Women now 1 of 4 UMC clergy in U.S.

Despite a slight decline in the number of United Methodist clergy in the U.S., the percentage of women is growing. clergy gender

As of 2011, the most recent figures available, women were 25 percent of U.S. UMC clergy. Some of the local percentages were much higher — in 10 of the 56 annual conferences studied, women were at least a third of all clergy, according to an analysis by the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women.

A complete report, including charts, graphics and a listing of each annual conference’s numbers, can be found in this month’s “Women by the Numbers” feature posted on the GCSRW website.




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  1. John J. Shaffer

    It has been a long time coming. Individuals fought this development just as bitterly as they are fighting for the full inclusion of persons with a different sexual orientation. One General Conference spent portions of three days debating whether or not to ordain women, including Anna Howard Shaw.

    There are Bible verses for the literalists who ignore that in Christ there is “neither male or female”. There are still churches which have members who stop attending the minute it is announced that a woman clergyperson is headed their way and this is in the 2lst century in The United States of America.

    In truth, there are good women preachers and there are not so good woman preachers. The same is true of male preachers. I would rather have a good woman preacher than a bad man preacher. It is interesting how literalists get all tied up in knots over this issue.

    There are several cases where fundamentalist churches have sent women into dangerous situations to establish the gospel and then when it is seen to be save, the men come in and declare that only men can be preachers and the women are second-class leaders in those situations or sent elsewhere.

    The church must change from time to time or become stagnant.

    1. Jason

      You are still saying you would rather have a male pastor than a female pastor because a good female pastor aganst a bad male pastor is a cop-out. But you are correct: one female pastor I know had people not come back to the church because she is a woman and she can preach the Gospel and pastor as good as any man and often better. It is too bad, though, that it has to be a competition. A pastor leading a flock still is a pastor.

  2. Walt Pryor

    Headed in in the right direction!

  3. Barbara Dadd Shaffer

    The numbers used in the article are accurate but not the full picture. The numbers are the ones reported by the conferences to GCFA by the conference secretary each year. That form does not differentiate between active and retired clergy. The retired clergy are overwhelmingly male, which is not a surprise considering their age (UMC clergy tend to have long lives) and the very, very few female clergy in that age coterie.

    When the statistics in our conference are re-worked to include only the active clergy, more than half are female.

    The GCFA form does not collect this data about persons under appointment and assignment but not ordained. There are a significant number of women serving in this relationship.

    How do I know this? My husband was the conference secretary last quadrennium. I assisted him by compiling the data for the GCFA form. My own curiosity led me to also resort the data for the active clergy. Imagine my pleasant surprise when the percentage of women clergy was so high.

  4. Mary Ellen

    An incomplete picture – how many are bishops? How about compensation figures, senior pastors, and size of church assignment!

  5. Jason

    There is still a matter of respect from inside the church and from the outside UMC world. A male pastor walks in and there seems to be this immediate…ahhhh. A female pastor walks in and the folks shrug their shoulders like “whatever.” There are still people in congregations that either leave the church or do not take the female pastor seriously. Also, large member churches still are appointed men unless it is a losing member or dying larger church. Yet, praise God for the UMC for being progressive enough and ordaining and local pastoring women.

  6. John J. Shaffer

    I do not see how I am saying that at all, but it is are theoritical, as I have never been in a church with a female pastor. In one situation, I attempted to prepare the congregation for a female pastor and think i did a good job, but the cabinet surprised me and sent another male pastor.

    But in another church, I prepared the congregation for a female pastor and when she came, I was surprised at one family that left for awhile.

    When my time comes, I will be “open and accepting”.

    I have resonated to the suggestion that Jesus or Paul would be rejected by many congregations. Can’t you hear it now: “Did you hear that our new pastor spent time in prison?” After 51 years in ministry, I think any pastor who has been truly faithful to the gospel would have spent some time in jail. Sadly, I never made it. After protesting the Vietnam War in various ways, I even checked my FBI file and again was disappointed that my behavior never rose to the point of getting into their files.

  7. J D Allen

    Female pastors will not save the UMC. We’ve been declining for 40 years despite the influx of women. Worldliness, heresy, and liberalism are ruining us. At the current rate most of our churches will have female pastors about the time most of our churches close down. What a gain!

  8. Maximus Anglicanus: The Old High Churchman

    I prefer a male pastor.

  9. RevJenny

    I would like to see more information about salary discrepancy, women in church plants, and women in large church leadership.

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