Sometimes people ask “What’s it like to be a woman in ministry?” This week, as part of the class in Covenant History, I’m learning a bit more about the history of women in my denomination and wondering if I’m catching a glimpse of my future. I’ve also had the blessing of spending time with gifted and talented women (and men) who are walking the same path. Chatting about preaching styles, congregations, power structures in church leadership, ministry concerns, praying together for difficult events happening in our congregations, the time we’ve spent together has been refreshing.
Our denomination sees itself as having a strong social justice heritage, and started ordaining women in 1976, as they were increasingly faced with change in the surrounding culture, and realized they needed to revisit their biblical interpretation. While it wasn’t pretty, and historically the denomination has said they support women in ministry without actually supporting them into pastoral jobs, let’s take a look at what it looks like today?
Statistics on Women Pastors in the ECC today (courtesy of Jo Ann Deasey)
- 311 credential women in the ministerium (21%)
- 39 of these women serve as senior/solo/co pastors
- 13 % of all credentialed women vs. 45% of all credentialed men
- 6% of all senior/solo/co pastors in the ECC are women
- In 2002, mainline denominations averaged 15%, evangelical/fundamentalist denominations 7%
- 39 Covenant churches have women senior/solo/co pastors
- 5% of ECC churches have women pastors
- In 1993, women were senior/solo/co pastors in 10 churches (1 1/2 %)
In light of all that…we’ve got a way to go, and I’m glad I have a job. Finding ‘a call’ has been the topic of conversation amongst many of the women pastors I’ve chatted with this week. Is the Covenant ready to call women lead pastors to pulpits outside rural areas? How many churches are available overall? Is there a place at this table for these women finishing their training? It’s better than it used to be, but what can we do to continue ensuring all God’s people who are called and gifted are empowered to serve?