Last night, I read through the latest edition of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship's newsletter/magazine. It has a very compelling and interesting article about female pastors.
I try not to get caught up in things denominational, but I find myself most closely aligned with the CBF, mainly because of their ordaining and promotion of women in ministry.
While the article is positive and informative, something jumped out at me as I read. All of the pictures taken of the featured female pastors show them in very traditional church settings. They're wearing robes and stoles. They're standing behind pulpits and dressed up. They're in front of pastoral bookshelves and stained glass windows and pews.
And while this is a beautiful and welcome sight, it's not as progressive as one might think. They need to skip a step.
Here's what I mean by that: India is the fastest growing cell phone market in the world. They didn't get there by first stringing up telephone poles and lines, making it so that each home and hut had a land line. They skipped that step and went from no connection to mobile connection.
I wish women pastors could do the same. In a world where traditional churches and denominations are shrinking and different types of faith communities are growing, in a world where faith journeys are eclectic, in a world where the word 'church' can be a turn-off, seeing women behind fancy pulpits and in pastoral robes might not be enough.
Leading a dying church does make you a leader, but it may not mean the church isn't dying.
I am hopeful - don't get me wrong. In many situations, these qualified and inspiring leaders might be just the people to get folks back through the old wooden doors and into the uncomfortable pews. But, the Christian faith in general - and how women can lead it in particular - might be hamstrung if women pastors are leading in the wrong spots.
The problem is that many emergent or subversive or alternative faith communities are outside of denominational definitions (and therefore miss out on funding). Some of the leaders of these communities have left 'traditional' church settings, and most are men.
So, CBF - let's skip a step. Let's promote women in leadership in house churches and emergent communities. Fund these conversations that are happening at coffeeshops and college campuses. And fund the qualified leaders who can get the job done, connect people to God and help them realize their hopes and dreams. Don't trap qualified leaders (men or women) in traditional settings and call it 'progress.'