Are you kidding? Not in this century, anyway. But let's drop down the hierarchy a little to a more approachable rank of shepherd. Forget, for a moment, Catholic or Protestant, priest or minister. What are the odds that your primary spiritual guide and mentor will be a woman? Fifty percent, minimum.
That shouldn't surprise anyone who's been paying attention over the past three decades. In the early 1970s, women streamed into the seminaries at the same time they were marching into other white-collar professions. Many, notably the Episcopalians, did so literally on faith, since their denominations barred female ministers. Today half the Christian branches, plus Reform and Conservative Judaism, ordain women. (Islam does not allow female immams.) The United Methodists count 7,039 female ministers (out of 44,536 total). In 1999 the small Unitarian Universalist Association recorded a landmark: a ministry that is more than 50% female. Not every denomination will pack so many X chromosomes into the pulpit, but with female attendance at seminaries now at 33% and rising, ordinations will follow.
Won't the feminization of mainline Christian denominations simply drive more traditional churchgoers to Evangelicalism? No doubt, at least in the short run. Yet there are feminist undercurrents in conservative places as well. To be sure, in 1984 the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution sanctioning women's service "in all aspects of church life other than...leadership roles entailing ordination." But the convention cannot dictate to individual congregations, and the number of ordained Southern Baptist women has increased each decade. Although most females attending Baptist seminaries (up to 40% at some schools) have no intention of targeting a pastorate, many other Baptist women have enrolled in more liberal denominations' schools.
Something more subtle is afoot elsewhere on the traditional right. Pentecostalism, while it shares the Baptists' scriptural conservatism, relies heavily on the workings of the Holy Ghost, which are as likely to touch a woman as a man. Women seldom preach unaided, but Jim and Tammy-style co-pastors are common. And while megachurches may seem the creatures of their high-powered male senior ministers, the bulk of their person-to-person spiritual business is done not on supercrowded Sundays but in dozens of small weekday prayer, study or self-help groups--often led by lay women.
It is here that the feminist impulse merges with an equally dynamic strain in American religion: the empowering of the laity. All sorts of Christians (and Jews and Buddhists) are tempering the CEO model of leadership with one that allows churchgoers to be pastoral counselors or high-ranking administrators. Again, women have rushed to fill the gap.