Saturday, August 26, 2006

51% of all Persons in Seminary are Women

There is an interesting article in the NY Times this morning on women clergy in both largely white and largely black denominations. One of the more interesting parts of the survey is that it points out that 51% of all seminarians are women. The article is mainly about the 'stained-glass' ceiling, the difficulties of women advancing beyond their initial church assignment. Another interesting facet of this whole discussion is how some denominations who did have ordained women moved away from the practice in the late 20th century--- examples would be the Southern Baptists, though those issues were settled on a church by church basis for the most part, and the PCA which churches were formerly part of the PC USA, but now are not. I personally can attest that there are numerous first rate women pulpiteers in my own denomination, the United Methodist Church, and many of them are very committed Evangelicals.

Here is the link---


Rainsborough said...

The article rightly concentrates on the extent to which (what I would call) discrimination holds women back.

Let us agree with complementarians that women's and men's natures differ. One of the stereotypical, actual differences between men and women is that women are more empathetic and listen better. Another is they generally are more religious than men. One would think, then, that these and other differences justify a presumption that women are better suited to the pastorate than men.

All this said, the article seems to assume that women's absence from the pulpits of larger churches is entirely attributable to discrimination. It probably isn't. For one thing, the division of labor in the homes of married women may not be conducive to their professional advancement.

Percival said...

I grew up as a United Methodist in Iowa in churches where 85% of the people in the pews were women. The men who did come knew their place and kept silent. 100% of the Sunday school teachers were women. The missions and charity groups were all women too. Nowadays, suspect most of the pastors there are women too. I have no problem theologically with women in places of leadership or teaching. I wish there were more in the denomination I now belong to. What I wonder about is the sociological effects. Where I grew up, Christianity and church was seen as unmanly. Church and baby showers were places men wouldn't be caught dead in. Could it be that strong female leadership nowadays in mainline churches makes men seem peripheral and out of place?

Bill Barnwell said...

There's a study out there that shows the leading influences on childrens' spirituality. According to this study, the mother is more influential than the father. Assuming this study was done correctly and scientifically, then this is raw data that underscores, even in the home, that women are 10-15% more influential than men.

For those of you in the revivalist tradition, when the preacher calls for an altar response, either at camp meeting or at the local church, what gender in your experience is more likely to respond? In my experience, it certainly hasn't been men. I've pointed this out from the pulpit, and have asked where are all our so-called leaders at the time of decision. Many men are too proud or self-concious to make any kind of public response or follow through.

In my ministry experience I also see, even with Christian couples, the man more resistant to family or marital counseling (great "leadership," guys!). I'm seeing many men more removed and distant from the family's temporal and spiritual affairs than many of their wives.

Of course there are exceptions to all this, but in my and others' experiences (and according to some raw data) these are just some trends I am seeing.

So, let's just say the standard really is that ultimate authority in the home and church rests with men on the basis of gender alone and that the complementarian interpretations are correct. If that is the case, many Christian men are doing a miserable job of living up to this ideal that so many are quick to scream to defend.

Marc Axelrod said...

That was an interesting article. I suppose that since there are now more women in seminary than men, we will eventually see a higher percentage of women in larger churches, even if it takes a while longer.

Having said that, the article raised another question for me: Why are we so hung up about the size of the church? I've been pastoring a church of 250 members (130 in attendance on the average each Sunday), and I'm happy as pie.

Not only that, but if you put your sermons on the internet, you have the added blessing of your messages impacting congregations all over the world. I love getting email from people who say, "Marc, I just preached your sermon before 1000 people in India and it was well received."

I'm thinking that this is mostly about money and status. You can make more money in a larger church and garner more respect from colleagues in a larger church. Hopefully, more clergywomen will get these opportunities, but I hope that no matter what, the best, most qualified people get the calls and not just because of gender or skin tone.

the reverend mommy said...

If you don't mind perceptions and observations (this is not hard science, here) I see more women as real moderates -- the far fringes not as far as the men seem to be.

That is, most conservative UMC woman minister is still far left of the most conservative UMC man that I personally know and likewise with the liberal extreme.

I know I am more conservative in my views than a lot of my peers -- and yet my mere existance is seen as a "radical liberal statement" by the far right.

I wonder how much unity we lose by using labels. In any system, once labels are used, room for growth and change goes out the window.

Ben Witherington said...

And here is where I step in and say that both the complementarians and the egalitarians are right about some things in regard to the gender issues. Of course men and women are physically different and this effects various other aspects of who they are. We are psychosomatic wholes. And it is of course true that the Bible presents women in their personal relationships as not mere duplicates of one another. What most fail to see is that in regard to the issue of ministry, this is a matter of who is called and gifted to do it, which is determined by the Holy Spirit, not by gender.

It is of course true that most married women who are ministers with families still at home that I know of have to do a job and a half, as they still do a lot of the caregiving at home, prepare the meals etc. Most men in the same situation that I know of do less at home, and it may be that their more unilateral focus leads in part to less of a stained-glass ceiling for them.

We need to do a great deal more thinking about the relationship of the physical family and the family of faith when it comes to ministers. And the non-clergy spouse, whichever one that is, needs to do a good job of picking up the slack at home. Yes, men can also be caregivers and nurturers and do it well. Some of the best nurses I have ever known were men, and some of the best cooks as well. Anybody can clean house, it takes no special skill.

We need better models for what goes on in the parsonage. And the church needs to stop expecting the clergy spouse to be thrown in as a bonus person helping the church. That decision must be up to the spouse in question. It should not be an assumption on the part of the church.



Bill Barnwell said...

Here's a link from the "Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood," the largest and strongest lobbying voice for the complementarian view that deals with 50 arguments egalitarians use:

Pay special attention to how they deal with the societal passing away of slavery vs. their claim that male dominance on the other hand is here to stay. There's a lot in here that is up for debate and that should be debated. I suspect this issue to come more and more to the forefront as time goes on (and I also predict more and more people are going to come to question the concept of a pretribulational rapture in the coming years if the lack of our "rapture" continues to upset dispensationalist timetables and speculations about the supposed trajectory of global events).

Jonathan Moorhead said...

I can attets to this trend at DTS. I would say the percentage here is pushing 40%.

David said...


Thank you for the link to this interesting article.

One area that I believe that article was misleading is when it cites a study showing that 70% of the male clergy with more than 10 years of experience were moving to be the senior pastors of medium sized and larger (defined as having more than 350 members) churches. The truth is that America is a country of small churches. The statistic that is routinely used is that 95% of the churches in the U.S. have less than 100 members (and there are many churches in the 100-350 member range). The men and women who are the senior pastors of churches with more than 350 members represent an extremely small percentage of clergy.

I do think it is interesting to consider the impact that all the women in seminary will have on the Church in the future. Even denominations that do not allow the ordination of women are seeing a significant increase in the number of women who are attending seminary. Perhaps we will all be quite surprised when we look back a few decades from now and realize what God was doing in all of this.

Best wishes,


lingamish said...

If the ESV committee translated your post title it would read, "51% of all men in seminary are women.";^)

A. Lin said...

When I was in divinity school in the pastoral studies track, I had to take a class called "Life and Work of a Minister." I was one of two women in the class. I was married, and the other woman was a middle-aged, single woman. The class discussed how that the pastor's spouse should not be seen as a "catch-all"--that is the assumption that the pastor's wife will be doing a lot of the church work, too. I remember raising my hand and asking if this stereotype would change if the spouse is male. No one really answered that question.

Right now, I am searching for a ministry position. I am lucky enough that my husband can support our family through his job while I search, further my education, and take care of my two children (both under 4). And my husband has learned to do some of the housework and caring for our kids, as I am following God's leading.