This letter about what it is like to be a woman at a seminary, in this case TEDS and I’m convinced her experience is found at other seminaries. If you know about my book, mentioned below, I tell some of my story about women in ministry when I was a professor there, and she mentions that at the end of her letter. Folks, the experience of this woman (now minister) is in the last decade.
Here’s one point I have to make: if seminaries permit women to take M.Div. degrees or professional ministry degrees, those same seminaries are obligated to support and help to find ministry opportunities for those women. If the churches their placement offices are dealing with are not supporting women in ministry, then the school needs to be forthright about such matters. Tuition-driven schools are obligated to face this issue with honesty and integrity.
There are of course other issues, and I leave it to you to respond…
My name is …. I am almost finished reading your book The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible
. I was moved to email you after reading your comments about your time at TEDS and your apology to women students at TEDS. I was a student at TEDS. I graduated summa cum laude in two different Masters degrees. Before I was at Trinity, I graduated with honors from a Midwest university with a degree in Biomedical Engineering.
But, my three years at TEDS were some of the hardest years of my life. Having grown up as a driven, intellectual, successful person, I felt beaten down over and over again as a woman during my time there. I spent many days in tears, feeling completely rejected as I simply tried to follow the call that God had placed in my life. I felt called into vocational ministry when I was 14 and never doubted that call as the years went by. I initially thought that I might go to medical school and do medical missions, but as my husband and I prayed about where God was leading us, we sensed God leading us both toward seminary and to church ministry.
My husband was a student at TEDS at the same time that I was. At times other students wouldn’t even look me in the eye. They would carry on conversations with my husband without even acknowledging my presence. When they did acknowledge my presence, they would ask me if I was in a typical female occupation such as nursing, teaching, or a stay-at-home mom. It was so humiliating to me.
When it came time for my husband and I to graduate, we both registered with the placement office at TEDS which was supposed to help us connect with churches or organizations looking to hire graduates. My husband received numerous inquiries from churches, while the professor in the placement office practically laughed in my face and told me that no one would hire me. He was right. I never got a single call from a church.
I did find two professors … who actually encouraged me while I was there. They were really a blessing to me during that time. Luckily, my husband and I connected with a church during our time at Trinity that values women in ministry. Since that time, I have been able to grow and learn and serve in ministry through various positions including serving as a pastor at a church and planting a church two years ago with my husband. My husband has been my biggest cheerleader for me. He’s encouraged me to keep going even during the frustrating times and recognized gifts in me that I didn’t always see.
While I wasn’t even at Trinity while you were there, your apology in the book was meaningful to me. It is validating to know that someone understands the experience of some women students. I really appreciated your words. Thank you very much.