Tag Archives: Women preachers

Ponderings on International Women’s Day

So many do not remember their names, except the ones who were first: the first woman in a pulpit, the first ordained, the first consecrated bishop. But there are others I remember who never made the history books. Those pioneering women who pastored and preached and provided leadership before there many women, in times past, when the push back was terrible and the call was strong, the prospects of living fully into their call bleak.

Yet the persisted, seeking out their pulpits, while the men were appointed, these women found their own places of service. When a man was found to serve, they had to seek again their own places to preach, to pastor, to pray. Their names: Nina Anderson, Marian Holbert, Portteus Latimer, Lois Lenz, Janet Sevier, Marjorie Swingle. These women are a few I remember. There are countless others who led the way, who persevered against the odds to serve and lay the ground work for all of us who followed.

My path as a pastor has been made so much easier because of the witness and the strength and the determination of those who went before me. While my ministry has not always been easy,  it is those amazing, beautiful, strong women who went before me that paved a path for living out my call. Those women stood up preached, prayed, proclaimed and pastored in spite of the name calling and the flat out determination that they not succeed.

Every excuse was used to stop these women from following the call of God in their lives. You are too young, you are too old. You are too tall, you are too short. You are single and will steal our husbands, or you are married how will you take care of your husband? You are too ugly, too beautiful, you voice is too high or too low or too soft.

They preached even when they were told to be silent. They prayed even when their right to do so was questioned. They presided at the table and baptized and stood at gravesides to comfort the heartbroken in the face of unbelievable opposition.

On this International Women’s Day, I want to say thank you to Portteus, Marian, Janet, Marjorie, Nina and Lois in particular and to all those other women who pioneered in ministry. Thank you for your witness, for your strength, for your sense of humor and for your determination. Your memory is a blessing to me, and to those who do not know your name. You are blessing to a new generation of women who have a much easier path and I am deeply grateful to be part of your legacy of faith and ministry.

For me, I am once again reminded to live out my call to proclaim the love and grace of God for all people. While sometimes my pathway in ministry was difficult, it was certainly made easier by these amazing women. May my ministry make the way broader and more inclusive for the next generation. May it be so….may it be so.

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Not Stopping Me! Part II

On Wednesday evening, I wrote Not Stopping me! out of fatigue and sadness and grief. I wondered the next day whether or not I should have written or shared what I did. I felt vulnerable and not only weary, but a bit angry as well.

I need to be clear that I do not feel like the United Methodist Church has as a whole treated me badly. I have been amazingly upheld in my ministry and my gifts. Some folk, men and women talk of “bad appointments.” I have never had one. I have had some churches and communities where I have learned some hard lessons, dealt with difficult decisions personally and with the churches I have served. Bad appointments? Not at all, I have loved every church and community I served since 1982. The Kansas  West and now Great Plains conference has been extremely good to me. I have broken a couple of glass ceilings by being the first woman senior pastor.

There have always been people in each place that were “against” or “opposed” to women preachers. I was once called a “petticoat preacher” which made me smile. I have joked over the years I never went anywhere they actually “wanted me” as a woman. And that is true. I supposed I should have been offended, but perhaps I am too arrogant or certain enough of my calling and ability to not be hurt or stopped by comments or defensive positions that do not mean anything to me. I always figured it was about the people who said such things or held such positions, not me.

It is also true what I wrote a few days ago. I have always been aware that what I do or don’t do matters. Men can fail and no one ever says don’t send another man. If a woman makes a mistake or crashes and burns, it is often said “please don’t send us another woman.” I am sure that is not said as often as it was when I started ministry, but, there is still that sense that what I do matters for all the women who will follow me. And I say that from a position of privilege as an anglo woman, I can not imagine how difficult it must be for women of color.

In an interesting twist on the two constitutional amendments that failed to gather the necessary 2/3’s majority to be ratified, it appears that amendment one was sent out with incorrect wording. You can read the story here.  So now, all the Annual Conferences will have to revote on Amendment 1, and those who have already met will vote next time they meet.

Honestly, you can’t make this stuff up! It doesn’t take away the pain of that first vote. Several people have asked in one way or the other, why stay? Why should I stay if my beloved United Methodist Church can’t uphold the equality of women as human beings?

I suppose I am too stubborn to stop. I don’t want to go away. Methodist theology speaks of grace in such a deep way for me. I have used humor for a long time to deal with the push back against equality and inclusivity. More so, I have believed that grace will ultimately lead everyone home, even those who would restrict access to that grace.

Yesterday on twitter Leonard Sweet posted (and I reposted) “Every person you meet is hurting deep inside from something. Go gentle into this good day.” How I needed that word. The church I serve had made a very difficult decision to close our coffee shop at the end of July. Mead’s started ten years ago at time when Downtown Wichita was just in the beginning of revitalization. Mead’s was part of that, and with that meant the lease increase became unsustainable. Some want to blame the owners, but I don’t. The truth is Mead’s was part of what made downtown much more valuable and lucrative and desirable. There is nothing wrong with that. I suppose we could “blame” ourselves. I don’t blame anybody, but it was one more thing to make the week difficult emotionally and spiritually for me.

Grace is gentle, loving and tender with so many who are hurting deep inside. Those who were deeply wounded by the non-ratification of two constitutional amendments in the United Methodist Church. Grace is gentle, loving and tender to those who are haunted by past sexual abuse and violence, by those who continue to feel the door shut to the church because of their sexual orientation. Grace is gentle, loving and tender to the outcast, the lost, the lonely and those who live in fear.

Why don’t I leave? I believe in grace. I believe in Love. I believe in God who was made real in the ministry, love, teaching, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. No vote can take that away from me or anyone. So my quote for today comes from Linda Clark: “What keeps the Christian going, cheek to jowl with the stuff of everyday existence, is the knowledge of God written on his or her heart.”

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Not stopping me!

On my Monday, May 7, the United Methodist Council of Bishops announced the results of the voting on five constitutional amendments that had come out of the 2016 General Conference. The reason it takes so long for these things to be reported is that each annual conference all over the world has to vote in their own annual conference. Those votes are sealed and then go to the Council of Bishops to tally and then report out the results of whether they were passed or not.

This information might not be worthy in many ways of a blog post for any one who is NOT United Methodist, however, the two amendments that were not ratified world wide had to do with gender equality. You can read more about those votes here and here. I am grateful for the many expressions of dismay of how these amendments did not pass from the Council of Bishops and the pastoral letter from the Female Bishops I felt a need to respond myself to this controversy.

Let’s just say I am tired. I am not spending any more energy, time or passion trying to convince anyone that I am equal, called, equipped, graced or able to be a pastor, a preacher, or a minister. I don’t need any constitutional amendments to verify, to acknowledge, or to affirm me as a full and equal human being, beloved of God. I just don’t waste time on any one who would argue biblically that men and women are made in the image of God. (Genesis 1: 26-27)

Having said that, I am not unaware that there are places in this world where women are not considered fully human, where they are second class citizens and not offered equal rights and opportunities. What really stunned me in all of this, are the annual conferences in the United States that did not have the votes to support these amendments.

I have read much of the analysis from both the right and left. Both sides speak of the uncertainty around the words gender and marital status. The uncertainty that gender might not mean male and female and marital status would include gay and lesbians drove many people to vote no. Fear seems to have driven the votes for no. There can be no “loopholes” no “opening” for people who are different or who might look for a place, a community of faith where love and grace abounds for all.

I admit, I may be judgy. I will own it. Like I said earlier, I am tired. I have been a pastor since 1982. Some of my reflections on my journey are included here and here  and a bit of history on the church here. I really try to be graceful and understanding of people who disagree with me theologically and socially. I get that we do not all agree. I just don’t want to fight about it anymore.

As a young clergywoman I spent so much time trying to prove myself. I wanted people to know I could do the work, I was qualified, I was trained, and I could do anything as good any of the guys. I worked harder, longer hours to show the “church” at large and the congregations I served they would not be disappointed that a “woman” had been appointed. I am absolutely certain my relationships suffered and my children did not have as much of me as that might have. I wasn’t a failure as a mother, I served smaller churches which allowed me to be far more flexible than a larger church might have been. Still, there were nights and events and time that I was called away in order to prove myself.

I am not willing to do that any more. I am more affected emotionally by this vote than I thought I would be. I didn’t write earlier because there was ministry to be done: a funeral, sermons to write, worship to plan, meetings to ponder and consider what it means to be the church in this time and place. I can not believe that in 2018 equality for women is even a question, let alone would we debate whether or not a person could be a member of the United Methodist Church based on their marital status or their ability or disability.

Here is what I know is true. I will not allow the failure of these constitutional amendments to define me, as a pastor, as a women, as beloved daughter of God. I am who I am, deeply called to proclaim the love and grace of God for all people, in all places. I will not be silenced or patronized nor will I pretend to be less than I am. My friend Brian Sutton created this lovely graphic

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And I will.

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