Sunday, February 19, 2006

Musings about Churchstuff

The senior pastor and I were sitting in his office, discussing different guest speakers to come and speak at our Lenten Lunch series. He suggested a couple of names, I suggested a couple of names, I suggested a couple of the pastors of local churches and he said a curious thing. You see one of the churches is from my old denomination -- in fact, I was a member of this congregation for a while. He asked me, "Do you really want to invite a pastor to preach who would not let you in his pulpit?" This denomination still does not allow for the ordination of women. This denomination did not sing hymns in worship until 1964, when it was decided that hymns MIGHT not be of the devil. When I was a child, women were not allowed to collect the offering, serve as ushers or serve on the Board of Deacons or the Session. I belonged to this denomination for so very long -- switching over to PCUSA, then Baptist, then Episcopal then back to this denomination right before I was married. I find myself slipping into language that is different than what we use in the Methodist church -- I ask to be forgiven of my "debts as I forgive my debtors." I say that I believe in the "Holy Ghost," not the "Holy Spirit" in the Apostle's creed.

But back to the question. Upon reflection, I don't mind asking this pastor to speak. In fact, I'm glad they've stuck to their guns and against the popular tide of affection in this country, have decided NOT to ordain women. I'm glad that tension exists. Not that I think that they are correct for me, personally, but their decision gives them an integrity. They believe what they believe and they are not afraid to stick by it. And this is admirable.

I went into this church this fall -- just a few months ago during one of their Saturday events. I bought some BBQ and wandered around. They were able to salvage a good many of the furnishings and architectural elements from their previous sanctuary and were able to give their new building the essence of the old. It's a peaceful place. I sat in one of the back pews and I realized a feeling that was so very strong. I know I will never be able to speak from that pulpit. I will never be able to claim my authority in that church. And sitting in that back row, I think I knew something of the plight of so many of my brothers and sisters -- that because of who I am, I will never be one of those in power in this denomination. That because of my gender, I will always be an oppressed voice in that church. And the understanding of that oppression is a gift. Something my current church wouldn't be able to give me, well, overtly.

Now, the role of women clergy in my conference is not as my idealistic self would have it. Most women in my conference will never be a senior pastor of a "significant" church (whatever THAT may be.) Women clergy will be seen as "useful" for small membership churches or associate pastors. There are significant numbers in my denomination who will never accept women clergy -- although the polity says they will. And I am not glad with this. To speak the words with the mouth, but not to feel them in the heart -- this is NOT living in integrity.

And there are still those who believe that a really bad male pastor is infinitely better than an excellent female one. And those who believe that I am Satan because I call myself clergy. And I can accept their more conservative theology -- but not the hostility. I'm sure that this posting will bring out the trolls again. I don't see what their hostility will do other than anger people. It certainly is not persuasive.

Women do indeed pastor differently than men. Some of the difference is because society demands that women act differently from men. A behavior in a man that would be called "assertive" and "bold" in a man might be called "pushy" in a woman. Typically women focus more on relationships and nurture. As I struggle with my pastoral identity, I've realized that maybe women SHOULD pastor differently. Women should also maybe even preach differently.

I'm ramble on more later.

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