As our staff sat around the table for a Church Council meeting with ministry leaders from different areas of our church, our pastor asked us to mention something encouraging that had happened in the past month. One of the ministry leaders spoke up and said she enjoyed the preaching of the last three weeks. Our pastor, youth minister, and music minister had taken turns filling in for one another as they were out of town over the past month. Of course, I wasn’t given the opportunity to preach, although I was there each and every one of those Sundays. The parishioner choked up recounting that each of those three messages felt like God was speaking directly to her. She continued and said she was so thankful that our church was being led by such Godly men as these three. As the whole room said, “Amen,” it took every ounce of humility and dignity I had to keep my ass in my chair and not walk out that church door and never come back. I’ve worked at my church for almost two years now. I have the same amount of education as the 3 males I serve with, including the senior pastor. I share the same amount of experience with the male seminary student (who is a year behind me) who is paid a salary 30% more than my own.
There’s a marquee outside our worship center with the names of the Church staff and our positions. For the first year and a half, my name wasn’t on it. I made up so many excuses for why it wasn’t there. They just switched out the names when the new youth minister came in. They didn’t intentionally leave me out. Then one day an excited congregant grabbed me on a Wednesday night to show me that they had finally put my name on the marquee, and to my dismay, it read “RE Green, Kidz Director.” I wished they hadn’t even bothered. When I “made a fuss” I was told that they didn’t have enough letters to write out the word “minister” again. I asked why don’t we order them - there’ll be another Children’s minister when I’m gone, right? When I pushed the matter I was told that it’s just a title. What does it really matter? I’m supposed to be a servant. I shouldn’t be wrapped up in something so petty.
My younger sister is getting married over the summer. I’m so honored that she has asked me to officiate her wedding; however, that means I will need to be licensed to ministry. About 2 months ago I nervously asked our pastor how I could start the process of doing the licensing through our church. I knew for certain that they would never in a million years ordain me, but I thought there might be a chance they would do a licensing to ministry. He was supportive but unsure of what the deacons would say about it. In talking with mentors and trying to make contingency plans, friends and family have said that this seems like a lot of work and stress; why don’t I just get my license online? I shouldn’t have to get my license online. I have a Master of Divinity and my church should honor that.
Language matters. It matters to the 8-year-old who looked me in the eyes over the summer and told me God was telling her to be a pastor one day and that she knew there would be a lot of people who would tell her she’s not allowed to be one. It matters to the 6-year-old who, when asked to draw a picture of what she thought God looked like, drew a beautiful woman with long-flowing hair and pink heels. I don’t try to advance my position in the church for my own selfish gain. I don’t want to be noticed extra. I don’t want to be glorified. It’s not about a piece of paper or a pay raise. I do it because it matters what we tell women about their worth in God’s place of worship. It trickles down into our communities, our schools, our homes, and our minds. Jesus empowered women. He went against every rabbinic law when he spoke to the woman at the well, when he taught Mary and Martha, and when he chose to appear first to a group of women after his resurrection. Jesus turned the ancient world upside down regarding gender roles and female empowerment. Women made massive gains in status during Jesus’ ministry. Yet the modern-day church has fallen so short of the measurement Jesus set for showing women dignity and value. That church marquee mocks me each and every time I walk past it AND it reminds me to keep fighting, keep breaking glass ceilings and even stained glass if I have to.
About The Author
RE Green is a third-year graduate student at Baylor University completing her Master of Divinity and Master of Social Work. Originally from Knoxville, Tennessee, she loves mountains and her dog #Marshallthebeagle. She plans to pursue work in children’s ministry and social work upon graduation.
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