WARNING: There is no food in this post. Feel free to skip it if you’d like. This blog will return to its regularly scheduled programming with some delicious jalapeno cheese bread!
Well, well, well, Marie Claire strikes again. Their interview of a single, 27 year-old pastor of a Methodist church in Huntsville, AL has recently provided fodder for a variety of religion and ministry blogs. In typical fashion, the story is salacious and embarrassing in its intimate details, but as I haven’t read the full content of the story myself, I won’t rehash that here. If you’re interested, you can check out the coverage on Beauty Tips for Ministers and Hacking Christianity.
When I first heard about the story, my blood ran cold. My first thought was, “That could’ve been me.” Or if not me, one of my friends. While I do not know Ms. Miller and her particular gifts and callings, I know a lot of women like her. I do not doubt that, like a lot of the young women I know and go to school with, she is bright and passionate and cares about serving God and God’s creation. Of course, in seminary and divinity school, our love lives are not under the microscope as they are in a congregation.
This could have been me. As most of you know, I am married. Having my sexuality safely contained within the marital covenant makes people a lot more comfortable. But I never really thought I would get married nor did I particularly desire to. I liked my freedom and independence more, until I met Joe. You know, I make plans; God laughs. Before that though, there had been warnings about how difficult it was to date once you were ordained, not just because of the celibacy thing but also because a female authority figure is threatening to a lot of men. A single (heterosexual) friend of mine, while going through the ordination process, received questions about her sexual orientation.
It is hard enough to be a woman pastor. Even in the 21st century, many would still argue that God does not call women to lead, to teach, to preach in God’s church. Well, except for maybe in the context of children’s ministry. The authority question looms large. As I was asked multiple times, “Because you’re young, short, pretty, and female, how are you going to assert your authority?” My authority and Ms. Miller’s authority and all of my future young clergy women friends’ authority comes from listening and responding to God’s call, to God’s claim on our lives to serve God as an ordained minister, whether we’re short, tall, black, white, purple, single, married, male, female, straight, or gay. And while we’re not living in a perfect world (yet), I hope and pray to God that when I’m up there in that pulpit or celebrating the Eucharist at the altar, younger women and girls will see someone who looks like them, and they will know that God loves them and has plans to prosper them. Maybe even someday, when they’re going through their ordination process, no one will even think to question how their gender and physical characteristics will impact the efficacy of their ministry. Amen.
For more information and support of young (20s & 30s) clergy women, go to Fidelia’s Sisters.