Living Testaments: How Catholic and Baptist Women in Ministry Both Judge and Renew the Church

in Ecclesial Practices
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In 2014 women constituted 15.8% of u.s. clergy. They led 10% of u.s. congregations. While the numbers have increased dramatically in fifty years, this data invites a deeper question. What does women’s entry into ministry (lay and ordained) mean for ecclesiology, the life and doctrines of the church? Four case studies from two qualitative investigations of ministry illustrate women’s pastoral leadership from the margins of Roman Catholic and Southern Baptist churches, showing how women called to ministry are: living testaments to a renewed vision for church that embraces the fullness of humanity; living judgments on harms and shortcomings of the church; embodied revisions to ecclesial practices. Each case study bears witness to situated possibility of the Spirit’s work; exposes and challenges sins of sexism; shows every day dilemmas over resisting and subverting power; and reframes doctrine and practice from the margins, renewing ecclesial vision for the church.

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