Separation of church and state fails to protect female clergy

The founding fathers meant for religious freedom to stand as a fundamental principle of evolved civic life.  But in reality, church-state separation has had the unintended effect of protecting and enabling pedophilic male priests and endangering female clergy at the hands of abusive parishioners.  This two-sided coin of silencing abuse within church culture reveals a deeply patriarchal current that runs through not only conservative Catholic parishes but also highly progressive Protestant denominations.

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Tamara Nichols Rodenberg

An Interview with Tamara Nichols Rodenberg

Tamara Nichols Rodenberg


The Rev. Dr. Tamara Nichols Rodenberg was recently named as the 20th president of Bethany College, a private liberal arts college of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Bethany, West Virginia. Tamara and her husband John, Vice President of Philanthropy and Mission Implementation at Christian Church Homes, have two children, Heather and Matthew.

Can you give us a short summary of your career?

My career in ministry has led me through several manifestations of church including youth ministry, campus ministry, co-ministry (rural congregation/sub-urban congregation), and overseas ministry as a Common Global Mission’s Board missionary in Swaziland. In Swaziland, serving Kukhany’Okusha Zion Church in rural development and theological education, I realized that I needed to go back to school. I attended the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA, in order to complete a Ph.D. in Ethics & Social Theory with an emphasis on economic development. Toward the end of this time, the Disciples Seminary Foundation contacted me to consider applying for Dean of the Southern California program, a decision that made sense for myself, my husband John, and our two children under the age of four. As fate would have it, my predecessor (and truly excellent leader) Mary Anne Parrot soon chose to retire as president, and I was asked to consider becoming the interim president. I served as the DSF interim president until a new permanent president could be named. At this stage, we began the search process. Dr. D. Newell Williams of Brite Divinity School contacted me to see if I would consider serving in the role of Vice President for Advancement. This was a whole new world for me, and one I thought worth pursuing. We moved to Texas where I began learning the art of fundraising. This led me to the invitation to consider becoming a college president. Read more

The Power of Plastic


That Little Piece of Plastic

I remember the moment vividly. I sat across from my Koine Greek professor, the woman with wild red hair and a penchant for saying, “Okie dokie, Smokie!” Her dark-rimmed glasses slipped down on her nose as she leaned in toward me. “You’re a petite, young-looking woman. How will you claim pastoral authority?”

Now, perhaps I should be clear that this question didn’t come to me in the midst of parsing participles. I was halfway through my seminary education, going through what my seminary termed a “Midterm Assessment,” geared at seeing whether we pastors-to-be were on the right track in our spiritual and academic formation for that role. I don’t know if other seminaries do this, but for me, it felt a bit like going before a theological firing squad of beloved, but intimidating as hell, professors. In the face of that bespectacled, steely gaze and blunt question, I responded as best I could.

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