By Julie Kathleen Schubring
While there are few surprises in a recently released study on the status and career paths of U.S. United
Methodist clergy, the findings still offer a blueprint for how the denomination can better address institutional
sexism and racism in our clergy recruitment, compensation and deployment systems.
The executive summary and full report of the study is
online in each of the organizations’ websites: gcsrw.org,
gcorr.org, and gcfa.org/nacec.
Most of the findings confirm what most people tend to believe in the clergy system: race and gender make a
difference in the United Methodist clergy appointment system.
Even now in 2012, too many United Methodist congregations reject the appointment of a pastor who is a
woman or who is from a racial group other than their own. And bishops and cabinets too often affirm such
biases, instead of challenging parishes to embrace new ways and become more open to such requests. Also,
often neither congregations nor clergy are provided sufficient support, training and encouragement to make
such appointments a success.
“Having a church ready for a woman pastor or a pastor that may be of a different ethnicity than the
congregation should not be the work of the pastor going into the appointment. It should have been the work
that is on-going in the church already,” according to Elaine Moy, GCSRW assistant general secretary who
oversees research and monitoring.
Most pastors in cross-cultural appointments are people of color going to a white church. There are fewer
white pastors trained to serve and be assigned to racial/ethnic congregations. Also, as the United States—
and intercultural partnerships, friendships and families—continue to grow, new church members will seek
congregations that model appreciation for and comfort with a multiracial, multicultural environment.
If we want to grow our membership, churches need to be open to welcoming and accepting all those who come
through the door. The U.S. church is more than 90% white, while the U.S. population is only 63.4% white. The
demographics are quickly changing. As of July 1, 2011 the U.S. Census Bureau reports that the number of new
births is 50.4% non-white births.
As I am a young white woman, I think this report should be read by everyone in The United Methodist Church.
It is an especially important read for racial/ethnic clergy, young clergy and those currently studying to enter
the ministry. And I hope district superintendents, bishops and cabinet members and staff-parish relations
committees read this study to see how their decision making processes when making appointments affects the
Having just returned from working with GCSRW at the 2012 General Conference 2012, where I heard about
our denominational struggles to nurture vital leadership and vital congregations, I feel it is more important
than ever to look at statistical information about where we have been.
Much has been accomplished in our denominational history in elevating female and racial/ethnic pastoral
leadership. Yet this report reminds us that there is still much work to be accomplished to demonstrate an
appropriate representation of clergy serving congregations.