Spiritual Abuse Keeps Women Out of Senior Pastorates

Recently, I received yet another rejection from a pastor search committee. While I have become accustomed to these responses or no responses from submitting my resume to pastor search committees claiming to be supportive of women in ministry in my three years of ministry, there was something different about this one.

In the short response, there was a line, “Your qualifications do not meet our needs at this time.” I understand I am just beginning in ministry and that my experiences don’t match some churches’ needs, but this pastor search committee didn’t cite my experiences (or lack of experiences); they cited my qualifications. Not having the right qualifications is code language (just as “not being equipped”) for not being a man.

You may think me a conspiracy theorist or a raging feminist, but having been a part of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship that states it was founded on the support of women in ministry and still only has 5% of women who are in senior pastor positions, there is some insider language that couches and covers up for congregations not willing to accept or consider women in the senior pastor role. If the stories of women who are called to ministry, but can’t find a church to serve isn’t proof enough of spiritual abuse, surely the news at Baylor, brings to light an important conversation we need to have as baptists. Ignoring and denying sexual abuse allegations is different because Baylor is a private, Christian university established “Baptist pioneers.” This is not just sexual abuse. This is spiritual abuse.

“But baptists have congregational polity. We can’t control whether congregations call or consider women for the senior pastor role.” You’re right, let’s leave it to Sports Illustrated, USA Today, and other major news outlets to hold accountable this private, baptist Christian organization that houses one of our “moderate” baptist seminaries and expose not only sexual abuse, but spiritual abuse.

Let’s continue to create and support churches that contribute to a conversation and a rhetoric that limits and stereotypes women by not calling women to senior pastor positions. Let’s continue to contribute to an atmosphere that fosters and enables spiritual abuse by not inviting women to preach in our pulpits. Let’s continue to call, excuse, and defend men who have been charged with sexual abuse, sexual violence, and assault to our churches, divinity schools, and Christian universities.

After all, it’s just the kingdom of God and the future of the church that’s at stake.