Joel Bullock put this video up on facebook and it made me cry and it made me laugh. I have had conversations like this…conversations where the deer-in-the-headlights of the questioner is around the issue that someone can’t get over the fact that I am a woman pastor.
I remember one experience. A man came into the office asking for help. He was wearing a polyester muscle-man shirt, with his arms showing, and raggedy jeans. He was surprised when he was ushered into the pastor’s office, and she was a woman. He expressed his surprise at my gender and we began a conversation around women in ministry.
The man asked me how i could be in the ministry. He was most stunned to find out I was the only pastor here, and that there was no other male pastor that I worked under. “Who “covers” you?”, he asked. I had the deer-in-headlights expression myself for a moment, and he went on, “Does your husband cover you so that you can be in ministry? Do you go to him for all your major decisions in the church?” I explained to him that my husband works in another field, and that we are partners in marriage, but that, no, he is not my covering.
He was the one that was deer-in-headlights-stunned now. “But the Bible says…that women can’t lead in the church…can’t be pastors!” He began to quote me many Scriptures as if I had never read them before. I smiled and began to discuss the way we read the Bible. I explained that the Bible says many things and that it can be used as a vehicle for love or a vehicle for hate. It is our mandate to find the love, the grace, and the genuine message of God in the words and stories of our Scripture.
He quoted me more Scripture.
I smiled, and said, “Well, it appears that you don’t follow the Bible word-for-word either. You come in here with much of your body on display, and you are wearing a polyester shirt! Everyone knows that polyester is mixed fibers, and…”
He chuckled. “You got me there, Pastor.” He knew the prohibition in the Old Testament against wearing mixed fibers. “Maybe you have something there. I don’t follow it word for word either.”
I explained that I am a pastor because God called me. I let him know that I wrestled with my call in a way that no one else can know, and that I wrestled with the fact that I am a woman in an era when women are still given cultural prohibitions. I let him know that God and I were on good terms, and that I was doing my best to follow God’s will for my life.
I asked him what he needed. He needed money. He was broke. I assisted him with some resources and a prayer for his life to be opened to the economic streams so he could care for himself and his family.
As he was leaving, we shook hands and he said, “Pastor, you made me think.” He smiled. I smiled. And then, suddenly I remembered something and I replied, “Oh! I do have a covering! My covering in the United Methodist Church is my Bishop, and SHE covers me in ministry.”
Then we laughed.
Sometimes it is better to laugh than to cry.