Holy Women, Wholly Women: Sharing Ministries of Wholeness through Life Stories and Reciprocal Ethnography

Holy Women, Wholly Women: Sharing Ministries of Wholeness through Life Stories and Reciprocal Ethnography

Holy Women, Wholly Women: Sharing Ministries of Wholeness through Life Stories and Reciprocal Ethnography

Holy Women, Wholly Women: Sharing Ministries of Wholeness through Life Stories and Reciprocal Ethnography

Synopsis

Lawless collects and interprets the stories of ten women ministers and examines their public and private lives, their ministries, their images of God, and their negotiations of sexuality and the religious life.

Excerpt

When I set out to write this book, I came to the task with some presuppositions based on more than ten years of research on women in religion. I believed at the outset that the story of ordained women in mainline denominations would be a radically different story from that of the women Pentecostal preachers I had previously studied and featured in my book Handmaidens of the Lord; I expected that their experiences would be more positive and less difficult. Yet I also somehow knew that, even though women were seemingly breaking down barriers and were making strides in terms of ordination and placement in positions of church authority, in reality women had not progressed far enough in their pursuit for equality in this male bastion. Some of my early, brief encounters with ordained women, or women who had tried to be ordained and were rejected or frustrated in their attempts, convinced me that opportunities for women in the church still lag behind those for men and that many of these women were still subjected to painful and often crippling experiences. These juxtaposed, nearly opposite points of view serve to illustrate the unsettled questions. Are they or are they not making great strides? Have things changed very much at all? What is life as a clergywoman like? How do they see their lives and their ministry?

I also came into this project with an ill-defined but strongly felt notion that women were, by their nature and inclinations, changing the "face" of religion in America today. I believed clergywomen shared a common calling. I believed they ministered differently and uniquely because they were females: that they preached differently; saw God, religion, and spirituality differently; and, by their very presence and persistence, could and were changing the focus of religion toward a more process-oriented, liberation-defined, humanistic endeavor. I believe this more than ever; but my beliefs and my understandings have been constantly tempered, modified, and challenged by the women in this study. They resist my inclinations to make this study a crusade.

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