Female Pastors & the Last Name Dilemma (a husband’s perspective)

a guest post from Mitch Ross

Our story starts with woman pastor. She’s got an established career, with many professional contacts. Then she meets me. Cue the following events: dating, proposal, wedding planning, yadda, yadda.

Along came the question of her last name. To change to mine, keep her maiden name, or become a hyphenated (i.e. Mrs. Smith-Jones). She didn’t have any strong feelings on the topic. I did (and do) have strong opinions, for a few different reasons.

When we got married, she did change her last name to mine. Then something happened that never occurred to either of us. Her old business contacts couldn’t find her. They knew her maiden name, knew she got married, but couldn’t remember her new last name. It was as if she disappeared off the face of the planet.

The directories of ministers in our denomination did have her listed, but people couldn’t find her unless they did a brute-force search through the whole book, then calling everyone with a matching first name in the state. Only a geek would think of that approach, and NOBODY would really do that anyway.

I still run across people that only know her by her old name, and mentally can’t make her new name stick in their head. When they catch themselves, they apologize and use her new name – and repeat the process 10 minutes later. These people are always older male pastors, and are always very nice people. They just can’t remember her new name.

I know it’s not malicious or the result of any agenda. You know and work with someone for years, and then they change their name. People in the business world have this happen all the time, and there are methods for dealing with it. Being in the technology business, I could name some electronic techniques, but I digress… The main way to deal with changing names is to acknowledging that people can and do change their surname. Given the dirth of women pastors in our denomination, there’s still a lot of people who are getting used to this idea.

Anyway, people had trouble with “Rev. MadenName” vanishing without a trace. This happened with several people who were looking for my wife. There was an obvious solution, and she went with it. Change her name to a hyphenated “Maiden-New” when in the context of her job. Now old associates of hers can find her in our denomination’s directory, as well as fixing many other last-name based problems.

At first I wasn’t sure what to think about that. Then it hit me. She was using her stage name.

It makes perfect sense. A good example is Any Grant. Amy Grant hasn’t been named Amy Grant for decades. She uses her stage name as a professional identity, even though it’s not her name anymore. When she was Amy Chapman, and then later Amy Gill, she kept her professional identity of Amy Grant. Once her career got rolling, changing her professional name would require starting her whole reputation and image all over again.

So now, depending on where you meet her, my wife has either a long or short last name. And yes, she laughs when I call it her “stage name.”
mitch ross
Mitch Ross is a Systems Integration Specialist for a power company. That has something to do with computers, but he’s never been able to explain it in english. He is a science nerd, introvert, and pastor’s husband. He, his wife Rachel (one of the founders of Preacher Girls), and their 3 boys live in Michigan.

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