How do I define rabbi? That is a good question. The rabbis we go to for halachic decisions are not our congregational rabbis. (We're regulars in several shuls.) Not because we don't trust the rabbis, but because they don't do that. As our community's spread out, new minyanim pop up and the neighborhood's look for rabbis who are scholarly, can teach, and worthy of looking up to.

Not all rabbis are comfortable making halachic decisions, and even among those who are, certain questions might require further consultation. The process of getting to the point of being able to make decisions is a lengthy one, requiring years of study and apprenticeship. Not very practical for women.

This has never been a conflict for me personally. Part of it may be the conditioning of a traditional upbringing, but over the years I've come to realize that more than that is the fact that I'm not wired for Talmudic study. I don't have an interest in it, don't feel that I've been deprived by the limitations of my education. I do try to put myself in the shoes of the women who do feel conflicted (and they'd better be 9 1/2, with good arch support ;-).