Registration open for "Tell Her Story: Women in Scripture and History!" Early bird ends April 15 at 11:59 pm Click here to learn more!

Published Date: December 3, 2014

Published Date: December 3, 2014

Featured Articles

Like What You’re Reading?

Click to help create more!

Get CBE’s blog in your inbox!

CBE Abuse Resource

Cover of "Created to Thrive".

Featured Articles

Remembrance: Part 2

From the time of Esther and Deborah to Mary Magdalene to our current day, God has called women to establish his kingdom. Women have paid the price–often with significant personal sacrifice to carry the mantle of leadership that God has placed upon their shoulders. Last week, we began our journey through the lives of unsung single women who have answered God’s call. They are bold, dynamic women who overcame obstacles to impact hundreds of lives. They are single women whose call to ministry has often been criticized and unsupported.

The battle for the full recognition of female leadership in the church is that of all Christian women, but the stories I have chosen to tell are those of single women. As a single woman in urban ministry, their experiences have left a deep imprint on my life. The struggle for full acceptance and recognition is far from over. Despite women’s accomplishments, and the evidence of God’s favor, the uphill fight for women, especially single women, to be granted the same respect as men in ministry persists. Until that happens, I will use my experiences with single women to accord them their rightful voice as an essential strand in the diverse tapestry of women that God has called, equipped, and empowered for ministry.

I. Single, Widow

One middle-aged woman told me of her experience as co-minister with her husband on the pastoral staff of a large African American congregation. After years of service, her husband died–a devastating loss in her life. What she did not expect was the change that would occur in her role of church minister upon her husband’s death. She described how most of her responsibilities were taken from her. She was allowed to sit on the podium, but was no longer permitted to engage in any pastoral duties other than reading the Scriptures.

II. Single, Seminarian

My experience as a single woman in ministry has had its share of obstacles. After four arduous years of study in seminary and church placements, the men and few women in our graduating class looked forward to receiving their call to pastor. We completed the seminary’s application process. After a period of anxious waiting, the predictable results arrived. All of the men except for two men of color received positions, whether single or married. Only one woman was called. She was married, and even then, it was necessary for her leave her congregation and denomination, and transfer to a mainline denomination willing to offer her an opportunity.

Some might assume that the female seminarians applying for pastoral positions were turned down by the male vote. In some instances, they were. But in others, it was women in the congregations who voted against having women in leadership. Years of socialization and internalized devaluing of women’s ministry and leadership has become a part of Christian women’s psyche as well.

By default, I took a position as director of social services at a large congregation renowned as a bastion of liberalism in New York City and throughout the country. Even there, women who served on the pastoral staff were relegated to lesser tasks under the authority of white males who held senior positions. When a senior position opened, women were not invited or encouraged to apply. After I left, change came when an African American male was appointed to the senior minister position. I recently read a newspaper article applauding the appointment of the first woman to that position in the church’s eighty-four year history.

It is time that the Christian community loosens its anxious, fear-filled grasp on the ministry of women, especially single women, in the church. These are our daughters, mothers, sisters, and wives that have been called by God into his service–a cause for rejoicing and celebration. Our ministries will thrive, because God’s calling will be fulfilled, regardless of the obstacles placed before it.

Remember, our creator came to dwell among us as a single person in a time and culture when marriage would have been more acceptable. Jesus’ status as a single person is often minimized or even unrecognized by the church. And yet, Jesus did not seem to have the difficulty with single women that our Christian community exhibits. The dignity, respect, and value that marked his interactions with women have served as an anchor for me over the years, assuring me that there is a place for the single women who have been called by God in the church.

If there is one thing to be learned from the lives of these single women in ministry, it is this–when the doors of the church are closed to them, God will open another door for them to go through. When obstacles are placed in their way, God will make another way. Whether within the church walls or outside them, God’s call to women for ministry and leadership will be fulfilled. It will continue to be my ardent prayer, hope, and preference that it be within the loving arms of our Christian churches and communities.

Read Remembrance Part 1 here.