International Day of the Girl…and Women?

I know today is Indigenous Peoples Day. But I started to write this last week on International Day of the Girl. Is it ok to celebrate women today too? I think so. It seems like a good time to share a post I wrote this summer for my church blog.

As I often proclaim, I am bad at math. But sometimes the numbers are so easy to figure, even I can see it: 25-4=21. 

For 21 out of the last 25 years — in other words, from July 1994 until now — Woodridge United Methodist Church has had a female Lead Pastor. In the beginning of July we celebrated Pastor Danita’s official reappointment, meaning that number will continue to grow. The United Methodist Church has ordained women for more than 50 years– although the earliest known woman ordained to preach came in 1866. So our little 21 out of 25 statistic really shouldn’t be that big of a deal. But I’m convinced that it is. 

Here at WUMC, with that 21 out of 25 number, we’re so used to having women as Lead Pastor we may be fooled into thinking women are doing fine in churches everywhere — or at least all over the UMC.

Yet, even in the UMC, women make up only about 25% of our clergy. Further, women of color make up only about 4% of our clergy. Male pastors are more likely than female pastors to be appointed to biggest congregation and the wage gap is especially egregious with female clergy paid 76 cents for every dollar a male colleague makes. As followers of Jesus, seeking justice is our calling. Having an unjust and unequal pay system for our clergy makes for a horrendous witness. That is wrong and needs to change.

Simultaneously, we have to continue to change hearts regarding female clergy. This is obviously true in the larger Christian landscape where the two biggest denominations (Southern Baptists and Roman Catholics) refuse to ordain women at all; and very, very few nondenominational evangelical churches do. But hearts and attitudes need to change in the UMC as well.

The North Carolina Conference of the UMC emailed its female clergy asking for comments they have received about being a woman in ministry. The Conference released a video of those comments — wherein male clergy colleagues were asked to read the responses*.

We as a church and as a society need to do better and be better. As we strive toward that goal, I give thanks to God for those 21  years and counting — and give thanks for the ministry of The Reverend Linda Foster-Momsen, The Reverend Linda Misewicz-Perconte, and The Reverend Danita Anderson. Thank you for being my colleague, mentor, and friend.

*North Carolina’s video reminds me so much of the award-winning video Chicago-based sports journalists, Julie DiCaro and Sarah Spain, released a couple years ago. It’s much more graphic than the clergy video, but very much worth your time and revulsion to watch. Again, for girls and for the women they become all over the globe, we must do better and be better.

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