Confessions of a Single, Female Pastor

No, not me. I am neither female or single. But a 27-year old United Methodist pastor from Alabama is. Her name is the Rev. Wren Miller. John Meunier points to some responses to an article she wrote for the magazine Marie Claire. [The Hacking Christianity blog gives its support to Miller and two links to scans of the article.]

I admit that I run conservative on the sexuality debates (even if uncomfortably on some of them). The most shocking thing I read in the article was that she wears a collar and cassock. In North Alabama, where Methodists struggle to be distinguished from the Baptists (a slight exaggeration, I realise).

Still, I found an insightful article that gives a glimpse into the life of what it means to be a single female in an area where many, many Christians will fault her for being in church leadership – nevermind what she wrote. Miller talks about the struggle to kiss a date good night. She talks about having a condition that increased her sex drive. She talks about church members that want to set her up with their family members. And, yes, she talked about masturbation. Actually, she talked about not doing it.

Reading the responses before I read the actual article, I expected her to have written gory descriptions that gave intimate details. I was surprised that the whole article was not much longer than this blog post will be. It did not read as erotica, but on the whole rather tame. Certainly her discussion of masturbation hardly raises an eyebrow when compared to the sexuality talks I had to endure from male teachers in the countless number of sexuality seminars at school and church. I have listened to men teach us about how God wants us to overcome our sexual urges and tell what they were like before they found God and what they do about it now. Sometimes, that was too much information. Why does this seem so different? Ah, she’s a woman. A passing mention by her must be a sin greater than all that the male teachers have ever said.

What I do see in Rev. Miller is someone who is committed to her calling, and overcoming the pressures in a way that shows her commitment to that calling. In a church where we worry about young people (who are all discussing sexuality and the church’s silence won’t help), I don’t see the need to push her off. How will you get young, single people to talk about these issues if we find them too taboo for our clergy?

Clergy often complain that the laity don’t understand what it is like to be in the vocation we are in. Here we have the perspective of a young woman who has her own unique feelings of the loneliness and isolation that ministers can feel. I commend her for her bravery and vulnerability in allowing us to get such a glimpse and risk her story being analysed in blog posts such as this one.

9 thoughts on “Confessions of a Single, Female Pastor

  1. You say:

    What I do see in Rev. Miller is someone who is committed to her calling, and overcoming the pressures in a way that shows her commitment to that calling

    I agree, so how do we follow her example?

  2. Well said, Will. Some of her parish commented on the “Beauty Tips for Ministers” blog and affirm her calling and presence as well. It’s an unfortunate situation and your call to pray is apt.

  3. A good word. I wonder if some who commented on various complaints about the article actually read it. When I read it, I was a little surprised how tame it was. From the struggles I’ve heard expressed from some of my friends, Rev. Miller was quite proper.

  4. As a former senior pastor, and current student pastoral intern (in seminary), single and female, going for ordination in the United Methodist Church, I am unhappy with the forum chosen to have such a candid discussion by Rev. Miller. But I appreciate that she, and you are willing to talk about it. I am just unsure if she chose the best method to approach it. Thank you for your response to her article.

  5. Sally: I think it is her commitment to her vows that I find admiring, but also her challenge to the church by expressing that there is a disconnect. I don’t want to pretend that the challenges that I face are the same as hers, but ministers have issues that need to be faced by the church (admin and local). Those are what I would model. How would you answer?

    UMJeremy: Thank you. I, too, read that blog and its comments. I do not understand the vitriol towards this person. Thank you, for your posts and your responses to them.

    Rev. Run: Thank you. I have to wonder that too. I cannot imagine that what she said would cause that hard a response.

    Craig: I do have hope in this Craig. Bishop Willimon is her bishop, so I think she does have a very good chance of being heard. I trust that he will take care with this, but we will see and I hear your feelings, especially knowing a bit of your story.

    Megan: Thank you for your comment. I am not altogether sure what you mean by the forum she chose. It almost sounds like you’re suggesting she had an agenda (please correct me if I’m wrong). I don’t know, but I would think that a magazine contacted her and asked what it’s like being a young, female minister. I thought it was merely a human interest story. I get some of this on a local level (nothing like Rev. Wren got), being an American in the UK. People are interested when there is something perceived as not the norm.

  6. Amen!!! I am so tired of seeing her get roasted for being open and honest. This is a major stumbling block for the church as a whole. We are no longer a part of a world that hushes anything that won’t fit on Pleasantville Square behind closed doors. We live in a world that can be blunt and rough. How can we possibly expect to reach people for Christ if we maintain a position of being above them? How can we tell people that He can forgive our sins and bear our burdens if our leaders are forced to behave as if they don’t have them? I have met too many people who refute Christ because they honestly believe that those called into ministry just don’t struggle with the same issues they do. They honestly believe that ministers don’t feel temptations and that the ones that do are somehow even worse because they are supposed to be perfect. This whole twisted paradigm is one of the great barriers to the Church reaching the world.
    Clergy are meant to be servants of Christ, not Christ himself. I think it’s just too easy to forget that. If we don’t struggle with sin and temptation, then we don’t need Him. Thank you, Wren, for reminding us that it’s okay to serve the Lord and be human – because it’s impossible to be anything else.

  7. I am interested to contact Rev Miller but the link led to a blank page. Is she still contactable? The call for prayer is VERY necessary.

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