As a woman priest, I’m tired of a political battle that distracts from the gospel.
Rick Warren’s Saddleback church recently made headlines by ordaining three female leaders. I was grateful to see these women recognized and lent both the public authority and institutional accountability that comes from ordination. But when I read the news, I also thought with a heavy sigh, “Oh, here we go again.” I knew the debate about women’s roles in the church would dominate conversation all week, and I could already predict the rutted arguments I’d hear recited over and over.
Here’s an open secret: You know who hates talking about women’s ordination? Female pastors. Not all of us, of course. Some women have a special unction to debate this topic, and honestly, more power to them.
But the reality is that few of us become pastors in order to talk about women’s ordination. We get ordained because the gospel has captured our imaginations. We get ordained to witness to the beauty and truth of Jesus. We get ordained to serve the church in the ministry of Word and sacrament. (And, for the record, don’t get ordained for any “cause” other than the ministry of Word and sacrament. Nothing else is worth it.)
I wasn’t always in favor of women’s ordination. Until my 30s, I was a so-called soft complementarian. But I was also a woman in ministry. People in my church assumed that I’d eventually marry a pastor (as an unofficial way “in” to vocational ministry for laywomen). I interned at a Southern Baptist church in its youth group and a PCA church in “mercy ministries,” working among immigrants, the homeless, and the poor. Then I went to seminary, discovered I loved and had a knack for theological study, and eventually worked …