Women Wait Longer for First Calls in the ELCA

12/13/1996 12:00:00 AM

     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- Research upholds a widely-held assumption that women in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America wait longer than men for their first job as an ordained pastor, according to a new report.  In the ELCA candidates submit their credentials to a synod bishop who advocates for their assignment to a congregation.
     While the research indicates that women wait an average of 3.3 months longer than men, it also reveals variables other than gender in the length of time before a first "call" to ministry in a congregation.  Age at ordination, placing certain restrictions on the type of call, and ministry as a second career also determine how long candidates wait for a first call.
     According to the Rev. Janice Erickson-Pearson, co-author of the report, "The combination of older age, female gender and restrictions of the first call will likely result in a longer average wait for a first call.  If ordained ministry is a second career, that wait might be reduced a little."
     Women in the ELCA wait an average 6.8 months for a first call while men receive a call in 3.6 months on average according to the report prepared by the church's Commission for Women and Department for Research and Evaluation.
     Age at ordination proved to be a factor.  On average, older candidates wait longer for a first call regardless of gender. The average woman is older when she is ordained than the average man.  The average woman pastor in the ELCA is 35 years old at ordination; the average man is not quite 29 years old.
     When women's choices were restricted by their spouses' jobs, their wait for a call increased by two to three months; men with similar restrictions waited more than five months.  Women are more likely than men to place this restriction on their first call, which explains some of the difference in the average length of their wait.
     Other situations affect women but not men.  Women placing geographic restrictions on their first call waited on average a little more than eight months compared with about six months for all other women.  On the other hand, women who restricted the type of congregation or situation they preferred, such as a small congregation or an associate pastor position, waited only four and a half months on average.
     The report encourages the church to find ways to deploy strategically candidates who have spouse-related or geographical restrictions on mobility.
     Women made up 13 percent of non-retired ELCA pastors in 1995.  Lutheran churches in North America have ordained women as pastors since 1970.
     Based on action taken by the steering committee of the Commission for Women, the report will be sent to all clergy women in the ELCA, to the 800 men who participated in the survey and to the ELCA Conference of Bishops.
     The next focus for research sponsored by the commission will be "questions and concerns related directly to justice issues for and about women clergy in the ELCA, for example: types of first and subsequent calls for clergy women as compared with clergy men, compensation, and the experiences of clergy women compared with clergy men On Leave From Call, in part-time calls, and calls to specialized ministry."

     [Editors: Reporters can get single copies of "Analysis
     of the Length of Time Spent Waiting for First Call," by
     calling Brenda Williams, ELCA News & Information,
     800/638-3522, Ext. 2963.]

For information contact: Ann Hafften, Dir., ELCA News Service, (312)
380-2958 or AHAFFTEN@ELCA.ORG; Frank Imhoff, Assoc. Dir., (312)
380-2955 or FRANKI@ELCA.ORG; Melissa Ramirez, Assist. Dir., (312)


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