What can a woman know about pastoring?

Got in the below. My response follows it.

I am interested in becoming a pastor. I was raised by my mothers, who have been together for 13 years. Because of my gender and unusual upbringing I have had my dreams discouraged by leaders in one of the churches I attend.

I understand that women in leadership roles are generally forbidden in the Bible, but I feel that this is my calling. I’m worried about how to respond and overcome the adversity to my endeavors without behaving as harshly as the people telling me it’s not possible. I want to preach love and tolerance, not fear and damnation. I’m concerned that no one would be interested in what a woman has to say, let alone one with gay parents. As much as I’d love to believe I can reach my goal painlessly, I know my community far too well for that. So, do you have any suggestions on how I can do it as painlessly as possible?

It’s so insane, that anyone today still thinks that being born with male genitalia automatically makes you more qualified to know and speak for God than does being a person who actually can bring life into the world.

I know that today we are with invigorating speed moving toward a Christianity that recognizes that … well, for one, that LGBT people and women can be every bit as Christian—and can therefore lead Christians—as well as any man ever could. But good lord already, how long do we have to wait until racist, misogynistic fools like Mr. Duck Duck Dick and professional hatemongers like Bryan Fisher and Tony Perkins (This animal. This cretin. This travesty. This demon.) are universally understood to have no more to do with Jesus Christ than a blood-sucking leech has to do with architecture?

Why should your gender and/or the fact that you were raised by two women, have anything whatsoever to do with how qualified you are to be a pastor? It’s like wondering if a left-handed person can possibly be qualified to be a baseball player.

You love God; God loves you; you feel called by God to be a pastor; a pastor is what you should be. If anything, being a woman raised by a lesbian couple recommends you as a pastor, since you come into the game with an intimate personal knowledge of the main thing Jesus was about, which is extending God’s love to outsiders. I want a pastor who knows what it is to be shunned and maligned for no other reason than who they are and were born to be.

Isn’t that, after all, exactly what happened to Christ? And doesn’t that mean that if anyone should be assumed, by virtue of their gender and upbringing, to be least qualified to be a pastor, it’s a straight white male whose parents could afford to buy him a first-rate college and seminary education?

We know you’ve suffered. We know you know God. We feel the power of the Holy Spirit within you. But, alas, you were born wangless. But don’t dismay! We love you! And in time you are certain to discover that the view from the back of the church isn’t really all that bad.

Because that sounds like a Christianity worthy of the name.

sigheth.

You can be a pastor. Anyone who tells you differently knows less about the heart and soul of Christianity than I know about nucleotides. Don’t stress over anyone saying that you can’t or shouldn’t be a pastor. Don’t even argue with such people; just understand that they’re clinging to whatever they must in order to make themselves feel safe and secure. That’s your business only if you allow it to be. Your true business is to see past their sadly willful ignorance, make whatever peace you can with them, and keep moving forward. Lots of denominations fully ordain women. A dear woman friend of mine is the lead pastor of a huge Lutheran church. Another has spent the last twenty years being lead pastor in two large Episcopal church. The head of the entire Episcopal church in America is a woman, Katherine Jefferies Schori.

There’s nothing at all stopping you from being a pastor. You’re just right now surrounded by Christians too “conservative” for their own good. Keep your eye on your goal, remain steadfast, and, come the time, kiss those people good-bye. And then do what you were apparently born to: move into, embrace, represent, help create, and ultimately be nurtured by a Christianity mature enough to reject the childish, lame, groundless, toxic, obviously flawed and cruelly unfair notion that the quality of a person’s soul is automatically determined by, off all things, what they look like naked.

 

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • mhelbert

    Dear friend of John’s…
    You wrote, “I understand that women in leadership roles are generally forbidden in the Bible.” Oh??? Where??? I see in the Bible that everyone is given gifts from God in order to build up the church, the Body of Christ. That includes women. Don’t let those who seem to rule the roost dictate who you are called BY GOD to be.

  • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

    Friend of John’s. Consider Deborah, a woman from the Old Testament, who not only was a judge,meaning she handled civil decisions as well as acted as the people’s leader, but was the recognized spiritual leader of the tribes of Isreal. She could be counted as the first female pastor.

    I suggest that you take a look at the broad range of denominations that have women clergy members, visit their congregations, ask questions, like where did they go to school, what are the pros and cons of clergyhood, who their favorite theologians are. If this is your heart, and your chosen purpose, than go for it. If being a pastor makes your heart sing, then you’ll be a grand one.

  • Matt

    “…what they look like naked!” That about sums it up! So funny.

    Seriously, Letter Writer, go be a pastor. Why did God put you on this earth, and give you such a calling, if He didn’t intend for you to follow through?

    For people that doubt you: Imagine yourself as a calm center in their raging storm, or a willow branch that bends but does not break. You know what you want to do, and you’re not doing anything wrong. You’ll get a feel for when to be patient, when to push harder, and when to just leave them in the dust. As John says: Life’s too short.

  • nanbush

    There is a whole world of Christian churches outside that circle you are currently in. You could start by sometimes attending a church that actually welcomes women in leadership, following the example of Deborah, Priscilla, Phoebe, Junia. (Here’s a blog post for more: [link deleted cuz it was broken--John.] Choose a seminary that believes in you and your background, not one that will fight you every inch of the way. The rest of Christianity needs you!

  • Dave-n-TN

    Please go for it! dear letter writer.

    The established hierarchy needs to understand that God calls many that they do not deem as appropriate. You have many here that support you in this endeavor that you obviously feel called to follow. Follow your heart … it will not fail you.

  • DaleNowInSA

    I encourage the questioner to continue to explore ordination. I’d like to note that that it is not only “liberal” denominations that ordain women. I grew up in the Assemblies of God, scarcely a liberal branch of Christianity. Women have been ordained in that tradition since the very early 20th century. I’m now happy in the Episcopal church, and have been for more than 30 years, but want to give you some possibilities. This link explains one way that quite conservative Christians might look at the issue of the ordination of women: http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/200102/008_exploring.cfm

  • Cori Wolvesbane

    Honestly do whatever you feel is best,
    When I used to attend church my pastor was divorced, and remarried… you know what the bible says about that? that you are committing adultery just by being with your now wife… No one believes that any more, and if he did and was told to repent… that means your sorry and if your sorry your to try and fix it in other words leave your wife since the bible doesn’t recognize your marriage. slavery doesn’t exist any more, people are becoming less and less closed minded. The right wing conservative nuts are a dying bread as more and more people want nothing to do with hurting other people and condemning other people and want more to do with loving other people.
    Unless it tells you to do harm… never turn off that voice in your head or heart. It is there to guide you and if it tells you to work hard on this path then that is what you are meant to do and you will do great things… just never stop and keep going.

  • Rowena Harris

    Last year I celebrated 25 years of being a woman minister, in the Uniting Church of Australia. So now, it’s going to be 26 years… Fabulous, crazy, funny, loving, scary, exciting, challenging, utterly nutty and totally wonderful years. I am so pleased that God called me, that I responded, and that I have served God trough my church all this time.
    If the Letter Writer is serious about this…. She should become a pastor. Otherwise she would need to claim that God made a mistake in her call. And that would be most unlikely.
    God calls people to ministry. And they answer. Gender is irrelevant. God’s voice and our response is not.

  • Drew Meyer

    Hi there,
    I have a dear friend who faced the same situation. raised conservative (near-fundamentalist, actually) and was Lesbian also. I watched her work through this process. She was denied in two separate denominations before finally finding a place in the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America). She will be ordained within the next two years. YOU CAN DO THIS! Do not let anyone guilt or shame you into thinking any differently. Follow your call….

  • Timothy L. Northrup Jr.

    also, the head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church is a woman, Elizabeth Eaton.

    • Sharla Hulsey

      As is the head of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Sharon Watkins. If you’re in a church that teaches the Bible generally forbids women to have leadership roles in churches, you’re in the wrong church. We’ve been ordaining women to ministry since the 1880s. There have been women leaders in the Society of Friends (Quakers) for as long as there have been Quakers. ELCA, United Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, American Baptists, and so on all ordain women. If your tradition doesn’t, and you feel called to ministry but not necessarily to fight the battle to change that, then find a different denomination to be part of. We Disciples, for one, would welcome you.

  • Susan

    “So, do you have any suggestions on how I can do it as painlessly as possible?”

    I would say to you that the pain is what qualifies you to be a pastor. Pastors who got to their role painlessly also tend to be clueless of the pain they inflict on others.

  • kcthomas

    Funny arguments indeed ! LEARNmore about christ,christianity,personal integrity,chastity, etc. Opinion may change..

  • DonRappe

    It’s been a long time since God made Deborah a judge over Israel. People who think women can’t exercise leadership roles among God’s people, either don’t read the Bible, or more likely, choose not to understand what they read there.

  • http://twitter.com/twbtwb Tim Wilson-Brown

    I’ll listen to you and hear your story. Whether you are officially a “pastor” or not.

  • Earthbound Spirit

    I’m an ordained minister in the Unitarian Universalist tradition, which
    has a long history of supporting women in ministry. I attended a
    seminary affiliated with the United Church of Christ, which also has a
    long history of women in ministry. If fact, the first woman ordained to
    ministry in the U.S. was a Congregationalist – precursor denomination to
    both the UCC and the UUA – Antoinette Brown Blackwell; the second was a
    Universalist – Olympia Brown (no relation to Antoinette). One of my
    best friends in seminary was a gay man raised in a denomination that
    still refuses to ordain gay people. Never mind that he and his partner
    were extremely active lay members, or that he felt a call to ministry.
    He switched denominations, and is now serving a congregation. If you’re
    called, you’re called. Don’t let those who are still stuck in the early
    19th Century get in the way of following your call.


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