Shuck and Jive

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Those Preachin' Women

Jim Dahlman, Professor of Communications at Milligan College writes a Saturday column for the Johnson City Press. Today's article, Women Pastors Remain a Rarity, features a couple of my colleagues, Rev. Beth Yarborough of Jonesborough Presbyterian Church and Sharon Amstutz of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Johnson City.

Here is his bit about Beth:

As Beth Yarborough was leaving her office at Jonesborough Presbyterian Church (USA) recently, she met the photographer for the church directory, who was just coming in.
“Are you the secretary?” he asked.
“Actually, I’m the pastor,” she answered. The photographer froze for a moment in awkward shock.
“Oh!” he blurted. “The pastor?”
It was one of the few occasions from Yarborough’s seven-year pastorate when she was pegged by a stereotype. A man in her place, after all, probably wouldn’t have been asked if he was the secretary. But she laughed about it.
“After he got over the initial surprise, he was fine,” she said. “Having a woman as a
pastor is still a bit of a rare phenomenon in this region.”
And about Sharon:

Sharon Amstutz, pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church (USA) for the past six years, has been warmly received, but she suspects a few families left when her ministry began because of her gender. But she also recalls a particular hospital visit with the church’s oldest member. He had opposed calling a woman as pastor. “But I was wrong,” he told her. She has felt accepted ever since.

Sharon, always the jokester, replied about the difference between women and men pastors:

“There’s really nothing gender-specific I can think of,” Amstutz said. “As a woman, my greatest contribution (compared to male pastors) is that I bring food to the potlucks,” she joked.
C'mon. I have brought chips. In regards to pastoral care:

— although Yarborough did suggest at least one difference when she talked about visiting a dying parishioner in a hospital. The woman didn’t need more medicine, Yarborough realized.
“She just needed a hug, and so I climbed up beside her and just held her for a few minutes,” she recalled. “I
don’t think a lot of men would do that.”
Nope. I haven't done that one. What about the authority of women pastors? Sharon said:
“My job is to help people be the body of Christ,” Amstutz said. “That’s not a power over them. I don’t see my job as having authority over anyone. We’re sorting through the Scriptures together.
And from Beth:
Yarborough said she doesn’t think much about being a woman in ministry.

“If someone has a problem, I tell them to talk to God about it, because I know I’ve been called,” she said. “I just think of myself as a pastor. I focus on that. Here I am.”
Jim will continue this series on women pastors next week: "Why not women in ministry? Churches have reasons."

That should be interesting.

I am pleased he featured my two fine colleagues. I am honored to work with both of them in Holston Presbytery.


  1. Thank you for this, last year was the first time ever in the UK that the Anglican Church ordained more women (1 more) than men, the Methodist Church remains evenly balanced.

  2. In my denomination - the United Reformed Church (in the UK) we first ordained a woman in 1917 (Constance Coltman) - but people are STILL getting used to the idea!
    A great book about women's preaching is 'Preaching like a woman' - SPCK - by Susan Durber.
    Susan & I both trained at the same college as Constance Coltman - Mansfield College in Oxford - but not at the same time as her, obviously!