No Longer Jew or Greek

When I entered the ministry in the early 80’s, about half the group that was ordained that year were women. This was a major shift going on in the United Methodist Church. The Church was shifting from a clergy men’s club (and mostly a white men’s club) to a more inclusive group of leaders. I cannot imagine life as it had been. My life has been enriched by clergy women friends who have been supportive of me and taught me a great deal. I hope that I have done the same.
I still remember a conversation that I had with a leader of the first church I served. I was moving on after serving that congregation for five years. This church leader was telling me why it would be terrible for the Bishop to appoint a woman as their next pastor. He said to me, “You have to understand that we had a woman pastor once and it didn’t work out.” This church was over 120 years old. They had had dozens of incompetent male pastors over the years including one who had been arrested at the parsonage for child molestation. But all that he could remember was one female pastor who didn’t work out. Whatever that means.
I have heard the stories … of the battles and the sexism that my clergy sisters have had to fight. Great progress has been made. And yet I know that the expectations and the struggles are still very real. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Church in Galatia, There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Paul is taking some of the biggest divisions of the day and saying they are no longer acceptable ways of dividing people and keeping some out. We are one in Christ.
Women were Jesus’ traveling companions and greatest supporters. They followed him to the cross and were the first witnesses to the resurrection. Luke reports that the male disciples received these first reports of the resurrection coming from women as idle tales. Women were not considered reliable witnesses.
So you see, progress has been made and yet much of the same struggle continues today. Equal pay for equal work, freedom of choice, sexual harassment, abuse, trafficking, etc. have all ignited a renewed women’s movement. Some very bad behavior from men in positions of power have been fuel for the fire. These are some of the things we will talk about on Sunday as we continue our conversation on the document called Reclaiming Jesus.