Over the next few weeks we’ll feature a series of responses to Lenore Knight Johnson’s study, “Four Decades Later: Credentialed Clergywomen in the ECC.” We begin the series with a letter issued June 12, 1989, from the Board of the Ministry, responding to the ten-year study conducted by Mary Miller. The letter was written by Jean Lambert on behalf of the Board, and is reprinted in Kelly Johnston’s article, “Jean C. Lambert: Covenant Pastor, Theologian, Pioneer,” pp. 16-19.
An open letter to each woman seeking to obey Christ’s call to ministry in the Covenant Church, both volunteer lay workers in local congregations, and pastors, missionaries, and staff ministers.
We have been thinking together about the situation of women and men in ministry in the Covenant Church, and we want first to affirm some convictions, and then offer some interpretation we think important.
- We are committed to an inclusive ministry in pilgrimage toward a whole church.
- We care about you. We value your commitment to Christ, respect your willingness to study and prepare for ministry, desire to be your colleagues.
- We hear your pain and respect your anger, as we heard it expressed by some of you in Mary Miller’s report of your responses to her questionnaire, published in the Covenant Quarterly.
- We are distressed by the continuing atmosphere of coolness or hostility encountered by all too many women who hold positions of leadership throughout the Covenant church.
- We do not claim complete understanding of the sexism that is one of the dominant evils in our society, yet we are committed to learning what it is, how it affects women and men, how it distorts our common life in Christ; we are committed to repenting of sexism so the Spirit of God can transform us. And,
- As part of our ongoing work in a church always being reformed by God’s Spirit, a church growing more whole as we believe Christ intends, we urge you to join us in considering some “facts of life” we believe affect our common life in church work: the search for a call, the consideration of volunteer possibilities, the selection or interview process, entering into work, how one is received, how one perceives oneself in ministry, how we respond to situations of frustration, conflict, and fulfillment. We think putting these facts into open conversation will help us all be stronger, saner, and more faithful.
Fact 1: American society is sexist, specifically masculinist. (It is also racist, ageist, classist…but we aren’t addressing all of that here!) Though we do not understand it fully, it is clear that sexism is both a psycho/cultural bias and complex of social institutions. It operates largely unconsciously, though its “symptoms” may be observed by the seeing eye. This complex reality – sexism – is based on an ancient intuition that the biological differences between men and women are a natural and revealed “message” about superiority/inferiority, value and worthlessness, competence/incompetence, appropriateness/inappropriateness.
To say our society is “sexist” has implications on three levels: Continue Reading