WOMEN OF THE CLOTH: A New Opportunity for the Churches by Jackson W.; Barbara Hargrove & Adair T. Lummis Carroll

WOMEN OF THE CLOTH: A New Opportunity for the Churches

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Though it's drably written, this is a well-conceived and generally worthwhile study of women ministers in the mainline Protestant denominations (churches to the right of the Unitarians and to the left of the Southern Baptists). The authors interviewed 636 clergywomen, compared their responses to those of 739 clergymen, and came to a broad range of (mostly unsurprising) conclusions. The historical background to all this is that after centuries of exclusion from the ordained ministry and decades of only token participation in it, in the 1970s women began flocking to the seminaries. By 1980 women still constituted a mere 4.2 percent of all the clergy in America (as opposed to 12.8 percent of lawyers and judges, and 10.8 percent of physicians), but the numbers enrolled in Master of Divinity programs were much higher (45 percent for the United Church of Christ, 27 percent for the Episcopal Church), so the future impact of women on the nation's religious consciousness should be considerable. In the meantime, Carroll-Hargrove-Lummis' research indicates that most clergywomen chose their way of life for traditional reasons (belief in a ""call,"" deisre to perform sacramental functions) rather than to effect a feminist transformation in their churches. Clergywomen tend to come from more affluent and better-educated families than clergymen. They find it relatively easy to get their first appointment, but advancement thereafter comes harder for them than for their male counterparts. Congregations often claim to have no gender preference in choosing a pastor, but clergywomen do face some knee-jerk resistance, and affirmative action is practically non-existent in clerical hiring. Finally, clergywomen, especially when single, lead more stressful personal lives than clergymen, which may help to explain why more than half of ordained women are married to ministers. No dramatic news, then, but a sober, thorough review of a major cultural shift often ignored by secular-minded feminists.

Pub Date: Feb. 23rd, 1983
Publisher: Harper & Row