For my Women in American Religion class, I am reading from In Our Own Voices edited by Rosemary Keller and Rosemary Ruether. In a chapter on Women’s Ordination, they include a document from the New York Times in 1947 when the PCUSA voted to ordain women clergy. Strange that in some circles, arguments almost verbatim to these words written sixty years ago are still being made:
“Let me first present the main reasons advanced against women in the ordained ministry. The first is a matter of women’s emotional balance, which many feel is not as stable as men’s... Now the pulpit has lived through a century of over-emotionalism, say the folks who feel that today restrained and accurate teaching is desperately needed. The world sits on a powder keg, and not sparks but sober and judicial advice is needed. This they feel, by and large, and with exceptions, men can better deliver…
“… what about the young married pastor and her children? Must the church be closed for three months for a number of years while the pastor gets her own little flock? Or will the vows of celibacy be ordered as in the Church of Rome? Even birth control has not been developed enough to synchronize births with the summer vacation.
“Others think that there is a feminine overbalance in the average congregation now. They feel that women pastors would so feminize the church that men would frequent it in even smaller numbers. Women will listen to men ‘tell them off’ for their sins, but men will not seriously do the same for women…”
The author of the NY Times article (Lyman Richard Hartley) then moves to represent arguments for women in ministry, including this one:
“There is a strong point made by those who say that God combines the virtues of both mother and father. It might be that a woman could better depict the former. Just as in the home the balance of family influence is disturbed by removal of either mother or father, the church may be lacking that balanced ministry…”
And I’ll conclude with these encouraging words, given the progress of history since he penned them:
“I have tried to express the opinions of both sides as judicially as possible. I cannot keep a gleam of humor out of my eye when I speak for the negative. I feel that women get what they want, given time, and will get the privilege of the pulpit and the pastorate in the Presbyterian Church as they got the vote in the affairs of the nation.”