What Do You Call a Female Preacher? | UMC YoungPeople
Connecting young people and their adult leaders to God, the church, and the world
December 2014

What Do You Call a Female Preacher?

By: Elizabeth Murray

My friend, a Provisional Elder, told me that someone in her church asked her, “What do you call a female preacher?” Both of us rolled our eyes, gripped a little, and moved on with the conversation. Still today, female pastors have a hard time combating the gender biases that women face in ministry. I have heard horror stories from my female clergy friends: “Your earrings are too distracting;” “You are so cute and short;” and, “Your voice is too soft/high pitched.”

Women, both pastors and other professionals, face these kinds of criticisms all the time. The worst part is that many of these comment come from other women who should be building each other up as sisters in Christ, not tearing each other down. If women are not able to lift other women up and think of them as their pastor, how do we expect men to be able to do that? I am a feminist. When people hear the word “feminist” some think of crazy, man-hating, bra-burning women. Really, feminism is just the idea that men and women are equal and that they should be treated equally. Does feminism have a place in the church? What does equality for male and female clergy look like in the church? How do we combat sexism in the church?

The fact that it is 2014 and there are many churches that have never had a female voice in the pulpit also affects young women. There are young women who have not heard females preach before, or who do not know female clergy. There are women who are experiencing calls to ministry are told that they are wrong, or that they cannot lead congregations. I think that feminism does have a place in the church. If all people are of sacred worth, both men and women should be of the equal worth in the pulpit or in leadership roles. What equality could look like is women would not be stressed with what they wear on a Sunday morning in case they get sexual comments. Equality means that little girls will know that women have the capability to be preachers when they grow up. Such equality will not come if we stop talking about feminism or gender issues.

This topic needs to be discussed by both genders, by a variety of races, ethnicities, and ages. Women clergy are here to stay. So what do you call a female preacher? Answer: a preacher.

Discussion Questions: How have you personally witnessed the gifts God for ministry God has given to women?

See more devotions from Elizabeth and our other Young Adult writers, or find our how you can become a writer yourself at our By Young Adults for Young Adults devotion page.