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 flies...how 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.