My thoughts on the topic have also been submitted to the comment section of the UMC.org site.
I think we need to be discussing much more than just ageism. Is it not true that there are more second career Elders and Deacons who are female? I can certainly personally attest to the fact that when I was in my early twenties and deciding on which career to pursue I did not see a career in ministry as something that women were doing. They might have been, I just know that in my experience I did not see it. I can also tell you that in my experiences as a young woman in the seventies and eighties I did not see any female clergy in the churches I attended.
I am in a part of the country where there are more female Elders than the national average, but even now, more than over a decade into the 21st century, I was told that in my conference I will most likely be the first female Elder at every church that I will serve, that statement referred the, more than twenty year span, of my entire career. The churches that I will likely serve, in Upper NY Annual Conference, are not even close to the size of some of the churches in the Texas Annual Conference. In fact the largest churches in my district are much closer to five hundred members and not the one thousand member churches mentioned by one blogger from the Texas Annual Conference. I need to add to the previous statement the explanation that I am referring to less than five churches out of the almost seventy in my district, which is the average size for my conference, but many of the districts in my conference do not have any churches even that big. The fact of life is most newly ordained, or newly graduated, Elders or Probationary Elders, will serve two and sometimes three churches to be able to earn the minimum compensation package.
So, if the conferences in the country that are home to the largest, and most conservative, United Methodist Churches are saying that they really would prefer that anyone born prior to 1968 “pursue other expressions of lay ministry” and the only conferences that are acknowledging that each individual is uniquely gifted, are the more progressive, but smaller more religiously diverse conferences, then just exactly what is the message of the GBOD and the GBHEM going to be? I happen to come from a conference that is home to a very long line of women in the history of the United Methodist Church. I can’t imagine, but I do not know for a fact, that a woman born in Texas in 1968 would have been more likely to have had more female role models than a woman born in the former Troy Conference.
I think that the Texas Annual Conference may need to take a much closer at, and be very careful in its discernment of, this proposal. Just exactly how many types of discrimination are at work here?
Christine Smith, age 45
Certified Candidate, UNYAC
Drew Theological School, M.Div. exp. 2016