Friday, August 04, 2006

Chaplain's Convention Part Two: "One of the 1.6 Percent"

We are encouraged to attend the chaplain's conventions every year, but we had not been for about five years. I had forgotten what these conferences are like. The chaplains are a diverse group. There were many military chaplains present, looking sharp in their uniforms and sporting "high and tight" haircuts. There were health care chaplains, corrections chaplains and institutional chaplains. The group included a rodeo chaplain, a racetrack chaplain, a biker chaplain and more. It is fun to try to guess people's vocations by their clothes or hair. There is a fair percentage of women in our chaplaincy ministry. I wonder why that is more acceptable than women in the pastorate?

I intended to skip almost all of the meetings and spend time alone, but the main speaker was
Dave Roever. Dave is a Vietnam veteran who was horribly burned in the war, but he has turned his significant suffering into an asset. I love the guy, even though I don't agree with everything he says, and I had to listen to him! He is a man with a large, tender heart under a rather blunt, and very funny manner.

Then I discovered, to my delight, that Dr. Deborah Gill was a speaker. I've posted about her before. She has many impressive credentials, but she is warm and personable and has the most lovely and genuine smile. I don't know if I've ever met a person who personifies joy like this woman does. She is presently teaching at the AG seminary in Springfield. Anyway, I couldn't miss her either! And God blessed me in different and unexpected ways through both of these people. Here I am with "Dr. Debbie." I should have removed my name tag.

She sat at my table at lunch as introduced me to others by saying, "This is Pastor SingingOwl who is one of the 1.6% of female senior pastors in the Assemblies of God." (I did not know this.) She repeated that phrase a couple more times that day.

If I remember correctly, about 13% of our clergy are women, mostly serving as associate pastors working with children, youth or other areas. While I am glad for this, I also felt sad to realize that such a tiny percentage were senior pastors. When I mentioned that there are six of us in the Wisconsin/Northern Michigan district, I got looks of surprise that the number was so large! Large? One person said, "Well, I think there is one in ________." I forget what state.

Later we had the nice experience of sharing dinner with a young man who used to be part of our congregation in Wisconsin. His new wife joined us as well, and it was so good to hear of God's continued work in their lives. I forgot the camera, or I'd show you how cute they are. I love that guy!

Another meal was shared with our friends, Dr. James Hernando and his wife Moira. Dr. Hernando teaches Hermeneutics and New Testament classes at AGTS. As an undergrad at Trinity Bible College, he was the toughest professor I had, but I remember the most from his classes. We have remained somewhat in touch over the years, and we try to connect when we are in Springfield.

Here we are at sunset, standing outside a nice restaurant (the name of which I do not recall) where the music was subdued and there was nary a platter of okra nor a roll in sight. The food was good, and the company was too. Yes, there is a connection to the "1.6 percent of women senior pastors."

When my husband called Jim and Moira to confirm dinner plans they spent a few moments catching up. Of course, I only heard one side of the conversation. It went something like this. "Yes, we are all well...yes, I'm still at the prison....15 years...time are you two and the boys?...["the boys" are three impressive Hernando offspring, all grown and blazing a trail of brilliance]...our kids are doing fine...SingingOwl is pastoring a church...what?...Assemblies of God, of course....Jim, you know we have women pastors....well, yeah, not very many....

At dinner I couldn't resist teasing our friend a bit that his first reaction was to ask what kind of church I served. He said, "Well, I know we have women pastors, but it sure is unusual." I shared Dr. Debbie's 1.6 introductions. Later he said, smiling, "Well, since there are only 1.6 percent women pastors in the Assemblies of God, I have never had the privilege of speaking with one. Tell me, how is it for you?" I shared a bit and the conversation turned to other things.

I lay in bed later, thinking of the events of the day and talking to God about them. I realized that I was actually very sad. I did not realize that I really am quite so unusual. Of course, I think this should not be so. But it got me pondering...

Why was I sad?

Is it really a problem that 98.4% of AG pastors are male, or that only about 9% of all Protestant senior pastors in the USA are women? (The UCC and the Methodists are doing their part!)

If it is a problem, why? If not, why not?

I must stop and go to the grocery store and think of simple things like which ears of corn look the best.


Anonymous said...

I can remember a time when there were less that 1.6% female pastors in the A/G so I see that as a step up!! Probably just a different perspective....

I'm glad you were able to connect with Dr Debbie again. She's such a sweetheart.

Maybe I should ask my aunt to start praying for more women pastors in the A/G. Given who her brother is, it might be a strategic move!

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

Ruthie, I had misplaced her email address, but as you see, she is no longer at headquarters but at the seminary instead. So she has a new email. I'll send it to your email addy.

JHearne said...

Just a small thing:
You say it's 1.6% but then list the remainder as 99.4%. This is a slight and easy error that I thought I might mention so you could change. Then feel free to delete this comment.

I enjoy reading your work. It is nice to hear the thoughts of a Chaplain as I discern my path and whether it is or includes the Chaplaincy.


much2ponder said...

This post has me pondering as well, not so much about the percentages of women as Senior Pastors, but more along the line of … “where is that good ol' Dorcas Ann spirit?” Chin up! As long as you are doing what God has for you to do (for such a time as this) you are on the right path. Remember you are a pioneer! Thank you for having an obedient spirit and being a good role model. God is good.

Questing Parson said...

Sorry to use comments to do this, but I can't get the darn email to work right. In your comment on my last post -- if you're talking about email concerning audio files. Yes, I did get it. I'm waiting until I figure out how to use the softwre I've just installed. I'll let you know.

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

Oops. I'll fix it, JH, but I will leave your comment intact, as I need to remind you that I'm not the chaplain. My husband is. But he'd be happy to answer questions you might have, I suspect.

QP, I gotcha. Just wondered, bc I asked what you reading or a professional. No hurry. I am sure it will be a blog of extraordinary distinction!

M2P, I got kinda fiesty with my old professor. You would have enjoyed seeing it. LOL. But I know he is not opposed, it just seemed...really not good...that one of our semenary profs had that reaction. And I can't blame him.

Okay, someone help me with those questions at the end!

Anonymous said...

Okay, someone help me with those questions at the end!

As you wish.

1) because although you are aware that even the greatest journeys must start with a single step, you realize that some of the reactions you get are absurd coming from people who will without exception tell you they are against discrimination and stereotyping.

2) depends (for clarification, see #3)

3) If the reason you're at 1.6% in your case, and 9% overall is denial of opportunity based on gender, then yes, it is a huge problem. If the percentages are because few women feel a calling to the pastorate, then I'd say no.


LoieJ said...

I think the Lutherans are doing their part too. I've heard that about 50% of seminary students are women. Of course, men and women go to seminary for reasons other than being pastors, and some discern that they are not called, or not called "now." I don't know how the ordination rate works out. We've had a number of woman pastors in our general area.

There is also a Lay School of Theology at the seminary. I attended one week. That was overwhelmingly women.

If being "called" is God's work, then I would think that the total number of called people should rise, not just the percent that are women, now that women are more readily accepted in the ministry.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... I wonder what the percentage would be if it included the (unknowable) numbers of women who are indeed "pastoring" but not in ordained/paid positions. I'd be willing to bet the farm that that would be an impressive % !

And...this just underscores the obvious: what a very unique and special woman you are Dorcas! Although it's never comfortable or easy being an agent of change, don't let it make you sad. Whatever ministry you have, God has gifted and chosen you for it.
:) Maureen

Anonymous said...

Happy to stumble upon your blog. I'm working towards becoming an Army Chaplain and will be attending AGTS in the fall. Sorry, no intentions to become a senior pastor... Guess I'm not helping those statistics.

Anonymous said...

Great to connect up with a a pastor. Icame across yourblog online. I'm in the credentialing process (AG) and just graduated from Bethany University in Dec. 2007at the age of 57! God ahs called me to pastor a church. I'm waiting for him to show us where.Would love to conect with others in the 1.6% crowd.

Anonymous said...

It might help if I edit my comments for spelling! Duh! I'm new to this blogging stuff!