“Single, Female Pastor” Revisited

Perspectives by female clergy highlighted

I hate to bring more fuss to a semi-manufactured controversy, but our blog post “Single, Female Pastor? It’s Complicated” bears revisiting and highlighting of female pastors’ perspectives on this topic.

Why? First, you can finally read Marie Claire’s article online and thus can examine the full context of the conversation (previously all we had were illegal scans for 24 hours…and then blog posts about the topic).

Second, this blog was linked to by David Gibson in AOL’s Politics Daily and Bromleigh McCleneghan in the Christian Century…thus we’ve gotten a lot of traffic and new readers!  However, the CC gives a negative spin to our blog post, indicating that we said that “prayers for the young lady are in order.” Yes, I said that, but I called for prayers that she embraces this pastoral opportunity to reach out to people like her, not that she gets her spirit checked or repented. Perhaps it’s my lingering resentment at being rejected from CC (they want “more serious essay types”), but I felt that a closer read of our actual words by McCleneghan would have been nice…

But on to the perspectives: We’ve reached 39 responses on the blog post, which places it in the top 10 most-commented articles on HX of all time. Wow. While a decent amount of it is back-and-forth between this blog’s readership and another pastor blogger, there’s a ton of  comments by female clergypersons whose perspective I cannot match but can highlight a sampling:

  • April C: “It is interesting that while we work so hard for the church to be a place of hospitality, female clergy often find that hospitality seldom reaches to include them (TMI moments and all) fully” (comment link)
  • Carolyn F: “When I show verve and excitement for ministry, I’m called “naive.” When I make room for others in the Church, I’m asked to provide justification and prove that I am also attending to the interests of white, straight males. I am afraid that double standards (clergy and lay, women and men, young and young at heart) cause us to lose sight of the spiritual gifts for ministry offered by our many ministers and future ministers” (comment link)
  • Melissa T: “What I find much more dangerous than one young woman sharing her experience warts and all, is the pervasive refusal to have frank discussions about sexuality in the Church.” (comment link)
  • Em J Case: “Being a single clergy member is hard. For so many reaons. And that is true. Its hard to do what we do, and go home at night to an empty house. Its hard when there’s not enough time to date, or you have to cancel dates because of pastoral emergencies. Its hard not to have the support of a spouse. Its tough when you feel unfulfilled in the ways a spouse might fulfill you. But, its also tough to be a married clergy member. You have responsibilities I don’t have. You have to juggle two extended families and other sets of friends and support someone when you don’t have any more energy for yourself.” (comment link)
  • Stephanie G: “we operate between the two extremes of ‘whatever’ and ‘sex-demonizing abstienence’ with the effect of both being that we don’t talk about it. We have not created a space to say, sex is both a human need and a sacred act of intimacy and love and it is a challenge to honor that in a way that invites God in and welcomes God’s guidance.” (comment link)
  • Becca C: “I did have someone tell me that seeing a pregnant pastor made them feel uncomfortable because, you know, you don’t really want to think about how the pastor got pregnant. I also had a male colleague report that when his wife was pregnant the overwhelming response was “way to go, pastor!” *wink, wink* So maybe it’s not about whether or not *pastors* can be sexual beings, but only pastors who are also women.” (comment link)
  • Christine: “Honestly, I think it probably helped to change some readers perspectives about sexuality in the church, that yes, even a pastor has sexual desires, is truly human, rather than a pedophile or repressed.” (comment link)
  • Liz A: “As a Latina I grew up not seeing pictures of girls, then teens who looked like me in magazines. (Latinas ARE finally in the wider media, now- yay!) In my “world” I often feel invisible b/c I don’t meet many female clergy women who are Latina at all. Much less do I read articals by ANY female clergy in ANY main-stream magazines. So, I’m glad Marie Clair thought to include it.” (comment link)

Read the rest of the comments here.

Two comments by me:

  • One of the blogs we linked to is Beauty Tips for Ministers which after our blog published they wiped their commentary of all identifying characteristics of the pastor: name, church, magazine name. While that was done in response to “friends of Wren” who asked for the whitewashing, I saw the act as dehumanizing and insulting.
  • Second is that, as pointed out by EmJ, Marie Claire has a reputation for luring women into PR stunts and hit pieces. They did this a few months back with some food blogs and they seem to have done this again by their word choice in this article (Rev. Miller says the word choice of “career” was not her own). Words of caution from Brett are noted: stay away from outlets with questionable journalistic integrity.

Thoughts?

Welcome to our new readers and your comments are appreciated.

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Comments

  1. Creed Pogue says

    Remember, Rev. Miller CHOSE to do this interview. She could have done a column for GBCS’ Sexuality series or even a commentary on UMC.org. I sincerely doubt that a male pastor would have survived such an article. Imagine the outcry if he dissed the daughter of a parishioner who had just gotten out of prison. He would have been accused (rightly) of being cold-hearted and mean.

  2. says

    Wow…I suppose that I never realized the “backlash” that female clergy received. I’m also intrigued to know why single male pastors haven’t been targeted. Their problems are just the same as women. I’m both saddened and disgusted that this is an issue. While I don’t know that I agree with Rev. Miller’s choice of venue (I’m just not sure a magazine was the place to discuss this) at least it gets it out in the open – we are seeing it for what it is – for me it points out how difficult it must be to be a single clergy – for both men and women. I’m married and a member of the clergy and I find it very hard – prayers for single clergy.

    • says

      Okay, so I hadn’t actually read the article until just a few minutes ago – I retract the majority of my previous statements! I think that Rev. Miller’s article was very tastefully done (not sure how much of it was her words or the columnist’s) but I “enjoyed the article” as much as a married 20-something can enjoy an article about an attractive (yeah I said it) single 20-something woman. Personally I don’t see her as a pastor – I see her as a woman – the only thing that would bother me about her being in ministry is if she was a poor speaker – if she couldn’t keep me mentally and spiritually entertained then we might have a problem. I have added her to my prayer list – I hope that this article adds to her congregation and sheds some light on being single and in ministry.

      • says

        Yeah, it is pretty mundane IMO. I wonder if my generation is a bit more callous to certain words than elder generations. Not making it into a generational divide but language does evolve and so do sensitivities.

  3. Carolyn F. says

    I just want to note that there have been several comments by male readers to the effect of, “if she were a male pastor, she would never have gotten away with that.” You wanna bet?

    I have known male pastors who have gotten away with sexual assault of a minor, rape, domestic violence, and workplace discrimination against women. I want to ask: if male pastors who commit offenses related to sex and gender are never charged, and their cases never covered in the media, what won’t they get away with?

    This pastor has never committed any chargeable offense, and as far as we know, has never been disciplined for anything. She committed a faux pas. And yet she is demeaned by HX readers who think she’s “getting away with” something. It is my opinion that too much attention is being paid to someone who has harmed no one (except herself, if she is embarrassed), and no attention is being paid to pastors who actually harm women and children.

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