To usher in Women's History Month, I watched the PBS program Makers: Women Who Make America. I consider myself a feminist, yet I realize that I am still learning many details about women's history. I never knew about Kathrine Switzer, the first female runner in the Boston Marathon. I never realized newspapers would segregate their "Help Wanted" lists: one for men and one for women. Being born in the early 1970s, I've never experienced the full extent of the limitations on women. Many women are to be thanked for this.
And I would never be a member of the clergy today without their movement 40 to 50 years ago.
The story of my call to ministry includes much irony. I personally wasn't always on board with women being in the pulpit. In my youth, I never believed women could or should be pastors. When I was a senior in high school, I delivered a speech on why women should not be clergy. I used texts like 1 Timothy 2:11-12 to defend my position. However, looking back, one major reason why I was against women's ordination at the time was that I had never heard the stories of Lydia and Phoebe in the early churches or heard how women are commanded to prophesy as seen in Acts 2.
The other major reason was that I had not met a female clergy. In the variety of faith experiences I had in the 1970s, '80s and first part of the '90s, no woman had led worship. I never had a female pastor or any member of the clergy tell me that women could be called in this direction. I could not see God outside of the box in which I had wrapped Him or Her.
In all of my speech classes over the years, I believe it was the only time I received a C on a speech. Ultimately, God had the last laugh.
My education as a member of the clergy went beyond classwork to include the stories of women clergy. During my years of ministry preparation, I was surrounded by women who had walked before me. I met women who were one of the few in their seminary class. I met women who were second career pastors. Through these women, I was taught that God is a God outside of the box, calling women to use our voices in new places.
And why wouldn't God call women to vocations outside of human expectations? The resurrection story in John's Gospel notes that the first person Jesus asks to spread the good news of resurrection was Mary Magdalene. If women were asked to proclaim the good news so soon after the ministry of Jesus, why wouldn't women continue to speak that good news today in our churches?
So, during this Women's History Month, I wish to thank the women who recognized this call by God and paved this road of ordination before me. I thank Antoinette Brown, one of Protestantism's first ordained women. I thank the women who were the first to go in front of their different ordination committees and the first ordained pastor of their congregations. I thank women in the wide variety of denominations and faiths who led the paths in their traditions. I thank the women who did not let the words of 1 Timothy 2 or any other Scripture deter them from listening to God's call. I thank the men who have supported the ordination of women and affirming that God is greater than a few Bible verses or pieces of doctrine. I thank my fellow ordained women clergy as we walk together and continue to pave roads for our future sisters.
Not only do I thank the pioneering women in ministry, I thank all who paved new roads for women. I thank women who helped society see that God calls us to something outside of the box. I am thankful for women like Gloria Steinem who I met in 1994. She gave me the advice to "remember the women," a nugget of truth that I've held closely to my heart as I've worked with and for women's organizations over the years. Without the women who were the catalysts in the women's rights movements in the 1960s and 1970s, I probably would not be a member of the clergy today.
Are you a women feeling the call of God to be the leader in your church? If you are a woman feeling called into ordained ministry or other church leadership, know that there are many sisters and brothers in Christ who will support and love you in your journey. And you'll find that God is using a wide variety of voices to spread the good news of grace, hope and unconditional love in our world.
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