This past week I received a letter from a Twitter follower. She is a pastor in a church that has several men and women pastors. I have her permission to tell her story.
Hello, Pastor Taylor. Your posts are always on point! I recently talked with my pastor about some harsh words that are spoken to the women preachers at my church, often when funerals are held at our church for people who are non-members. The incoming pastors and clergy have been awful towards us women preachers. When I talked with the Senior Pastor, can you guess what his response was? He pretty much told me it’s just something I’m going to have to deal with.
Well, I don’t know how to deal with it because I am a woman and I can’t change being a woman. If they had said ‘her preaching is awful, or she’s not really licensed or ordained,’ then I might be able to deal with it because I can fix those things. But to tell me to just deal with it – I don’t know how to deal with it because I’ve been hit with this so many times and I’ve run out of room in my heart to deal with it, and I’ve run out of room in my throat to keep taking deep swallows.
I was so disappointed in my pastor’s response, especially because when he is behind the pulpit he’s such a social justice pastor, and he’s all about women preaching, but I guess when it means he has to challenge the ‘good old boy network’ about how they treat us when they come to our church and see women pastors, well, I guess we are not worth it.
My experience since the beginning of my calling has been tragic (yes, to us it feels tragic). What strikes me and perplexes me so much is that African-American preachers (Baptists in particular) have become what I call both the oppressed and the oppressor. They were victims of the Southern Baptist Convention, broke away in the early 1900s to start their own conventions but continued the practice of misogyny and patriarchy. What they put us through, they would NEVER endure from the SBC (forced preaching from the floor, making fun of women’s hairstyles, looks, body changes and hormonal changes in their sermons – Yes, you heard correct!). Any challenges to these practices will result in sermons laced with “touch not my Anointed.” (meaning that the male pastors cannot be chastised, but the women pastors can be chastised and also can be made fun of.)
(A note of clarification. I am not a pastor, I am a church secretary, Christian blogger and author. My Twitter address is Shirley Taylor@bwebaptist. Also, this woman pastor is African-American.)
This is the letter I wrote back to her.
Thank you so much for contacting me. It is women like yourself who will change the church. You are birthing a new generation where women will be respected as pastors and preachers. But it is hard and it is painful.
Two days ago I received a letter much like yours from a woman preacher who said she is discouraged. I encouraged her to stay the course and that is also what I encourage you to do.
This places a tremendous responsibility on you women pastors and preachers who deal with this in your service to the Lord. I know it does. But I ask you to please continue on. There are very few women ministers who have a church. Many women are called to serve as pastors and preachers and they cannot even find a church who will accept them. You are breaking ground for the girls and daughters who will come behind you.
Let me tell you what has happened to women in the Assemblies of God and Pentecostal and non-denominational churches. They used to have women ministers who could pastor a church (like Methodists and Disciples of Christ churches can), but the current trend is to have husband/wife co-pastors. The wife is always the co-. Women lost their place as pastors and became co’s. It might also happen in other denominations where women can currently be a pastor or preacher if women pastors like yourself give up.
You are doing what God called you to do. Do not let those pastors of other churches demean you. (Remember, they think being male qualifies them automatically. You know differently).
How do you deal with it? You join with other women who are facing the same thing, making all of you stronger. Join CBE (Christians for Biblical Equality) www.cbeinternational.org. (I am a member of CBE and also CBE Houston Chapter).
Pastor, you are on the front-line of women’s equality. I admire you. I encourage you. I would love to hear from you again.
Biblical gender roles and the people they hurt! Her story is just one story, but these kind of stories are what women pastors tell. I have personally heard their stories of being treated as second-class ministers in churches where women can be Senior Pastors.
Read this article that was in the Huffington Post about women pastors of the United Methodist Church made about what is said about women preachers to their face. Watch this video they made.