I’m re-blogging a post a friend sent to me. Interesting perspectives, some of which don’t apply to me or my ministry context. But all of which are thought-provoking.
I’ll preface it by saying (especially for those who don’t know me): 1) I’m not a feminist, 2) I believe in the complete authority of the Word of God, 3) I interpret the Bible comprehensively and thoroughly, believing that its truths are as applicable today as they were for the cultures in which they were written, and 4) the Holy Spirit does not lead us to do something contrary to scripture.
So by advocating for women in ministry, I’m not doing so because I’m partial to women or promoting their rights; I think it’s okay to drop the parts of the Bible I don’t like; I think the “women stuff” in the Bible was only relevant or applicable to those cultures; or I think the Holy Spirit’s leading trumps scripture when they contradict (because they don’t…). I believe in women in ministry because it is biblical — it’s the only way to read the Bible consistently, the only way to understand and interpret the Gospel story consistently.
AND, while it’s important to have this discussion and to inform others about what Jesus thinks about women, I also understand the perspective of my friends on the other side of this debate. When I read the Gospel (and the theological debates on this issue), I see irrefutable support for women in ministry and even more irrefutable support for not dividing ourselves over this issue. So I believe what I believe, and I’m not going to fight about it. : )
And before I share the re-blog, I’ll add to it these, given our ministry context:
1. You get invited to more events and leadership opportunities because people think of you as a pastor and don’t assume you’re too busy with the kids or home responsibilities
2. You’ve got more friends in ministry to support you who “get it” because there are many more guys in ministry
3. It’s easier to take ministry trips, often because women pastors are balancing the kids, home-life, and church admin logistics, making it hard to get away
4. Your opinions are solicited and encouraged more often and without expectation that you’ll say it like a Southern Belle
5. People don’t leave your church because of your gender…especially mid-service.
6. You don’t get compared to other notorious groups of sinners in the Bible or asked “how do you sleep at night knowing you’re sinning against God by being a pastor?”
7. You probably haven’t lost friends because you decided to obey and serve God by becoming a pastor.
8. You don’t hear things like, “I didn’t hear any part of the Truth or Bible you preached because I couldn’t get over your gender.”
9. People don’t assume you’re a promoter of gender-driven ideology
10. You don’t have to spend valuable ministry time navigating gender issues, questions, or heartaches. You can just be about the business of Jesus.
And here are the ones identified on millenialpastor.net by Erik and Courtenay Parker (http://millennialpastor.net/2013/11/12/12-reasons-why-being-a-male-pastor-is-better/):
A few days ago I wrote about the issue of women in ministry. While I don’t think I have ever hidden my views on the topic (I married a female colleague, after all), I also have never written about it on the various blogs I have maintained over the last few years. And maybe recently, I didn’t see it as my place to comment on women in ministry. I am still not sure… I don’t see it as my place to comment on anyone’s “right” or “place” to be a pastor. If anything, I think it is my place to talk about my experience of being a Lutheran pastor or a millennial pastor or a Canadian pastor. It is also to my place to talk about being a male pastor.
So let’s talk about that.
Being a male pastor is kind of like Louis C.K.’s description of “Being White”. (Warning: The video contains offensive language).
Like Louis C.K. says, male pastors aren’t better. But being a male pastor is clearly better.
Like all the advantages of being white and male in North America, there are advantages when it comes to being an ordained pastor. Here are some of the obvious ones:
- No one ever defines my ministry by my gender. No one says, “wow a male pastor or a man in ministry, good for you.” I always get to be just a pastor. I don’t have to constantly live with a qualifier in front of “pastor”, and I am not forced to bear someone’s inappropriate shock that I am my gender and I am a pastor.
- People expect me to be direct and tell them what I think. They want me to lead them somewhere. I am rarely challenged or expected to defend or make a case for my ideas. I don’t have to apologize for having strong opinions or constantly defend my ideas.
- People think twice about fighting with me. I always have a leg up in conflict, bullies find it harder to push my buttons because I have fewer to push. I am never automatically second class because of my gender, so conflict is on equal terms or tipped in my favour. I don’t have to suffer being called “boy” or “son” as way of dismissing my point of view, and I am not accused of being divisive if I disagree with something or anything.
- People are used to pastors of my gender. There are no congregations that are unsure of male candidates for ministry, no parishioners who think it is alright to say something like, “I will never be buried by a man.” I don’t have to endure questions about whether I will take paternity leave, or what will happen when I have kids.
- People almost never assume that I have a particular gift for ministry before they know me. They don’t automatically think that my gender is suited to particular areas of ministry like preaching or administration. No one assumes that I am not good at pastoral care or being nurturing. People don’t say that I have the gift of speaking with a voice that men can relate to.
- I don’t have to worry about my safety. I don’t think twice about being alone in the church or if I am safe on my own. If a man asks to meet with me one on one, I don’t have to question my physical safety or his motives. Men don’t try to share the peace with me by hugging me (or grabbing my ass).
- No one assumes that I am the church secretary or the pastor’s spouse. I am never told, “You don’t look like a pastor or you are took young to be a pastor” even thought I am built like a football player and at times have had long hair and a beard like a hell’s angel. And I have a tattoo. And I am 30 (two decades younger than the average age of pastors in our denomination).
- Churches are built for men. Pulpits, altars, pastor chairs, vestments are all designed my size and body type in mind. I don’t look ridiculous because the standard garb of my profession is made for my gender, and I don’t look like a cross dresser in a clergy shirt.
- All the pronouns are for my gender. God is a he. Jesus is a he. Pastors are almost always referred to as he or him or his. I don’t have to correct people because they never use the wrong pronoun to refer to me.
- Being male is the norm in the church. I didn’t have to take classes in seminary about men’s issues, there is no post-modern male theology, male pastors where never brought in to speak about being male pastors as if it was special or odd or a novelty.
- I could join the Old Boys Club if I wanted to. Leadership in the church is still overwhelmingly male, and there are no glass ceilings for male pastors in the church. No one pretends it is, “all in good fun” to make sexist jokes about my gender, and none of my colleagues treats me like I am second class because of my gender.
- I don’t have to walk on egg shells in ecumenical situations. I don’t have to justify my position and call to my conservative colleagues, because they all have male pastors in their denominations. I am not an oddity or the token male at ministerial events.
All the advantages of being a male pastor are only advantages because women suffer the opposite. So many of my colleagues have to contend with these annoyances, insults, and frustrations each day because they are the reality of life in the church. This fact makes me very angry. I pray for the day when these will not be male-pastor advantages, but the reality for all pastors, regardless of gender.
So when my wife, Courtenay, and I came up with the first 12 reasons “why being a male pastor is better”, I did not expect my little blog to get shared so widely. Many readers submitted even more reasons in the comments. Some are funny, others are heartbreaking, others will make you shake your head, still others are infuriating. Naming them all is important, otherwise they will continue to be the way of silent privilege for men in the church. You can find all submissions for the list in the comments section of the first post, “12 Reasons Why Being a Male Pastor is Better”.
Courtenay and I have come up with 10 more. The first 4 are ours. The 5 after that are our favourites compiled from the comments. Number 10 is the biggest reason of all.
1. People will never tell me “how professional” I look in a collar. In public, people are only weirded out because a pastor/priest is near by, not because my gender “doesn’t match” who traditionally wears my uniform.
2. I am never asked to be on larger church committees so that there can be a “representative man”. My role on larger church committees is never to constantly remind the group “him, he, his” are pronouns that apply to pastors too.
3, I get invited to the men’s breakfast AND the ladies’ bible study. No one thinks it is weird for me to show up at the men’s breakfast because of my gender, and it is also not weird that I lead the ladies’ bible study. Weird.
4. I can write blog posts on ‘women in ministry’ and even the nay-sayers are fairly respectful in the comments. The best part is that my thoughts about a gender, which I have no experience being and struggle to understand most days, is considered more authoritative.
From the comments on the first post. (some of have been edited or re-written to fit the style of the list)
5. My style, wardrobe or clothing are not up for public judgement.My clergy shirts by default, do not look like a woman’s blouse that I am trying to hide my maleness under. I will never get more comments about my shoes, my hair, my nails, or my makeup than comments on my sermon on any given Sunday. How I dress has never been an item for discussion by a church committee. In fact, my physical body is not the first thing used to describe me when my parishioners talk about who I am with their friends. No one tells me I have ‘nice legs’. – Nadia Bolz Weber, Amanda Zentz-Alo, Wendy
6. No one expects me to cook or bake. I am not expected to provide cakes or cookies for the bake sale, or salad for a funeral dinner or potluck. If I do supply a dish for a church event, it is OK for me to pick up something at the store instead of making it myself. Most people don’t expect me to be a good cook just because of my gender. – Dixie Anders, Rev Lisa Jo, Sandy
7. No one treats me like I am not well read, less intelligent or not as professional simply because of my gender. No one questions my scholarship or intellect – “Does the Bible really say that?” “Where did you read that?” – because a man would not know these things as well as other genders might. – David Corliss
8. It is tolerated, even thought acceptable, for me to show anger. I am not prevented from being direct and passionate in the pulpit because it is unlike my gender. I can disagree with people or call out bad behaviour without being dismissed as divisive or emotional. –David Corliss
9. Most people won’t judge me publicly about my family life. My parenting skills and work/home-life balance is not publicly questioned simply because my gender is supposed to raise children. Yet, when I show openness to children, I am praised for being nurturing, not simply expected to be. I am not expected to be the Martha Stewart of the parsonage because that should come naturally to me. – Kathleen Lambert
And finally, the biggest reason why being a male pastor is better:
10. No one will ever tell me that, because of my gender, God will not call me into ordained/pastoral ministry. I am not excluded from any role in the church, simply because a biological coin toss gave me certain plumbing. I will never be told that my gender is the cause of all sin and therefore I can’t even teach the other. My gender doesn’t relegate me to “silence” in church or “submission” in the home. I will never be told that the Bible “clearly” explains (when it doesn’t) that I can’t be a pastor simply because it “says so”.
This, of course, is the ultimate in male privilege in the church. And this last one is the most aggravating for me. For liberal and progressive Christians, this is one of the ‘big elephants’ in the church. Except that, I see myself as liberal, progressive AND orthodox AND apostolic AND in keeping with the tradition of the church. Because radical equality is the theology of Jesus and Paul. Patriarchy is 1st century cultural baggage… baggage that men still force women to carry 20 centuries later. For church leaders who claim that the bible prevents women from being pastors – it is a convenient way to exercise control and conserve power.
But institutionalized patriarchy is not faithful to the over-arching theology of the New Testament. It is not faithful to the way Christians have understood how we interpret scripture as a community and with our greatest theologians including Thecla, St. Augustine, Julian of Norwich, Martin Luther, and now Pope Francis. It is not faithful to the witness of Sarah, Miriam, Esther, Ruth, Mary the Mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Junia, Phoebe and all the others who preached the good news.
For those who want to keep women out of the pulpit, it isn’t about being faithful – it is about the fact that being a male pastor is “better”.