When Erika Crawford told her college boyfriend she had decided to go into the ministry, he broke up with her.
"I was 21 and heartbroken. I wondered if this was a sign of things to come," recalls the 35-year-old ordained minister of the African Methodist Episcopal Church located outside New York City.
Unfortunately, after her college breakup, the men she met through friends and colleagues continued to tell her that though they didn't mind her being religious, but that, in not so many words, the idea of dating a minister turned them off. 3 Ways To Change Your Bad Dating Attitude
Crawford's experience is indicative of the difficulties clergywomen find when they enter the dating sphere. Powerful, professional women in general often have difficulties finding love, but do these women of God have the toughest road to hoe?
It's a relatively recent question. Though women have informally served in pastoral roles for centuries, in 1956, the the United Methodist Church became the first American Protestant denomination to approve full ordination and clergy rights for women. The Episcopal Church, of which the current presiding bishop is a woman, approved women's ordination in 1976. The first female Reform Jewish rabbi was ordained in 1972, and Hebrew Union College (with three U.S. campuses and one in Jerusalem) had 552 ordained alumnae as of 2008. Conservative Judaism has ordained women since 1985.
There's no hard evidence documenting their dating struggles, but anecdotal testimony certainly points in that direction. Summarizing her own experience and that of her colleagues, Crawford says, "Statistically speaking, I was looking at being single forever. That was tremendously hard. Your relationship with God doesn't negate the fact that you're a woman and that you want to be romanced." Dear God, I'm Ready To Meet The One
Despite the challenges, Crawford has held firm to who she is—a woman who likes to wear high heels, makeup and jewelry. She says she would have no problems being a supportive wife to a husband, as she believes God commands. "But it's hard to find a man who is strong enough to deal with a strong woman," she says. "I know who I am and I know what God has called me to do. I don't make any apologies for that. I'm not going to dumb it down."
The other difficulty clergywomen face is the constant scrutiny of their lives: "You have to live under a microscope. Everybody is going to be watching," says Crawford. "As I've dated since I've been pastoring, I don't bring anybody around my congregation or my students at the university." (In addition to pastoring a church, Crawford is also a university chaplain.)
She has always been resolute not to date a congregant. When she speaks at other congregations and men approach her, she has passes up those connections. "I don't want to be seen as someone who comes into a church and hooks up," she says. 11 Reasons To Date A Church-Going Guy