Lead Women Pastors

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In recent decades, women have opened new doors in traditionally male-dominated worlds of business, politics, and religion. Women now outnumber men in seminaries of many denominations. But there are still often obstacles for women pastors. Kim Riemland reports.    

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(Locator: El Paso, Texas)

On Sunday mornings, 1,100 people come to St. Mark’s United Methodist in El Paso, Texas. Associate pastor Felicia Hopkins remembers how this church has grown since her arrival 10 years ago.

The Rev. Felicia Hopkins, St. Mark’s United Methodist Church: “We had 17 people who would come and half of them were in the band. First time I got up to preach I was thinking, ‘This is not looking too good.’ You go to seminary, you do all this stuff, you come here and you don’t want to preach to 17 people. We would pray every week that people would come.”

St. Mark’s has grown into one of the largest and most diverse United Methodist churches in Texas.

(Hopkins preaching) “So when Satan comes up against you, you gotta remember God has this role for you.”

More than 50 years ago, United Methodist women were given full clergy rights. Since then, they have continued to break new ground…including the recent election of Africa’s first female bishop.

(Woman preaching) “How can we who died to sin go on living in it?”

Despite that progress, female pastors will tell you acceptance hasn’t always come easily.

The Rev. Barbara Galloway-Edgar, Coker United Methodist Church: “We have scriptural references which challenge the authority of women. We do not have similar kinds of boundaries for women who are engineers and at the top of major engineering firms or ways that people might challenge even a political candidate.”

(Locator: Ankeny, Iowa)

Co-pastors Bob and Martha Ward have a subtle way of letting congregants know they are equal in ministry.

The Rev. Martha Ward, Ankeny First United Methodist: “I always get the larger office. My name is first on the letterhead. When we divide up our responsibilities, I always take things like the finance committee. He’ll take things like education where there might be a gender stereotype.”

Some say a stereotype can translate into a strength in the unique way that women relate.

The Rev. Julia Price, Wenatchee First United Methodist: “You’re more likely to find me down on the floor talking to some of the children in the church. So, I guess from that aspect I’m more nurturing.”

Bishop Jane Allen Middleton, Central Pennsylvania Conference: “We aren’t just men in skirts. We have our own styles. We have another way of looking at the world. And…we have changed the church.”


The United Methodist General Board of Higher Education and Ministry has initiated a study on how clergywomen are redefining leadership expectations.

For more information on the Lead Women Pastors Project call HiRho Park at 615-340-7409.

For more information on opportunities for women in the United Methodist Church, visit the Web site for The General Commission on the Status and Role of Women.

Also, see: Clergywomen break new ground in large churches

Posted: Feb. 25, 2009