Anonymous blog post
Years ago, I was part of a cohort being trained to be coaches for pastors. I was the only woman pastor in a cohort of about 8. During one of the sessions, each of us was assigned a partner with whom we would do the homework for the next session. My partner and I weren't able to meet to do the assignment before the next session but at that session, he raised an issue that is an example of the kind of resistance & fear I've encountered as a woman pastor in a mostly male vocation.
My partner was surprised that his wife was upset by the mere idea that he had been paired with a woman for the assignment. He loves & respects his wife but was at a complete loss for how to handle her discomfort with him working with a female colleague. I was glad that he brought it up for discussion with the rest of the cohort and our instructor, but I was also uncomfortable that it had even been an issue, especially since he and I failed to do the assignment together. I was also uncomfortable being the only woman present to address the issue. I didn't want to make it personal and criticize his wife, but I also didn't feel comfortable sharing how I felt.
I'm happily married and have never had a problem with the wives of other pastors whom I've actually worked with, each for several years. My first thought after an initial flush of annoyance was—why would my partner's wife assume that anything inappropriate would occur between her husband and me? As if!
Another time a member of my church, who had been so grateful that I had been willing to meet with her husband to help get him to address a serious addiction, came to believe that her husband and I were having an affair because her husband had gotten so upset when our senior pastor decided that he should meet with him instead of me. I was completely blind-sided and even insulted. Did she distrust me after she was the one who wanted me to meet with her husband because she thought he would listen to me? Did she think I would be unfaithful to my own husband? Again, as if!
I'm still at somewhat of a loss for how to respond to the fears of women like this. It's not enough to just say it's their own insecurities and I didn't do anything wrong or unprofessional. I don't want to dismiss their fears, yet at the same time, I don't want to feel like I have to defend myself against other people's feelings and unfounded fears.
I'd like to hear what other women pastors think and how they've handled similar situations themselves. I've been blessed to work with several male senior pastors who have been very supportive of my call to pastoral ministry. Unfortunately, it has been other women and men who say they support women in ministry—as long as they're not the lead pastor—who have made it difficult for me as a pastor.
We’d also like to hear how you’ve handled these situations. At AWL, we don’t subscribe to the idea that women and men can’t counsel, teach, and support one another one-on-one. We don’t believe they can’t be friends and colleagues. We DO believe we can all treat one another as images of God and siblings in Christ. We can do this for suspicious spouses, too! But how, without compromising our call to minister to everyone? It’s an excellent question.