|Leslie Bumgardners dissertation studies female pastors call to ministry|
Pastors Study Looks at Women in Ministry
Someone once told Leslie Bumgardner to pick a topic for her dissertation that she loved so much that she wouldnt tire of it. That was wise advice. Years later, Bumgardner is still fascinated by her studies. She recently presented an overview of her successfully defended dissertation Staying in Ministry: A Qualitative Study of Seventh-day Adventist Women Pastors to Walla Walla College faculty and students.
As an associate pastor at the Walla Walla College Church for 11 years, Bumgardner is very familiar with the issue of women in ministry. But for her dissertation, Bumgardner focused on what attracts women to such a challenging profession and why they stay in ministry.
She chose 11 Adventist women who pastor full-time in churches in the United States and met her criteria of being commissioned. The Seventh-day Adventist Church does not ordain women because of a theological and political debate over whether it is appropriate, based on several scriptural passages. For Adventist women, being commissioned is the equivalent of ordination. Collectively these women have spent 150 years as pastors, raised 17 children while in ministry, and served in 31 churches.
Bumgardner found that overwhelmingly these women are convicted that God has called them to ministry. For many, ministry is their second or third career, yet it has become more than just a jobit is part of their identity. God continues to reaffirm their special call and these women now cant imagine their lives without it, Bumgardner says.
Another reason many of these women are still in ministry is their commitment to making a difference in others lives by helping them accept Christ and prepare for baptism, visiting them in the hospital, or simply being available for advice. The women also spoke strongly about self-care, or the need to nurture and take care of themselves, either through support groups, time off, or personal worship time.
Bumgardner found men and women in ministry have much in common, but says, There is always an added layer for women that makes it more difficult. Women face unique challenges thriving in a position widely viewed as a masculine role. One woman in Bumgardners study spoke about bringing casseroles to potlucks, saying that none of the male pastors in her church feel pressured to bring food to potlucks but if she doesnt, and if she is not in the kitchen helping, then she is just flitting about.
Many women pastors also find themselves at a disadvantage because decisions are often made over a game of golf or at a lunch date, but it is not seen as appropriate for the women to join their male colleagues in those activities. It is also difficult for them to form close relationships with those co-workers or find role models and mentors.
Those challenges also resonate with Bumgardners own experience. After graduating from Walla Walla College in 1975 with majors in religion and home economics, she worked in Washington, D.C., as a legislative aide to U.S. Representative Thomas Foley for five years and then at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Maryland as a food service manager.
Eventually, Bumgardner and her family moved to Worthington, Ohio, where she was offered a job at a local church, leading to 20 years in ministry and eventually bringing her back home to the Walla Walla College Church. W