When Ordaining Women Is Still An Issue

This will be my last post for several days.  I am traveling to Italy for a conference on the Ecumenical Perspectives on the Role of Women in the Church.

There are still some Christian traditions that don’t ordain women.  

It’s weird for me to type those words as a clergywoman who was ordained 33 years ago in a denomination that first ordained women the year I was born.  And I serve a denomination that not only ordains women, we ordain queer women (and queer men, for that matter, and trans people and all kinds of people.)  We believe that the same God who called Moses and Ruth and David and Mary Magdalene calls a whole array of human beings created in the image of God to serve in the name of Jesus.

We believe that God calls our leadership to look like our members and so, if a church has female members the church should have female leaders too.

We believe that Jesus first appeared to women after the resurrection.  They were the first evangelists.

We believe that the Gospels show that Jesus ministered among women who were often the first people to get it.  Exhibit A:  The persistent Canaanite woman. Exhibit B:  Mary who annointed Jesus before his death.

Still there are siblings in Christ throughout the world who interpret the Bible differently saying that men and women have gender-based roles or noting that Jesus’s disciples were all male.  (Note:  They were all Jewish too.)

I remember thinking – in my earliest years of professional ministry – that I was tired of having to explain why it was Biblically ok for me to be ordained.  I remember wanting to serve in a geographic area where “everybody” agreed that the ordination of women was indeed God’s clear will.  And now, because the ordination of women is one of my sacred assumptions, it’s easy for me to forget that not everybody assumes the same thing about who gets to be a priest or pastor.

I travel to Italy with what – I hope – will be an attitude of humility. Some traditions who do not (yet) ordain women want to hear from those of us who do. This is a first step.

Imagine what would happen if we sought out those with whom we disagree in hopes of learning from them. The world would be very different.

Image of the Rev. Margaret Towner on the day of her ordination: October 24, 1956.  Rev. Towner was the first woman ordained to the office of Minister of Word and Sacrament in the United Presbyterian Church.  She was wearing a man’s clergy robe that her mother was altering just minutes before the ceremony because there were no clergy robes at that time for women.

4 responses to “When Ordaining Women Is Still An Issue

  1. Traveling mercies, listening ears, tender heart.

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  2. Traveling mercies to you and Fred… you will be doing such important work in such a beautiful place. I hope you will share your journey with us at FCC after you have time to process it all.

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  3. I appreciate your comments. It saddens me there are still churches that do not ordain women. I am part of the United Church of Canada which has been ordaining women for many years and we are the better for it.

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  4. I was ordained in 2010 in a progressive Baptist church. Still, the journey has been a complex one. While I love my Baptist heritage, I am often frustrated by the limits herein. So many Baptist churches do not recognize my ordination, and this would never entertain the thought of my preaching there. Thanks for keeping the light of hope shining for those of us still plodding along this painful way!

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