We know that many and varied obstacles hinder the process of women serving in the ordained ministry.
Today, let’s talk about our issues as women and how we, at times, make the journey for sisters more difficult.
Let’s now consider some of the more inconspicuous reasons for resistance to women in ministry. Some realities that hinder the process are unspoken. Even those who rail against females becoming a senior pastor remain closed lipped regarding deep truths about the matter.
Common reasons given include:
- A woman is not strong enough
- It’s not God’s will for a woman to pastor
- A woman should be at home with her husband and children
- A woman can’t handle the church
- Men will not follow a woman
Here are some reality checks:
-American society is patriarchal in nature and women, although having made great strides, still lag behind in top level positions and salary
-For some communities, the church is the only place where men hold power and influence. They may be considered as “nobody,” on the job or in the market place, but when they come to church, they are “Deacon,” “Elder,” “Bishop,” “Pastor…”
-For some women, the pastor is the only man in their lives. He is the only one for whom they can bake a cake or a pie, get a big juicy hug or kiss (on the cheek of course!), fantasize about what it would be like to be his wife, talk about the deepness of his voice, how tall and good he looks in a suit and how proud he makes them feel as he represents them in the larger community
-The male pastor serves as a good role model for young men who may not have a father figure at home
-He makes them feel safe and taken care of
These realities are quite formidable and extremely difficult to overcome. To further explore what stands in the way of progress for female clergy, we must consider the circumstances that breed divisions among women.
Complexities of the “Imago Dei”
Like men, women were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Women, however, have been consistently denied access to the inherent blessings of God’s endowment to humanity.
“Imago Dei” is a Latin phrase that means, “image of God.” It is a theological concept that asserts humans, made in the image of God are “god-like” in nature. God placed within each of us a mirror reflection of Himself and therefore we have some of God’s traits. He has given us dominion over the earth. Therefore, we desire to lead. He breathed into us His Spirit. Therefore we have a consciousness that we are more that what is readily apparent. God has imprinted us with His likeness for a purpose and a plan, therefore we desire to become more than what present circumstances may dictate.
Although not worthy of the praise that is due to God’s holy name – we too desire praise. No matter how we try to deny it, we love, need and expect healthy praise. As Christians, we know that to walk “in the Spirit,” means that we are not selfish, self-serving, pride-filled, or arrogant. However, if we are honest, we all desire recognition, appreciation and praise.
I would like to suggest that when an environment is healthy – where honor, praise, appreciation, respect, opportunity and unconditional love is appropriately given, issues of jealousy, “power playing” and envy are minimal. Because of our fallen nature, some residue of sinful pride and envy may exist, but it will not dominate.
When individual gifts and talents are truly recognized, when opportunities to grow and rise are present and when honor, respect and praise is appropriately given, rivalry is negligible. However, when any individual or group is disrespected, or under appreciated, denied opportunities and/or consistently underestimated, the “crab in the bucket” mentality will thrive. A tendency to push others down in order to grab one of the few places in the upper echelon will abound.
When individuals are hungry for recognition, when they are weary of being passed over, when they have had to struggle and fight for any kind of spot or crumb, divisions and strife will prevail. Oppression produces strange fruit. Oppression produces unfortunate results. Often the oppressed become that which they claim to despise.
Germane to our discussion, women have become senior pastors. A few have been able to pierce through the glass ceiling and pastor churches that are financially stable, over 300 in average attendance and are thriving. However, there is a certain lure to elitism – being in the “Look, I made it – I did it club!” Sometimes we as women are our own worst enemies. So often those who have broken through the glass ceiling neglect to reach back and help others to climb through the cracks.
Often when a struggling female minister reaches out to be mentored by a successful sister in the pastorate, phone calls, emails and cards go unanswered. When preaching or workshop opportunities open, those in the “circle of influence,” such as a popular male clergy or another sister who has “made it” are given the spot. Little attention or effort goes to unknown sisters who are trying to come along.
Sexism and Racism have some tragic similarities. Minorities, for example would be given “compliments” such as “You are so intelligent! You are not like them. You are different!” As if to say, “You people are usually ignorant and incapable, but some how you are not like most.” What an insult! Sadly, many did not take those words as insults, but rather a reprieve from oppression – a welcomed affirmation, a hint of praise. Out of extreme thirst, they did not reject the patronizing remarks. Instead they drank them in. It is very tempting to be drawn into the sick pat on the head and think you’ve joined the upper crust.
The feelings of superiority, notoriety and the sweet taste of acceptance above the rest is far more attractive than getting back into the trenches and advocating for others to share perceived glory. After all, martyrs die and who wants to make that kind of sacrifice? Sometimes, we as women do more to keep one another down than any male chauvinist. Sometimes, we stand in the way of our own progress.
Ministry is about service. Certainly we don't need to be in the spotlight or on center stage to do the work of the Lord. However, Opportunities, encouragement, and honor, if we are honest, are desired.
Let's pray together for deliverance from the unfortunate biproducts of oppression. Today, decide to encourage some sister hungry for support, affirmation and love.
I'd like to hear your thoughts. Maybe you have an experience or a testimony concerning female issues you'd like to share. Post a comment or write me at Shepastor1@hotmail.com.
In faith, hope and perseverance,