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Clergy study to explore gender, race

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By Melissa Lauber

 A key ingredient to ensuring that all the pastors of the Baltimore-Washington Conference are able to flourish in ministry, is knowing their stories and the systemic challenges they face because of gender and race.

 A new conference-wide survey, to be released Jan. 10 by the Board of Ordained Ministry, will collect data and anecdotes from all of the conference clergy, active and retired, which explores how issues of race and gender impact their call, candidacy process, how their authority is recognized, and the way they live out their ministry, said the Rev. Amy McCullough, the BOOM Chair.  

 The survey is an informal follow-up to a 2004-2005 survey by the Conference Commission on the Status and Role of Women, which revealed a “stained-glass ceiling” exists for clergywomen. “The survey’s results help us see that sexism hinders of the ability of women to be effective disciplining pastors,” Bishop John Schol said in 2007.

 At that time, while retention rates between male and female clergy were similar, women were found to earn less than their male counterparts. According to the survey, “one out of three clergymen earned more than $50,000 a year, while only 21 percent of clergywomen reported the same. Eighteen percent of clergymen and only six percent of clergywomen earned more than $70,000.

 A report by the denomination’s Commission and Status and Role of Women indicates that the wage difference between men and women clergy in the Baltimore-Washington Conference has shrunk over the years. In 2020, the average fulltime BWC clergywoman earned an annual total compensation of $80,179; while their male counterparts earned $81,613.

 However, the scope of the new survey is designed to be broader than pay and retention issues, exploring some of the subtle differences in how men and women might experience ministry.

 More importantly, McCullough said, the current survey will include questions about race, ethnicity and the ministry.

 As soon as the Board of Ordained Ministry team started designing the ministry study, they “very quickly decided to add race to the conversation because we didn’t feel like we could separate out different pieces of people’s identities,” McCullough said. “Both race and gender are issues where a person may experience their full personhood not being welcome.”

 Acknowledging these intersections in people’s identities will assist the board as they seek to draw out and hear experiences that have not yet fully been seen or heard. One of the survey’s questions relates to “where in your ministry has your race, or gender, or age, or life experience impacted how you’ve been received by a church — in good and bad ways?”

 “We’re excited to hear about that,” McCullough said. “We want to find out more about how we can we help you flourish better in ministry. Fully flourishing means we’re all doing what God calls us do,” she said. “How are you flourishing and how can the Board help you be able to serve in all the fullness of who God has created you to be?”

 The study is divided into three parts. The first is the survey, which takes about 20 minutes to complete. BOOM leaders hope to receive 100 percent participation in the days between Jan. 10 and Feb. 15.  The survey will be distributed by email. All clergy should look for an email from the BWC Board of Ordained Ministry landing in their inbox on Monday, Jan. 10.

 The second part is an interview, conducted in person or by Zoom, which goes deeper into ministry issues and how they intersect with gender and race. “We’d love to hear people’s stories of how God has worked in their ministry, where they’ve experience challenges and conquered them and the gaps between their hopes and experiences,” McCullough said. People wishing to be interviewed, can express this interest on the survey.

 The third part, to be conducted later this year, will include conversations with lay people. The researchers hope to conduct interviews with staff-parish relations committees.

 The study’s initial findings are expected to be shared at the annual conference session in June.

 Serving as members of the study’s design team are McCullough, Debby Haskins, Jan Taylor, and the Revs. HiRho Park, Monica Raines, Jason Gordan Griffith, Yolanda Pupo-Ortiz, and Lena Dennis .  Dr. Janet Stocks is the chief researcher. Holding a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Stocks has worked extensively as an educator, high education administrator, and social sciences researcher. Her past experiences include both quantitative and qualitative projects, leading a team of researchers, and experience with gender-focused studies. 

 “Racism and sexism are still a part of our broken world,” McCullough said. “We hope this study provides a forum, a space, where people can tell their stories of resilience, creativity, flourishing and struggle. We hope this study opens up new avenues for us. We are always on a journey to deeper wholeness.”

Jean Weller, retired Jan 10, 2022 12:48pm

Thank you for doing this survey. Recognizing one's call to Elder in Parish Ministry and accepting that those who hear God's call do not always come in a "neat package", is one thing that BOOM may discover has not always been honored, encouraged, or accepted as a "Real Call". Age, gender, and even appearance have been used to discriminate against those who have ministered successfully in Provisional Ministry. What are the standard criteria used to discern someone else's call? This happened over 15 years ago. I believe that in the past few years BOOM has become so much more "Grace-filled" since "the men" were running the Committee.