As a Female Pastor, It’s Complicated

Welcome, Jem!

Thank you, Hannah A. for your insightful and important questions. And thanks, Graham for wrestling openly and sharing your “I don’t knows.” I appreciate you both so much.

These questions are difficult, and are ones that I encounter and wrestle with on a regular basis. As I read both Hannah’s questions and Graham’s response, I wondered if my answer might need to be different from answers others find acceptable when it comes to Christian liberty – both in belief and in application.

To get to the point directly: I am an ordained minister serving in church leadership. I am also a woman. My very presence at an event has the potential to communicate something about the beliefs undergirding the event, or the theological beliefs and practices of the sponsoring organization. Even if it is believed that I might have something to contribute at a conference on a particular topic, I realize that my very presence could be divisive.

In these kinds of situations, I absolutely extend liberty to my brothers and sisters in Christ who are trying hard to maintain the unity of the faith. I also believe that my brothers and sisters in Christ who do not believe women should serve in positions of ordained leadership belong to God in Christ just as much as I do.

So, to answer the questions:

Do you allow for liberty of practice for those who are more/less conservative than you are? 

I absolutely do allow for liberty of practice for those who are more/less conservative than I am. I’m honestly not even sure where to place myself on the conservative-liberal spectrum, as there are many who would be far more conservative, and many who would be far more liberal than I would consider myself to be. To me, the most important thing is that we are all trying to be faithful insofar as it is possible for us.

Would you participate in an organization that restricted/supported female ordination because you believed something greater was at stake?

This is where I wonder if my ordination muddies the waters a bit. While I would possibly consider participating in an organization that did not support female ordination, my guess is that my participation would be very complicated for that organization. My participation could very well undermine the message they are hoping to convey, and I would not want to cause difficulty for them in any way.

I would not belong to an organization that did not support the ordination of women, but I would not shut the door on participating from time to time.

What is more important to you personally—differences in application or differences in core beliefs?

This is a tough one. I’m not sure if there is one that I view as more important than the other, in part because I think they work together. What’s most important to me is that, when it comes to Christian liberty, Christian organizations view both men and women as created in the image of God. This may find itself applied in a variety of ways, and I would allow for latitude in that application.