Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Shepastor: "Make the Vision Plain: Equity and Access for Women Clergy Conference Highlights, 2013"

I will stand at my watch
and station myself on the ramparts;
I will look to see what he will say to me,
and what answer I am to give to this complaint.[a]
The LORD’s Answer
2 Then the LORD replied:
“Write down the revelation
and make it plain on tablets
so that a herald[b] may run with it.
3 For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
it speaks of the end
and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
it[c] will certainly come
and will not delay.
Habakkuk 2:1-3, NIV

“Make the Vision Plain: Equity and Access for Women Clergy Conference Highlights, 2013”

October 25-26, 2013 history was made as leaders from approximately 10 Christian denominations came together at Wake Forest University School of Divinity to plan strategies for increasing equity and access for women clergy. Spearheaded by Rev. Sheila Sholes Ross and Rev. Dr. Jann Aldredge Clanton, (Conference Co-Chairs)

Conference Purpose Statement: To advocate and network for clergywomen across denominations and cultures to facilitate access and congregational receptivity so that they find clergy positions in order to transform church and society.

Vision Statement: To facilitate equal representation of clergywomen as pastors of multicultural churches.

The goals of this historic meeting were to:

(1) Assess the progress of women clergy in gaining acceptance in the profession.
(2) Review issues hindering job placement and career advancement of clergywomen.
(3) Propose strategies to ensure fuller access for women to more senior leadership roles in congregational ministry.
(4) Address the interlocking injustices of sexism and racism that impede women’s career advancement.

Jann and Sheila hope that “after the Conference, participants will serve as an activist group with the Equity for Women in the Church Community to implement recommended actions to be taken in denominational organizations, local congregations, and academic institutions.”

The conference opened with a moving challenge message from Rev. Dr. Marvin A. McMickle, President Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School. Using Isaiah 58 as a basis for his message, Dr. McMickle, quoting another source declared that
“Inequities exist because (1) We allow it (2)We condone it because of our silence and (3) We treat as second class those who are not like us.” He further stated, “You cannot use the same Bible to decry racism but oppress women.”
He passionately testified that his first pastor as a child was a woman, Rev. Dr. Mary G. Evans, Senior Pastor of Cosmopolitan Community Church in Chicago.

Our main facilitator, Rev. Cheryl Dudely, Global Religious Director (Arcus Foundation) led us in a thought provoking exercise called the “power circle.” Current senior/solo pastors, organizational heads and presidents were asked to come forward and form a circle on the stage. We were instructed to link arms so that no one could get into our circle. She then invited a few others to come and try to get into the circle. Members of the audience were instructed to remain silent and only to observe. Interesting things occurred… A few “weak links” let some in. Some went underneath to squeeze in, some pushed their way in and some remained outside. The audience was asked to reflect upon what they saw happening. Although we laughed about the experience, several major insights emerged.

Although one or two were easily “let in” they stood isolated in the middle of the circle – in, but not “apart.” One participant who pushed her way in talked about how she felt physical pain in the process. Another talked about the need to gain entrance by any means necessary. All of these observations reflect the reality women in ministry face as they seek to gain access to some very tightly guarded “circles.”

Rev. Dr. Isabel Docampo, Professor of Supervised Ministry, Perkins School of Theology shared a moving reflection, challenging us to see the movement of God through various models of ministry and diversity. She cautioned us not to embrace a spirit of “It is what it is…,” but to believe God for new possibilities, big dreams and seemingly impossible realities.

We also broke off into small groups to consider the following…

Small Group Facilitators:

Rev. Dr. Isabel Docampo
Rev. Christine Smith
Rev. Dr. Mitzi Ellington
Rev. Dr. Christine Wiley
Dr. Christopher Hutson

Questions for Facilitators to Use in Small Groups

(prior to conference, groups were organized to reflect diversity of race, gender, and denomination) Cheryl Dudley set the background for this time with the Ruth and Naomi story.

1. Reflect on a time you had an ally of another ethnicity, gender, and/or generation. How did you work together to accomplish goals? What went well and how did you do this work?

2. How might this experience encourage solidarity among cultures in working for increased opportunities for clergywomen?

3. What are incentives for reaching across cultures in our work for clergywomen?

4. How do we avoid transactional encounters where one group feels it's being used by the other?

5. What are moral challenges when we decide to take stands not popular in our affinity groups?
Afternoon Small Groups…

1. How do we see the intersection of gender and race creating challenges for clergywomen in finding pastorates?

2. How can we work ecumenically and cross-culturally to accomplish our goals for clergywomen?

3. What local and national initiatives can we engage in together? Identify at least 5 local and 5 national initiatives.
We reassembled to discuss emergent ideas from each group. The following groups were birthed from our discussions…

Five activist groups: (1) resource development; (2) biblical scholarship supporting women pastors; (3) creation and support of new models of faith communities; (4) a national forum for clergywomen for networking, support, strategy, and mentoring; (5) a think tank for examination of power issues underlying barriers for clergywomen, looking especially at the intersection of race, gender, and class.

There’s so much to share about this phenomenal strategic planning conference! Stay tuned for additional highlights and progress on the work!

Post a comment or send me an email at

Until Next Wednesday
In faith, hope and perseverance,
Pastor Chris


  1. Dear Pastor Chris - Thanks for sharing these highlights of the Access and Equity conference. It was so wonderful to meet you in person and hear your vision, passion and energy for your call and the support and growth of women in ministry! I look forward to finding more ways to collaborate with you and others from the conference!
    Eileen Campbell-Reed

  2. Thank you, Pastor Chris, for writing this wonderful account of the ecumenical, multicultural Access and Equity for Women Clergy Strategy Conference! And thank you for all your contributions of wisdom, passion, experience and expertise to the conference, beginning with your outstanding book "Beyond the Stained Glass Ceiling," included with the preparation material for participants. I look forward to continued collaboration with you and others to make the vision a reality with God's grace and power!