LIVED EXPERIENCE of FEMALE FREE METHODIST PASTORS
The Study Commission on Doctrine commissioned the creation of this film in order to allow all of us to experience the struggles of female pastors. Though each of the many women who shepherd our churches, including the five pastors in this film, would gladly give moving stories of God’s grace within their ministries, the fact is that it is difficult for our women. Just as in other professions where women experience bias due to the curse of patriarchy explained in Genesis 3:16, this same result of the fall permeates the very church God intended to be His instrument of healing the effects of sin.
Free Methodists have clearly established our conviction that in the church there is no distinction between male and female and that both are gifted to shepherd the church, we have found that we need to speak to the heart as well as the mind. When in the late 1800’s our founder, B.T. Roberts wrote the book on Ordaining Women (also in Spanish) and gave a clear explanation looking at Scripture, Tradition and Reason, he sadly found that the church was not ready to follow his leadership. It was not until the middle of the 20th century that the church he founded joined him in this vision given by God and began ordaining women. But now in the 21st century we still make it hard on the women God has called. Perhaps we do it in more subtle ways now such that we do not forbid them from being ordained, but these subtle, and even not so subtle forms of bias, harm these courageous women as well as harm the church as a whole.
The leadership of the church throughout the nation, from Bishops to Superintendents to pastors, funded the making of this film based on the doctoral dissertation of the Rev. Dr. Roberta Mosier-Peterson. We present this cinematic experience so that, in some small way, we might all experience what they have lived and in so doing pray and work for the flourishing of these called and committed leaders.
Discussion questions that are for everyone:
Have you ever been told, “I just don’t get you” or “you are not really the person we are looking for” by co-workers, potential employers, or bosses? How did it make you feel?
Discuss how you felt when a person in authority over you made a joke or used humor to insult or shame you.
Discuss which Bible translation you prefer. What criteria do you use in this decision? Have you ever considered how others respond to things such as exclusive language used in Bible translations or exclusively masculine language used for church leaders? Now that you have considered this, are you will to change your behavior?
Discussion questions for male pastors:
Share about a time when you asked a female peer in ministry to share her story. Did you listen without interrupting and becoming defensive?
Consider praying for fresh ears to humbly hear things such as exclusive language and humor that insults when for what it is (hurtful) and share with others your awareness and steps you are taking in order to be more loving toward your female colleagues.
Are there women for whom you need to become an advocate? Are there broken relationships that need healing?
Discussion questions for those in authority over women:
Consider who the women are in your charge that needs support, mentoring, and resourcing. Are there gifted women you could ask to lead in your church or conference? Who are the women you need to invite to speak at your next conference training day, retreat, camp, workshop, or class?
What are ways you can use your influence and access to champion gifted women into positions that they are qualified for and called to?
Discussion questions for women in ministry:
Tell those around you your story. If it feels impossible or like there is no one who will listen, pray for boldness and strength and for direction about how and with whom to share.
Who are the people who can support you and mentor you? What are steps you can take to cultivate a strong and broad network of support?