Recently I was interview by a student who was working on a project about baptist women in ministry, in particular women who service as senior pastors. She asked me, “What was one thing you would tell a woman who is called to preach or be a senior pastor and is finishing school or looking for a job?”
I replied, “I would tell them not to listen to the naysayers. There will be so many people who say there aren’t churches who will call a woman pastor, but there are women serving. I would also tell them to develop a thick skin because people say mean and hurtful things when you tell them you are a preacher and that you are looking for a senior pastor position.”
I try really hard to give churches and people the benefit of the doubt. Having grown up in a religious tradition for 25 years without seeing a woman preach or a woman in the pulpit, I understand that seeing be a pastor and perform pastoral responsibilities is sometimes new and unusual. I get that. Other times it is extremely evident that churches and people are using the fact that they have never had a woman senior minister as a way of supporting systemic discrimination.
There’s a difference between saying, “We haven’t found a woman candidate we believe would be a good fit for our pulpit,” and saying, “There’s no woman good enough for this pulpit.” The first has an open-minded approach, indicating the pastor search committee is seriously and honestly considering women candidates. The latter makes a sweeping generalization laced with sexism.
In the current economic context, it is difficult to find a senior pastor position. It is even harder if you are woman. But that doesn’t mean it’s not possible, even in the midst of sexism and systemic discrimination.
Thanks be to God who welcomes and affirms and calls all different kinds of people.