In a familiar routine, mainline Presbyterians at their biennial General Assembly voted 373-323 to lift a ban on partnered gay clergy, sending the proposed change for the fourth time in nearly a dozen years to the denomination’s 173 regional presbyteries for ratification.
My grandmother was 14 years old and living on a farm in Michigan when she made an appointment with her Presbyterian minister to tell him that she felt called to the ministry. “I’m sorry, Emma,” he said. “You must be mistaken. God doesn’t call women into the ministry.” A day or two later her father went to see the minister.
In 1984, Marvel Comics created a new nemesis for Spider-Man. The character would be a symbiote, inspired by what parasitologists call the weaker of two organisms inhabiting the same space. The weaker organism can draw life from the stronger, and in the most dramatic cases it siphons off its host’s nutrients before the host realizes what’s happening.
Soon after I was called as senior minister of First Congregational Church in Burlington, Vermont, a church member gave me a tour of the building. When we got to the formal church parlor, I paused to take in the portraits of my predecessors hanging on the walls. I was awestruck. “There they are,” I said.
The Church of England will proceed with legislation to allow the ordination of women bishops, despite fierce opposition from Anglican traditionalists. After a marathon 12-hour debate in York, the church’s General Synod on July 12 rejected calls for further delays in developing a draft law to allow female bishops. The earliest women bishops could be ordained is 2014.
Some congregations are increasingly relying on search firms to fill pastoral vacancies. Minister Search, the first such firm, began in 2001. It didn’t have a single client the first year, but now it does searches for 30 to 50 pastoral positions annually. Another firm began in 2010 and has completed 753 placements. Ministerial search firms are particularly popular with independent congregations, which lack a denominational structure for finding candidates. Firms typically charge a congregation about one-third the annual compensation of the hired minister (Chicago Tribune, September 4).