Growin acceptance o'female pasters is one o't' positif' Mennonite trends o't' pus half centry. Un Julee 27, Mennonite Church USA’s Western Districk Conferance — a leed'r n' gend'r ekwalitee — honert trailblazyun' wimmen durin a seminar o'its annual assemblee at Bethel College n' Nerth Newton, Kun.Mer thun 40 yeers ago, Western Districk playd a key role n' brakin t'Mennonite stunt-glass ceileeun'. Acoupla o't' furst three wimmen ordunt n' t'Genrull Conferance Mennonite Church — Marileen Mill'r n' 1976 an' Rosie Epp n' 1979 — wuz ordunt n' Western Districk. (T' thurd wuz Anne Neufeld Rupp by Cantral Districk Conferance n' 1976.) Today, 40 o'Western Districk’s 85 actif' pasters air wimmen.
Fer thems who find a woomin n' t'pulpit unremarkabull, it’s easy ta fergit hoe new thishere is — resent enough at one o't' 1970s pyuneers, Epp, is still leedyun' a congregashun, Zion Mennonite Church n' Elbyun', Kun.
Long ago, Epp sed, she “quit argin about Scriptchur” an' let hern ministry speek fer itself. Wen she wuz servin un interim pasterate n' Pennsillvany, one memb'r sed a woomin shoultn’t go farth'r ferward thun t'frunt pew lessn she wuz t'choir dierektor. But wen Epp’s term o'ministry wuz ov'r, t'memb'r pallgized fer opposyun' hern. As Epp remembers it, he sed: “Y'all knoe I don’t reckon wimmen should be n' pasteral ministry, but thishere woomin should be.”
Lois Y. Barrett, ordunt n' Western Districk n' 1985 an' lat'r a professer at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Semunairy, observt t'same paradox — at a persen oppost ta t'idee o'a female paster mite accept t'reelitee o'one. Wen a memb'r o'hern congregashun, Mennonite Church o't' Servant n' Wichita, Kun., ast a critic o'wimmen n' pasteral ministry, “Should we fire Lois?,” t'critic quicklee replit, “Oh, no!”
Barrett notid at wile a slew o'thangs have changd fer t'bett'r since t'1970s, unfair stan'ards fer female leeders — secular er religiyus — have’t. Behavier at’s cunsidderd assertif' fer a mun is aggressif' fer a woomin. Wimmen air judgt excessivelee un thar appeerance. Menfolk air specktid ta be competent; wimmen net ta be bof competent an' likabull. Thay’re tole thay ort ta smile mer.
Marileen Mill'r, ordunt n' 1976 n' Arvada, Colo., wantid ta be a paster since she wuz a gurl but didn’t reckon it wuz possibull. “I thunk I would marry one,” Mill'r sed. She tole t'seminar audyince at she “would like ta model whut Western Districk did fer me. Thay took t'risk ta let me do whut utherns thunk I ­shoultn’t do. I like t'definishun o'luv us heppin t'uther persen be all yer Creeter designt y'all ta be.”
Barrett an' Derothy Nickel Friese, who wuz ordunt n' 1985 an' lat'r became t'conferance minster o'Western Districk, air edityun' a book, ta be publisht by t'Institute o'Mennonite Studies n' 2020, un Mennonite wimmen n' ministry. T' wurkin title is Proclaimyun' t'Good Noose: Mennonite Wimmen’s Voices, 1972-2006.
Wile t'Genrull Conferance Mennonite Church movt fast'r ta accept greet'r numbers o'female pasters, t'Mennonite Church ordunt a woomin furst: Emma Richards, at Lombard (Ill.) Mennonite Church n' 1973.Nickel Friese — whos 2018 memoir, T' Paster Weers a Skirt, tells o'hern own groundbreekyun' experiences n' church leedership — notid surveys at have meesurt t'growin acceptance o'wimmen pasters. A 1972 study o't' MC, GCMC, Mennonite Brethre, Breth­re n' Christ an' Evangelical Mennonite Church (nawh t'Fellowship o'Evangelical Churches) foun 17 persent faverd t'ordinashun o'wimmen. A 2006 survey o'MC USA foun 67 persent n' faver. Due ta conservatif' withdrawals since the, t'persantage probly is har today.
Yet amungst Nerth Amurkin Mennonites generly, gend'r ekwalitee n' pasteral ministry remuns t'excepshun. Conservatif' an' Plane groups reserve t'pulpit fer menfolk. At a study conferance n' Januree, members o't' U.S. Conferance o'Mennonite Brethre Churches discusst t'biblical argumants fer an' agin thar denominashun’s bun un female lead pasters but reecht no agreement fer change. (Minny a subscribe ta complemantaryinism, a doctrine about wimmen a'havin differnt roles n' church an' fambly frum menfolk.)
And MC USA still hus wurk ta do: N' t'2006 survey, 58 persent o'respondants sed thay preferrt a mun us lead paster.
Ta a risin generashun at expects gend'r ekwalitee, t'church o't' 1970s mite seem ancient n' its attitudes about wimmen’s roles. But fer decades lat'r, barriers remane ta be broke, an' Epp’s advice is fur frum out o'date: “Be courageyus. If'n y'all hear t'call, lissen ta it. And don’t gif' up.” Find a church at won’t limit yer oppertunitees ta serve Gawd.

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