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Abyssinian Church Dispossessed a Female Pastor the Success of being an Influential Leader due to Gender Bias

The Abyssinian Baptist- America’s Black Church

The Abyssinian Baptist Church located in New York City has been a Black church in America for about 215 years. With the political rise of Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Jr., one of the most influential men who led the congregation, the church became a distinguished megachurch. Powell had been a pastor from 1937 to 1972 and also served in Congress for 26 years. Eboni Marshall Turman, a believer who made Abyssinian her spiritual home, came to believe she had the right to become the first woman to get the position of the church’s senior pastor. She got ordained in 2007 and was the youngest pastor in the history of Abyssinian.

The senior pastor, Calvin O. Butts III, of Abyssinian died in 2002. A long time after his death, Marshall Turman, who is a professor at Yale Divinity School, was one out of a dozen people who filled out the application for the vacancy. She knew she would be chosen but she knew that sexism would play a huge factor in her not fulfilling her dream. She was not even a finalist and still knew the circumstances she would have to face due to her gender. Hence, she filed a lawsuit in the federal court for the gender discrimination shown by the church in its search committee.

Gender Discrimination Presented by The Church

The lawsuit was filed on 29 December. It accuses the committee chair Valerie S. Grant of behaving inappropriately with Marshall. The questions that were put before her were not convenient and the issues raised were not discussed with the male applicants. The church did not hide its gender discrimination. A meeting held by the committee members which included Valerie stated that Abyssinian decided not to hire a woman and that a woman senior pastor would only be hired over his dead body, as stated in the complaint.

The church spokesman LaToya Evans said that there was no role of gender discrimination for not hiring Marshall. Even though she was an excellent candidate, she fell short of some things which made the committee not vote for her.

The same selection process for everyone by Abyssinian

When we look at the statistics all the remaining Abyssinian finalists for the position of senior pastor are men. Marshall stood a real chance of getting the job, as her application checkboxed all the requirements for the post. She was even told by the committee that she was a powerful candidate and was an obvious pick. The rigorous process for selecting the senior pastor was fair to everyone. Yet, opportunities for women are considered to be the last option. The process was equally tough and challenging for everyone.

Yet Abyssinians are stuck to their statement that Marshall lacked the skills, whereas she believes that she was better than many finalists for the job.

Application by Marshall Turman

An application was written to Abyssinian’s senior pastorate which mirrored her credentials and experience, which was a great example of the skills one should have for the position. She even has a Master of Divinity and Doctorate from Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

Moreover, she was invited to apply for the job by Butts. Marshall had been called the best assistant by Butts. According to a post made on 23 September, 2023, Marshall stated that the hiring process was gender biased and tainted with secrecy.

 

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