For centuries, women weren’t allowed to become church leaders. Over time, and especially in the last 50 years, the situation has eased as the idea of Christian women in the priesthood became accepted with fewer restrictions.
While Catholic denominations still forbid it, many other churches openly allow Christian women as church leaders.
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Recently, in fact, there have been some high profile instances of Christian women in the priesthood. In 2014, the Rev. Dr. Amy Butler was elected to the senior pastor position for Riverside Church in New York City, the first woman to hold that position, Time magazine reported.
Riverside, a non-denominational church, is considered to be one of the most influential churches in the United States. Built in 1930, it has a powerful history.
But statistics don’t lie and it’s obvious most churches in the U.S. still heavily favor men as their clergy. According to the National Congregations Study, only 11.4 percent of U.S. congregations allow women to be in the ministerial role.
The number of female clergy was 16,408 in 1983, U.S. Labor statistics show.
Since then, the number of Christian women in the priesthood tripled to 46,501 in the 2010 census.
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Many large denominations, such as the Roman Catholics, Mormons, and Southern Baptists, are not open to allowing Christian women in the priesthood.
However, since the end of World War II, more and more denominations have opted to allow women in leadership roles, including these churches, according to the Pew Research Center:
- American Baptist Church
- Assemblies of God – as early as 1914
- The Christian Church/Disciples of Christ
- Christian Science – usually uses man and woman at services
- Episcopal Church – began ordaining women in 1970s
- Evangelical Lutheran Church in America – first female bishop elected in 2013
- Presbyterian Church
- Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
- Salvation Army
- Unitarian Universalist
- United Church of Christ
- United Methodist Church – first ordained woman in 1956
In addition, Buddhists and some Jewish Reform denominations allow women to become priests, rabbis, and ministers.
It should be noted that, although they are not recognized by any official Catholic Bishops or sects, there is a group of women that call themselves Roman Catholic Womenpriests.
It is an international movement designed to “prepare, ordain in Apostolic Succession and support women” who are summoned by the Holy Spirit to minister as Catholic priests.
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