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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Studying the Stained Glass Ceiling

There are some interesting statistics about congregational life that reflect some things about the status of women - specifically ordained women - in The Episcopal Church.

For example: According to statistics maintained by the Women’s Ministries at the National Church Center, compiled from statistics from the Church Pension Group, in the year 2004 the Diocese of Newark listed a total of 112 clergy employed in congregations in the diocese, 33.9% of whom were women; 29.6% of whom were female senior/solo rectors.

In the year 2007, the Diocese of Newark listed 98 parochial clergy (a loss of 14 clergy), 37.8% of whom were female (a gain of 3.9% in three years) and 31.8% of whom were female senior/solo rectors (a gain of 2.2% in three years).

Compared to national church statistics, in 2004 there were 5,829 parochial clergy, 29.2% of whom were female and 23.2% of whom were female senior/solo rectors.

In the year 2007, there were a reported 5,467 clergy (a decrease of 362 employed in parochial ministry), 31.4% of whom were women (an increase of 2.2% in three years), and 25.9% of whom were female senior/solo rectors (an increase of 2.7% in three years).

While the Diocese of Newark seems to be slightly ahead of the admittedly very modest gains in deployment of women, it is important to monitor these statistics, especially in these fragile economic times.

We are especially curious as to the correlation, if any, between the lower compensation packages women receive and the modest increase in the deployment of women.

Given the loss of personnel at the Episcopal Church Center (“815”), it becomes increasingly important for local dioceses to be increasingly vigilant at the local level in the name of justice.

With all that in mind, the members of the Women’s Commission in the Diocese of Newark, of which I've been a member since 1993, have submitted the following resolution to be considered at our Diocesan Convention in January:
Resolved, that this ____ Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark requests the Women’s Commission to survey congregations and search committees in this diocese in terms of issues of fair practices in deployment strategies and compensation packages offered to female clergy and report its findings to the Committee on Clergy Compensation, the Bishop and this Convention in 2010.
We are hoping to engage a few folk in the church who can help us design a survey tool that will give us the best opportunity to yield the information we are seeking.

What we do with that information will, of course, be dependent upon our findings.

As an aside, I'm betting that there are still close to 112 clergy still involved in parochial ministry, but the largest percentage of those clergy are part time 'interim clergy'.

Interim Ministry has become a 'cottage industry' for clergy - men and women - who are either recently retired (and therefore, receiving their pension and health care benefits), women who have young families or husbands with demanding and well-paid professional positions, and those men and women who also hold secular (read: better paying) positions which often provide a benefit package which makes them "more affordable" to financially strapped congregations.

Have you noticed, at least in The Episcopal Church, how long an 'interim period' lasts? For some congregations, it's as long as two full years. Some, longer. Very, very few shorter than that. And, you know, I don't think the results have been uniformly good - either for the congregation or in terms of the 'fit' of the person called as new rector.

The pro's and con's of that particular situation is another conversation for another day. The focus of THIS study is specifically about the status of ordained women in the church, which, I think, is a measure of our commitment to the work of Gospel justice.

I encourage you to study the 'stained glass ceiling' in your own diocese. I have a feeling you'll be amazed at what you find.


IT said...

In academic science, the fraction of women in tenured or tenure-track faculty is approaching 30%. (Much lower in the full-professor range). Women are much more likely to be in adjunct (part-time) positions, and are routinely paid less than the men.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

IT - it's the "routine" of the "routinely paid less than men" to which we're trying to bring awareness. We all "know" that it's "routine" but when the facts are on the table, it changes the conversation. Hopefully, the change in conversation will bring about real systemic change. And, as one of the prayers in the BCP says, "We live in "sure and certain hope". It's a start. Modest, to be sure. But, it's a start.

Jane Priest said...

I've been pondering some of these issues lately. Like how the fact that I work for less than the minimum suggested salary in this diocese isn't doing whoever comes after me any favors. Then I think about the fact that I have two micro-mini parishes and wonder if yoked really means "tie a noose around the neck of each of them" when it comes to growing the church both in numbers and depth. I wonder if the reluctance of congregations, priests, and bishops to tell very small parishes that they need to merge perpetuates a system in which only a woman (or a man) with a spouse who is a highly paid professional can accept a call to such places.

IT said...

Keep hoping. It's been a issue in academic science for years and years and I know for a fact I am STILL paid less than my male colleagues.

Who are junior to me at rank.

Anonymous said...

Interesting analysis. Do you think there are more women in the Episcopal church now because parishes just cannot afford the salaries of men?

Do you think the loss of full time ministers will continue at the current huge rate of decline because parishes just cannot afford full time ministry any longer?

Should men's salaries be reduced to be in line with those of women, or should the salaries of women be increased to match those of men, which will mean more parishes just cannot afford clergy and more women will lose their jobs as there are more women in marginal parishes?

What would you advise women starting out on the ordination journey today? Don't do it because the church cannot afford full time clergy any longer and you will just be left with huge college debts that cannot be repaid? Or is there a future for full time ministry and why if congregations are just getting older and more people are leaving every year?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Oh, my dear Anonymous, what absolutely WONDERFUL questions. The Very Short Answer is that I think the institutional church is dying and I can't wait for the Death Certificate so we can get on with rebuilding the Body of Christ on the building blocks of justice and compassion, mission and peace, instead of the stones of success, prosperity, maintenance and complacency.

But, I don't have any strong feelings about this at all. ;~)

gerry said...


Very interesting statistic on the interims. We are currently in Interim Status at Trinity Memorial.

The ninth Rector retired during Easter(Low Sunday) 2007. Our Interim began ministry with us in May.

We are accepting applications for the 10th Rector until December First, and anticipate receiving all qualified candidates on or about the first business day of January 2010 from the Diocesan Deployment Officer.

The schedule calls for the Discernment and Search Team to present our candidate to the Vestry June 14, 2010 for a straight up or down vote after a five month period of prayer, conversations, interviews, visits, etc.

The Interim's 38 month Ministry with us will cease on or about July 1; with the 10th Rector and partner, spouse, family as applies arriving in late July or early August.

The Interim's Ministry includes a revitalization and expansion of the lay leadership; institution of full transparency in all functions and finaical systems; development and implementation of a successful capital campaign ($750K pledged $475K already received)in 2008; reconstruction of the Church's rooves: restoration of the clerestory windows; revitalzation of the Jubilee Ministries in 2009.

2010 will see restoration of the children's chapel; new electrical systems and lighting in the narthex, nave, choir and sanctuary.
Rededication of the Organ with a series of concerts and recitals to celebrate its Golden Jubilee. The rectory will also be reroofed and updated and made ready for redecoration for the 10th Rector.

Take a look our website its all there and much more.