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Women Clergy Subjected to Sexist Remarks, Actions

CHICAGO, IL (October 22, 2018) — A recent thread of comments on the Covenant Ministerium Facebook page revealed that while many people in the denomination enthusiastically support women in ministry, female clergy are still subjected to sexist and demeaning comments as well as inappropriate behavior.

The thread started when one pastor in the private group linked to a video posted by the North Carolina Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. In the video, male pastors read comments out loud that their female colleagues have endured and viewers see their reaction.

In response to the video, women clergy in the Covenant shared their own experiences. Several hundred comments were made on the Facebook thread and in a document where women anonymously posted about situations and comments they had received.

Many comments focus on clothing and appearance, including words and actions that constitute sexual harassment.

The Covenant officially affirms the call to ministry for all persons. Still, female clergy encounter resistance from congregants as well as people outside the church.

Another common critique comes from congregants who question whether women can or should minister to men.

Assumptions about gender roles in marriage also are evident in other statements made to clergywomen.

Some women noted assumptions that they be the ones in the office to make coffee. Some receive requests for the “real pastor” to officiate at a baptism or wedding.

Several women said they have been told not to expect equal pay to men’s since they have fewer placement opportunities.

One woman said, “Personal reactions aside, most damaging to Jesus’ church is people of faith, gifts, and resources who leave, or refuse to join, a church with a woman pastor.”

In the Facebook thread women clergy expressed deep pain, but many also noted the support they frequently receive from male colleagues. The revelations have drawn expressions of remorse, empathy, and commitments by men to do more to make sure their colleagues receive equal respect and opportunity. Covenant leaders have said the conversation will lead to further actions at the regional and national levels to strengthen support.

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