The Flynns can relate. Their lives as a clergy couple changed dramatically when the Revs. Mark (M.Div.’88, Th.M. ’89) and Annette (M.Div.’89) Flynn began a family.
The low point for Annette was moving to a new appointment when their younger child was 6 weeks old. “I had two small children and no support system, while Mark was expending his energy in the first year of a new appointment,” she says. Annette took leaves after the birth of each child, and then chose part-time ministry. “Mark has always had a wife,” she says. “I did not.”
Annette eventually decided to leave pastoral ministry. She is about to complete her M.S. degree from Pepperdine University in leadership and organizational development and is starting her own consulting firm, Flynn Consulting Group. Mark is the senior pastor at Kern Memorial UMC in Oak Ridge.
While the church was generally supportive of them as a clergy couple, Annette finds fault with the broader culture’s response to women clergy. “I believe the social structure of our society and the expectations of the role of the clergy undermine female clergy—whether or not they are part of a clergy couple,” she says.
Where are the Models?
Although the ordination of women in the United States dates to 1853, when the Congregational Church ordained Antoinette Brown, for some women the pastor’s role still seems off-limits. Recent research by Pulpit & Pew, a Lilly-funded research project on pastoral excellence based at Duke Divinity School, indicates that resistance to women clergy is not imaginary: the typical lay search committee’s ideal candidate is a throwback to an earlier era—a young married man with a decade of experience, a stay-at-home wife, and children.
“At first, I wasn’t thinking about being a pastor,” says the Rev. Pebbles Lindsay-Lucas D’00. “If it crossed my mind, I kicked it out. It was very clear that you do not think about trying to become [a woman pastor]. I used to fuss back, ‘You won’t let me, but God will.’”
Her dream was to graduate from Duke Divinity School and become a nationally-known evangelist, ministering to young women. Marriage was not part of the plan.
But in 1998 at Durham’s Mt. Gilead Baptist Church, she met William V. Lucas, who had been called to ministry while attending law school at nearby N.C. Central. Within a year, they decided to marry and soon began planning their own ministry. By early 2000 they held the first worship service for First Chronicles Community Church in a Durham elementary school. Over the next three years, they held services successively in another school, a funeral home, a Durham storefront, and, for an entire summer, under a large shade tree. “We were nomadic,” says Lindsay-Lucas with a broad smile.
When the couple learned last summer that a recently-vacated red brick church near N.C. Central was for sale, they quickly made an offer and moved in with their growing ministry. Although the couple alternates preaching on Sundays and shares all decisions concerning the congregation, “Some people look at William as the pastor because he’s the man,” says Lindsay-Lucas. “But they know if they come to him about something, he’s going to talk to me.
“Your partner needs to respect you and your gifts and be willing to allow God to let your gifts flourish,” she adds.
Says William: “Our ministries flow together. She makes this ministry complete because my weaknesses are her strengths.”
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