


As I am typing this, there are 145 comments…so, I am assuming that I’ll be redundant, but maybe not.
I find the whole of the NY Times article authentic and a catalyst for despair and initiative.
Authenticity: I had colleague, an immigrant woman, who came to Christ while an international student here in the states. She began worshipping at a PCUSA church, and observed not long afterwards that women were preaching-not always, but they were in the pulpit. Meanwhile, out of the sheer joy of knowing Christ, she was “preaching” wherever she went on and off campus as a student, and simply exudes the delight of belonging to the Lord. She goes to seminary, now married and a mom, and receives ordination in the PCUSA as an interim pastor: and after that first call, she received no interest from any churches whatsoever. Horrible. She finally moved with her family to seek other opportunities for ministry: and although in a major-urban center of the US, she has not received any calls to serve, even outside of the PCUSA. Yet, she is firm in her self-understanding of being called by the Lord to serve as a pastor.
Despair: Re-read the above, but add the article’s implied observation that “bigger must be better.” That myth further reinforces the observation that the North American church is a mile long, and an inch deep: with all kinds of vestigial baggage regarding gender. All women called by the Lord to preach deserve better: just like their male counterparts.
Initiative: I’ve said this only to men, but the next time I meet a woman who is a pastor who is complaining that no one else is hiring them, I’ll say: plant a new church. I know of other women who are PCUSA pastors planting churches and that trust in the Lord has resulted in (drum roll, please): a pulpit.



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Scott Arany

posted August 30, 2006 at 6:39 pm


Mike,
You’ve been insightful, not redundant.
And your last statement regarding initiative? I deeply thank you. It’s something I needed to read.



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Susan

posted August 30, 2006 at 6:44 pm


Allan,
When I read all your comments today together, I am still left with two related impressions:
1) The optimal leadership â??mode,â? if you will, is apostolic, because it vitalizes a church and grows it.
2) Primarily pastoral leadership (that which you originally called chaplaincy) leads to the ultimate demise of a church.
Given that the original question was why more women are not chosen to lead churches of 350 or more, does this leave us with the inevitable conclusion that â??if onlyâ? more women had apostolic gifts, they would be pastoring bigger churches, meaning that it the apostolic gifting of a leader that is the key factor here (combined, as you point out, with a cooperative congregation)to church size?



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Susan

posted August 30, 2006 at 6:44 pm


Allan,
When I read all your comments today together, I am still left with two related impressions:
1) The optimal leadership â??mode,â? if you will, is apostolic, because it vitalizes a church and grows it.
2) Primarily pastoral leadership (that which you originally called chaplaincy) leads to the ultimate demise of a church.
Given that the original question was why more women are not chosen to lead churches of 350 or more, does this leave us with the inevitable conclusion that â??if onlyâ? more women had apostolic gifts, they would be pastoring bigger churches, meaning that it is the apostolic gifting of a leader that is the key factor here (combined, as you point out, with a cooperative congregation)to church size?



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Sarcastic Lutheran

posted August 30, 2006 at 7:32 pm


I’m a female seminary student on an ordination track (ELCA) – I’m planting an emerging church in Denver.
OK, so Mary Daly (although I’m not a big fan of hers) says “If God is male, then Male is god.” There’s a lot to this friends.
Here’s something to consider: what’s the prcentage of women in seminary and in the clergy who are overweight? A LOT!!! Perhaps to be considered pastoral as a woman you have to be de-sexualized. I reject this.
my 2 cents.



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Jfred

posted August 30, 2006 at 7:33 pm


My last act before leaving the PCUSA two years ago was serving as the chair of our pastor nominating committee. I was stunned that the majority of the resumes we received were from women, and on paper, the women candidates were much stronger.
However, when it came to preaching, there was only one (out of dozens of audio and video tapes sermons I screened) who got my attention as a solid preacher. Most of them seemed very uncomfortable in the pulpit, nervously reading their sermons and making poor eye contact with the congregation.
The men with much poorer credentials were much more effective communicators. Like it or not, preaching on Sunday morning is the most important time in the life of the local church and if women aren’t impressing those larger congregations with their audition tapes, even the women-friendly churches will pass them by.



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David

posted August 30, 2006 at 8:34 pm


From 122 Nick “i do not believe there are any innate differences between men and women besides the obvious physical differences (and even some of these may have been not the original design, but evolved to what they are today over thousands of years.” When women secrete breast milk it represents giving their children the best of themselves. Thier own body will go without in order to nurture their children. Men when they secrete it is accomplishing their will…….sometimes in a loving way and often in a unloving selfish way…….. Men and women are different………have been different for years and it is in the DNA, conditioning and in most cases culturally. Men accomplish their will…….women lay down their life. That being said……I often think that the example of women is actually more in line with the teachings of Christ. Men and women are different. Sorry to disagree with you Nick and if I have upset some in the group with my biology lesson I apologize.



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Michael Kruse

posted August 30, 2006 at 8:52 pm


Jfred wrote in #151
“Like it or not, preaching on Sunday morning is the most important time in the life of the local church…”
And therein we find the reason for the demise of the Church in Western Christendom.



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BeckyR

posted August 30, 2006 at 8:57 pm


Underlining Mike #146 – These gifts are about service, and we humans, male or female, need not the permission from others in order to serve. Not that I’m exemplar at doing so.



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Allan R. Bevere

posted August 30, 2006 at 9:09 pm


Susan:
I would say that if we agree that the Great Commission is the foundation of the church’s mission, then the answer to #1 is yes, and the answer to #2 is yes, if the apostolic mission is ignored. The short-hand reason for this is that #1 tends to be other focused, while #2 tends to be self-focused (I refer here not to the individual pastor, but to the congregation). While it is OK to be self-focused in reference to pastoral care, it must not control the church’s mission and ministries.
I think that there happen to be plenty of female pastors who have the apostolic gifts necessary to lead any size congregation; why there are not more doing so in actuality is likely due to all those other factors that have been mentioned in the discussion throughout the day: sexism, etc. These are things that must end. Hopefully, they soon will.



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Denny Burk

posted August 30, 2006 at 9:42 pm


Michael (in #153),
You wrote commented about the person who wrote that “preaching on Sunday morning is the most important time in the life of the local church.” You responded that “therein we find the reason for the demise of the Church in Western Christendom.”
Perhaps you didn’t mean to, but it sounds like you are denigrating the central place of biblical preaching within the life of the local church. Certainly there are other things that the local church must be about, but it’s certainly not less than biblical preaching.
Consider the example set in Acts 2:42, “they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Should we not also be continually devoting ourselves to the apostles’ teaching?
Or consider the apostle Paul’s instructions to the pastor Timothy, “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things; for as you do this you will insure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you” (1 Timothy 4:16). Is it not of utmost importance for pastors to continue doing precisely what Paul told Timothy? Does not Paul seem to imply that people’s salvation and perseverence depends upon the preached word?
Thanks,
Denny



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Janice

posted August 30, 2006 at 10:24 pm


David – from #152 – can I get an email from you? janiceihg AT hotmail DOT com. I’d love to chat a little further on this idea if you have time.
Thanks.



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Molly

posted August 30, 2006 at 10:44 pm


Just an aside:
As a woman deeply rethinking patriarchy, the system that has been my experience both growing up in a traditional fundamentalist church as well as later chosen by myself (and my husband) as new Christians (powerful arguments, sure gave a lot of structure to life, etc)…
…and, even more than that, as someone who has always felt “called” to be something besides a pastor’s wife (which I am, and I’m not saying that role is not valuable…just what do you do when you personally feel called to something else, something that you figure *must* be rebellious, because we all *know* God wouldn’t call a woman to anything beyond a behind-the-scenes help role, right?)…
…Can I just tell you all how wonderful “listening in” on this conversation has been?
Thank you.



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Michael Kruse

posted August 30, 2006 at 11:20 pm


Denny,
My point is this most important time in the life of the church is not the gathering of the community on Sunday morning for the life of the Church. The most important time in the life of the Church is the other six days of the week where the hands of Christ touch the world through his eikons on the factory floor, in the office cubicle, in the field, in the nursery, etc., etc.
The gathering is the time we do corporate worship, equipping of the saints and supporting each other in our ministries (ex. accountant, custodian, police officer, homemaker, husband/wife, parent, friend) We gather together to in order to be sent out. Our mission is â??out thereâ? not â??in here.â?
I donâ??t question at all that study and teaching are essential to the life of the church. I donâ??t question that we need people who are devoted to studying the Word and opening it up to others. You mentioned Acts 2:42. I donâ??t see how Acts 2:42 suddenly morphs into a guy standing up in front of a group people seated in rows delivering a one-way form of communication for 20-30 minutes every Sunday sandwiched between some songs and rituals? I donâ??t see this model anywhere in the New Testament. So how is it that this cultural affectation has become â??the most important time in the life of the local church?â?
Ministry is anything we do in the employ of another. Whatever we do in response to God is ministry. Ministry is not defined by what we do. It is defined by who we are doing for. Yet repeatedly we talk about people going into â??the ministry.â? Or if we are employed by a church or mission group we are in â??full-time ministry.â?
Ask anyone for a definition of laity and it nearly always is given in terms of the negative:
Function â?? they do not administer the sacraments.
Status â?? they donâ??t have reverend in front of their name.
Location â?? they donâ??t serve primarily in the church.
Education â?? they donâ??t have a degree from seminary.
Remuneration â?? they are not paid for church work.
Lifestyle â?? they are occupied with the â??secularâ? instead of the â??sacred.â?
The reality is that the word laity, from the Greek â??laikos,â? is not in the Bible, although it was in the Greek lexicon at least 300 years before the New Testament era. It means â??of the common people,â? which in this context we are to surmise the â??uncommon peopleâ? are the clergy. It does not begin to enter the common Christian vocabulary until the third century A.D. Yet the word from which we derived clergy, â??kleros,â? is always used in reference to the â??laos tou theou,â? the people of God. The entire people of God are Godâ??s allotment, not a specialized class Christians. (For more see my blog post Klaos – The “Clergy People of God” and the Myth of Laity.)
We have all been given the called to:
Creation stewardship â?? Managing and bring to fruition (individually through societal institutions) the world God has entrusted to us.
Kingdom service â?? Carrying the works Jesus started and commissioned us to do.
Employment of Gifts â?? Using gifts from the Spirit to build up the Church and the world.
Pastoring and teaching are essential functions within the body of Christ. Yet what the pastor does on Sunday morning in Western style Christendom is not the â??most importantâ? time for the body of Christ and to suggest is strikes me as clericalism. It is the elevation of one function (which is actually to be the supportive equipping function to the other functions) to such a degree that it denigrates the rest of the body.
And this brings us back to Danaâ??s questions about our underlying assumptions. What difference would it make to how we view women in ministry if we understood pastoring in the light of what I have just described instead our highly highly Westernized constructs? What if we understood that the most important time in the life of the church is what we do â??out thereâ? instead of what the pastor does â??in here?â?
(I hope I am not coming across caustic. I am trying to forcefully make a point I care deeply about.)



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Ryan

posted August 31, 2006 at 2:15 am


Well, I don’t know if anyone will read this, I barely made it to the end of this very stimulating discussion on women in the church. I think everyone has done a good job discussion the culture of patriarchy and church. I also can appreciate the very legitimate discussion of the role of pastors/chaplain/ etc.
I would like to introduce a new way of thinking about this topic that I gleaned from my reading a book “Daughters of Sarah” which is a collection of Christian Feminist writings that was a quarterly production (I think).
One aspect that we have brushed upon, but I think is essential to our analysis is the idea that God made “them, male and female” in His image. When we talk about the differences between men and women we must realize that the gender differences, not on the account of the curse, are ordained by God to allow us to more fully represent God. When we have only the Masculine we see only a part of the Image of God that humanity is meant to represent. The curse from sin mars that image in gender relationships as we see, but as proclaimers of the good news and stewards of God’s church and the manifestation of God in this world aren’t we supposed to at least strain towards reflecting that “new creation” and the full image of God. I think if we look at the issue of women in the pulpit we get a bigger glimpse at the real problem, male dominance of our church continues the curse which mars the image of God.
We wonder why young people and “emergents” etc. are tunred off by church when they can go any where else in our society, even in their own families and homes, and see the wealth of what women’s leadership brings that is not duplicated at church. We, as the Christian community, are more poor for the lack of women in leadership, pragmatic placement of women in the pulpit will not change this, recognizing the truth that the fullness of God is represented by male and female and that to eskew one and give preference to another is to cpontinue to live under the curse rather than free, and proclaim that freedom to others. This is such an essential message to a western world that equates sexual power with empowerment that I think we have failed in our task of being a blessing in so far as we neglect this very essential part of our representative role of God as His bride.
Thanks for playing and it has been a good discussion so far.



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Susan

posted August 31, 2006 at 6:59 am


Ryan and Michael,
Your two most recent comments here encapsulate the reason why I will be asking students in a campus group I’m involved in to read this post and its comments next month for a discussion I’ll be moderating. You have identified the heart of this issue, and done it so well.



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David

posted August 31, 2006 at 8:07 am


What is the context? What does God have in mind, what does the enemy have in mind with regard to male and female? In getting a handle on this highly charged and controversial topic can we look to the original conflict? When the fall happened what did God say?
“I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing;
with pain you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.� Gen 3
The only other place that the word…desire is used is in the story of Cain and Abel.
“When the Lord said to Cain, â??Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.â? Gen 4
I think that this quality to desire for a woman with regard to man is that same as the sin that wanted to
rule over and have dominion over Cain. It was something that would not find its full expression until it was realized. Just like a flower that has blossomed but in a negative sense. This thing that was hidden and had an intangible quality wanted to become tangible and visible.
The sin had a relentless quality to it and Cain sucumbed to it.
I think that the desire of women to be in control of man and be an authority is not of God and it does not make him happy because it is sin. Women have a lot of truly wonderful gifts and talents, they often have a deeper more intimate relationship with God, they have the ability to give and sacrifice far more then men…..they display often the relationship with God instead of achievement with God. That being said.
“I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;
also that women should adorn themselves modestly and sensibly in seemly apparel, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly attire but by good deeds, as befits women who profess religion. Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.
Yet woman will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.”
1 Timothy 2
That is pretty clear and we can dismiss it and say that it is no longer applicable because we are in a different era but Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. We can say ” I dont like it” just like Cain did and try to thwart the system so that it is more too our liking but that is not the point. The point is to obey. We think of the word obey as some sort of bad thing when it actually is a good thing because it represents protection. If we obey we are under God’s protection and if we dont then we are subject to a life that is very challenging. Have you ever gone on one of those roller coaster rides and not put your seatbelt on? Why? Why should women follow men?
“Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord.
For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.
As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands.” Eph 5
That is the way that God created it. We may not like it but that is the way it is. This tension and conflict has emigrated from the house to the world and to the church. In being “liberated” are women any better, by finally being in control and ruling over men are they any happier? They cant be because it is not as God has intended and therefore it is sin. You cant be happy in sin. Recently a woman who has been teaching for over 25 years in Sunday School was fired because they were taking this authority over men to its limits but in my mind teaching boys is not the same thing as being the CEO of church.
Why does this rebellion of God’s ways take place and have ground? Men have failed miserably in thier role and have not loved their wives, nor their families nor their churches. We have not followed Christ’s example. Too often it has been about our own ego and pride and about us and not about the cross. Woman have not been validated and thier gifts have not been used fully in the church. Should women be an authority figure of any church? No Should they have influence and be able to express thier faith through the sharing of thier gifts? Yes



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Michael Kruse

posted August 31, 2006 at 9:07 am


David,
Scot wrote in his post:
“First, I donâ??t want this post to turn into a debate about whether or not women should be ordained. I know some of you think that women should not be ordained. If you are tempted to write in something like â??Because God doesnâ??t want women ordained,â? please donâ??t.”
In #163 you built a case to conclude:
“Should women be an authority figure of any church? No.”
I appreciate the tone and grace with you stated #163 but I think your post goes against the ground rules Scot laid for this conversation and leaves those of us who passionately disagree with your perspective and interpretatios in a predicament: Join you outside the bounds Scot set or just let your statement pass without comment. So instead I will just say â??Yellow Card! Yellow Card!â? (Mike now rolling on the floor by the computer feigning exceeding injury and pain.) :)
It is interesting that Scot raised this topic now. I had just composed a post for Monday announcing the October 2 I am going to do a one-post-per-weekday blog of the 29 essays in Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity Without Hierarchy. I may live to regret it but I am going to give it a shot. So Iâ??ll save what I have to say for then.
Susan
Thanks for your kind affirmation in #162.



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Anonymous

posted August 31, 2006 at 9:26 am


On the Bench « presumed2Bme

[...] I’m a sucker for a good discussion about women in ministry. Drawn there like a moth to the flame. I usually come out singed around the edges, mostly by the heat of my own muttered curses, and the smoke coming out my ears. But yesterday at Jesus Creed, a pithy discussion was begun, and it’s impressively civil and worth looking over. [...]



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Susan

posted August 31, 2006 at 9:33 am


Michael,
And thank you for jumping in here. Bless you. I look forward to reading your blog on DBE ! Lots in there to ponder.



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Big Mike Lewis

posted August 31, 2006 at 10:41 am


Should people be ordained? Where is that in scripture?



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Pinball

posted August 31, 2006 at 12:40 pm


I know Scot didn’t want this to be a debate about whether women should be in church, so I hope none of my comments will be interpreted as such.
I personally go back and forth on the issue. It is indeed a complicated hermeneutical excercise to say that the words of 2 Timothy don’t mean what they appear to clearly say, but it is not without precedent. (The passages imploring slaves to obey their masters comes to mind.) I’ve heard the cultural context arguments for women in the pulpit and I’ve heard the gender role arguments against it. I see merit in both.
I bring this up not to enjoin the argument anew, but to provide insight into what people in the seats (not all churches have pews!) might be thinking. I’m 37 and male, and until recently I would have called myself a conservative evangelical. But conservative evangelicals have begun to annoy me with their haughtiness(I was annoyed with my own haughtiness, frankly.), and I find myself listening to people I used to write off.
Equivocation is by definition a bad place to start for making a stand on an issue. I continue to pray and ask the Spirit where I should stand, so I’m not riding the fence. However, during a time of deliberation, it just feels better to stay with what is “normal”. To me, a woman in the pulpit isn’t normal.
Having just said that, I recently watched a message series from Fellowship Church in Grapevine, TX. They are affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention and their senior pastor is male. Yet they frequently have others besides the senior pastor preach, and some of them are female. In this series, the message I’ve been most captivated by was one preached by a woman, in spite of myself. I told my mom — who is still staunchly conservative — about this sermon, and her answer surprised me. She said, “I think churches SHOULD let women preach, as long as the Senior Pastor is a man and she is under his authority.”
What surprised me was my internal reaction. I thought the whole man-thing was BS as she said it. I wasn’t sure why.
Then I realized it’s the whole “spiritual authority” thing. I don’t believe pastors HAVE spiritual authority by nature of their “office”. There IS no “office of pastor” in scripture. Scripture only talks about elders (or bishops) and deacons. That’s what bugged me about the SBC spokesman’s comment in the NYT article. He reinforced a stereotype that is not scripturally accurate.
The point of all this rambling is this: Regardless of what various church hierarchies support or allow, it’s the attitudes of people on the ground that hold the biggest sway. Many of us have not finished processing this issue. Many of us are avoiding it. Still others in churches that say it’s right think it’s wrong. With this many people unsure, it’s no wonder there aren’t many women in high profile positions. We’re talking about a change that has only come about in the last 125 years in an institution that’s been around for over 2000, and has its roots in an institution that has been around for over 5000 years. It will take time.
(For the record, I go to an RCA church. The RCA officially supports women in the pulpit but allows churches to decide individually. My church does not allow it now, although we have in the past.)



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Michael Kruse

posted August 31, 2006 at 2:39 pm


Mike wrote in #167:
“Should people be ordained? Where is that in scripture?”
Clearly there were people set aside for studying and teaching the Word. They laid hands on people they set aside to do this work. But was this ordination in the sense we talk about it today? I too ask this question. At the Reformation, we Protestants eliminated the priest as mediator from our soteriology but I fear we left him in our ecclesiology (i.e., the pastor mediates vision and mission to the people instead of euipping people to discern vision and mission.) Maybe we need to complete the Reformation.
Pinball wrote in 168:
“Regardless of what various church hierarchies support or allow, itâ??s the attitudes of people on the ground that hold the biggest sway.”
While you and I may differ on what to think about women in authority I fully agree with you here. What we have at work in the PCUSA is a situation where the hierarchy routinely takes postions on issues that are counter to what the majority of the people hold. Rather than working to embody an understanding in the life of the denomination and the letting action flow from that, they too often contradict the majority and claim they are being prophetic and that the people will follow.
This takes us into a whole other area about discipleship and theological education at the congregational level but I wanted to affirm your observation here.



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Makeesha

posted August 31, 2006 at 4:57 pm


it’s clear by the number of responses that while many continue to attempt to dismiss this issue as a “non issue”, it clearly is indeed still something worthy of discussion. I have only read about half of the responses but I wanted to say that this is a very interesting issue in my “world”. My husband and I copastor a church within a church that is comprised of mostly college students from Colorado State University and other young adults from the more ecclectic and alternative downtown area of our city. And none of the people we are reaching out to think that having women “in front” and/or “in charge” is an issue. In fact, if I wasn’t a visible leadership figure along side my husband and if we preached that a woman cannot have authority in the church I doubt we’d have anyone come…at least not the people who are generally disillusioned by the current establishment (the people we are reaching out to) It’s only the churched folk (either people in my parent’s generation or young people who grew up in conservative/traditional churches) who care.
So my solution is along the lines of a comment toward the top – stop spending so much time building an empire and teach people how to be Jesus to cracked eikons so they can be in restored relationship with God and others…all the hangups that exist in churcheanity don’t really matter to those outside the “club”. In fact, I think they find it rather disgusting how much time and energy we put into infighting on this issue.



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Michael Kruse

posted August 31, 2006 at 5:02 pm


“…stop spending so much time building an empire and teach people how to be Jesus to cracked eikons so they can be in restored relationship with God and others…”
Naa. That would never work. :)
Seriously, Thanks Makeesha! Sound advice.



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Anonymous

posted August 31, 2006 at 5:58 pm


The Margins » Blessed

[...] Scot McKnight had quite the discussion going today about women pastors, and some of the obstacles they face within denominations that support the ordination of women. As I read some of the comments, I was struck by God’s grace to me in my own process of being called, as a woman, to pastoral ministry. It is good for me to remember the different people who, both directly and indirectly, were used by God in the formation of my own sense of calling as fully gifted to preach and lead. [...]



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Julie

posted August 31, 2006 at 8:19 pm


Pinball, loved your comments. Heartfelt, articulate and helpful.
Julie



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Peter Bremen

posted August 31, 2006 at 9:43 pm


Scot,
OFF-TOPIC:
I would like to see a thread on: What are the characteristics of a good pastor? Or, what makes one a good pastor?
Personally, I’ve never been supportive of being part of a denomination or a church which chose a pastor whom I did not like to listen to week after week. It is very rarely that I like to listen to someone a dozen times.
Are Sunday lectures by the Pastor really necessary?
Sometimes, I attend a discussion-friendly Sunday school and go to “coffee” and then leave the building.
Peter



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Peter Bremen

posted August 31, 2006 at 9:45 pm


Oh!
How many female lead rock stars are there compared to how many male lead rock stars? (Rock music audiences are usually large).
Then how many small club, maybe jazz music or folk/blues small club musicians are female and how many are male?
Peter



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BeckyR

posted August 31, 2006 at 11:45 pm


We are in a house church, it’s existed for 30yrs, we’ve been a part of it for 29. From the beginning time was made at the end of the teaching, for discussion. Though, how it usually happens is we interrupt with a question all the way to “you’re off your rocker on that one.” I’ve heard other pastors wishing they could have that with their congregants. For one thing, it brings down the barriers – pastor authority/congregants willing listeners to pastor with teaching/congregants with thoughts.



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Makeesha

posted September 1, 2006 at 12:33 am


I feel very much the same way Peter. Within a few months I get tired of hearing a pastor preach and figure “hey, i can just get this on the podcast later”. In fact, we’re examining regularly the question “so why do we get together every sunday anyway?”
you’d love our service if you like discussion stuff :) lots of different participatory things going on…are you anywhere near fort collins colorado by any chance? ;)



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Gabrielle

posted September 1, 2006 at 6:20 am


I am a 2nd year Special Education student and a female. I’ve actally read nearly every word in this post. It means a lot to me because before coming to Christ I had to fight through, what seemed to me, the sexist, harsh, unfair, views of women in the church and in the bible.
I wonder why the teaching field, especially the most broken of student, special ed, are overwhelmingly female. Yet when it comes to spiritual life, it seems the opposite. Is it the size of the classroom, verses the size of a huge church?
I’m still bouncing the thought around of getting my master of divinty. So what you said will be the determining factor! ;) (totally kidding!)



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Sarah

posted September 1, 2006 at 10:59 am


Interesting post.
I concur with earlier commenters who cited public acceptance as a factor that keeps women from higher level ministry positions. While seminary professors or church staff may have dissected and thoroughly studied Biblical passages about women in church, I find that the average person is much less familiar or conversant on the topic.
In my experience, people seem to know that “Paul didn’t want women leading in church,” but have little idea about the whereabouts of this passage or its specific context. However, they still feel cautioned by knowing such a passage is there. Even when common sense, and perhaps the affirmation of the Holy Spirit, seem to indicate that a woman is particularly gifted toward leadership, it still seems like “breaking the law” to them to take women’s roles too far.
As a female author, I have been disappointed at times by people who are skeptical that I sometimes include my maiden name (along with my married name) when promoted at regional events. Some seem to view the inclusion of my maiden name as an act of radicalism/extreme feminism, which I assure you it is not. It is simply a tribute to my father (a pastor) and to my spiritual heritage–a legacy I feel I belong to and should carry on despite my gender. Besides, in a practical sense, many many people I have ministered with know me by my previous name and it clarifies my identity for them.
However, I admit, without intent to judge, that in some cases, the female-headed church seems to create an ongoing tension. I wonder if anyone else has noticed this slight to very awkward scenario for the husband/father to lead the wife in the home, but his wife to lead him in the church…Perhaps you will suggest, in today’s context, that there is shared teaming in both.
I am open to thoughts on this subject.



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Rachael

posted September 1, 2006 at 3:51 pm


I am from the Church of God (Anderson) movement. I am grateful that God has allowed me to be in a pastor’s home all my life. I was a pastor’s daughter. I am a pastor’s wife now, and I am in the process of becoming an ordained pastor myself.
I believe this is a very real and sometimes dishearting topic women in ministry face. I have for ten years been pursuing ministry in the areas of missions and youth. At each step of my journey, I have been faced with many of the same things that the women in this forum of discussion has faced. Just like our male counterparts, we all have gifts, talents, passions and calling, just as they do. Yet I find often times women are confined only to certain ministries (children’s is the one that usually pops up)of the church.
My heart breaks to hear young women such as Jenny and Kate, hoping and wishing for examples and mentors through this journey and finding few or none. I have also faced it with very few if no examples at times other than my male counter parts. Which, I will commend the pastors 35 years and under I have worked with, they have been more accepting than those in the older generations. I respect those older generations opinions, I just do not agree with them.
Thank you for the discussion and I think that it is great. My suggestion is this. Female pastors needed to cross denomenational, racial, cultural, social and what ever lines we must to support one another. I am praying for these young ladies and all the women who desire to ministry at all its many stages. I’m not sure if I can do this on here or not, but feel that I must. If anyone on this forum, would like a fellow female pastor to talk to I would be willing to cross those line. I may not always have the answers, but sometimes it great to know that we are not alone.



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Ben

posted September 2, 2006 at 1:19 am


Scot,
I know this thread may be dying, but while I was at Seminary a couple years ago, I was asking similar questions. I am also from the Wesleyan church and have watched as my denomination wrestles with changing their “normal.”
I was thinking about how change happens in culture (I’ve been largely influenced by Everett Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovation) as I looked around at our campus’ demographics, and some friends and I did a little experiment. I attended Asbury Theological Seminary, and we went through the entire Wilmore campus student directory (several hundred students) and discovered that the kind of men attending our Seminary were very different from the kind of women who attended.
This is what I mean: The large majority of men were (1) married, (2) first career ministers, and (3) married to people not in the pastoral ministry. However, when we looked at our female population, we found less than 20 women, a tiny minority, fit the majority description of men. They were either single, second career ministers, or married to other ministers.
I believe the discrepentcy between genders could be explained by Rogers’ observations about “early adopters.” (Though there is a deep tradition of women in ministry among Wesleyans [as well as other denominations], I still think we are early in the acceptence of this reality as part of our culture–part of our “normal.”) Rogers describes that when a new idea is introduced to a culture, the early adoptors are people who are somehow already marginalized and consequently have significantly less to lose by embracing this new idea.
We have all witnessed the strong pressure of many church cultures for women to get married and figure out what kind of career they want early in life. And lets not get started on the stereotypes of pastor’s wives! When women resist these pressures (or simply don’t fit the cultures expectations) they can be slightly marginalized. It is not anything like ostercization or anything, but I have talked to many women who know what I am talking about. Anyway, maybe these women are more willing to go outside of the cultural norm than the statistically “average” church woman because they feel like they have less to lose?
When I think about your question about pastors in churches above 350, I wonder what the percentage of men in those positions are (1) married, (2) first career ministers, and (3) married to people not in the pastoral ministry? I wonder if the suspicion/prejudice our larger congregations have goes beyond gender? Could that help explain why so many women struggle with the idea of female pastors, too?
I think maybe when we start to see more women go to college to study ministry & marry men in other fields of work we may see a rise in women pastors in larger churches.
And maybe we could just work on the other unhealthy prejudices that are keeping women (and men) from these positions in the mean time :).



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Michael Kruse

posted September 2, 2006 at 8:23 am


Good stuff Ben. Thanks!



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Paige

posted September 2, 2006 at 12:06 pm


Excellent discussion! Having left organized religion three years ago, I’ve spent much time pondering much of what is being discussed here. I firmly believe in biblical equality between the sexes. Have spent much time uselessly debating the issue :) I agree that to deny women equal access to ALL parts of body life affirms carnality at work rather than spirituality. However, my views have progressed to the point that I too am asking, “should people be ordained at all?” Has the reality of the priesthhood of all believers been buried under a return to a system that models the one God put down in 70 AD? I find this system does more to keep people in a state of dependency (on man) rather than reaching the full maturity we were all set free to reach due to the finished work of Christ. Hence, the weekly lectures (post 174)…
In a nutshell, though my post may be off-topic, I resonate with the thought that power positions for any particular gender just might be less than beneficial to spiritual health and vitality among those professing to follow Christ. Thanks for listening…



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Dana Richardson

posted September 2, 2006 at 10:19 pm


Scott let me interject that in my limited vision gender issues become that because faith is laid aside. I’ve no idea why people in the denomination I pastor in, Southern Baptist, are so adament against women in leadership, and especially pastoring, but I strongly suspect there is no basis for their conduct other than tradition. As the Holy Spirit gives us pause, and, empowerment, and hopefully enlightenment, may we find our walks with Jesus overcoming such non sense as whether we are of the correct gender according to the judges. Near as I can tell, there is but one judge, Jesus called him “father” on all occasions, and it is to his kingdom whom we of faith aspire, for we are saved by grace…plus nothing. -Dana



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Faith

posted September 2, 2006 at 10:23 pm


So let’s get creative. How do women succeed as ministers? What can be done to challenge or change the current ways of doing church?



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sally

posted September 2, 2006 at 11:50 pm


Interesting discussion, and a trend that is reflected here in the UK, women have been ordained for decades now, but are still seen as the exception to the rule, even though female ordinands outnumber their male counterparts.
Attitudes to women in leadership are still tense, though largely unspoken, also women bring differewnt styles of leadership which are often not recognised or valued. This is something that needs considering and addressing as the church makes its =way into the 21st century!



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Anonymous

posted September 3, 2006 at 1:37 pm


Knowing the Sheep, and Pastoral Care « The Philosophical Pastor

[...] Scot McKnight’s post this past week and the subsequent discussion raised many more questions than it answered. But it was a fantastic start. [...]



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Ted Gossard

posted September 4, 2006 at 3:14 am


Sharon Brown, wife of Jack who is an associate pastor at Thornapple Evangelical Covenant Church http://www.thornapple.org/ gave a fine message this morning that was full of pastoral care (in it). Entilted â??Where Are You, Lord?â? From John 11. I found her afterwards to let her know of my appreciation. I saw in her eyes what truly is in her heart. She has a pastorâ??s heart. To feed and take care of the sheep.
One guy there remarked how he had heard the same message times before, but this is the one that got through to him (I’m sure, in answer to prayer). He recalled a story she told about the tearful compassion she had in her love for her son as he lie striken with a kind of terror on an emergency table.
We need more opportunities like this for women to share their gift. That will help break down the stereotypes and walls that remain.



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Brooklyn Lindsey

posted September 4, 2006 at 7:42 am


I appreciate this conversation immensely. I feel it correlates well to my position. I’m a youth minister at a large UMC church and am also ordained elder in the Church of the Nazarene. I have been blessed to be able to lead a youth ministry that is larger than most protestant churches in America. However, I am a minority and many of my friends and colleagues have experienced great opposition from men (and women) when it comes to preaching from the pulpit and getting fair pay. Winning the male confidence or the confidence of a more fundamental group of parishoners is often a long and sometimes painful process. I greatly respect those who have gone before me and those who are currently in the trenches paving the way for young women in ministry. I am also so grateful for the men in my life who see the need to be our advocate. When power is recognized and used to help those without much of a voice, it’s a beautiful thing. Of course, using one’s power for the powerless or those facing opposition comes with a price. I admire those who are willing to seek justice, even when it costs them something.



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