Gender balance among Friends – FUM Part 4
At another time, someone commented privately about the leadership of FUM is almost exclusively male but the work is all done by women. The entire North American paid staff is made up of women. Most of the pastors in FUM are men. As I started noticing this and started thinking about it, my first thought was there was something wrong with this. There is a noticeable gender imbalance. Then I thought some more. Not so long that my thinker got sore, but I remembered something.
When I attended the FGC Traveling Ministries retreat last March I had a question for Deborah Fisch, the FGC staff person for the program, “Where are the men?” Of the sixty or so attendees the men could have been counted on the fingers of one hand. The current clerk of New England Yearly Meeting is the only male to hold that position in the past 20 years. I am not sure that unprogrammed Friends necessarily do any better at gender balance but it goes the other way.
By having a paid pastorate, programmed Friends provide a way for men to participate in leadership. By insisting on free ministry, unprogrammed Friends limit who can take on leadership positions. It makes it very difficult for anyone who is the primary wage-earner for their family. In our North American society those primary wage-earners are still mostly men. There are very few opportunities for unprogrammed Friends to support themselves doing Quaker work. People can be involved as young adults before they have responsibilities or they can get involved when they retire. I am able to travel as much as I do because I have been in my job long enough to get 4 weeks of vacation a year, but this is an exception. And even with this, it means that my wife and I don't get as many vacation trips together as we would like. At the Triennial I spoke with a pastor who seemed taken aback when I mentioned that I was there on my vacation. For many of the attendees, this was part of their job.
Both approaches have strengths but each produces their own characteristic imbalances. I have no suggestions. This is just something I noticed.
Blessings to all