Our take: Negative perceptions about women serving as pastors and leaders of church congregations are not as strongly held as they once were. However, many women are surprised by the length of time it takes a congregation to adjust to a female pastor or bishop. Women clergy are a growing demographic and as more women graduate from seminary and go to work in churches, they are helping dispel misconceptions about their intentions and the roles they aim to play.

Although attitudes have improved in recent years, its still common for women clergy to field doubts about their legitimacy.

The first time a church hires a women as pastor can be uncomfortable for both the woman and the congregation, said The Rev. Melissa St. Clair, senior pastor at Republic First Christian Church in the small southwestern Missouri town of Republic. She was the first woman to lead the church in this town of about 15,000 people.

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But St. Clair, who graduated from seminary in 2008, said her first challenge was even before she was hired, with denial from those within her Disciples of Christ (Christian Church) denomination. A male seminary classmate with identical qualifications could not believe that religious glass ceiling exists. Although her classmate received more job offers, He didnt really understand it, St. Clair said.

Hannah Fisher, who this fall will study pastoral care and pastoral chaplaincy at Brite Divinity School in Ft. Worth, began noticing contrary comments about women clergy once she started telling people her seminary plans.

Read more at Religion News Service.