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religion, social justice, women in ministry

table talk: women ministers in the evangelical covenant church

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?

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Discussion

2 thoughts on “table talk: women ministers in the evangelical covenant church

  1. Are you here at NP? If you are still around and would like to have coffee, let me know. I would love to chat with you. I can’t remember if the class is 1 or 2 weeks.

    This has always been an interesting discussion. The ELCA (Lutheran church) voted to ordain women about the same time that the Covenant did. They also voted to educate the churches on the decision but the ECC voted not to. Why?

    It is also interesting how each conference is regarding the women in ministry issue. I feel like back home I have more questions about whether it is okay for me to be a pastor (within covenant churches) than I have here. But I can think of three Covenant churches close to me here with women as the lead pastor. There is one that I know of in the NP conference and that church just recently joined the denomination.

    My classmates and I hope and pray that there is a place at the table for us when we are finished.

    Posted by Sarah Hammersborg | July 12, 2008, 2:59 am
  2. Hi Sarah. I would love to chat, but came back to Seattle late Friday night.

    It’s interesting to see where denominations like the ELCA are on this issue vs. the Covenant. And with the best/worst characteristic of the Covenant being ‘freedom in Christ’, some choose to twist that freedom into a reason not to support initiatives like women in ministry or the call to racial righteousness. Also, since we’re so congregationally driven, if a congregation doesn’t want to call a woman as their lead pastor, they don’t.

    I pray there’s a place for us all, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity…that calling and giftedness would be the key requirement.

    If you’re in the Seattle area anytime soon, the coffee’s on me. 🙂 I’ll be back in Chicago for Midwinter.

    Peace.

    Posted by leahklug | July 13, 2008, 3:41 pm

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About Me

wife, partner, daughter, and sister. traveler on the journey of faith. rage against the machiner. sometimes pastor.

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