Historically ordination rights have been debated in the church since 1st Century BC. Seems like since we have begun to order the structure of the church, there has been disagreement about who can receive the authority that comes with ordination. For full disclosure, at the time of writing this, I am not considered ordained but licensed. The distinction in the United Methodist Church is sometimes tricky to explain and is not our task today, but I am working towards my ordination…eventually.
When it comes to the ordination of women the debate has been had. Within our congregation, there are a variety of backgrounds and traditions and as many opinions. I also recognize that the spiritual and theological arguments have been made, therefore, today, I merely want to share my personal experience. The goal of this post is not to change any minds about ordaining women but to explain why I fully support the ordination of women and how I have benefited from female leadership in my life and why I think that it helps the church in general.
I was raised in a tradition that many people would find strict and rigid, and surprisingly full of female leadership. My first Pastor, outside of my family, was Bonnie, a young, vibrant woman who taught English during the week and led a congregation on Sunday. She demonstrated the leadership, strength, passion and compassion that everyone would seek in a pastor. Her sermons were compelling and engaging, and I remember on many occasions I met Jesus through her words (even at a young age). To me, she possessed the natural abilities that make a Pastor. I never questioned her role as my Pastor. It seemed natural that she should have a career in Pastoral Ministry. She was so naturally gifted and called that it seems odd that there would ever be a reason to challenge her leadership in the pulpit. I am better for having had female pastoral leadership in my life and according to this article from Ministry Matters I am not the only one. Some of the things I learned from Pastor Bonnie were to listen attentively when people speak, to make time for people even when they don't know they need it, and the value of silence and of a good hug. I suppose the one thing I would challenge the wording of the article, which naturally may be limited by the scope of the study, is that yes young girls benefit from female pastors but in my own experience so do young men.
As a young man, did I accept, relate, and value the role of women clergy? Yes. And now, as clergy myself, my opinion remains the same, but my reasoning has changed slightly. I not only accept women clergy but believe their leadership is imperative to the life of the church. The church is in trouble. We are losing churches and congregations at an alarming rate, especially in the rural setting. God calls men and women. (Acts 2:17) God calls both men and women and equips them differently for different tasks. Our churches have different needs, and The United Methodist Church itinerancy process opens the door widely for the gifts of both men and women to meet the needs of each church.
We HAVE to stop keeping things such as gender from preventing someone from ministerial leadership and start ordaining those with the gifts to connect people to Jesus. I was once asked, “Are you for ordaining Women?” My reply was, no. I am not for ordaining men or women, young or old, or (insert demographic here) people. I am for ordaining people who can effectively connect others to Jesus. I am for ordaining people who can start new places for new people; who can step into the hell that is plaguing our communities and demonstrate the love of Jesus. I am for ordaining people regardless of gender, age, or whatever demographics we would prejudice to keep people out. Church, I believe we are in too dire of straits to choose who God calls and who God uses based on demographic information alone.
What are your thoughts? Let’s chat. Let’s have a conversation.
Rev. Paul Klepees