Academic Programs 

 Women, Religion and the Future of USA Churches   (RS-661)
Winter/Spring 2010

Setting the context for on-line discussion of women in the future of USA churches, the course will begin with a brief overview of women in world religions. Attention will next be focused on the history of women’s participation and leadership in American congregations over the last two centuries, to stimulate a discussion of what themes and trends might be predicted for the 21st and 22nd centuries. The differences among and between women and men in the pews and pulpits of Catholic, mainline liberal Protestant, and evangelical conservative Protestant denominations will also be explored to better understand the present reality and possible future of churches in the USA. Adair Lummis, Faculty Associate in Research

Meeting Day, Time and Dates:*

*Note: This course is scheduled to begin Monday, January 25th . Registered students will receive an email from Dr. Scott Thumma by January 22th with instructions on how to access the private web site.

Adair Lummis
Faculty Associate in Research

Contact Information:

phone: (860) 509-9547


Course Syllabus

Course Web Site

Course Description and Objectives:
The focus of this course is on factors affecting the involvement and leadership of women and men in USA Christian faith communities, and the consequences for individual, church, and society. Through the lenses of history, sociology and psychology, women’s changing roles and influence in congregations and church structures will be examined, to raise questions for on-line discussion about the present and the future of women in church structures.

Students will be asked to consider how differences among denominational traditions and theologies, as well as variations among particular racial/ethnic/national groups have affected women’s past and present church involvement and may continue to do so throughout the twenty-first century.

In light of women’s and men’s often differing degree of activity in congregations, students will read and give their views on the ongoing (and unresolved) debates about the relative importance of innate differences between men and women, childhood socialization, opportunities for participation and leadership in church and society. Because within single congregations individual women (and men) may respond differently to the same church conditions and teaching, attention will also be given to the extent to which education, family situation, personal preferences, etc. may affect overall participation and leadership aspirations or style. A final question to be addressed by the course revolves around the potential of women in official church leadership positions to strengthen or weaken congregations and their communities

Parallels with women‘s experience in other religious traditions and countries will be very welcomed in students on-line responses and papers, and will be touched on in lectures and reading assigned. However, it is important that students do the reading assigned for this course, and demonstrate this in making such parallels.

Course Requirements:
doing all of the assigned reading, answering one of the questions posed by the instructor with each lecture, and commenting on at least one of the answers written by another student. 40% of final grade

Mid-term proposal for final essay: 500-1000 words on the type and extent of women’s leadership in your congregation or regional judicatory (diocese, conference, district, or other faith body) over the last 20-50 years, with some references to assigned reading done about how your congregation, regional or national church body or other faith group has followed a similar or different trajectory. 25% of final grade

Final essay: About 1500 at words on what you see as the future of women’s participation, leadership and consequences for the strength of your congregation, denomination or faith tradition. – AND WHY (using your scholarly reflections, assigned readings, interviews, insights, and fantasies.) 35% of final grade

WEEK 1: Introduction to Women’s Place in World Religions

  1. Reading: Only the on-line lecture introduction.
  2. Students: Introduce themselves one line, given some information about their religious backgrounds, and what their particular interests are in this course or in their future careers.

WEEK 2: Women’s Leadership in USA Churches during 18th- early 19th Centuries
Reading assigned here and in forthcoming weeks is primarily to gain understanding of themes and trends (not historical details).

  1. Susan Hill Lindley, You Have Stept Out of Your Place: A History of Women and Religion in America. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996). Chapters 5 and 6, “The Great Awakening” and “The Ideal American Woman”. Pp 39-69.
  2. Carl and Dorothy Schneider, In Their Own Right: The History of American Clergywomen. (New York: Crossroad, 1997). Chapter 2: “Crosscurrents: 1800-1853).” Pp 23-56

WEEK 3: Moving into the 20th Century: Currents affecting Women’s Place in Churches Reading :

  1. Ann Taves, “Feminization Revisited: Protestantism and Gender at the Turn of the Century.” In M. L. Bendroth and V.L. Brenton, eds: Women and Twentieth Century Protestantism. (Urban: U. of Illinois Press, 2002). Pp 304-324.
  2. Carroll, Hargrove and Lummis, Women of the Cloth (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1983) Chapter 2. “American Churches and ‘Women’s Place.’ Pp. 20-48.
  3. Cheryl Townsend Gilkes, If It Wasn’t for the Women (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2001), Chapter 1 “Community Work and Social Change”, pp.15-27.

WEEK 4: Twentieth Century Women Confront Patriarchy Individually and As Groups Reading:

  1. M.T. Winter, A. Lummis, A. Stokes, “Introduction”. Pp. 1-6.
  2. Susan efecting in Place. (New York Crossroad, 1994 Farrell, “Women-Church and Egalitarianism: Revisioning “in Christ there are no more distinctions between male and female.’” In G. A. Weatherby and S.A. Farrell, The Power of Gender in Religion. (New York: McGraw Hill, 1996) Pp. 39-50
  3. B.B. Zikmund, “Women’s Organizations: Centers of Denominational Loyalty and Expressions of Christian Unity.” In J.W. Carroll and W.C. Roof, eds., Beyond Establishment: Protestant Identity in a Post-Protestant Age. (Louisville, Westminster John Knox Press, 1993), Pp 116-138.
  4. Susan Hartman, “Expanding Feminism’s Field and Focus: Activism in the National Council of Churches in the 1960’s and 1970’s.” In M. L. Bendroth and V.L. Brenton, eds: Women and Twentieth Century Protestantism. (Urban: U. of Illinois Press, 2002). Pp 49-69

WEEK 5: Women’s Roles and Negotiations in Conservative Communities of Faith Reading for themes, similarities and differences

  1. John P. Barkowski and Jen’nan Ghazal Read. “Veiled Submission: Gender, Power, and Identity among Evangelical and Muslim Women in the United States.” Qualitative Sociology 26(2003).71-92.
  2. Elizabeth W. Ozorak. “The Power, but not the Glory: How Women Empower themselves through Religion.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 35. (1996). Pp. 17-29.
  3. Lori G. Beaman, “Molly Mormons, Mormon Feminists and Moderates: Religious Diversity and the Latter Day Saints Church. “ Sociology of Religion, 62. (2001). Pp. 65-86.
  4. Elaine H. Ecklund, “Catholic Women Negotiate Feminism: A Research Note.” Sociology of Religion. 64. (2003) Pp. 515-524.
  5. Sally Gallagher, “The Marginalization of Evangelical Feminism.” Sociology of Religion 65. 2004. Pp 215-237.

WEEK 6: Women Roles in Racial-Ethnic, Immigrant, and Multi-Ethnic Congregations Reading

  1. Cheryl Townsend Gilkes, “Some Mother’s Son and Some Father’s Daughter: Issues of Gender, Biblical Language, and Worship.” In Gilkes, op. cit. pp 121-141.
  2. Pyong Gap Min, “Severe Underrepresentation of Women in Church Leadership in the Korean Immigrant Community in the United States.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religions, 47 (2008) 47, Pp 225-241
  3. Case studies in Helen Rose Ebaugh and Janet Saltzman Chafetz, eds.,Religion and the New Immigrants (Walnut Creek, CA” AltaMira, 2000)
    (Choose at least one)
    a. Kathleen Sullivan, “St. Catherine’s Catholic Church: One Church, Parallel Congregations” pp 210-233
    b. Patricia Dorsey, “Southwest Assembly of God: Whomsoever Will” pp234-257

WEEK 7: Women Taking Leadership in Racial-Ethnic Congregations: A Different Journey? Reading for themes, similarities and differences

  1. Delores Carpenter, A Time for Honor: A Portrait of African American Clergywomen (St. Louis, Chalice Press, 2001), Chapter 1. “Black Christian Women in the African American Church.” Pp. 1-23.
  2. Gaston Espinosa, “Your Daughters Shall Prophesy: A History of Women in Ministry in the Latino Pentecostal Movement in the United States.” In M. L. Bendroth and V.L. Brenton, eds: Women and Twentieth Century Protestantism. (Urbana: U. of Illinois Press, 2002). Pp 25-48
  3. Timothy Tseng, “Unbinding their Souls: Chinese-Protestant Women in 20th Century America.” In M. L. Bendroth and V.L. Brenton, eds: Women and Twentieth Century Protestantism. (Urbana: U. of Illinois Press, 2002). Pp 136-163.

WEEK 8: Week of Reading/Writing Catch-up: Proposals for Final Essay Due

WEEK 9 The Nature-Nurture-Opportunity Debates: Are Women More Religiously Inclined than Men, and if so Why?

  1. Rodney Stark, “Physiology and Faith: Addressing the “Universal Gender Difference in Religious Commitment.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. 41: (2002). Pp. 495-507.
  2. Darren Sherkat: “Sexuality and Religious Commitment in the United States: An Empirical Examination.” Sociology of Religion 41 (2002) Pp. 313-323.
  3. Michael Carroll. “Give Me the Ol’ Time Hormonal Religion.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 43 (2004) Pp. 275-278.
  4. Lummis, “A Research Note: ‘Real Men’ and Church Participation.” Review of Religious Research. 45. (2004) Pp. 404-414.

WEEK 10: Denominations’ Strategies to Facilitate and Block Ordination of Women
Reading for themes, similarities and differences among denominations
  1. Paula D. Nesbitt, The Feminization of the Clergy in America: Occupational and Organizational Perspectives. (New York: Oxford U. Press, 1997), Chapter 1: “Tradition of Transformation: Women’s Struggle over Religious Authority and Leadership.” Pp. 9-28.
  2. Mark Chaves, Ordaining Women: Culture and Conflict in Religious Organizations. (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, l997). Chapters 2 and 8: “The Symbolic Significance of Women’s Ordination” and “Conclusion.” Pp. 14-37; 182-192.
  3. Barbara B Zikmund, AT Lummis and MY Chang, Clergy Women: An Uphill Calling.(Louisville, Westminister John Knox Press, 1998) Chapter 1: “A New Situation”. Pp. 1-22.

WEEK 11. Ordained Women as Leaders of Protestant Congregations
  1. Edward C. Lehman: Women’s Path Into Ministry: Six Major Studies (All six chapters plus responses from denominational leaders). Pulpit and Pew, Duke Divinity. 2003. 46 pages. Download from:
  2. James Own Wolfe III, American Baptist Women in Pastoral Ministry, (South Bend, Indiana: Cloverdale, 2007), Chapters 5.& 6. pp 96-124.

WEEK 12 The Future of Women in Church Leadership & the Future of the Church

  1. Virginia Sullivan Finn, “Ministerial Attitudes and Aspirations of Catholic Laywomen in the United States.” In Catherine Wessinger, ed:, Religious Institutions and Women’s Leadership: New Roles Inside the Mainstream.
    (Columbia, SC:University of South Carolina Press. 1996). Pp. 244-268.
  2. Paula D. Nesbitt, The Feminization of the Clergy in America: Occupational and Organizational Perspectives. (New York: Oxford U. Press, 1997), Chapter 9. “Clergy Feminizations: Controlled Labor or Liberationist Change?” Pp. 161-177.
  3. B, B Zikmund, AT Lummis and MY Chang, Clergy Women: An Uphill Calling.(Louisville, Westminister John Knox Press, 1998) Chapter 6. “An Expanding Ministry”. Pp. 114-133.
  4. M. Deckman, S. Crawford, L. Olson, J. Green, “Clergy and the Politics of Gender.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. 42 (2003). 621-631.

WEEK 13. Final Essay
No Reading:
Each students is asked to write an essay of 1500-2000 words on what you see as the future of women’ s leadership and congregational strength in your denomination or faith tradition – and why (using your scholarly reflections, other students comments, insights, fantasies, and assigned reading).

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