Pence Ducks Women Leadership in Churches Controversy: A Red Flag on Gender Equality?

Mike Pence, the former vice president, has decided to put his hat in the ring for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. But when it comes to defending the rights of women to hold positions of leadership in the church, Pence seems to have found himself tongue-tied.

In a recent appearance on “Meet the Press,” Pence acknowledged the influence of women pastors on his family, stating, “Women pastors have had a big impact.” However, when pressed to defend their roles in light of the Southern Baptist Convention’s recent decision to expel churches that support women in leadership roles, Pence fell notably silent.

In a somewhat startling turn of events, Southern Baptists voted to excommunicate five churches for having “a female functioning in the office of pastor,” during their convention in New Orleans. According to The New York Times, there could be as many as 2,000 women serving as Southern Baptist pastors. The majority of these head pastors are Black women, despite the majority of Southern Baptists being white.

Given his political ambitions and the crucial role that religious conservatives play in the Republican party, one would expect Pence to take a clear stance on such a significant issue. However, when asked if he’d feel comfortable attending a church that excluded women from leadership roles, Pence declined to comment.

This hesitance isn’t particularly surprising, considering Pence’s track record. He’s attended events hosted by divisive religious leaders such as evangelical minister John Hagee and Baptist Robert Jeffress. Hagee has blamed gay people for Hurricane Katrina, while Jeffress has labeled homosexuality as a “perversion.”

Pence’s views on women’s issues are a matter of public record. This is a man who, in 2002, claimed he would never dine alone with a woman other than his wife and suggested that Disney’s Mulan was a cautionary tale against women serving in the military. Pence’s policy priorities further reveal his regressive stance on women’s rights. As governor of Indiana, he endorsed every anti-abortion bill that came his way, including a 2016 bill mandating funerary services for miscarried or aborted fetuses.

In an era where gender equality is a pressing issue, Pence’s silence on the matter of women pastors and his history of anti-women policies sends a worrying signal. As the fight for women’s rights continues, we can only hope that political leaders will stand up for equality, rather than shying away when it matters most.