Women Clergy Subjected to Sexist Remarks, Actions

CHICAGO, IL (October 22, 2018) — A recent thread of comments on the Covenant Ministerium Facebook page revealed that while many people in the denomination enthusiastically support women in ministry, female clergy are still subjected to sexist and demeaning comments as well as inappropriate behavior.

The thread started when one pastor in the private group linked to a video posted by the North Carolina Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. In the video, male pastors read comments out loud that their female colleagues have endured and viewers see their reaction.

In response to the video, women clergy in the Covenant shared their own experiences. Several hundred comments were made on the Facebook thread and in a document where women anonymously posted about situations and comments they had received.

Many comments focus on clothing and appearance, including words and actions that constitute sexual harassment.

The Covenant officially affirms the call to ministry for all persons. Still, female clergy encounter resistance from congregants as well as people outside the church.

Another common critique comes from congregants who question whether women can or should minister to men.

Assumptions about gender roles in marriage also are evident in other statements made to clergywomen.

Some women noted assumptions that they be the ones in the office to make coffee. Some receive requests for the “real pastor” to officiate at a baptism or wedding.

Several women said they have been told not to expect equal pay to men’s since they have fewer placement opportunities.

One woman said, “Personal reactions aside, most damaging to Jesus’ church is people of faith, gifts, and resources who leave, or refuse to join, a church with a woman pastor.”

In the Facebook thread women clergy expressed deep pain, but many also noted the support they frequently receive from male colleagues. The revelations have drawn expressions of remorse, empathy, and commitments by men to do more to make sure their colleagues receive equal respect and opportunity. Covenant leaders have said the conversation will lead to further actions at the regional and national levels to strengthen support.

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About the Author

Stan Friedman is the news and online editor for the Covenant Companion and is grateful for the opportunity to serve in a job that combines his newspaper and pastoral ministry experience. He has been to 15 Bruce Springsteen concerts in four cities and listened to “Thunder Road” an average of at least once a day for 41 years.

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17 Comments

  1. Some of the noted comments are clearly sexist, and there is clearly sexual harassment going on. But if a person honestly doesn’t believe Scripture allows women ministers, that is not sexist, nor is it sexual harassment. This subject needs civil, theological discussion, respecting and hearing all viewpoints, whether one agrees or not. This is the Covenant way as I was led to understand it when I was involved in the Church and at North Park Seminary thirty-plus years ago.

  2. Thank you, women colleagues, for bravely sharing your stories. This is very troubling. Much work yet to do to change the male-privilege mindset of our society. I respect women who courageously accept God’s call to pastoral work.

  3. Really? What year is this?
    I’m appalled at the insensitivity and just plain rudeness of some people! I’m praying that nothing like this has happened to our female Pastor…

  4. So sad. Wish I had known about the places to share. It would have been … not “nice,” but good, to include my own experiences. Thankful for the words and actions of brothers and sisters that have worked healing in this part of my life.

  5. I just want to say to my female colleagues, I’m so sorry for the things that have happened to you, and I believe you. Thanks for your bravery in sharing what you have faced. You are courageous.

    I also want to say that I believe your stories belong to you and should be shared in the ways that you think they should be shared. It’s disappointing to know that the stories in this article were pulled from a private and confidential facebook group and the only opportunity you were given as to whether what you said was to be shared was to be told to “remove your post” if you didn’t want it made public. You deserve better than that from your colleagues and from your denomination’s magazine.

    1. Paul, thanks for this comment. To clarify, the quotes from this story came from a separate Google document created specifically for this purpose in cooperation with the person who started the Facebook thread. The screenshots we posted were only of those comments–in other words, anyone we quoted chose to opt in to participate in this story. We regret that this was not clearer in the story. —The Companion editors

  6. This is a very sad commentary on the Church. I cannot help but be sorrowful for what my sisters in ministry still have to endure after all these years, but I’m also saddened by the fact that so many in the Church continue to yield to the spirit of personal prejudice rather than the Spirit of our Lord.

  7. It’s obvious we all fall short. This article raises our level of awareness in regards to inappropriate gender discrimination. I am proud the church is openly discussing this problem.

  8. Wow how sad. And yet these attitudes are sanctioned by too many of our leaders who will not challenge churches and pastors, that are hiding simple prejudice behind inaccurate readings of Paul and I Timothy.

  9. Heard when I was serving as a hospital and hospice chaplain, “Do I call you Father?”
    I also had a number of comments about my physical appearance and put up with some blatant flirting which I named as inappropriate by stating, “I’m here as your pastor.”

  10. My heart aches as I read this. Is there no place, no profession, nowhere in this world where women aren’t slapped down?

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