From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Women who pastor large churches meet for first time
02 Oct 1998 12:36:34
Oct. 2, 1998 Contact: Linda Green*(615)742-5470*Nashville, Tenn.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - For the first time, United Methodist
clergywomen who pastor large churches have come together to explore a
multitude of issues that arise from providing leadership in settings
where no women have been before.
As the third generation of clergywomen in the United Methodist Church
approaches, about 44 women who pastor large congregations gathered Sept.
21-23 to discuss the dynamics and gender issues that apply to women in
leadership roles. Regular worship attendance at the women's churches is
at least 350 people. The congregations range in membership from 548 to
The Rev. Elizabeth Lopez Spence, chairwoman of the women lead pastor's
gathering, said the terms "lead pastor" and "senior pastor" were coined
by churches that have 600 to 2,300 members and more than one ordained
person on staff.
During the meeting, the clergywomen networked and discussed what it
means to be a pastor and a woman. They also heard lectures and
participated in discussions and exercises about skill, staffing,
fundraising, relationships, administration and the challenges that arise
while providing leadership to a church that has never had a woman
According to Spence, women lead pastors differ from male senior pastors
because "we bring a relational aspect into the local church that men
would not normally bring because we pay attention to who our support
"We have to be different," she said. "As women lead pastors or senior
pastors, we have to set the model and an example in taking care of
ourselves because we've watched our male colleagues kill themselves."
If women lead pastors can begin to model something different, a sense of
healing and wholeness may be brought to the denomination which
"desperately needs it," Spence said.
"The movement of women into leadership is the most important thing
happening in Protestant denominations in the 20th century," said the
Rev. Barbara Brown Zikmund, president of Hartford Seminary, an
interdenominational institution in Hartford, Conn. A minister in the
United Churches of Christ since 1964, Zikmund gave the keynote
For centuries, she said, "clergy were male and no one thought much about
it. In recent decades, the situation has changed, and today more women
are serving as pastors and clergy leaders in Protestant churches."
Zikmund also told the United Methodist clergywomen that one of the most
significant changes in church life in the 20th century has been the
movement of ordained women into recognized settings of ministry in
Also known as a historian, Zikmund provided statistics on clergywomen in
various denominations and stated that the United Methodist Church has
the highest number of ordained clergywomen, followed by the United
Churches of Christ and the Assemblies of God.
In 1910, she said, 685 women were identified by the U.S. Census as
clergy. The number climbed to 1,787 in 1920 and 6,824 by 1950. In
1994, there were more than 3,000 clergywomen in the United Methodist
Church, 1,843 in the United Churches of Christ and 1,574 in the
Assemblies of God.
Today, there are about 4,500 ordained clergywomen, including those
moving toward receiving elders orders in the denominations, according to
the Rev. Lynn Scott, director of continuing education for ministry at
the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry. Of those,
she said, 75 to 80 are senior pastors or lead a congregation that has
350 or more in worship regularly.
Included in her message about leadership styles, Zikmund focused on a
study and research project about clergywomen in mainstream
denominations. The results of the study are published in a book Zikmund
co-authored called Clergywomen: An Uphill Calling.
Clergywomen are reclaiming ministry or recreating ministry, she said.
"Things that were never before called ministry are being called ministry
Churches need effective leadership styles just as the corporate world
does, she said. Today, in some churches, there is a movement from the
traditional authoritative style to transformational or working
collegially, she said. Clergywomen especially are caught up in what
leadership style to use in their congregations.
"Clergy find the dilemma in how they want to lead and what the laity
expect," she said.
Zikmund said the leadership style that is promoted as the preferred
pastoral style is "sharing-ministry," when decision making and power is
shared with the lay members. It is theologically justified and is the
style expected by "educated lay members," she said.
The sharing ministry style is also supported because it is an effective
way for pastors to develop and maintain congregational vitality, she
Using the findings of her study, she said research shows that when
pastors have a genuine collegial style of ministry, the mission and
outreach of the local congregation flourishes.
The leadership style often associated with women is known as
transformational, she said. This style is interactive, collaborative
and democratic. She said the more traditional style of leadership
emphasizes power over things and people. It is described as
transactional, with a command and control style.
Zikmund said women prefer the transformational approach because it is
seen as more conducive to staff motivation, creativity and productivity.
For the Rev. Alfreda Wiggins, pastor of the 600-member John Wesley
United Methodist Church in Baltimore, the gathering was an opportunity
to network with other female pastors of large congregations across the
Wiggins said she wanted to gain insight into some shared concerns that
cross racial and ethnic lines.
"As an African American clergywoman, I've discovered that many of the
problems that exist for female clergy in general are the same regardless
of ethnicity," she said.
The whole issue of being the first woman pastor in any congregation and
being accepted from the perspective of having the same skills and
training as male colleagues is a commonality most clergywomen
experience, she said.
The Rev. Marilyn Spurrell, pastor of 1,050-member First United Methodist
Church, Brookings, S.D., said she came to the gathering to connect with
other women serving as lead or co-pastors of large membership churches.
She also was seeking new ideas for enhancing her ministry.
"I graduated from seminary 22 years ago," she said, "and wanted to see
and hear what ministry is being done by women and to problem-solve
# # #
United Methodist News Service
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