Methodists opened the ordained ministry to women in 1956, and today female ministers account for about 20 percent of the clergy in the denomination. And 14 bishops heading the 50 U.S. regional jurisdictions of the United Methodist Church are women—28 percent of the total.
Score that a triumph for gender inclusivity in the nation’s largest mainline church? Not so fast, say some UMC officials. One mark of acceptance for women pastors is lagging—only some 7 percent of Methodist congregations with more than 1,000 members are led by a female senior pastor.
Methodist statisticians, releasing this month the most recent data (from December 2007), said that 81 of the denomination’s largest congregations were led by women pastors and 1,055 by male pastors. Another eight large congregations had men and women serving as copastors.