“I’m sorry that our church treats you this way.”

These were just a few of the responses at my table after we watched the “Seriously?” video at the NC Synod Assembly and were invited by Dr. Mindy Makant, deacon, to engage in some discussion.

Bishop Tim Smith, who introduced the video and Dr. Makant, explained that the video was in response to some “creative conflict” with his bishop’s staff, as they were trying figure out why there weren’t women serving as pastors at large congregations.

“Seriously?” was a video project that the synod launched in 2018, first for Fall Convocation. It has since been viewed over a million times and has been used by Southwest Airlines in their training for pilots. It brings to light the everyday reality of women in ministry in our synod.

The video was a catalyst for an even larger conversation with the over 100 women on the combined rosters (pastors and deacons) in the NC Synod. It also sparked a podcast and discussion guide that congregations can use in conjunction with the video.

Over the past three years, Dr. Mindy Makant has interviewed 85 pastors who are women and ten bishops who are women from Washington, D.C., to Texas and everywhere in between. In celebration of 50 years of women’s ordination in the ELCA and its predecessor bodies, she is writing a book on women in ministry. Dr. Makant is also an integral part of the task force in our synod that is addressing the issues rostered leaders who are women face in our church. She explained that the “Seriously?” video “paved the way to work together, through the bishops and Region 9, to make the world look different as we work toward the 60th anniversary of women’s ordination.”

The task force, with help from a grant from the ELCA churchwide expression, is focusing on five key areas in Region 9 (which includes the six synods of Virginia, NC, SC, Southeastern, Florida-Bahamas, and the Caribbean): call process, boundary training, candidacy, leadership formation, and practical support for women in ministry.

Dr. Makant thanked the women who have been a part of these difficult conversations surrounding the struggles they face and reminded us that, “we as a synod are better for them. We as a church are better for them.”

You can find the “Seriously?” video, discussion guide, and accompanying podcast on the synod’s website. Consider using it with your congregation as we work together to support women in ministry.

Story:  Deacon Katie Rivers is the Director of Discipleship and Faith Formation at St. Mark’s, Asheville.
Photo:  Ray Sipe–pastor, chaplain, and techno-geek.