When I was contacted by the Pastoral Search Committee of First Christian Church nearly 31 years ago, it was after they had selected my resume as someone that they wanted to interview. The selection process was a bit different, in that the chair of the search committee decided to cover the names and gender of the candidates, and ask the committee to make a selection not knowing any specifics about the individual. The purpose of this was to overcome hesitation to consider any female candidates. Following the committee’s decision to proceed with an interview, and ultimately to recommend me to the Board and to the congregation, there were those individuals that said that they would leave the church if a woman was hired. Some did leave. Others stayed and eventually changed their minds. The resistance was rooted in a belief that “scripture” said that women shouldn’t be pastors, or at least not teaching or leading a congregation. For some the thought was “maybe they could be youth pastors or Christian Education leaders, but no lead pastors.” I have always been confident in my calling from God to be ordained and lead a congregation, and continue to stand ready to answer any questions that might arise regarding my gender. While looking back on how the search committee brought my name forward, we might chuckle and think that we have come a long way. But the task to be open and affirming of ALL God’s people is an on-going work in progress for each of us. Not only has scripture been used to exclude women, but it has too often been used to justify hostility and exclusion towards the socially marginalized, including people of color and the LGBTQIA+ community. As Christians we are to inspire faith, hope and love, and we begin to do that when we open the door, and our hearts, to all God’s children and love them as God loves them.
Just as people have asked me how I can “justify” being a woman pastor when their reading of the bible tells them otherwise, I believe that through conversation and questions we can all learn what the scriptures do and don’t say about one another. I encourage you to attend the panel discussion we are co-hosting with the United Methodist Church on November 9, and I would also hope that if you have questions, ask them. May we strive to demonstrate in words and action that we value the uniqueness of all God’s people and affirm the worth and dignity of all.