“Your husband should be the one wearing that shirt.”
I blink and look down. “This is what a preacher looks like.” I pause, wondering how to respond. The woman speaking to me is a friend, complimenting my husband’s recent sermon. The thing is, I agree with all of her praise – Allyn is wonderful and a fantastic preacher. Is that all she was saying, or was this statement implying something deeper – “only men can preach…” or maybe more cutting, “you just don’t have the giftedness, sweetheart?” I assumed the best. “Wasn’t he great? But this is a Baptist Women in Ministry shirt.”
A recent Associated Baptist Press opinion piece pointed out that we don’t have time to worry about the opinions of others when it comes to women in ministry. As much as I agree and want to follow, I’m just not there. It hurts to know that a significant number of Christians think I’m not qualified to be a pastor simply because I am a woman.
And I wonder about my job options. I don’t know of a single Baptist church in Missouri that has a female lead pastor. Yesterday, I was contacted by a woman moving to Missouri who wants to attend a Baptist church that is friendly to women in leadership. I had to admit that there just isn’t one in her area. I keep hearing about how far women ministers have come, and I am truly thankful for women and men who have fought for the opportunities that exist today… but as I look at the job market, I get discouraged at how far there still is to go.
My husband asked yesterday, “what is plan B?” I sighed and stated I’d turn to a different denomination. I admitted that my involvement in BWIM-Missouri – that my desires there – are an attempt to fight for my place in the denomination that raised me. If I have to turn elsewhere, I want to make sure that the next generation of women called to ministry has a place. I want theirs to be an easy battle. So I continue proudly wearing my “This is What a Preacher Looks Like” T-shirt. Maybe next time I’ll be a bit braver in conversation.
Read more from Jennifer at her blog.