return to religion-onlineWomen Clergy
Women have obvious difficulties carrying out ministry in church structures which are still heavily patriarchal. Women often see the large church, with its traditional male model of organization and decision-making, as the embodiment of all that is frustrating for them in parish ministry.
Because Southern Baptists carry their piety close to the heart, it was inevitable that some of their women, nurtured in this good Baptist piety, challenged to this kind of commitment, would respond to the call to ministry. None of these women who sought ordination remembers being told that there was one call they could never hear or commitment they could never make.
The problems stem from the realities of human sexuality and of the hunger for power. These hungers are experienced differently by women and men, nevertheless, they are deep psychological realities.
The church has not yet dealt with the full reality of the female presence in the clergy -- nor has the profession. There has always been a masculine mystique in the ordained ministry, but now, with the sudden influx of hundreds of women into the profession, it is logical to ask whether there is also a feminine ministerial mystique.
The United Methodists have granted full ordination rights to females since 1956, but only in this decade have women entered the ministry in appreciable numbers. With seminary enrollments now totaling from 25 to 50 per cent women, the next four years could be crucial as the numbers of females seeking ordination and appointment double.
Five knowledgeable women from as many denominations were asked to share their perspectives on the present reality and future prospects of women in the ordained ministry. These five offer their insights on the impact women clergy are having and will have on the church.
Without necessarily seeking to do so, women clergy are presenting some serious questions about the nature of Christian vocation. In their efforts to gain credibility, to deal with rivalry, and to claim their calling, women ministers raise issues which ought to concern all Christians.
In Christ there is neither male nor female. Therefore, we -- both male and female -- can serve in any ministry to which God calls us.