Last night I was invited to be a part of a panel on “The Priesthood.” Considering I went to a multi-denominational seminary, I’ve never really had the chance to sit down and Think Hard About The Priesthood. It was a good night. Since it wasn’t in my diocese, I did kind of just say, “To hell with it, I’m gonna be myself and just talk about how yeah, it’s pretty weird that God called this young foul-mouthed dyke fisherman’s daughter to be a priest, but God’s done weirder things, and I think it’s mandatory for priests to be social activists.” And I got some good feedback – one young pregnant woman said, “That gave me great comfort, because I too am a big introvert and I don’t think I’m going to be able to stop saying ‘fuck’ and I have been wondering if there’s a place for me in the church, and I see you, and I think maybe there is.”
And then one older women studying for the diaconate pulled me aside later, out of everyone’s way, and whispered in my ear, “You. Are. Refreshing.”
Then I came home and opened a terse little form letter from an amazing, amazing little multicultural church in Los Angeles that I just applied to that said, “We’re not interested in you.”
And I remembered how this works: I may be inspirational, but I’m not hire-able. I may be refreshing, but only in whispers. I might challenge you to live and grow and be and blossom and do the thing that scares you, but no one wants that quality in a young tattooed dyke lady. They can handle it in an older straight white man, they can even handle it sometimes in a younger man. But not me. My church just released the results of a comprehensive survey of the differences between men and women clergy. You can download it here. It’s depressing as fuck.
Here’s some choice learnings:
“The fundamental question put to the research team was: Are there differences or inequalities between women and men clergy in terms of employment and compensation? The short answer is: yes.”
“Men enjoy significantly higher average compensation levels than women, with men earning $60,773 on average and women earning $45,656 on average.”
“Men who are married receive greater compensation on average ($61,964) than men who are not married ($55,388). In contrast, the inverse is true for women. Married women receive significantly less compensation on average ($44,544) than non-married women ($47,455; see Figure 3.6).”
“One of the challenges that clergywomen traditionally have faced is being able to move from an associate rector or other staff-level placements to a rectorship or other position where they are the principal or senior ordained leader. Research over the past thirty years has shown a persistent trend of men called to rectorships by their second placement, on average, while women typically have moved laterally to another staff position. This trend has changed little. In the data, women were significantly more likely than men to have applied for positions as vicar or rector but not to have held them, indicating both an active interest in such positions and evidence that there may be gender disparities in who becomes hired (called).”
“In the data, men were significantly more likely than women to have held a position as vicar or rector, regardless of when or what age they had been ordained, and whether or not clergy were able to relocate either in the past or currently. Race or ethnicity had no effect.”
“Women who did not attend an Episcopal seminary find the employment process significantly more difficult than women who attended an Episcopal seminary and more difficult than do men, no matter whether the men attended an Episcopal seminary or a non-Episcopal seminary. Women who attended non-Episcopal seminaries were 22% less likely to hold full-time regular positions than women who attended an Episcopal seminary.”
“Far more male clergy hold full-time positions while there are children in the home, while nearly half of the female clergy have part-time or non-stipendiary positions.”
Refreshing, challenging, alive, called…and unhireable.
[EDIT: I’d also like to add that I was rejected immediately in the interview process for my current job once they found out I was queer. Two other people turned down the job before it was offered to me, and I only received a call several weeks after the rejection once my rector was so thoroughly overworked and exhausted that he was ready to take anyone.]