When You’re a Woman Pastor and You’re Over It Already

I have learned not to get de-railed on a Sunday morning when someone walks out after they realize I am the pastor of the church.

Once a woman showed up a few minutes before the service and explained she was new to the city, wanted to find a church, etc.  She was very excited because we were “right around the corner” from her.  She told me a bit about her church background, and I had an inkling that she might have an issue with a woman pastor.  I welcomed her warmly and subtly mentioned that I was the Lead Pastor. I saw her face fall, briefly, before she forced herself back into a smile. To her credit, she tried to be discreet. “You know?” she said, “I’m…um…just going to go home. I just remembered something.”  She didn’t come back.

A few months ago it happened again.  A young man showed up, very friendly, “looking for a church.” We had a lovely talk as he found a place to sit.  He stayed most of the service, until I got up to preach. The look of shock on his face was far from discreet this time around.  He looked to his left, and to his right, stood up in the middle of my opening paragraph and quite literally BOLTED to the door.  Like, I mean bolted. His body was sort of bent over in a pointy shape as he took several giant steps out, stopping for nothing.

Sometimes people ask me what I do in those moments. My answer is simple: I preach anyway.  I keep going. I do what I’ve been called to do.

There has been a lot of talk online in my circles in the last couple of weeks about women pastors and the things we face.  This week on Twitter, for example, someone compared women pastors to sex offenders! (That was a new one!) “Wow,” my husband said when I told him, “What did you do?”

“Well,” I said, “I kept working.”  

I have been in my role as a Lead Pastor of a church for 14 years now, and in those 14 years I have lost count of the number of “how-can-you-do-what-you-do-don’t-you-take-the-Bible-seriously?’ comments I have received.  Yes, it is annoying. Yes, it makes wrong assumptions about me. Yes, I want to defend myself.

But, what do I do?

I keep working.

And then every few weeks there seems to be another social media flurry when some leader (or, just as often, some random dude with 32 followers on Twitter) says that women shouldn’t teach in a seminary or that women pastors are an abomination or that our disregard for Scripture is akin to men who dish out abuse.  What do I do in those moments?

I keep working.

I visit someone sick.  I go to the board meeting. I lead the Bible Study. I preach the sermon.

I keep doing what God has called me to do.  

At one time in my life, I couldn’t tell you exactly when, it became so obvious to me that the only life I could lead that would be God’s plan for me was one where I was a pastor. Sometimes I laugh when people talk about women pastors as if we have taken some lucrative, enviable job with sinister motives to increase our own power.

HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!

My people, I would have been delighted if God called me to just about anything else (though I’m sure glad God didn’t).  It isn’t actually fun for us women pastors to have to defend ourselves all the time, online or in person. We don’t enjoy wondering if we are going to get into debate when we arrive at a pastors event, if we will be ignored, looked down on, chastised.  It would be nice not having certain people assume that we just don’t take the Bible as seriously as they do.

But at some point, to even be a woman in ministry, you decide that you have to listen to God’s voice above all the others. And you follow, and you pastor.  And you keep following THAT voice, day after day – even when an inane Twitter debate could easily deter you.

It’s not that I don’t want to hear the feedback of others, or that I don’t consider those with a different understanding of the Bible than me on these matters to not be my brothers and sisters in Christ.  It’s that, and I say this with all the love in the world:

I am OVER IT.

I have stuff to do.  I have a call to live.  I have a church to pastor.  (And children to raise and meals to cook and sleep to get and friends to love).  I know, already, that not everyone agrees with me and what I do. And it’s okay – I know who has called me.

So if you are a woman pastor who feels over it just like me, I feel you.  It sucks. Now, let’s turn off our phones, open our Bibles, and keep working.  God’s got stuff for us to do.

A few pics of me doing what I do – one also does not preach in order to get a flattering picture of one’s self. Clearly.

98 comments

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      • Rev. Deborah Scott

        Amen, well said. I have been in the pastorate for 16 years. My Denomination ordains women and we are making strives to appoint women to more substantial churches. We have female Presiding Eldrrs and Bishops. In spite of all that. When we show up with our robes at our Conference Meetings we are automatically directed to the choir room!

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  1. Greg Sergienko

    I’m really sorry that you’ve been subject to treatment like that. As a male non-pastor in a denomination where female pastors seem to been accepted, I appreciate your sharing this.

    Like

  2. Stefanie

    Leanne, no one has ever made me rethink my opinion or inspired me to empathy the way you have. We need more female pators and you are an inspiration to those that hear the call, keep preaching and don’t ever stop!

    Like

      • Rev Jacqueline Othoro

        O🙏🏾 In my early days I saw people walk out or settle down to sleep when I stood at the pulpit, but I kept working. I too wrestled with the passages in Corinthians as a seminary student… and I kept working. I am now older and I pray wiser …as I keep working.
        Much love and grace from a fellow woman clergy (ordained Anglican Priest) all the way in Kenya, east Africa.
        #wekeepworking

        Liked by 1 person

    • Naphtali Toms

      I can understand the confusion you express on this issue, Timofey D, and as a woman I so appreciate your desire to know more about it.
      So few in the Church have cared enough, or taken the time to properly search out the mystery, or paradox this subject presents, as in many verses Paul speaks about women seem to provide a very limited role for women – however, this was NOT the case. Anymore, than he was empowering slave owners and condoning the owning of other human beings when he told slaves to have a good attitude and to serve their masters faithfully as if unto the Lord.
      For women, from what we read in the epistles, they seem relegated to physical labor and support for men, child-bearing and child raising, and not much else. However, this too was not the case. We do not serve a God who gives His daughters gifts, wisdom, intelligence, and capabilities but then tells them to squelch it and pour the coffee for their husbands and brothers. Unlike some of the Jewish rabbis who made into their own man-made laws, written intotheir Talmud, that a man can use his wife like a piece of meat sexually (literally says this), or in law (Talmud again, not Torah/God’s law) that a man’s life MUST be saved before a woman’s, if there was ever a circumstance necessitating such a decision.

      However, there is evidence to show that some of these scriptures have been ‘changed’ to inaccurately support such thoughts. The Word says that anyone who changes even one syllable, let alone forms their own personal doctrine out of God’s Holy Word and/or break the laws of God and teaches others to do the same, will be punished most severely. Apparently the men on the bible boards who created the modern translations lacked some obvious fear of the Lord when they ‘interpreted/translated’ them because there is sufficient evidence to show that they had an agenda of their own, one which changed the Word of God to take away the authority of 2/3 of the Body of Christ (the women in it) from being able to have a voice, power and authority, given to them over the Earth by the Lord since the very beginning (Genesis 1:27-28). A curse was given in the garden saying that Satan would hate women and that men would rule over them. This curse was broken by Christ, yet those who give in to the flesh will still work to enforce it, if they do not let Holy Spirit overcome it with his love and by dying to self and a personal lust for power.

      A few examples: the same word in Greek translated as “Pastor’ for men in the New Testament is oddly translated ‘servant’ for women. Yes, Pastors are servants to the people entrusted under their leadership. But they are still given a title in order to show their job/position so that people can know who they are and come to them for assistance. Why does the word empower the men, and do the opposite for the women?

      Likewise, the exact same Greek word translated in the passage as “respect” for men, is translated as “submit” for women. Unbelievable, right? Yet the enemy is always trying to subtly change the Word of God, and present a false-gospel to the children of God. PLEASE RESEARCH: the rebellion of the Jewish priests seen throughout the Old and New Testament (including Jesus time), Constantine’s laws against Christians and the twisting of truth and changing of God’s calendar and feasts, the death of millions of Believers who would not accept the lies presented to them about God’s word given through the Popes and Jesuits, and more… Nothing has changed, it is still going on today. We are believing too many flat out lies.
      We must wake up, speak out, and change the Bride of Christ into the spotless, pure, loving, empowered “Called Out Ones”/Ekklesia, which we were created to be.

      One passage so famously misquoted and understood, 1 Corinthians 11:3, where the Greek word “kephale” which 95% of the time is not translated as anything to with leadership, and where the context of the passage speaks of origins, and how man came from God, woman came out of man, but men also are born out of women, and all come from God, is a scripture to bring the same sort of love and unity which the Trinity experience and live to share in honor toward one another. Yet, that passage has been changed to say that the man is the supreme head leader, and women need to submit to them, regardless of the capability and intelligence of the woman, nor the lack of such for some men.
      These and many other incredible insights and very specific and freeing examples can be found in a book written by Loren Cunningham (founder of YWAM; Youth With A Mission) and David Hamilton.
      The entire Body of Christ needs to be knowledgeable and willing to speak out the truth on this subject so we can end this “battle of the sexes” and truly run together as a Bride of Christ “from every tongue, tribe, people, language and nation” where, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
      Let us throw off every weight and sin that seeks to hold us back, and run together in His Spirit, empowered by the Living Word, for the glory of our FATHER GOD. There is no time to wasted in foolish arguments, pride, jealousy, etc.
      We are all called, empowered, and loved. The greatest WILL BE the servants to all, but they will not give in to fear of man, or their intimidations, over obedience to God and in alignment with His TRUE WORD.

      Like

  3. Cynthia Holder Rich

    Thanks so much. I serve in a context with crippling, casual, unapologetic patriarchy as the frame. My husband and I teach theology at a university here, and our women students and colleagues are under great pressure all the time. Your articulate sharing is both really well done and full of truth and wisdom.

    Like

  4. Kathie Sharp

    Our denomination has ordained Wonen pastors for over 150! Years and I proud to be one for over 42 years. Yes people question my ability to preach, teach and minister in God’s name but I continue because His is the only voice I need to hear. My husband is a Pastor along side me and we are blessed to minister together. I would have it no other way.

    Like

  5. Marsha Cutting

    I’m sorry to hear this nonsense is still going on. I was ordained in 1981 and honorably retired in 2011, and I certainly experienced the sort of things you described. I pretty much expected to, because there weren’t very many women clergy then, but I would have hoped that things had changed.

    I remember going to visit a congregant in an assisted living facility when I was the interim pastor at a small neighborhood church. As I was leaving, we encountered a member of the large “first church “ in the city. My parishioner introduced me, and the other woman turned to me and asked, “So you’re the pastor’s wife?” I smile d and said, “No, I’m the pastor.”

    After the other woman left my parishioner apologized to me and said, “I sure I said you were the pastor.” “You did,” I replied; “She just heard what she expected to hear.”

    Things were better when I moved to a small church in the country. My arrival occasioned a fair amount of discussion, but it didn’t take long for people to accept me for who I was.

    It saddens me to hear that things haven’t changed all that much, though I do understand that it has become easier for women to find calls.

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  6. Tammy

    Dear God, may we all have this attitude. In a culture where everyone seems to get offended when everyone doesn’t agree with their perspective, may we just learn to stay in our own lane and do what YOU have called us to do. The enemy would love to distract us from this work. Help us to stay the path and be who YOU have made us to be and do what YOU have called us to do. In Jesus’ name. Amen!

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      • tlhumphries

        It also occurs to me that this means I can’t be offended by those who are sincerely following Christ and interpret Scripture differently. God is our judge. If/when they need corrected, I trust the Holy Spirit will handle it. I had to struggle with this myself to accept my call, so I get it. I had to do the work to study and reconcile the translation and understand the egalitarian interpretation. God definitely called me out of my comfort zone!

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  7. Jenee

    Hi. I have a question, when did you feel liberated to move forward as Pastor?
    I too was called and I know for certain it was the Lord. But the scriptures that clearly state we are not to preach, and to learn in quite submission. We are not over a man.
    I still tend to deal with these scriptures and i’m familiar with the culture, time, and geographic setting.
    All that to ask this, what in your relationship with Jesus brought from.
    Am I making sense??
    Just wondering???

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    • leannefriesen

      These are fair questions…thank you for asking. It can feel confusing to feel that call and read those passages. I went through it too! It is important to me to honour Scripture and I didn’t want to dismiss what it said. For me, I believe that when we look at the Scripture as a whole (with all those important messages like “in Christ there is no longer male or female…) we see a God who clearly calls and uses all people. A closer examination of those passages sometimes used by some to say woman should not preach or lead, etc. has led me to see that with an understanding of context of these texts that women can indeed answer the call to lead. Yes, there are others who interrupt those passages differently. I encourage you to really dig into them – read resources, talks to people and get different points of view. Let the spirit lead you. I hope this helps and thanks for the question.

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  8. Pastor Sarah Ho

    Amen and Amen! I am the Care Pastor at our church and believe if the Lord calls me to Head Pastor a church, He will provide the means and I WILL DO AS HE CALLS. I have heard the same things from naysayers as you have and feel your heart.

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  9. S.J.W.

    Is this wrong?
    1 Timothy 2:12-14 NKJV
    12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.

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    • leannefriesen

      No…not wrong. But my study of Scripture has led me to understand this passage in its time and context. I realize you will likely disagree with my understanding of it, but of course there are many biblical texts about which people disagree. If you are interested in understanding what we call an “egalitarian” reading of this text, there are great resources online. You may still disagree with those understandings. But, as I said in my post, I no longer find it fruitful to engage in such debate. All the best to you.

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  10. annedroidannedroid

    I too am over it.
    But I’m clearly very blessed to be a female minister working full-time as a chaplain in a prison full of men. They just accept me, and don’t know that there’s any issue…
    I did have one guy say, “Can I call you Anne? Or do I have to call you Father?” which made me laugh.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Heather

      I too work as a full time chaplain in a mens prison, but I know that it is an issue for some of the men. I have had men question if their baptism is real after I baptized them. Some will not come to the chapel. Some I know just dismiss what I say. So we bring in some male volunteers for them to relate to and keep going.

      Like

  11. Kenny

    As a fellow Pastor – and the husband of a Pastor (her church is 6 miles away – they flipped their worship and sunday school hour to make it possible for her to come and worship together): Thank you!!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Lisa

    I belong to a denomination who condemns women in he ministry. Ten years ago women were first “allowed” to vote or hold a position on church council. We are not allowed to be elders, President of the congregation or make major money decisions. I am not allowed to hold a Bible study or teach adult men. My heart has always been in teaching and preaching. If I left my lifetime denomination for preaching, I would be shunned, banished and chastised. Any advice?

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    • leannefriesen

      This breaks my heart…I know that for me I had to chose a denomination that would let me serve fully…but I had the privilege of having that option available to me. It is very hard facing the consequences this would mean for you. I DO believe that if this is a call God has for you, God will make a way or give you the strength to do what you are being called to do. My advice is to pray, and pray, and pray. And ask others to pray for you. Ask God to make that call very clear. Are you in a position to attend a local bible college, seminary, or even take a course online? This is a great way to explore this tug you feel from God!! My prayer is that at some point, if this is a call, that it will be so obvious that you will be sure you can do nothing else. Bless you my sister. I will pray for you!!

      Like

  13. Liat

    THANK YOU!! I am overwhelmed with the truth you have shared! May God continue to bless your ministry and take you higher so that He may get the Glory!!

    Like

  14. Shirley Cornell

    I’ve been an ordained elder for 42 years. Very rarely had any problems because of gender. When I began a new pastorate there were times someone would leave rather than come share worship with the new pastor, but that also happens to male colleagues. Every congregation has grown and God has blessed us in abundance.

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  15. Fr. Bill White

    Who did St. Paul ordain? Phoebe. Aquila. Priscilla. Traditionally although not in the canon… Thekla.

    …and who was his sponsor? Lydia, a merchant in purple cloth. (Biblical equivalent to a ‘big Wall St. banker’.)

    Hmmm….

    Like

  16. Nathan Krampitz

    God bless you Pastor Leanne. I am blessed by your ministry, not only on Sunday but on weekdays as well as you fulfill your calling to the ministry God has called you to.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Catherine Kennelly

    Well said. Those who criticize and demonize women in ministry, especially those in the pulpit, have no idea. This is a calling. I could no more step out of ministry than I could stop breathing. One of our church members who was opposed to my leadership had the grace to seek the Lord before leaving the church. The Lord corrected him and he stayed. Be faithful to your call.

    Like

  18. Philip Brooks

    Mary Magdalene, first preacher of the Gospel and the only one who didn’t leave Jesus’ side when things got rough. If the church had been run by women like her, we wouldn’t have had the Dark Ages.

    Like

  19. Pastor Tracy Thornton

    We had a man visit our church with his wife for two weeks in a row. One Sunday, my husband preached. The next Sunday, I preached. He took the time to pen a 4-page letter telling us that no matter how skilled and eloquent of a preacher I am, I had no business being a pastor or even preaching in the pulpit. I decided to focus on the positive: even in his error, he could recognize skilled & eloquent speaking! And I continue to preach anyway! Thank you for sharing this article Pastor!

    Like

  20. Chris Dann

    I have two daughters who both are ordained, and a number of women friends in ministry, but I was brought up in a church which shunned women in ministry. For a long time I struggled with their calling, but wss encouraged to see the fruit of women’s ministry and realised if God is blessing their ministry, he has got it right.
    Recently also, someone pointed me to the passage in Luke 24 and John 20 where our Lord charged Mary Magdalene and the other women to go and tell the men one of the most important messages of the gospel, “He is risen”. Our Lord could have organised this part of his story how ever he wanted to, but he knew the women would be there and he charged them with “preaching” the first resurrection message. That’s good enough for me.

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  21. Rev. Lynne Spencer-Smith

    I would recommend to you all “The Hidden History of Women’s Ordination: Female Clergy in the Medieval West” by Gary Macy. I read it a number of years ago while on a cruise. Do I know how to relax or what?! While most other women on deck were reading “Fifty Shades of Gray” I was reading about how the church systematically and intentionally buried the early history of ordaining women. It was eye opening and call affirming.

    Like

  22. Mary Lou Dean

    I read everything. My daughter is ordained, had a pastorate forr three years, was accepted and loved. She moved to be near her adult children and their families, could not find a pastorate there, is now doing wonderful work with a healthcare firm. We need women in positions of leadership. It is happening everywhere and will only get stronger. You are leading the way to the future of the world. We appreciate your strength and commitment. God blesses your work. Love will win.

    Like

  23. Eileen Conway

    Good for you — let me share my fave story. We needed scaffolding to attend to a way-up-there difficulty in the church where I was Rector. Away I went to the scaffolding-merchant to arrange for delivery. “I’m sorry, Ma’am, this work order has to be signed by someone in authority.” “Well, that would be me.” “No, Ma’am, I’m sorry, it has to be the person IN CHARGE.” At that point I unzipped my parka, and there was my little magic collar tab. I love to remember that he took it in, clapped both hands over his eyes, reeled backward, and yelped, “AAAAHHH! Sexist assumptions! Sexist assumptions!” I thought that was a pretty decent apology, and we got on just fine after that.

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  24. Kathryn Nicole

    I understand that just keeping going is in and of itself an act of resistance, but to be, “over it,” is a privilege, and I doubt you would be writing this particular blog, if you, or we, were completely over equality for women. Personally, I will be leaving the pastorate in large part because I could no longer deal with the sexism, within, and outside of, my own Presbyterian congregation. This sexism has been so oppressive that I do not have a choice about whether to just keep going. Please know, that the choice you have is privilege. I would invite you to think more along lines of a both/and, to keep going, but also to address. Moreover, the burden of doing so shouldn’t just be on you. My church got a few great (sarcastic) FB posts the other day, saying that females in ministry were evil and that we needed to repent. I forwarded it to the elders of the church to look out just in case the guy showed up and did something in worship, and no one responded. How supportive would it have felt if one of those elders wrote a few sentence statement to go on our page about how we support women in ministry? It shouldn’t be just on you to keep preaching, working, listening to God. It is on us all, so that someday, all of us, can be, “over it.”

    Like

    • leannefriesen

      I am so sorry to hear this! Yes, we do need to keep standing up to sexism when these things happen. When I say “I’m over it” I mean this in terms of inane conversations with people at our back door, online, etc. I just don’t have time for that. But speaking up for women in our denomination and in the systems around us is important to me, and I’m sorry it wasn’t more important to the people in your life when you needed it. I hope you will find a place that embraces your call. “Both/and” is needed. Thanks for sharing and the good reminder!

      Like

    • F Baggins

      Sorry your experience has been so oppressive and dispiriting. Not what God intends, certainly not within the body.

      FWIW, I didn’t hear Leanne saying that she wouldn’t address sexism — only that she wouldn’t let it stop her from living out her calling. As you noted, the blog post and her determination not to be stopped are acts of resistance/defiance.

      I hope once you’ve had a chance to heal up, you might find a better spot to minister in, that this will only be the end of a chapter in a much longer book. A friend of mine once reminded me, “Leadership means embracing suffering.” He wasn’t wrong. Blessings —

      Like

  25. Susan

    Wonderful words. During my internship in California, a man jumped from my communion line to the pastors. And the stories continue. Thanks for your words. Like you, God has a purpose and I am going to follow God.

    Like

  26. F Baggins

    Thanks for your willingness to suffering for Jesus and those he loves. I find your example inspiring.

    I hope you’re finding allies and partners as well. There are plenty of naysayers; there seem to be no end of them. But it’s always nice to have co-workers and friends alongside.

    Like

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