-Rev Melissa Fain-
Oh, I had it all figured out approaching my ordination. It appeared every female minister I knew was some kind of social justice feminist. I saw it like a one note song. I wasn't going to be like them. I was going to delve into the bible and be balanced. Sure, gender equality needed to be discussed, but it wasn't the only discussion point. I was going to be the one to prove being female and a pastor didn't mean one had to solely focus on feminism.
I was arrogant. I was like the Pharisee openly praying. "Thank goodness I'm not like them!" Then I was ordained, and I began to see the problem. Unless I was preaching in a brick and mortar church, I'm almost always immediately questioned about my call. Sometimes, it's as blunt as, "You can't do that." Sometimes, it's as passive aggressive as simply walking away. Always, my gender had to be "overcome" before the message could be heard.
Honestly, when I wrote the post "Dorothy Gale Never Grow Up," I wrote it as a catch all to get past that opening discussion and really get into the meat of scripture. Instead, it appears it has become the subject most would rather focus on when I want to talk about something bibically different.
Becoming the thing I swore I'd never become has been an interesting journey, but I have a deeper understanding as to why. Cutting conversation short is a tool people used because they think what I'm saying is dangerous. It's not that the content is terribly scandalous or way off base. It's that they fear even listening to me will damn them.
I went into ministry already knowing this, which is why I've taken those questioners seriously. Only, it's a constant barrage. If I want to talk about the Good Samaritan, someone tells me they will pray for my soul. If I want to talk through Job, someone decides to focus in on my username (RevMelissa.) I lose if I don't, because the person feels justified in hijacking the discussion. I lose if I do because I've removed myself from the theological discussion I originally wanted to be part of. But I try to remember what brought me to acceptance of female ministry to begin with.
My perspective on women being pastors was not won with proof-texts. I was changed when I went to a church and a woman stepped up and preached. That was in an institution that had already fought and won that battle. Online, that battle is alive and well. I have the opportunity to talk with people who are cloistered in traditions that would never even be given the opportunity to hear female clergy. Simply existing allows a seed to be planted.
That's still difficult. Countering a proof-texter feels like a nice safe shield to stand behind. There are so many personal attacks those people give unrelated to the meat of the messages I give, it's difficult to step back and let the content speak for itself. Yet, that's how minds are changed. It's letting our actions speak louder than our words. It's speaking with kindness when others react with venom. It's putting down the arrogance of the past, and realizing we are sisters in this fight, with brothers fighting beside us.
The real reason I fight this fight, is so some future minister can say she isn't going to spend her time focusing on feminism, and she won't have to.