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Letter to the Editor: Experienced Clergy Women Need Not Apply

Letter to the Editor: Experienced Clergy Women Need Not Apply

I am a woman priest, 28 years post ordination.  I have more than 20 years of parish experience, mostly serving small, struggling parishes that have been victims of clergy misconduct.  I have a PhD in Practical Theology, with a concentration in Spirituality.  I have 4 books published.  In addition, I am a spiritual director, have worked as a congregational consultant, and long-time trainer in the Education for Ministry program.  In a church in which there is a trumpeted scarcity of priests, more experience should stand me in good stead, but actually I cannot find a permanent position.


Lest you think that I am somehow the problem: let me assure you that every time I have mentioned this publicly, I have had other experienced women priests come to me, usually privately, to admit they are the same situation.  I know scores of experienced women priests who have left employment in the Episcopal Church for that very reason.  Experience and age are major handicaps in women being called to any position in the Episcopal Church in any part of the church.  I can testify to that as I have applied for all kinds of positions across the church.


Last spring, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry visited our diocese and came to our clergy conference.  During an open question and answer session with him, I told him of my experience and that of many other women.  I mentioned that I had been in a search that had been terminated because allegations were made against one of the favored candidates, and rather than deal with the problem, those in charge decided to cast aspersions on the lack of qualifications of all the candidates and cancel the search to protect the accused person.  I asked him what hope he, as Presiding Bishop, could give to me and other women who had given our lives to this ministry and could not find jobs.  There was a long silence, before he responded, and his response was to tell us to endure our oppressions as did his slave ancestors, as well as an aunt who nobody appreciated, believing that some time, after our death, the church will realize our worth.


I cannot tell you how many women clergy approached me after that session to share their stories and to indignantly proclaim that he did not answer my question.  Unfortunately, he did answer it: there is no hope in the Episcopal Church at the present.  Experienced women clergy need not apply.


The Rev. Dr. Tara K. Soughers

Interim, Church of Our Saviour, Somerset, MA


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Cynthia Katsarelis

Sadly, sexism and ageism are still highly acceptable. It’s similar in my field of orchestra conducting. It’s so odd that the Episcopal Church can be so great on LGBTQ+ acceptance (I’m a member of that community) and so poor on women’s equality. There is something about misogyny that is exceedingly difficult to crack. Our work does not carry the same value as men’s, even if we are far better at our jobs. It really stinks and I’m sorry about that the church isn’t better.

Norman Hart

My experience is that most parishes in Australia want a married man, 35 years old, 20 years experience, good with the youth and kind to the elderly. With a wife that stays at home to run the Guild and Mother’s Union, and a couple of small children to seed the Sunday school. Like everything in life, it doesn’t last. I met a few of those requirements for a few years, then my kids left primary school and my wife got a job… Many qualified men and women miss the unattainable expectations. Here in this rural diocese of 25 parishes there are only 10 that have full time clergy, all the rest are part time.
Your writer is a little like the object of tomorrow’s gospel, look at me I’m perfect but why did you choose him? Perhaps the role of a slave,is too difficult, we are called to be servants, sorry but I don’t feel much sympathy for the author of this.

Cynthia Katsarelis

Thinking Anglican linked an article that describes the situation for women in the Diocese of Sydney, it isn’t pretty.

The issue of inclusion isn’t that it’s hard for everyone and not everyone obtains their goal. Exclusion is quite different when the cause is something about your being. Men do not suffer the same physical and spiritual violence, discrimination, and exclusion that women experience. Lack of empathy for our real-world experience, as expressed by Dr. Soughers, is appalling.

I get servant ministry, but slave ministry? Slaves are routinely abused in horrific ways. That may be abstract to men, especially white men, but it isn’t abstract to women.

Joseph Rawls

Sounds like the PB dropped the ball on this one. Sad.

Tom Downs

What do you think the PB could do? Like Jeremiah he offered hope for a better day in the future. It took hundreds of years to put him where he is; generations suffered, but finally some Hope dawned. It wasn’t everything, but it was something. Isn’t this always the way when justice is denied? When I feel this way I read the Psalms and Lamentations. And then I set my mind to persevere. Justice delayed is justice denied, but it is still where we are.

Jay Croft

Mr. Downs, you may want to read Martin Luther King’s “Letter from the Birmingham Jail” and the circumstances behind it.

Jay Croft

Wow. I expect more from our PB.

Yes, I see many well and even overly-qualified women clergy stuck in interim, temporary or bottom-rung jobs.

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