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Let’s Talk Religion: Discrimination in the pulpit

Let’s Talk Religion: Discrimination in the pulpit
July 11
02:00 2019

Ever since I was a child, I always wondered why there were only men leading the congregations of the churches I attended. I found that rather strange, because I was always under the impression that we are all equal in God’s eyes. If that’s the case, then women should have the same opportunities to lead a congregation as men.

I am not writing this article to try and ruffle feathers, but rather to hopefully answer a legitimate question. The question is: why do some churches look down upon or not allow women in the pulpit?

I am in no way a Biblical historian, so I had to ask a few people who are well versed in the Bible for some context on if there were any verses in the Bible to back up not having women in the pulpit. Every one of them led me to 1 Corinthians 14: 34 and 35.

Those verses state: (34) Let the women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but let them subject themselves, just as the Law also says. (35) And if they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.

Through doing some research on the subject, I have read that these two verses were not part of Paul’s original writing. It is said that the verses were added to the text by scribes or copyists. This evidence leads back to a previous column I wrote about taking the Bible 100% literal.  

Even with these verses there, I am not sure how this relates to not having a woman lead a church. It baffles me how some use Biblical text out of context to fit their own agenda. The same thing was used during slavery to justify it.

To obtain a deeper look inside this mode of thinking, I reached out to several pastors to hear their thoughts on the subject. I spoke to both a man and a woman who have been in the ministry for several years and their responses were surprising.

The male pastor I spoke with has an extensive background in the ministry and is very well known in the city. He immediately said he has personally seen women being discriminated against in the ministry. He does not agree with churches not allowing women to lead a congregation.

“I have seen it firsthand with my associate ministers that are female,” he said about the discrimination toward female ministers. “Sometimes I will go different places to preach and pastors who don’t believe in women preachers don’t allow them to sit in the pulpit.

“Even a lot of women don’t like women preachers,” he continued. “At my divinity school, most of my female colleagues were not elected for a church, even though they had the credentials. Most women who go to divinity school will not get called to a black Baptist church, in most cases.

He went on to speak about when he was asked to do a wedding or a funeral and could not make it, the people requesting his services stated they did not want a woman as his replacement. He said he was surprised that so many women object to having a female minister lead a congregation or deliver services.

He closed his comments by saying the top five companies in the country are led by women, but the same could not be said for the top five churches in the country. “When women have a better chance of upward mobility in the business world than in the church, what does that say about our religion,” he said.

The female pastor I spoke with said she knew what she was getting into prior to attending divinity school. With any male dominated field, you will have to face some adversity, she said. She has even been turned away from preaching at a church because they did not know she was a woman. She did not let that stop her from continuing in her drive to be successful.

“It is always daunting to walk into new territory, especially when you are walking into an environment that is male dominated,” she said. “As a woman, you have to understand that it is a faith walk and the challenges are going to be most uncomfortable, because there generally is not a support system around.

“You have to be sure in your own faith and your personal relationship with God, that the assignment you are called to walk into is divinely ordered, then because it is divinely ordered, there is no failing.”

She said one of the biggest issues is not when you are successful, it’s more of when you are not being successful, that the critics tend to come out.  

Another issue she touched on was how some pastors tend to not support you as much when you begin to create momentum, as a woman in the ministry. She said some men feel as though you are taking some of the limelight away from them and will not support you as much.

“You will find yourself alone many times, trying to get to the next stage of the process,” she said. “In a male dominated environment, if anyone feels you are taking away some of their influence or attention, then their approach will be different going forward.”

The most shocking part of the conversation was when she stated that there have been implications that she and other women in the ministry have advanced to that level simply because they were women. She finds that very insulting, considering the years of hard work she has put into the ministry. She hopes that we will one day move past this mode of thinking, which will help us come together as a people.

It was an eye-opener to hear some of the stories that were told from the pastors. My hope is that we get past this mode of thinking as a people and worry about the things that are actually affecting our communities.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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