Breaking Down Barriers

I had a hard time deciding what to write for this issue of the MOSAIC. I had way too many ideas, but I finally decided it would be helpful to review some of the findings in the Women in Leadership Task Force Report.

The mandate of this task force, “The Canadian Study Commission on Doctrine”, wholeheartedly affirms the denomination’s position on women in ministry. The Commission further recommends that leaders across the denomination explore the barriers that continue to hinder women and find ways of removing those barriers to release women for more effective leadership and ministry through the Free Methodist Church.”

This graphic, created from the findings in the task force report, clearly shows that the gender equity gap is most significant with credentialed pastoral leaders (ordained pastors) and commissioned ministers.

14% of credentialed pastoral leaders in the FMCiC are women. In contrast, 74% of commissioned ministers are women.

There is an important distinction between an ordained pastor and a commissioned minister which continues to shape the FMCiC. The role of commissioned minister is designated as “honorary member” at General Conference, meaning they are without a vote and are unable to sit on many of the national committees and Board of Administration.

The task force report provides insight into these numbers and some of the barriers facing women seeking credentialed pastoral leadership.

“Women leaders do not, personally or overtly, feel unsupported by the denomination, but they do feel overlooked – not really seen. This theme presented itself again and again. There needs to be a better way for women to see “open doors” for them to enter into pastoral leadership.”

“There needs to be a better network for women in leadership and mentoring needs to be intentional. Many of these women spoke of a strong mentor (both males and females) in their lives that inspired and encouraged them to seek ordination. On the flip side of that, many spoke of how just one individual almost derailed their journey with comments meant to dissuade and challenge their call.”

“When asked why they did not pursue ordination, the time commitment for the additional study was a common theme. Many women noted that with responsibilities as wives, mothers, church leaders and employees left little time to pursue the further education required for ordination.

It should also be noted that many observed that women being invited into churches as the lead pastor was statistically low and so the increased time and cost to acquire ordination may not result in them being able to execute their calling beyond their local church.

Of the 55 surveys completed, 23 women shared that they have been explicitly told by peers, congregation members or leaders that they should not be leading where they are leading.”

“Another observation noted in several surveys of women in leadership is the intersection of other marginalizing demographics such as race, marital status, family obligations, young age in addition to their gender that created resistance to their leadership.”

How can we as a denomination, congregation, board member, pastor, mentor, spouse, or friend remove these barriers that hinder women? We all have a unique role to play if we are going to impact gender equity in the FMCiC. What is your role?


Alison McKinnon | Communications Content Developer