Appointment Time Again!

April 23rd, 2014

The two point charge I have been serving got the word they will be receiving a full-time male local pastor who has not been divorced and is married but without children and who has 12 years of pastoral experience. Not the elder they had hoped for but a full-time pastor with experience so they are “happy” and “excited.” Now the woman who leaves worship before I preach either because I am married to a woman pastor or because I am divorced (which is what I have been told) will stay for the sermon. Good for them.

Other churches and pastors are not so “happy.” Several churches have declined a woman pastor. What is “our connection” to do with them? What should the “institutional” response be to those churches? You are taking a woman pastor anyway? What do we tell the women who have answered the call but find not only a “glass ceiling” but limited opportunities just because of their gender?

Many of my colleagues in suburbia and urban settings find this discussion incredulous, believing these issues (divorced clergy and women as pastors) were solved generations ago. Unfortunately, they have not been and the institutional church has not had an adequate nor comprehensive response to these concerns. Electing a divorced woman as bishop in 1984, while a nice “symbolic” gesture, has not solved the issues. If we have these issues continuing over divorce and the gender of pastors what do we think will happen when we add sexual identity to the mix?

The representative of the “institutional church,” particularly the Bishops and D.S., need to find a comprehensive way of addressing these issues. We have allowed it to be ignored or pretended they don’t exist for too long. Perhaps closing churches is the answer, perhaps publically shaming them, but a response is needed. For far too long the “institutional church” has had no real ongoing and comprehensive response as long as the churches pay the male non divorced pastor appointed them and their apportionments.

This past week the crowds sang hosanna to Jesus and within days were then calling for his crucifixion. In part, I believe, because the crowd’s expectations of a savior were not met in Jesus. Jesus was not the “savior” they wanted. What is the church to do when the pastor isn’t what the church wanted or the church isn’t what the pastor wants? It makes me want to weep over this church that I love!

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