A Pastor and a Woman

By Jill Riley

I am a  woman. Occasionally I am even a lady. Unfortunately for some of my more conservative brothers and sisters in the faith, I am also called to be a Pastor.  It is a struggle. Don’t get me wrong. I love what I do. I care about my career and I love God and desire with my whole heart to follow His calling. But in some circles my being a pastor and a women seems to cause heart wrenching, pit sweating, mind bending, stomach churching, nerve irritating angst.

If I were a man that poor pastor wouldn’t have had to caution me on how I enter into the room. “You need to be careful, Jill.  You are beautiful and confident and you make all the pastors wives uncomfortable when you walk in, since you work with their husbands.” I feel bad for him really.  It must have been so uncomfortable for him to talk to his own wife and reassure her that I wasn’t trying to seduce or tempt him. How difficult and embarrassing it must have been for him to have to direct me in how to dress and act appropriately.

What could I have done to make work more efficient for the staff that wouldn’t allow any one-on-one time EVER between genders? Really, since we couldn’t be trusted as adults and professionals, time and money were wasted. There had to be three in a room for every conversation, rather than just the two who were working! SO thankful that rule was in place since every time I am alone with a man I can hardly stop myself from flirting so the rule was absolutely needed.

And what about the man that I made so uncomfortable that he felt the need to physically intimidate me and bludgeon with his theology, using words such as “how dare you preach.” How frustrating it must have been for him to have to listen to the word of God from my inferior mouth.

Finally, to the unfortunate pastor that was concerned that I would get pregnant and disrupt the work flow on our multiple staff, I am so thrilled that I was able to spare him that inconvenience.  It is fortunate for everybody that my fertility didn’t disrupt our plans to grow the church.

Ok, sarcasm is my only real second language. The sarcasm in the previous paragraphs is real as the scenarios are true.

The sad fact is, I spent years wishing I were a man. Not for any other reason than for my realization that a gender switch might give me the position and permission to speak about my Jesus with a lot less scrutiny and a lot more latitude to make mistakes. It took years for me to celebrate being a woman, wife and mama; all roles what I love.

Truthfully, I treasure the challenges I have received because they have served to solidify Gods call in me. There is little room for self doubt and certainly no room for pity parties. I serve willingly and joyfully because God called me and the scripture supports that call. The struggles are real but the joy of walking in obedience far outweighs the burden of any criticism I may receive or obstacle I may face.


9 thoughts on “A Pastor and a Woman

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  1. I am for women in leadership. Since the Bible has examples of women in leadership positions, one lens or verse can not justify the omission of women in authoritative positions.

    However, I do believe that “all scripture is God-breathed.” At this point, the only way I can reconcile the differences is that Paul is talking about a wife (γυναικὶ) and a husband (ἀνδρός). A possible solution may be this: Since it was a synagogue custom to separate men and women, Paul may be addressing new ways in which women can learn alongside their husbands. Wives may have not known how to respect their husbands in the new setting, embarrassing them by asking questions at inappropriate ways or at inappropriate times as they were “getting their sea legs” with their new found freedom.

    Although I wouldn’t place any women in this site in this category, there are women who have not learned appropriate leadership and followership? Some usurp authority because they are selfish and deceived.

    From your perspective, should a wife submit to her husband?

    How do you teach female pastors to interpret this verse?

    Again, I am for women in leadership.

    1. “Although I wouldn’t place any women in this site in this category, there are women who have not learned appropriate leadership and followership? Some usurp authority because they are selfish and deceived.” // I’m sure, as I’ve found this to be the case in men even more so, because there’s more of them in positions of leadership/power. It’s difficult working with/alongside poor leaders in general.

      “From your perspective, should a wife submit to her husband?” // In the same way a husband should submit to his wife.

      “How do you teach female pastors to interpret this verse?” // In the same way we teach male pastors to interpret this verse???

      “Again, I am for women in leadership.” // But, are you? Because your questions seem very condescending. I’d actually love to hear your answers to your own questions above.

    2. Hi Mark, Glad you have the courage to post – it is probably a little vulnerable given that all the writers are women. Your comment below shows that, and I hope that you don’t opt to never post again. I would suggest that your experience is one that many women feel in male dominated professions and I’m glad they stick it out or we wouldn’t be in the place we are today – with pastors such as Jill, Gail, Jen, and Geila. One thing I noted in your comments was that you confused the household economy (with your question about submission) with the vocation of pastor – and those are two different things. Addressing the one Jill is writing about and the question you started with (women as pastors/leaders), Iook to your sentiment that ALL Scripture is God-breathed and then start in the gospels. Women lead, evangelize and preach. They – or one – also bears into living flesh the Christ child – if that’s not leading in the utmost way, I don’t know what is! Thanks for all the engagement.

  2. Wow… Sadly I have seen this repeated in my own journey… Men so afraid of their own demons that they demonize women rather than deal with their own “stuff” (polite term). Keep the faith, Sister, and keep on doing the Lord’s work!

  3. Wow, my wife is the pastor and I am supporting her right now. I was giving you the ability to address men who are not open because of the verses. If you throw out the verses without addressing them, you cannot help men understand that women make wonderful pastors. Jill is a dear friend. I pray for her and support her, but I will not be commenting on this site again. Jesus modeled leadership by becoming a slave, wrapping himself in a towel and washing his disciples feet. That is pattern for all leadership. Paul asks husbands to do that with their wives. Therefore, leadership is modeling service.

    If you don’t give people (men are people, too) the benefit of the doubt and answer their legitimate questions, you will never be effective in winning them to their side. Jill, keep going. I support you and I am proud to be your friend, but I will not post on here again. Blessings.

    1. Mark – I applaud your support and affirmation of women to lead in all positions of leadership. I guess I would just hope that you could read through your post and maybe see how it can be misinterpreted apart from your second explanation.

      As well, I don’t necessarily think that any of us here on this blog are in need of a man to help create a platform for us, or “give us the ability to address other men.” I understand that you were just trying to help us out. But, if that was your intention, why not just state that in your question? e.g. “I think it would be helpful for men who may not agree that women should/could be pastors, to hear more about how women leaders interpret the household codes.” Or, “Many men use the argument that women leaders try to usurp power, etc. Given that, do you think it’s any different than how men might exert power and control in abusive and unhealthy ways?” OR, what might even be more helpful for the cause could be for men to effectively win other men over to our side. It shouldn’t always be the women’s fight. That’s exhausting.

      Lastly, for many folks who’ve endured great harm at the hands of power, giving the benefit of the doubt is a great privilege that is extended, not demanded. At a certain point, it becomes less about effectiveness and more about respect. I do believe that your intentions were good and appreciate your willingness to engage. While you may not wish to engage in commenting any further, I hope that this blog might be a space for you (and many others) to continue to journey alongside the many powerful and insightful narratives of women leaders across our denomination.

  4. Hey Mark!

    Please please don’t stop reading and commenting. Our commitments state “We will not obligate participants to agree with one another nor will we hold one another emotionally, relationally or theologically hostage based on agreement or lack thereof. We will graciously hold one another to the highest standards of love.” Let’s do that. These kinds of challenging topics are why this space exists!!

    How do I teach women regarding submission, respect, authority? I refer to Ephesians 5:21 where we are admonished to mutually submit. This is not a one way mandate. It is a relationship built in mutuality. Also, wives are told to submit to their husbands and husbands are told to love their lives, as they would to Christ. In action this means be a servant to one another, love graciously, with forgiveness and sacrifice. So, yes, I tell both husbands and wives to submit.

    There are women who have not learned to be good leaders and whose actions have colored the group. However, just as one congregant doesn’t reflect a whole church one woman should not affect the whole. There are good and bad male and female leaders. Each should be handled on a case by case basis.

    In regards to pastoring I would agree with Michelle. The whole of scripture tells us of women leaders. Clearly there are disproprtionate number of examples which clearly reflects the point in history in which the bible was written.

    I know your support. I always feel your support. Thank you.

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