More women are entering into pastoral ministries over the last 30 years. While there are some who say the position as church minister should be limited to male preachers, many congregations agree there is no distinction in the performance between a female and male minister.
Rev. Caroline Bloomfield will take up a new position as minister of Trumbull County Church after being in ministry for 30 years. She said that a lot has changed since she was attending seminary from 1974 to 1977 when only 7 percent were women. Women now account for 50 percent seminary attendance.
“Over the years we have seen a change to a whole new world. Woman today are senior pastors and people have become more and more accepting of them preaching in churches,” she said.
The Rev. Jane M. Stout, minister at Newton Falls First Christian Church for about nine years, can testify that over time having women ministers become more accepted by the congregation.
“There are still people who prefer a male clergy. However, once someone gets to know you, they often find there is no difference whether someone is male or female,” she said.
Stout said women who were in seminary in the 1970s were seen as radical feminists but now they are more accepted as someone answering the call to serve.
“This is something I have always felt I was called by God to do,” she said. “I don't feel that I have to prove myself as a woman because people accept me as a minister.”
Assemblies of God (A/G) churches openly accept women ministers, with over 17 % of ordained ministers being women. The General Secretary of the A/G, Dr. George O. Wood, said the “inclusion of women into the ministry followed exactly the same pattern used by the Early Church, as recorded in Acts”, in his essay entitled, “Exploring Why We Think The Way We Do About Women In Ministry”.
All women need is an opportunity, according to the Rev. Debby Dockstader, minister for both the First Presbyterian Church in Girard and the Southside Presbyterian Church in Niles. She was the second woman in her Presbytery to be ordained as minister.
“Once I was given a chance, people saw that a woman could preach and the roof didn't fall in,” she said.
The Rev. Jane Ann Clarke of Newton Falls United Methodist Church is thankful for women pioneers into ministry that has allowed a clergy of 12 women to grow to hundreds 25 years later.
“There were so many women before me who cleared the way,” she said, even noting that women now also serve as bishops, which was unheard of 25 years ago.
Some women ministers believe the focus shouldn’t be on gender but on serving God and the church.
“I feel blessed to be able to serve people and watch them grow in their faith. I hope that I have helped people and churches see that gender is not an issue,” Stout said.