When Pastor Carrie Ballenger Smith walks through the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem, she hears people talking about her as she passes. People call her “sister” or “Padre” or even “assise”, a feminine take on the Arabic word for pastor, “assis”. It’s just part of being one of the first visible women clergy in a culture more familiar with male leaders in Orthodox traditions. Jewish rabbis, Muslim imams, Catholic priests are a common site in the Holy Land. Women wearing clergy collars? Not so much.
As an ELCA pastor and missionary, living with her husband and two children in Jerusalem, Carrie is following in her parent’s footprints by taking risks and being bold in pursuing her vocation. As an American serving in the Middle East, she hopes her service will help others to become more accustomed to women pastors.
Pastor Carrie Ballenger Smith spoke open and honestly about sexism in the church, saying it is more difficult for women to become senior pastors and that women pastors, who are mothers, undergo greater scrutiny from their congregations than their male counterparts.
“I hope that we can change and transform as a church so that everyone’s gifts are used. You know, all races, all genders, all sexualities, all abilities. I hope that we can find ways that everyone who is called can find a way to work within the church.”
Preach it, Sister. I mean, preach it, Pastor.