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United Methodist Clergywomen Retention Study

Anna Howard Shaw Center, Boston University School of Theology

with funding and support from
Division of Ordained Ministry, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry,
and The United Methodist Church

Margaret S. Wiborg, Director; Elizabeth J. Collier, Primary Investigator


Acknowledgements

This project would not have been accomplished but for the question raised by clergywomen from the former Southern New England Conference. Voicing the concern of many of their sisters about where their women colleagues were going, a group of clergywomen who gather informally and regularly for fellowship, support, discussion, and spiritual growth approached the Anna Howard Shaw Center and asked us to investigate.  We thank Lois Bailey, Susan Carlson, Barbara Herber, Shirley Hoover, Judith Kohatsu, Deborah Shipp, Donella Siktberg, and Janet Smith-Rushton for articulating the question on behalf of others throughout the connection.

We are deeply grateful to the individuals who have spent countless hours working on this project. Nancy Johnson input all the data for the questionnaires; Fred Graham, Barbara Livingston, and Wendy Waterman transcribed the interviews; and Elizabeth Bettenhausen, Pamela Estes, Shirley Hoover, Judith Kohatsu, Jane LaMarche, Barbara Lemmel, Barbara Livingston, Elizabeth Lurie, Margaret Stowe, and Betty Truitt coded them.  Students working in the Center, Meredith Manning Brown, Danna Drum, Mary Beth Hall, and Julie Marashlian provided much in the way of project support.  Special thanks to Elizabeth Bettenhausen for her editorial skills.

Finally, we wish to express our gratitude to former members of the Division of Ordained Ministry (1993-1996), and the current Section of Elders and Local Pastors of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, Rev. John Harnish, Associate General Secretary, who funded this research. We especially appreciate the support of the committee that works with clergywomen’s concerns, the Continuing Education for Ministry Committee, Rev. Mary Ann Moman, Chair, Rev. Lynn Scott, Staff. We also wish to acknowledge the many clergywomen who participated in this project and all other clergywomen who have embodied these issues in their lives.

THE OPPRESSIVE SILENCE OF THE PROMISING, BRIGHT VOICES

Last year I had the opportunity to hear the stories of thirty women who were interviewed for this study.  When I accepted this assignment, which was in itself a call of sorts, I was not prepared for the emotional rollercoaster that lay waiting on those tapes which arrived in a box at my door.

The process of transcribing the interviews was similar in some respects to providing pastoral psychotherapy:  I did a lot of listening and empathizing with the storyteller.  The frustration, however, lay in being unable to respond, to provide support, to be present for these women, most of whom clearly had a great need for that. The consistent theme of isolation was almost overwhelming and was evidenced over and over by the stories which were waiting to spill forth.  Someone had asked the right question, and the answers came in torrents.

As I listened to the stories one by one, I felt as though I was journeying with each woman.  The experiences shared by each were touching, hopeful, funny, infuriating, incredible, and at times, unbelievably sad.  I must say that the depth of the pain many women expressed about their experiences in ordained ministry were at times unbearable and I would have to stop for a bit and do something else.  Some of the stories filled me with rage.  Sometimes, when someone told a story I found funny to the point where I laughed out loud, I would play it a few times just to keep laughing.  Some women were incredibly inspiring to listen to, as they described their understanding and practice of ministry.  It was impossible not to become attached to each one, and I felt a certain sadness at the end of each interview, in the same way that one feels sad when you finish a book you really like.

I was slow at transcribing, and the tapes took me a long time.  During this process, I lived with the stories I heard.  I heard them the loudest when I went to worship on Sundays. I was struck most by the oppressive silence of the promising, bright voices who had left local church ministry.  I thought of the gifts and graces the church was losing out on because of its fear of change.  One phrase kept coming to my mind when I would think of women leaving:  the gifts of God for the people of God are being rejected.  These gifted women were exiting for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which was that the people did not seem able or willing to hear the prophetic voices of women in ministry.

So now I and the others who conducted, transcribed, and read these interviews are keepers of the stories, and the analysis of what was said is now passed on to the readers:  clergy, laity, and church authorities.  The tapes have been destroyed, those particular voices now silent.  It’s a pity, because the wealth found there was truly beautiful.  It was a privilege to walk, albeit silently, through the valleys and over the mountaintops with these women.  It was an experience I will always remember and one for which I am grateful.  I hope that the gifts and graces of those answering God’s call will be seen, heard, and cherished by the whole church.

- A member of the transcription team

Chapter One: The Problem Emerging

Nearly one-third of United Methodist clergywomen in full connection were not serving local churches five years ago.  Some of those clergywomen were on leave.  Other clergywomen were serving as hospital chaplains, campus ministers, or in other ministries outside the local church.  In 1991 several United Methodist clergywomen in local churches from the former Southern New England conference remarked about an increasing absence of their female colleagues.  The Anna Howard Shaw Center was asked to investigate the observation.  Indeed, the Division of Ordained Ministry of The United Methodist Church confirmed that women are leaving local church ministry at a ten percent higher rate than male clergy.

In 1993 the Shaw Center, with funding in part from the Division of Ordained Ministry, began the United Methodist Clergywomen Retention Study to identify reasons why large numbers of clergywomen were not serving local churches and to propose possible interventions by the connectional structure of the Church intended to retain clergywomen in local church ministry.

Women’s ordination has a long history in the traditions comprising The United Methodist Church.  The United Brethren Church approved the ordination of women in 1889.  The Evangelical Church was opposed to the ordination of women, however.  When those churches united, the new church, The Evangelical United Brethren [EUB] Church, did not continue the practice of ordaining women.  The Methodist Church did not approve women until 1956, though ordination as “local elders” was allowed much earlier.  In 1968, the Evangelical United Brethren Church and the Methodist Church merged, at which time full clergy status was continued for women. Currently, The Book of Discipline states, “Both men and women are included in all provisions of the Discipline that refer to the ordained ministry.”  Additionally, The United Methodist Church, in its Social Principles, supports the rights of women:

We affirm women and men to be equal in every aspect of their common life.  We therefore urge that every effort be made to eliminate sex-role stereotypes in activity and portrayal of family life and in all aspects of voluntary and compensatory participation in the Church and society.  We affirm the right of women to equal treatment in employment, responsibility, promotion, and compensation.  We affirm the importance of women in decision-making positions at all levels of Church life and urge such bodies to guarantee their presence through policies of employment and recruitment.

Other studies have investigated the experiences of clergywomen in The United Methodist Church and other denominations.  These investigations have shown inequitable experiences between clergywomen and clergymen.  A study of United Methodist clergywomen, sponsored by the Division of Ordained Ministry of The United Methodist Church in 1980, revealed that clergywomen experienced discontent in their interpersonal relationships with their superiors, peers, and parishioners.  Clergywomen experienced overt discrimination, lack of acceptance, and were stereotyped into certain gender roles. In Women of the Cloth, a study of clergywomen in nine denominations, researchers found that some lay leaders in the study had a difficult time reconciling the images of minister and woman.  This type of conflict may make it difficult for clergywomen to succeed in their churches.

Salary studies in the Virginia and South Carolina Annual Conferences of The United Methodist Church, as well as in other conferences, have shown that clergywomen earn less than their male colleagues, even when researchers controlled for years of service.  In the Virginia Annual Conference, some women earned up to $10,000 less than their male counterparts who had the same amount of experience.  Clergywomen in the South Carolina Annual Conference earned an average of $1,675 less than their male colleagues, even though the average age of the clergymen was two years younger than the average age of the clergywomen.  In both conferences, differences in salary increased with years of service.

United Methodist clergywomen are leaving local church ministry at a higher rate than their male colleagues.  Previous investigations have revealed salary differences and difficult professional relationships between male and female clergy.  Church and society create cultural conflicts between the roles of minister and woman.  Therefore, investigation into the reasons United Methodist clergywomen leave the local church ministry is urgently needed.

In the study proposal submitted to the Division of Ordained Ministry of The United Methodist Church, four hypotheses were identified.  Statement of hypotheses was inappropriate for this study, however; it was never meant to be an explanatory, but an exploratory, study.  The following hypotheses, then, more appropriately should be considered the research biases with which we conducted the study.  First, women enter parish ministry with the intention of staying and offering themselves in service.  Second, women in local churches face a greater difficulty in acceptance of their ministry than men do.  Third, women need specific supports from the connectional structure to make their ministry effective.  Fourth, some clergywomen might remain in local parish ministry through efforts of the connectional structure of The United Methodist Church to be more responsive to the different needs and circumstances of clergywomen in American culture.

The two main objectives stated in the proposal were appropriate to the study.  They were:   to identify reasons clergywomen leave local church ministry; and, to identify possible interventions by the connectional structure of the Church in retaining clergywomen in local churches.

Confronting the material in this study is difficult.  The project staff, especially the transcribers and coders who worked with the interviews, lived with these women, their voices, and their pain.  One coder commented, “I think I suffered more with the pain of these women than I wanted to.”  Another coder commented, “Reading the stories of these women clergy was one of the most painful tasks I have ever undertaken.”

Hearing difficult voices is often hearing prophetic voices.  The Church is both location of God’s grace and a place of human responsibility, fallibility, and faith.  Hearing the voices of clergywomen is not an ancient activity in the Church.  Sometimes voices of clergymen have also been heard only as contradictions of the tradition or the dear status quo.  Hearing openly and carefully voices of clergywomen offers an occasion for the Church itself to live more completely its vision of gracious, abundant life.  This is a vision for women and men, for children and adults, a vision for humans and the whole creation.

  1. Division of Ordained Ministry of The United Methodist Church, “1992 Statistics United Methodist Clergywomen,” Wellsprings 6 (Spring 1993):  34-35.  2074 of the nearly 3000 clergywomen in full connection (or 69%) were serving local churches.
  2. Division of Ordained Ministry of the United Methodist Church/Rolf Memming Longitudinal Clergy Study (to be published in late 1997).
  3. The United Methodist Church, The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church. (Nashville TN:  The United Methodist Publishing House, 1996), 19.
  4. The Book of Discipline, Par. 364.2, 245.
  5. The Book of Discipline, Par. 66F, 93.
  6. Harry Hale, Jr., Morton King, and Doris Moreland Jones, New Witnesses:  United Methodist Clergywomen (Nashville TN:  Board of Higher Education and Ministry, 1980).  Jackson W. Carroll, Barbara Hargrove, and Adair T. Lummis, Women of the Cloth:  A New Opportunity for the Churches (San Francisco:  Harper and Row, 1983). Commission on the Status and Role of Women (COSROW), Virginia Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, “Female Clergy Earnings Far Smaller than Earnings for Male Clergy,” Press Release,  31 March 1993.  Paula D. Nesbitt, Feminization of the Clergy in America:  Occupational and Organizational Perspectives (New York:  Oxford University Press, 1997).
  7. Hale, King, Jones, 17.
  8. Carroll, Hargrove, Lummis, 142-144.
  9. COSROW, 1.
  10. COSROW, 2.
  11. See Appendix B1 for additional discussion of the methodology.

Chapter 2: Calls, Commitment, and Cries

Intention to Serve in a Local Church Setting

If the clergywomen leaving local church ministry did indeed intend to serve in the local church, then investigations such as this study should be considered quite seriously. Did the participants in the United Methodist Clergywomen Retention Study intend to serve in the local church?  The study data clearly disclose an intention and commitment on the part of a large majority of the study participants to enter local church ministry.

Among the overall study population, approximately 81% of the participants indicated they entered ordained ministry because of a non-specific call to ministry, a specific call to the local church, or a specific call to preach (see Table 1).  While a large majority of the participants indicated a non-specific call to ministry, their intended appointment after receiving their elders’ orders indicates their commitment to local church ministry. Eighty-two percent of all participants intended to serve as local church pastors after receiving their elders’ orders (see Table 2).

Additionally, the reasons participants felt the local church was the best place for them to serve, found in Table 3, confirm this commitment to local church ministry.  The leading reason given for the local church being the best place of service was “I am doing what God called me to do.”  Enjoying the local church, finding it a comfortable place to serve and feeling at home there, was the second but less frequent reason these participants found the local church to be the best place of service.  The intentions of these women and their sense of divine calling regarding the local church support their desire and intent to serve in the local church.  Twenty percent of the participants did not respond to this question, approximately the same percentage that chose options other than “local church pastor” in Table 2.

When certain demographic factors are also taken into account, only a few differences emerge.  Similar proportions of ethnic minority women and white women indicated a non-specific call to ministry, while more white women indicated a specific call to the local church and more ethnic minority women indicated a specific call to preach (see Table 4).  Similar proportions of women in both groups (81% of ethnic minority participants and 82% of the white participants) intended to serve in the local church as their primary appointment type after elders’ orders (see Table 5).  Consistent with the overall sample population, the leading primary reason the local church is the best place of service for both ethnic minority women (70%) and white women (61%) was “I am doing what God called me to do” (see Table 6). The reasons for a nine-percentage point difference between the two ethnic groups are unknown.

The reasons with the second highest frequency given by these two groups differ.  Nine percent of ethnic minority women selected “committed to the Church as an institution” as the second reason the local church was the best place of service.  Thirteen percent of white women chose the reason of enjoying the local church, finding it comfortable and like home.  While small, this particular difference may highlight possible racism and discrimination ethnic minority women may experience in the local church.  John Wesley’s view of the world as the parish must also suggest that the world can be found in the parish.  Thus, the institution of the local church is probably not free of societal ills such as racism.  White women, despite possible sexism, may find acceptance somewhat easier in local churches than women from ethnic minority backgrounds.

The second demographic factor is marital status.  Regardless of marital status, the participants indicated a non-specific call to ministry, a specific call to the local church, or a specific call to preach as the primary reason for seeking ordination (see Table 7).  Eighty-three percent of those participants who were currently married and the same proportion of participants who had ever been separated, divorced, or widowed indicated one of the three types of calling to ministry.  Eighty-three percent of both groups also intended their primary appointment after receiving their elders’ orders to be a local church appointment (see Table 8).

Smaller proportions of the clergywomen who had never been married (76%) and the clergywomen who were in committed relationships (but were unmarried) (75%) indicated one of the three types of calling as the primary reason for seeking ordination.  Seventy-eight percent of the clergywomen who had never been married intended their appointment after elders’ orders to be the local church pastorate.  Seventy-one percent of the women in committed relationships intended to be in local church appointments after elders’ orders.  With the exception of the women in committed relationships, the majority of women in the other three marital status groups gave “I am doing what God called me to do” as the primary reason the local church is the best place of service for them (see Table 9).  It is important to note that a relatively large proportion of women in each of these groups did not give a reason why the local church was the best place of service.  These findings as well as the discussion about the committed relationship group will be considered later in the discussion of women leaving local church ministry.

Related to marital status is the factor of clergy partners.  Eighty-two percent of participants with clergy partners, as well as 82% of all other participants, gave a non-specific call to ministry, specific call to the local church, or a specific call to preach as their primary reason for ordination (see Table 10).  This proportion is similar to the data presented thus far.  Women with clergy partners seem to have a slightly higher proclivity toward local church ministry as the intended appointment after elders’ orders (85%) compared to the women without clergy partners (80%) (see Table 11).  Regardless of this slight difference, however, both groups of clergywomen were committed to serving the local church after receiving their elders’ orders.  There are some differences in the primary reasons the local church is the best place of service (see Table 12).  A slightly smaller proportion of women with clergy partners, 57%, gave “I am doing what God called me to do” as their primary reason, whereas, 65% of all the other women did.

The final demographic factor investigated in relation to intention and commitment to the local church is whether or not participants were reared in Methodist denominations (United Methodist, Evangelical United Brethren, or other Wesleyan denominations) or in non-Methodist denominations.  Again the proportions of women reared in Methodist traditions and those reared in other denominations are consistent with the overall proportion of 82% in regard to reason for seeking ordination.  Eighty-one percent of participants reared in Methodist denominations and 84% of participants reared in other denominations gave nonspecific call to ministry, specific call to the local church, or specific call to preach as the primary reason for seeking ordination (see Table 13).  Similarly, 81% of participants reared Methodist and 83% of participants reared in other denominations intended to have a local church appointment after being ordained elder (see Table 14).

Once again, those women who believed the local church to be the best place of service for them, named the sense of fulfilling a divine call as the primary reason (see Table 15).  Fifty-nine percent of women reared in the United Methodist denomination and 66% of women reared in other denominations indicated this response.  The reasons some participants did not believe the local church to be the best place of service are discussed later in the analysis of reasons the clergywomen in this study left local church ministry.

Despite some nuances between groups of women based on certain demographic factors, the overwhelming majority (81%) of the clergywomen in this study sought ordination out of a sense of calling.  An overwhelming majority (82%) of these women intended their primary appointment after receiving their elders’ orders to be to the local church pastorate.  And those women who considered the local church to be the best place of service for themselves did so because they believed they were called to do so.  Therefore, as the exit of women from local church ministry is considered, the findings that an overwhelming majority of the clergywomen in this study were committed to the local church ministry, and were committed because of a sense of calling to that ministry, raise grave concerns by suggesting that these women did not intend, and quite possibly, did not prefer to leave local church ministry.

Some of the sadness of clergywomen who have exited local church ministry can be heard in their comments as they discuss those aspects of the local church they now miss:

I think the joy of local church ministry is living the life with people from birth to death; I sense that’s probably the most attractive part of what pastoral ministry is about is that you have an infinite entre into people’s lives that nobody else has.  And to me that is the richest part of it all.

[N]ow that I’m not in the local church . . . I don’t have the continuity of doing the liturgical year in one place, and that sort of flow, and the cycle of life in the church.  I really miss that.

So I miss that sense of going through the year with folks . . . going through life with folks.

[I] sometimes long for the rhythm of the life there in local church ministry with people’s births, deaths, other important events in their lives as well as the mundane part of life, the ordinary tasks we face.  Sometimes I really long for that again.

The sadness these women feel should be the grief of the entire Church over the loss of these women.  Many of the participants in this study desired to serve the local church, but at some point in their careers decided to leave local church ministry.  Unfortunately, the local church has lost clergywomen who wanted to be in ministry at that setting and who appreciated and respected the life and relationships found in the local church.  Indeed, these are the women who should be in ministry in the local church, but are not.

The Clergywomen Who Have Left the Local Church Jurisdiction

The intent of 82% of the clergywomen in this sample to carry out their ministry in the local church has been established.  As illustrated in Table 16, women in this study who have left local church ministry hail from all five jurisdictions of The United Methodist Church in the United States.  The North Central and Western Jurisdictions have greater proportions of study participants in local church ministry than the Northeastern, South Central, and Southeastern Jurisdictions.  The South Central Jurisdiction appears to have the greatest proportion of study participants who are not in local church ministry.  In any jurisdiction, the highest proportion of women clergy (participating in this study) in local church ministry is seventy-five percent (Western Jurisdiction).

Ethnic background

Clergywomen from various ethnic backgrounds have left local church ministry.  A larger proportion of ethnic minority women is out of local church ministry as compared to white women.  In this sample, 37% of ethnic minority participants were not serving local churches at the time of the questionnaire, whereas only 29% of white women were not in local church ministry.  This eight-point difference points to some definite trends along ethnic lines regarding clergywomen in and out of local church ministry.

Analysis of specific ethnic groups discloses additional differences among clergywomen who are out of local church ministry (see Table 17).  Thirty-five percent of Asian women in the study were not in local church ministry at the time they completed the questionnaire.  Among Black participants, 41% were not serving in local churches at the time the questionnaire was completed.  The small sample of women from other ethnic backgrounds makes it difficult to draw any conclusions about their likelihood of leaving the local church pastorate.  Further investigation is needed to make determinations about women from other ethnic backgrounds.

Ethnic minority women appear not to leave the local church temporarily as much as white women (see Table 18).  Only 12% of the ethnic minority women in the sample left local church ministry to return later, while 17% of all white women in the sample did.  When ethnic minority women cease service in the local church, their exits are more often permanent.

Marital Status

Analysis according to marital status also provides some interesting results.  There are no substantial discrepancies between women who had never married, women who had ever separated/divorced/widowed, and women who were currently married (except for a slightly higher percentage of clergywomen who had never married who are not serving local churches).  Sixty percent of the women in committed relationships were serving outside the local church (see Table 19).  The high percentage among the women in committed relationships requires serious attention because 71% of the women who identified themselves with the committed relationship category intended to have an appointment in the local church after receiving their elders’ orders.  These women are leaving at a greater rate than are the women in the other marital status categories.

As illustrated in Table 20, there are only minor differences between women who had never married (13%), women who had ever separated/divorced/widowed (14%), and women in committed relationships (15%) for the temporary leave from local church ministry item; but 18% of the women who were married at the time of the questionnaire had left local church ministry and later returned.  Even though this difference is small in relation to the other marital status groups, its existence suggests that family responsibilities may prove to be one of a number of reasons married participants have a gap in service with local churches.

Clergy Partners

Although relatively small, the comparison of the clergywomen with clergy partners and clergywomen who did not indicate a clergy partner also showed some differences (see Table 21). A slightly higher proportion of women without clergy partners was not in local church ministry.  Thirty-one percent of participants without clergy partners were out of local church ministry compared to 27% of women with clergy partners.  Conversely, women with clergy partners were more likely to have left local church ministry and returned than women without clergy partners (see Table 22).  Twenty percent of women with clergy partners had left temporarily, whereas only 15% of women without clergy partners had.

Denominational Background

Analysis of women who were reared in a Methodist denomination, rather than in other denominations before being ordained in The United Methodist Church, showed no real differences between these two groups in terms of being in or out of local church ministry (see Table 23).  Nor were real differences found between these two groups regarding temporary leave from the local church (see Table 24).

Primary Reason for Seeking Ordination

Analysis of the primary reason for ordination given by these clergywomen, found in Table 25, also helps to paint a picture of who the women leaving local church ministry are.  Not surprisingly, 68% of the clergywomen who sought ordination because it was required for ministries other than the local church were not in the local church at the time of the questionnaire.  However, 16% of the women who selected “call to the local church” as the primary reason were not in local church ministry when they completed the questionnaire.  Seven percent of the women who selected “call to the local church” had left temporarily (see Table 26).

Other reasons for seeking ordination also provide some interesting results and give some indication of the different models of ministry these clergywomen have.  Forty percent of the women whose primary reason for ordination was “it is required for priestly duties” were not in local church ministry at the time of the questionnaire and twenty-one percent of them had left temporarily.  This unexpected finding is important since the local church is a prime setting for carrying out priestly duties.  Of the women who sought ordination because of a natural or logical progression in their experience, 37% were not serving in the local church at the time of the questionnaire and 18% had left temporarily.  Thirty-one percent of the women who experienced a call to preach were not in local church ministry and 19% had left temporarily.  Women who feel specifically called to preach may have a model for ministry that does not necessarily require that preaching occur only in worship in the local church. Twenty-eight percent of the women with a non-specific call to ministry were out of the local church and 17% had left temporarily.  The temporary exit of the women with a non-specific call to ministry may suggest that these women struggle with the form their ministry will take since it was not so clearly defined from the start.  An interesting study would look at the models of ministry women use and how that relates to leaving local church ministry.

Withdrawn or Surrendered Credentials

Among the women who had withdrawn from the ordination process or surrendered their credentials, few real differences (in some cases none at all) emerged between samples according to marital status, clergy partners, and ethnicity (see Tables 27, 28, and 29).  The only substantial difference was found among the women in committed relationships, in which 10% of those women had surrendered their credentials or withdrawn from ordained ministry.  Only 2% to 3% of each of the other marital status groups, including women with clergy partners, had surrendered their credentials or withdrawn from ordained ministry.

Summary

The women in this study who have left local church ministry have served in all five jurisdictions of The United Methodist Church and were raised in a variety of denominations.  They are from many ethnic backgrounds, but women of Black and Asian ethnic backgrounds are less likely to be in local church ministry than they intend.  Some of the women who have left local church ministry have never been married.  Some have been separated, divorced, and/or widowed.  Some are currently married.  Others, who seem to be particularly at risk of leaving, are in committed relationships that are not marriage partnerships.  Some of the women in this study who have left local church ministry have clergy partners, while others do not.  The clergywomen in the study who have left local church ministry have entered ordained ministry for a variety of reasons, including divine calling, a desire to perform priestly duties, and the natural result of a culmination of experiences.  The participants in this study who have left local church ministry have a rich complexity of life. The loss of their wealth of diversity in the local church is part of the tragedy found in the exit of these women from local church ministry.

Reasons the Clergywomen Left

Appointment Status

For those women who had ever left local church ministry, either permanently or temporarily, the primary reason listed for leaving local church ministry was to follow a call to another type of ministry (25%; see Table 30).  The second most frequently given reason was “other”  (20%), and the third most frequently given reason was lack of support from the system (15%).  “System” here refers to the structures through which The United Methodist Church is organized and operates.  These structures would primarily include (but are not limited to) the appointment process and relationships with district superintendents and other judicatory officials within The United Methodist Church.

For the clergywomen who left local church ministry temporarily compared to clergywomen who were not serving in the local church at the time of the questionnaire, family responsibilities and rejection from congregations were of greater concern (see Table 31).  Therefore, one may conclude that, for the most part, concern with family responsibilities and rejection within particular congregations are not keeping clergywomen out of local church ministry for a significant amount of time.

Some clergywomen who have left local church ministry have withdrawn from the ordination process or have surrendered their credentials.  These women have completely left ordained ministry.  The reasons these 43 participants had for leaving were compelling for them and are revealing for this study.

Twenty-five percent of the women who were no longer in ordained ministry at the time of the study left because they believed they could not maintain their integrity in the system (see Table 32).  Another 25% left due to “other” reasons.  Twenty-two percent left ordained ministry because of a perceived lack of support from the system.  These three reasons for leaving local church ministry are the primary factors influencing the exit of almost 75% of these women from ordained ministry.  Only a small percentage of the women who have withdrawn or surrendered their credentials listed “lack of opportunity to use their gifts,” “too much rejection by churches,” “to follow a call to another kind of ministry,” or “health reasons” as their reason for leaving ordained ministry.  None of these women listed family responsibilities, a dislike for local church ministry, or financial reasons as the reason they left.

A quarter of the women who have ever left the local church indicated they did so to follow a call to another kind of ministry.  But the exits of the women who selected this reason were not necessarily because of a desire to leave local church ministry.  Additional reasons for leaving local church ministry were often given (see Table 33). Family responsibilities were of secondary concern for 18% of these women.  Health and financial reasons were issues for 11% of them.  Integrity was a secondary concern for 12% of the women who indicated following another call as their primary reason for leaving.

Negative issues within The United Methodist Church structure and within local churches account for 50% of the secondary reasons selected by the women who indicated they left primarily because of a call to another kind of ministry.  If integrity issues relating to the system are added into that figure, as much as 60% of the reasons selected by these clergywomen were related to systemic issues within The United Methodist Church.

Interview data from participants support these findings, with effects observed relating to institutional factors in clergywomen’s lives accounted for 44% of all the observed effects in the interviews (see Table 34).  Sixty-percent of the institutional effects observed were coded as negative effects for women leaving local church ministry.  Interview observations concerning the appointment system and district superintendents were particularly negative.  Seventy-four percent of the observed effects about the appointment system and 50% of the observed effects about district superintendents were negative (see Table 35).  Congregational effects observed in the interviews accounted for 28% of the total observed effects with 48% of the congregational effects coded as negative.  Obviously, the United Methodist system, as institution and as local churches, is of great concern to the clergywomen, whether they have exited local church ministry at some point or not.  As primary reasons for leaving local church ministry are examined in relation to specific sample populations, reasons related to systemic issues within the United Methodist system may continue to emerge.

Ethnic Background

A larger proportion of ethnic minority women are out of local church ministry than are white women, particularly among Black and Asian women.  Particular attention must be paid to the reasons given by these women for leaving the local church (see Table 36).  Almost twice the proportion of ethnic minority women as white women list “lack of support from the hierarchical system” as their primary reason for leaving local church ministry.  With the exception of the women in committed relationships in the marital status category (which will be considered later in this chapter), this instance is the only occurrence of a choice other than “follow a call to another kind of ministry” as the primary reason for leaving the local church in all the analyses of this item.  According to the reasons for claiming the local church as the best place of service, a larger proportion of ethnic minority women in the study are committed to the Church as an institution than the white women in the study.  These data are interesting since ethnic minority participants feel such a lack of support from the hierarchical system that governs how the institution operates.  Further investigation is necessary to explore the relationship between these two items.

Approximately one-fifth of the ethnic minority women did claim to leave ministry primarily to follow a call to another kind of ministry.  However, this statistic probably should not be taken at face value, since the previous analysis of the “follow a call to another kind of ministry” item demonstrated that in many cases there were additional factors influencing a clergywoman’s decision to leave local church ministry.  Ten percent of ethnic minority women indicated that rejection by congregations was their primary reason for leaving local church ministry.  Difficulties for ethnic minority women may on occasion result from cultural expectations within ethnic minority communities and churches.  One Korean clergywoman commented that one of the reasons she would never serve a Korean church was because “women pastors are not very welcome as much in Korean churches.”  Another 10% of ethnic minority women indicated family responsibilities as the reason for leaving the local church.  Nineteen percent of these women listed “other” reasons for leaving local church ministry.

Since more ethnic minority women seem to be leaving the local church and perceive more of a lack of support from the hierarchical system than white women do, issues of racism arise.  Further investigation into how The United Methodist Church works with and supports its ethnic minority clergywomen and how cultural differences as well as issues of ethnic identity affect the appointment process is needed.

Marital Status

Following a call to another kind of ministry was selected by a quarter of the married women (formerly and presently) and never married women as the primary reason for leaving local church ministry (see Table 37).  On the other hand, only 17% of the clergywomen in committed relationships listed following a call to another kind of ministry as a primary reason, while 36% of them chose “cannot maintain integrity in this system” from the list of primary reasons, a proportion six times higher than that of the other groups.  Only 8% of the women in committed relationships listed “lack of support from the hierarchical system” as a primary reason for leaving local church ministry.  Married and never married women cited this reason twice as often, while 20% of the women who had ever been separated, divorced, or widowed chose this as the primary reason.

In the interviews (see Table 38), married women for whom negative effects were observed regarding the appointment system were statistically significantly more likely to have left local church ministry.  Unmarried women for whom negative effects were observed regarding district superintendents and/or bishops were statistically significantly more likely to have left local church ministry.  Once again, systemic issues arise from the data indicating discontent with the system on the part of these women.  Lack of opportunities to use gifts was in the top four reasons for leaving the local church in each marital status group except for the women who were in committed relationships.

A higher proportion of clergywomen who have never been married seem to leave local church ministry due to rejection and negative experiences in their congregations, and a slightly higher proportion of them are out of the local church.  The rejection some of these women experience when they are placed in isolated communities and churches that have never had a woman pastor contributes to these women leaving the local church.  During the interviews, some women commented about the isolation and rejection they experienced in their churches and communities:

After three years out in the country with two parishes running back and forth, you know, eight hospitals in four counties, and we have those little country parishes, they’re all old and sick.  I just . . . had nothing in common with anyone there.  It was a very lonely place to be.

There was a man in one of the churches who was convinced I was demon-possessed and spread that around.  There was a Baptist church in that county that prayed, had a covenant service in which they decided to pray without ceasing until I left the county. . . . And I did!”

It was very isolating, personally, as a single woman living in a small town in [state] . . . my lifestyle was such that it was generally lonely.  I mean, I never socialized with anybody, because my day off was Monday, and everybody else was working.

This sense of rejection may be intensified if these women do not have established support networks and are not receiving the necessary support from their district superintendents and bishops.

A seven to 15 percentage point difference between currently married women and the other marital status groups exists for the family responsibilities reason.  A larger proportion of married women indicated family responsibilities as reasons for leaving.  The interviews showed that women for whom coders observed negative effects of marriage and children were statistically significantly more likely to have left local church ministry (see Table 39).  These women may feel conflicts between cultural and gender expectations around the role of mother and the expectations around the role of local church pastor.  As mentioned, lack of support was an issue for currently married women, and family responsibilities and systemic issues were important issues for some women who listed “to follow a call to another kind of ministry” as their primary reason for leaving local church ministry.  Women who find themselves in the sometimes-competing roles of wife/mother/daughter and pastor sometimes have difficulty negotiating time for those responsibilities with their congregations.  One woman commented:

I think that women are going to continue to leave until they are allowed to take their families seriously–to be called to a clergy role to ordained ministry does not mean to be called away from our families. . . . I’m not saying there aren’t times that you aren’t able to be with your family and you need to go do something else. . . . I’m saying there’s a balance. . . . [A]nd unless conferences, local congregations, D.S.’s, bishops, people in leadership positions take family seriously . . . women are going to have to take appointments beyond the local church that set some boundaries on time, part-time appointments in the church, that type of thing.

In order to negotiate those important roles of mother, wife, daughter, and pastor effectively, proactive support from annual conferences is imperative in helping congregations understand those competing demands.  Additionally 86% of the effects observed among the women interviewed regarding congregational expectations were negative, thus suggesting that congregations have unreasonable expectations for their female pastors (see Table 40).

Given the questionnaire data and interview observations, women do not seem to be getting the support they need from the hierarchy or their congregations.  Flexibility on the part of churches and the appointment system is in order and could be beneficial to both the clergywoman and the congregation.  One woman juggling family and appointment pressures suggested a more flexible situation, but she was denied that due to an inflexible appointment system that does not necessarily take into account all aspects of a clergyperson’s life:

[W]e’d been battling this thing with my mother’s strokes for the last year um, you know, the church is up and starting to thrive, it’s taken a great deal of work.  Just give me six months, I’ll move in six months, and the answer came back ‘No.’  And so I moved, and seven days later my mother died.  And I don’t know if you’ve ever been in process of moving, um, the energy that it takes to pack, and say good-bye to the church at the same time that you’re trying to take care of family business.

The Christian church, including The United Methodist Church, has a double standard for clergywomen in its theology of marriage and family.  As mentioned previously, married women do not seem to be out of local church ministry at a higher rate than other marital status groups.  In fact, while 37% of the observed effects among interview participants regarding marriage were negative, 57% of the observed effects regarding marriage were positive (see Table 41).  Thus, the marital relationship must be a space where some clergywomen find support.  However, the family responsibilities that come with having children do seem to have a negative effect; 55% of the observed effects in the interviews regarding children were coded as being negative to staying in the local church.  The relationship between the roles of being a local church pastor and being part of a family must be examined to analyze conflicting expectations and systemic means that reinforce them.

Analysis of the clergywomen who identified themselves in the questionnaire as being in a committed relationship and of their reasons for leaving local church ministry raises serious concerns. The proportion of women in committed relationships leaving the local church to follow a call to another ministry is lower than for the other groups.  These women are more often found in other kinds of ministry; however, they are not necessarily leaving local church ministry because they feel called to another ministry situation.  Being unable to maintain their integrity in the current system was the primary reason for leaving local church ministry, with 36% of the women in committed relationships indicating integrity as their primary reason for leaving.

Given that some interview participants identified themselves as lesbian, the overall study sample does include a lesbian population, although the size of that population cannot be quantified given the study design.  Some women in the lesbian population in the study may have identified themselves with the committed relationship marital status category.  For the women in committed relationships, then, the predominance of integrity concerns in the reasons for leaving local church ministry item may partially reflect the painful and controversial debate within The United Methodist Church regarding sexuality.   “Unable to maintain my integrity in this system” can be interpreted as being unable to live authentically.  All clergywomen are trying to live out their vocation in ordained ministry as authentic, whole human beings.  Lesbian clergywomen may have a particularly difficult time living as authentic persons in a system that denies them that possibility.

I don’t know how I could be in a local church and live in the closet again. . . . [I]t almost destroyed me in terms of my emotional and psycho-social well-being. . . . If I were single, I might be able to manage it, but because I’m in a relationship, you know, so just cut that whole part of my life out and try and be in ministry and be authentic and genuine.  My nature is to be an authentic person, and I can’t do that if I’m in a closet.

For some of these women The United Methodist Church’s policy on homosexuality may prevent them from living as whole persons in their churches and communities; thus, they are unable to maintain integrity given the current system.

Clergy Partners

Previous analysis has shown that 27% of the women with clergy partners were not in local church ministry at the time of the questionnaire.  Women with clergy partners temporarily leave local church ministry at a higher rate than women without clergy partners. Twenty-two percent of the women with clergy partners indicated they left the local church to follow a call to another kind of ministry (see Table 42).  Another 22% left for reasons other than the choices presented in the questionnaire.  Family responsibilities seemed to be of greater concern to women with clergy partners than women without clergy partners.

Lack of support from the hierarchical system, however, was of less concern to women with clergy partners compared to women without clergy partners.  This decreased concern is surprising as interview participants commented on negative attitudes on the part of district superintendents towards clergy couples.  Interview data for participants with clergy partners suggest that when negative effects of the appointment system were observed, clergywomen with clergy partners were statistically significantly more likely to have left local church ministry (see Table 43).  The observed effects for the clergy couple item in the interview were somewhat ambiguous as 40% of the observed effects were positive, 10% were ambivalent, and 50% were negative.  For some women, having a clergy partner with whom they can share their struggles is a support, while others find separating work and home to be difficult when both spouses have the church as a predominant aspect of their lives.

When the secondary reasons for leaving local church ministry are examined for those women with clergy partners who indicated another call as their primary reason for leaving the local church, other concerns emerge (see Table 44).  Consistent with the overall population who gave the same primary reason, about one-quarter of the women with clergy partners left primarily to follow a call to another ministry.  Among those women indicating more than one reason, however, 25% indicated a lack of opportunity to use their gifts in the local church.  Lack of support from the hierarchical system was a concern for 19% of these women.  Some conferences are not very welcoming of clergy couples and do not try to work with the couple during the appointment process.

Women and clergy couples are seen as problems instead of challenges or opportunities.  I’ve heard that in California that some of the conferences think clergy couples are the greatest things that are happening. . . . And yet, in our conference, clergy couples are seen as a problem. . . . [E]very time there’s another appointment, it’s a big problem.  ‘How are we going to handle this, who’s going to live in what parsonage, and where are the kids.’

The difficulties in the appointment process for clergy couples probably is one reason for the concerns about support and being able to use one’s gifts.  One or both members of a clergy couple may be placed wherever the Cabinet can find two appointments in close proximity.  Such appointments seem to be based more on geography than on matching gifts and graces of pastors with particular congregational needs.  Some women in the interviews also indicated that the Cabinet usually considered their husband’s appointment the primary appointment.  Once a place had been found for their husbands, the appointments of these women were selected, apparently at random, from the remaining appointments.

Family responsibilities were a concern for 19% of the women who indicated that their primary reason for leaving was a call to another kind of ministry.  Fifteen percent of the women with clergy partners indicated family responsibilities to be the primary reason for leaving.  A higher proportion of that group selected family responsibilities as the primary reason than did the group of women without clergy partners.  Once again the double standard concerning family and clergywomen must be revisited.  The stress of family responsibilities on clergywomen has already been discussed, but the particular difficulties of being part of a clergy couple, especially if children are involved, must be acknowledged.  Some women commented about the stress of never being able to worship together as a family, or splitting the children up between the churches.

[O]ne of the things that drove me to pursue the position [outside the local church] was that I missed my children in the Christmas pageant last year, and I was tired of that. . . . I finally said to myself I can either be bitter and depressed about missing these facets of our life as a family, or I can do something and be proactive about it.

And I think being good parents was one of the main reasons I’m not in the parish anymore.  I mean, when the second one was born, and I was taking her with me, and [child's name] was going with [husband], and the whole family was split up on Sundays, that’s when it, you know, was like, ‘Okay.  Maybe we better go with our strengths . . . because this is no way to raise a family or be a family.’

Denominational Background

Denominational background was analyzed because the investigators wanted to determine if there were differences in the reasons for leaving local church ministry between those who were reared in Methodist traditions and those who joined The United Methodist Church from another denomination.  Indeed this suspicion was correct (see Table 45).  Differences were observed, particularly among those who left because of lack of support from the system and among those who left due to reasons of integrity.  Like most of the other analyses, the largest proportion of women reared in Methodist denominations and those reared outside Methodist traditions left to follow a call to another kind of ministry.  Of course, these data are somewhat ambiguous as has been discussed previously.

Women who were not reared in Methodist traditions were more likely than women who were to indicate they left local church ministry because of lack of support from the system.  Twenty-one percent of participants from other denominations left because of system support issues, whereas only 13% of participants reared in Methodist denominations left for the same reason.  This difference leads to speculation about the possibility of a bias in The United Methodist Church against those who were not reared in Methodist denominations.  Perhaps clergywomen reared outside Methodist traditions did not receive adequate training about how The United Methodist Church is organized.  Perhaps those clergywomen reared inside Methodist circles know and understand the system better because they grew up in it.  Better education and training are necessary during adult confirmation and the candidacy process for those women joining The United Methodist Church from non-Methodist backgrounds.

Integrity was also an issue for women who were not reared in Methodist denominations.  Eleven percent of the women from non-Methodist backgrounds left local church ministry because they felt they were unable to maintain their integrity in the system; 6% of the clergywomen who were reared in Methodist traditions left for this reason.

Primary Reason for Seeking Ordination

Most of the clergywomen (84%) who chose “call to the local church” as their primary reason for ordination were in that ministry at the time of the questionnaire (see Table 17).  Thus, only 19% of those women selecting “call to the local church” indicated primary reasons for leaving the local church (see Table 46).  Perhaps those women with a specific call to the local church remain in local church ministry because of their specific sense of call.  The predominant reasons for leaving were “lack of support from the hierarchical system” and “following a call to another kind of ministry.” This sample is so small, however, the findings cannot be considered conclusive.  Expectantly, the primary reason for leaving indicated by participants who sought ordination because it was required for ministries other than the local church was to “follow a call to another kind of ministry.”

Participants who sought ordination because it was required for priestly duties evoke some intriguing questions.  Only 46% of all participants who indicated priestly duties as the primary reason for seeking ordination responded to the primary reason for leaving local church ministry item.  Still, forty-two percent of those responding indicated lack of support from the system, lack of opportunity to use gifts, or too much rejection by congregations as their primary reason for leaving the local church.  Thirty-two percent of this group left primarily to follow a call to another kind of ministry.  The participants who entered ordained ministry primarily because of the priestly duties are an interesting group, because 40% of them were out of the local church and 21% had left temporarily and later returned, at the time of the questionnaire.

Since 45% of the participants in this group were reared in non-Methodist traditions, it is possible that the models for ministry provided in their denominations prior to being affiliated with United Methodism exert a greater influence on their ideas and attitudes about ministry.  For example, if some of these women came from denominations such as the Roman Catholic or Episcopal churches where the sacraments are visibly a central part of the role of priest and the denomination’s theology, it would be expected that these women would carry that model with them into The United Methodist Church.  In some United Methodist local churches, these women may have found that the sacraments and other “priestly duties” had a different emphasis. They may be leaving local church ministry, in part, because it did not meet their expectations, or the model for ministry needed in United Methodist local churches did not fit with their own model of ministry as influenced by another denomination.  Further study on models of ministry of women reared in non-Methodist traditions is necessary.

Participants who entered ordained ministry out of a logical/natural progression were more likely to leave local church ministry because of family responsibilities than any other group selecting a different reason for ordination.  Perhaps these women have a certain personality or typology out of which they make decisions.  If raising a family or attending to other familial responsibilities is the next logical step in their life, then that may be what they did.  Family responsibilities also were an important issue for participants who expressed a non-specific call to ministry.  With the exception of the group of participants whose ordination was the result of a culmination of experiences (natural/logical progression group), lack of support was one of the top three reasons all the groups gave for leaving local church ministry.

Chapter 3: Cooperating With Grace

The questionnaire and interview data indicate that lack of support from the hierarchical system, being unable to maintain one’s integrity in the system, rejection from congregations/ parishioners, and the conflict of family and pastoral responsibilities are the major reasons clergywomen are leaving local church ministry.  Integrated lives require that all aspects of life, the institutional, congregational, personal, and civil, be permeable.  Since the life of a clergywoman is like its own sub-system of a greater whole, each area within that sub-system influences the other areas.  Clergywomen do not leave local church ministry because of one isolated reason.  Instead, their exit is most likely due to several interconnected factors.  These interrelationships are very complex and are unable to be fully articulated in this report; they deserve to be considered through comprehensive analysis and discussion in the near future throughout the Church.  Acknowledging the interrelationships is crucial in trying to understand what can be done to retain these women in local church ministry.

Just as each of the factors contributing to a clergywoman’s exit from local church ministry is not an isolated influence in her leaving local church ministry, these factors are related in a larger system.  To a great extent, they are systemic and no one intervention will be adequate to make the necessary improvements.  Instead, each issue can be mitigated, and ultimately resolved, if the entire system is engaged, rather than only one person or agency attempting to promote change.  In this challenge to the entire system, the Church has a great opportunity to examine what it truly means to be the Church.  Five areas are identified here as having some responsibility for the support of United Methodist clergywomen:

  • The appointment system
  • Annual Conference Leaders and Clergy Colleagues
  • Congregations
  • Seminaries
  • Clergywomen

The Appointment System

Implicit in the questionnaire’s phrase “lack of support from the hierarchical system” is the appointment system and process that are responsible for placing United Methodist clergy in local churches as well as in other positions.  In the interviews the appointment system received an astounding proportion of negative comments (74%); such a large proportion indicates a negative experience with the appointment process, and subsequently, a distrust of the appointment system and its agents.

I think part of [leaving] had to do with the churches I was serving and it had a lot to do with my distrustfulness of the appointment process to move me anywhere much better than that. . . . I was distrustful of the situation improving, of putting myself back into the appointment process again.”

The distrust among the United Methodist clergywomen in this study toward district superintendents, bishops, and cabinets as a whole has been the result of personal experiences with the system and its officials who have demonstrated a lack of support for clergywomen and their ministry.  Women perceive a lack of support at the beginning of the appointment process when new appointments are made.  Gender is made the defining factor in some cases where churches are being assigned women pastors:

One of the things that I have found in all of the appointments, I think, frustrating was that when the District Superintendent told the church who they wanted to appoint there, it always seemed to be a defining factor that I was a woman. . . . You know, ‘We’re going to send you a woman . . . So they made it the issue right off________Not ‘Here’s what the person is like, here’s what the person can do, here’s a little bit about the person.’  But, ‘Hold on to your seats, we’re going to send you a woman.’  It’s always the defining thing.

Also, churches are perceived as having more power than they should when they oppose a Cabinet’s decision to appoint a woman to their church.

[W]hen DS’s tell churches, ‘You’re getting a woman minister’ and they raise a stink.  DS’s are too afraid to say, ‘This is your pastor.  The Bishop has made this appointment and this is your pastor, and you will get along with her and you will not cut her salary before she comes.  And you will not steal the piano out of the worship center, and you will give her your full support because this is your pastor.’  And we need more of that kind of mentality.  We need to not be afraid.  I think the bishops need to quit being afraid of sending women to these places.  And need to let women handle it, because women can handle it if they’re given the opportunity and they’re given the backing.

From the time a district superintendent, the Cabinet, a clergywoman, and a local church enter into the appointment process together, some women experience a lack of support from bishops and district superintendents who allow local churches to reject appointed pastors based on gender.        Once local churches express explicit or indirect hostility toward a clergywoman, some district superintendents fail to respond decisively and effectively.

I had another friend that went to a church and they cut her salary before she came without the DS saying ‘You have to cut it,’ I mean they just did it.  And the DS said, ‘You can’t do this,’ and they said, ‘Well, we will.’  And the DS never challenged them.

I needed a parishioner or a DS who was able to stand up and say, ‘Hey, we need to examine how to make some changes’________I needed a DS who was able to stand up and prevent parishioners from cutting my pension________And I did not have a DS who was willing to do that________And they would say, ‘Well, you know, she’s just a single person, she doesn’t need all that.’

Without the necessary advocacy from district superintendents and bishops during conflicts between churches and female pastors, the authority and validity of a clergywoman’s ministry is undermined.  If the conference leadership does not model concern for the needs of clergywomen, then congregations, especially if they are already hostile regarding gender issues, may be less likely to value those concerns, too.  Modeling by annual conference leadership of just attitudes and practices establishes a certain standard and expectation for the treatment of all clergy by all persons involved, including congregations and clergy colleagues.  Of course, it is important to recognize that some district superintendents are effective in supporting clergywomen in hostile situations where congregations are setting unreasonable expectations and making excessive demands of the female pastor.

[My] woman district superintendent looked at their list of complaints, and looked at some other letters that other people in the congregation had written, and said, ‘It’s my perception your pastor is overworking, and working too hard, and somehow nothing is enough for you.’   And she encouraged them to work with me, see if we could work it out for a year . . .”

Intentional education and training of district superintendents and bishops is necessary to help cabinets effectively work with congregations through the process of receiving a female pastor, especially in congregations where there is great resistance to women in ministry.  A recognition that the process of receiving and accepting a female pastor does not end on the moving date is crucial, for problems sometimes do not arise until after the appointment has begun.  Support from district superintendents and bishops is equally crucial during the first few years of the appointment, especially if the church is working with a clergywoman for the first or second time.  Conference officials need to be equipped to help pastors and parishioners process the theological and as well the seemingly mundane issues that arise.  Several women noted that they experienced more support from congregations than from conference officials regarding their ministry.  Insight from pastor-parish relations committees, pastors, and parishioners who have successfully helped congregations make the transition to having a female pastor probably would be advantageous as training programs for district superintendents and bishops are developed.

Clergywomen in this study have indicated that district superintendents, cabinets, and  bishops are not always forthcoming with information regarding their future appointments.  The inaccurate information sometimes provided by district superintendents to clergywomen seems meant to be persuasive rather than descriptive of a particular situation.  Once these women commit and move to an appointment, they discover the information they received was inaccurate. Some clergywomen appropriately described district superintendents as outright dishonest when they try to market appointments to clergywomen.  The distribution of misinformation is particularly damaging when a clergywoman has been misleadingly told a congregation is open and receptive to having a female pastor.

[T]he DS in the second appointment_______when he took me to see this church, he just sold me a bill of goods.  He really did.  He talked about this was a bedroom community of [name of company] in [name of city] . . . It wasn’t hardly any community, it was out in [name] basically!  And he said there wasn’t any resistance to my going there, and there was.  Lots of people quit, wouldn’t come to church.  People asked the bishop to reconsider.  So there was much resistance.  And then when I got out there, [he]was not very supportive.  I just never heard from him, or had very little contact.

Congregations also seem to be the recipients of misinformation during the appointment process.  One district superintendent apparently failed to inform a congregation that a clergy couple was being appointed to the church to co-pastor:

Our DS forgot to tell the lay people that we were coming to co-pastor.

“OH WHAT DID HE TELL THEM?”

Well, I’m not really sure; but he forgot to tell them that I was part of the pastoring team.

In one situation, when issues of housing for a clergy couple in two different appointments arose, the district superintendent ridiculously informed the congregations that the couple would move every six months so that both parsonages would be used:

[T]he DS would tell them things like I would live in [husband's] house for six months, and we’d live in my house for six months.  The people said, ‘Well, that’s what he said.’

The lack of honesty sometimes found in agents of the appointment system erodes the trust clergywomen and congregations have in the appointment system.

Additionally, women, particularly if they are married or have a clergy partner, have a difficult time in the appointment process.  One woman discussed her experience with the appointment system as it related to gender and having a clergy partner:

“I moved to get out of an associate position, and I was sent to another one________When I asked to speak to the bishop about it, I was told I was a woman, and I was a part of a clergy couple, and therefore, I was a double problem for the cabinet.  In other words, shut up and be quiet.

A single woman was told by her district superintendent that if she wanted to succeed in the Church she should not get married:

My first District Superintendent with whom I met said, ‘Of course, you’ll never be able to get married if you want to be successful because women who are married are difficult to appoint.’

Still another woman with a clergy spouse was asked directly by her conference Board of Ordained Ministry to choose between her marriage and her ministry:

I went before the board one more time, and got crucified________I mean, they focused totally and solely on my having gotten married the year before__________he chair of the Board [said], ‘You know, bottom line’ . . .  he said, ‘Which is more important?  You know you have to choose which is going to be more important to you–ministry or your marriage?  You have to choose.  Which would you choose?’  And I was amazed, and I said . . . ‘I don’t think any one of us here today would ever want to be posed with that question, to have to be forced to choose between our marriage and our ministry.  I do not understand why that’s being posed to me.  I think we all, each one of us, want to be able to have both . . .that’s all I’m asking–[husband] and I are willing to work with you in a partnership relationship here, and we’re just hoping you’ll work with us, you know.’ . . . and they chose not to ordain me this year________And I talked to the chair of the Board over the phone a week later, and he told me, basically, it was a split decision, you know, half of them wanted me and half of them didn’t want me, and that those half that didn’t want to, he said, ‘Four of them probably voted you down because you’re a woman, four of them, because you’re your mother’s daughter, and four of them, because you got married and they’re not sure you’re committed to the church.’

Women with employed husbands (whether clergy or not) appear to pose particular problems to the appointment system.  Currently, consideration of a clergywoman’s gifts and graces is sometimes sacrificed in the appointment process if the cabinet must consider a spouse’s employment when making an appointment decision.  In another case where inaccurate information was given, one married woman was given one job description by the district superintendent and then another when she arrived at her new appointment:

[W]hen they asked me for my first appointment, if I wanted to be in a church of my own, or if I wanted to be an associate, I said I didn’t care as long as I was in a big enough city for my husband to find a job.  But I told them specifically that I did not want to be a youth and education person.  If I was going to be an associate, I wanted to be at a church big enough that they already had those people, and I was going to get to be a pastor in the church________And the district superintendent even told me that they already had those people here at [church], that I would be the associate pastor, and when I got here — he just plain old lied to me.  He knew that I was coming to be the youth and education person, and just lied to get me to go, and so, I was really angry . . .

Clergywomen with family responsibilities also have difficulty in the appointment process.  One woman was faced with an appointment that was unreasonable and unfair for her children:

I wanted to spend time with my kids rather than in meetings all the time.  So they gave me a church that had a big increase in salary and was pretty big and was all the way on the other side of the state.  My kids spend every other weekend with their dad who is on this side of the state.  If we had moved they would have had to spend about 24 hours of the weekend on the road.  I turned the Cabinet down.  They were hurt.  They had good intentions but they weren’t listening to me.  It had to do with my being a mother.  They don’t understand mothers.

Concerns regarding family responsibilities and the overall appointment system that  emerged in the questionnaire and interviews suggest that a more open and honest appointment system is necessary.  Open communication between district superintendents, congregations, and appointed pastors is essential.  Congregations and pastors need full knowledge of the relationship they are entering.  A clergywoman needs to be made aware of potential resistance within a particular congregation.  If she has some expectation of the situation, she can be more prepared to respond in a constructive manner.  Congregations need to be made aware of potential concerns regarding clergy couples and clergywomen with particular family responsibilities so the congregation will be prepared to negotiate those needs with the incoming pastor.

One method of providing a more open appointment process is for annual conferences to publish an updated explanation of their appointment process, describing those factors which take precedence in the process (spouse’s job, family issues, clergy couple, salary, size of church, etc.). The creation of an official statement would allow all clergy and congregations to know and understand the appointment process and would provide them the opportunity to indicate a preference for those factors they consider most important in the decision-making process.  They would share the responsibility of making those distinctions with the cabinet.

Another important issue that needs to be addressed by annual conference leadership is the need for clergy to live balanced, integrated, whole lives.  The ability to live fully and authentically is crucial for a healthy clergyperson.  Clergywomen need to be able to personify and live their many different roles: pastor, mother, partner, daughter, citizen, etc.  If they are only permitted to live out their role as pastor, then they are not being able to live out the fullness of their creation.  As one clergywoman said,

Does this please God that we abandon our families and our children and our spouses for meetings? . . . I’m not sure it does. . . . I mistakenly started to date a United Methodist clergyperson. . . . And realized that I got put on hold every time there was a church meeting or camp or anything that took precedence. . . . I don’t think that pleases God. . . . And I’m very unhappy with a church structure and hierarchy that seems to reward that.

Indeed the church structure should encourage clergy living whole lives rather than living one role.  Being consumed by one role forces persons to lose a sense of self and potentially creates perilous power issues for clergy in local church ministry.

Education and training of cabinets about issues of self-care are necessary so they may listen to the needs of a clergyperson as specified by that clergyperson (rather than making assumptions about their needs).  Cabinets must take the entire life of a clergyperson into account when making appointment decisions.  For example, if support networks are a particular specified need for a clergywoman, then her appointment should reflect that need without being punitive.  In some annual conferences, conference leadership has been responsive to particular situations where a pastor’s child has only one year left in high school; the pastor has been permitted to stay in an appointment for an additional year.  Now, with changes in gender roles, the influx of women in ministry, and the increasing number of clergy with employed partners, that flexibility needs to be more inclusive and comprehensive in addressing a variety of needs.  To encourage the health of their clergy, bishops and district superintendents also should model a more holistic approach to life.  Instead of rewarding those persons who become consumed by the role of pastor, they should call this into question.

Cultural expectations and gender roles are of particular concern for clergywomen.  Socially prescribed roles of being a family caregiver often come into conflict with the expectations around the role of pastor.  Further study about gender roles and how the appointment system and the Church reinforce those roles will be essential in helping to educate clergy and laity about the conflict between those two roles and how to resolve that conflict.  Additionally, the church must ask itself why the traditional values and theology of family do not apply to clergywomen as clergy but are applied to them as women.

Another area of support that needs improvement is compensation of local church pastors.  Though financial reasons were not the leading factor attributed by clergywomen who left local church ministry, compensation as a justice issue needs to be confronted.  The interview was not designed specifically to obtain information regarding salary; some women raised the issue during the interviews, nevertheless.  When salary was discussed, only negative comments were made.  Two separate studies in the South Carolina and Virginia Annual Conferences, among others, have shown that over time clergywomen are paid less for their years of service than clergymen.  And while current quantitative data on equitable compensation is not readily available, the perception among clergywomen is that they are being paid less than men and that marital status is also a factor in determining compensation.

But, particularly for single women pastors, a lot of us get paid a lot less than our married colleagues and men_And parsonages tend not to be well prepared, our needs tend to be more overlooked . . .

I guess it really does relate to women in ministry, since over all, they’re still, based on years of experience and all, grossly underpaid compared to the men.  I think there is a desperate need for the integrity of the United Methodist Church to remain intact, for them to go to some type of system of standardized salaries, with a salary cap, and for moves to be made based on gifts and graces, and not just salary______

The appointment system is perceived as being driven by salaries rather than focusing on gifts, graces, and needs.  That perception was confirmed by one bishop in a conversation with one of the clergywomen interviewed:

“DO YOU THINK YOU AND YOUR APPOINTMENTS HAVE BEEN MATCHED FOR GIFTS AND GRACES?”

No, since I was told by the bishop, at the time when I  moved from one associate position, and ended up in another — when I questioned that, he said, ‘I am the CEO of this organization.  I deal promotions based on salary.  I do not have time to deal with gifts and graces.  I do not have time to be a pastor.’

What are the theological and moral costs in having an appointment system that subscribes to the corporation model of the United States?  If salaries were scaled also according to years of ordained ministry or equivalent work rather than determined by each charge conference, cabinets would no longer have to place pastors according to salary only.  Cabinets could then use their time and energy to educate themselves about the gifts, graces, and needs of particular congregations and pastors in order to place them in effective working partnerships.  Comprehensively determined compensation also would eliminate inconsistencies in compensation based on factors such as gender, race, and marital status.

A more open appointment system–one that takes into account the entire life of a clergyperson, recognizes that placing women in difficult appointments is a process into which pastors, congregations, and cabinets enter together, and focuses more on gifts and graces–will help to alleviate some of the problems in the appointment system which prevent women from remaining in parish ministry.  Such an appointment system would be capable of providing some of the support required for clergywomen to execute their ministry while also living out their various roles within their families, friendship networks, and communities.  As long as a more authoritarian, closed system remains intact, a more cooperative, healthy, balanced, and mutually supportive appointment process will be difficult to achieve.

Problems with the manner in which appointments are made were not the only issues to arise regarding the appointment system.  In the interviews, some women commented on the disconnectedness from the Church they felt while on leave or in appointments beyond the local church.  Except for the annual letter from the Board of Ordained Ministry requesting salary information and whether or not the person on leave is seeking appointment for the next year, many women did not receive any communication from church officials.  Some women were excluded from conference mailings.  Several of the women expressed fears of re-entering the appointment system because they may receive difficult appointments and salary reductions as “punishment” for leaving local church ministry.

You know, people who are on leave, and this is probably true for most annual conferences, there’s a little bit of a punitive pitch you get when you get back, and that I’ve experienced a little bit, and it makes it real easy just to stay out another year.

I think people who are on leave of absence, the connection needs to have a better relationship, a closer relationship to them.  I wrote a letter.  I told them, and I was on the board when I got out, and I said, ‘I am not feeling well.’  Nobody, my DS never came up–not that I really needed him, but you know, you would just think, if he truly is my clergy, and I had left a job, and I don’t feel well, you’d think he might drop by or call.  Never.  The board, I think should–you know, somebody from the board other than their annual letter, . . . . So you don’t hear from anybody in an official capacity. . . . You need to have a relationship, because everybody who leaves to go on a leave of absence–something is going on in their lives. . . to me that’s what connection is–part of what it ought to be. . . . we’re going around to these seminaries trying to do recruitment, and yet we’re almost blowing people out the back door.

“HAVE THEY MADE AN EFFORT TO STAY CONNECTED WITH YOU AT ALL?  ARE YOU ON MAILING LISTS AND STUFF?”

No, it just made me furious.  I do get those things to fill out your report every year that tells what your salary is; but even the mailings that come from the Conference Council on Ministries, no never get ‘em.  And I’ve asked many times to be put on the list.  ABLC people never got invited to the ministers’ convocation, pastors’ school before I insisted.

In some respect the clergy who go on leave or seek appointments beyond the local church disappear from the larger connection of The United Methodist Church.  Unfortunately, if an intentional effort is not made to improve the appointment system, clergywomen who have left local church ministry may disappear from the Church altogether.  Women who are on leave of absence may not be the only clergy to vanish.  Since higher proportions of ethnic minority women and women who are in committed relationships (which may include lesbian clergywomen) tend to leave local church ministry, the diversity of perspectives these women bring to the local church and the larger connection may be lost.

The new deacons’ orders for ordination may also contribute to the disappearance of clergywomen from local church ministry. The new order potentially could provide a means for tracking women, particularly women with clergy and non-clergy partners, away from local church ministry.  Another danger is that women who would prefer to be in local church ministry may seek deacons’ orders because they are discouraged from entering an appointment system which appears unwilling to accommodate the challenges they present.  Since the ordination changes have the potential to be detrimental to clergywomen, the Church needs to be continually evaluating the effects these new changes in the appointment system are having on the presence of women elders in local church ministry.

Annual Conference Leaders and Clergy Colleagues

While those in ordained ministry are peers by the fact that they all are ordained clergy, there is a sense that all are not equal colleagues.  Rather, there is a political hierarchy in which one’s peers have control over one’s life or have the potential to someday possess that control.  Competition among clergy for appointments also makes collegiality difficult.  Lack of trust among colleagues, which prevents clergy from talking with their peers about struggles and challenges in their ministry, results from such a highly political system.

And you have your peers who are also endorsing you or ordaining you________And you have competition for your appointments________And there has never been a place to say ‘I need some help here, if you can help me with a parishioner who’s doing wrong to me.  Hear me out.’

I don’t think that I really felt comfortable being honest because I felt anything I said could be used against me.  So, that’s part of the structure.  Once again, you know, it’s very difficult to be honest about what you’re struggling with because all those people hold all the cards, you know.  They control where you go and how your whole career is going to unfold. . . . So that’s another problem with the way the structure is set up.

According to the 1996 Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, the district superintendency is supposed to be the space where clergy can go to receive guidance and counsel when needed.  Several of the specific responsibilities assigned to district superintendents as outlined in the Book of Discipline provide provisions for such support:

[B]y giving priority to the scheduling of time and effort for spiritual leadership, pastoral support, supervision, and encouragement to the clergy and to the churches of the district; . . . by encouraging their personal, spiritual, and professional growth.

This role of the district superintendent as the clergy’s clergy is complicated by the fact that the district superintendent also is responsible for the evaluation and appointment of the clergy in their district.  Since district superintendents possess power over the appointments and professional futures of clergy, clergy have a difficult time discussing their struggles in a pastoral relationship with their district superintendent, because boundaries become blurred between the various roles of a district superintendent.

Undergirding the lack of trust clergywomen experience toward conference officials and other clergy colleagues is the presence of blatant and indirect sexism among clergy.  Some women in the interviews commented that they had a much easier time being accepted as a woman in ministry by their parishioners than by other clergy.

The place that has been more difficult for me has not been parishioners, but has been other clergy. . . . In the early days, I would go to a district meeting and have the District Superintendent say something to the men of the conference, and mean the clergy. . . . That’s been more of a drain than working with parishioners. . . . I have found parishioners a little bit easier, and little more willing to at least talk to me about it than the rest of the church.

Some of the sexism women experience from clergy colleagues is very blatant and direct.

My first district superintendent . . . told me at various points that I needed to lose weight, that he hoped I would find somebody to marry in my second appointment.

[T]he third senior pastor in my second appointment . . . used to give me little lectures in staff meetings about how women are really supposed to be home and how women are really supposed to be raising kids.

[T]he supervising pastor [in internship] was very, um, what’s the word you know, disrespectful–you know, would call me his ‘little helper’ and stuff, in front of other people.  I was supposed to be functioning as a clergywoman, like I was going to be marrying these people or something, you know.

Or even after I had my first child being asked by a DS, ‘Well, what’s going to happen when you have a second child?’  What man have you asked that?  My alb will have to be looser, what can I say?!  There have been those sorts of things.

[W]hen I told [district superintendent] I was taking a leave of absence, he called me a mean damn woman on the phone.

Other expressions of sexism are not so verbally direct.  Some sexism is revealed in attitudes toward inclusive language, the lack of attentiveness some clergymen give clergywomen in a professional capacity, or inequitable treatment of clergywomen in the appointment process compared to men.

“WHY DID YOU LEAVE LOCAL CHURCH MINISTRY?”

I didn’t want to go on Leave of Absence.  It was around the time of my divorce.  My ex-husband and I were trying to decide who would stay in that church (where we were co-pastors).  He finally decided he would stay.  It was so late in the appointment process that the conference said there were no appointments available; it wasn’t true.  But I was kind of coerced into taking leave.  I think the Cabinet thought it would be nice for me to have the time off.  I have noticed that they don’t do the same thing for the men who are divorced________I felt like they were condescending and patronizing to me.

The second week that [new senior pastor] came, he called a pastor-parish committee meeting without letting me know, so that he could convince them that I only needed to preach quarterly instead of once a month.  That was the first thing that happened, and from there, it went downhill.

I just saw too many men that were on the Board of Ordained Ministry–district superintendents and people who had control of my life, making jokes about inclusive language, and one interview committee that I had on the Board of Ordained Ministry, the guy didn’t even look up from his magazine he was reading the whole time they were interviewing me________There were just a lot of things like that that happened, that I felt like they weren’t serious about us.  They just–they put up with us and made jokes about us—

“‘US’ BEING THE WOMEN?”

Mm-hmm.

“WAS THE BIAS PRIMARILY IN THE PARISH ITSELF, OR IN THE SYSTEM, LIKE CONFERENCE OFFICIALS, OR A COMBINATION OF THAT?”

Mostly it was from conference officials___And the other colleagues.  Not that they were so much against me, but a majority of men colleagues here who have a double standard of ‘We’ll accept women into the ministry, but we know that the men are the ones who have the right to have control in this conference.’ . . .The women are the ones who get the lower paying jobs, they’re the ones who do not get the visibility, and inclusive language is a joke in my conference.

Clergywomen have a difficult time trusting other clergy for support when they are not even certain some of those clergy, including district superintendents, are actually supportive of women in ministry.

Not all clergywomen experience such direct and/or covert sexism from their colleagues.  One woman who left parish ministry and later returned talked about the overwhelming support she experienced upon her return to local church ministry.  She recounted an affirming response from one of her male colleagues:

‘You  know, [name], I have to tell you; you are the second best piece of news I’ve received in recent years.  Your decision to come back to the local church.  The first was [name] was going to be our bishop.’_______And it was an older male colleague, and I just found that so moving and touching. I have to say that almost uniformly, I have been received back with great enthusiasm and joy.

Still, some women do not receive that kind of affirmation and support, and therefore, the sexism that exists within the church among colleagues must be addressed.

Better education and increased accountability regarding inclusive language, gender roles, sexual harassment, and sexism need to be provided and mandated for all clergy.  Included in that education should be personal exploration by clergy regarding their own theologies and how those theologies perpetuate certain attitudes about gender roles, women, and diversity.  Until the underlying ideologies, theologies, and biblical interpretations that guide and affirm sexist attitudes toward women are addressed, permanently eliminating expressions of sexism in the Church will not be possible.  In addition clergy need to identify gender roles and patterns in local church leadership and encourage capable, gifted lay women and men to serve in roles that have traditionally been filled by one gender.  If congregations start to experience capable leadership of women in traditionally male roles, then they may be more likely to be receptive to female pastors.

Additionally, the issues of collegial support must be addressed.  As long as the current system remains entrenched in its current leadership styles and political hierarchy, clergywomen (as well as clergymen) will be unable genuinely to give and receive support from other clergy.  In annual conferences that have tried to mandate peer support networks, the groups often have proven to be ineffective and artificial.

Anything official, like a cluster gathering or district gatherings or anything like that, I have never found to be supportive, helpful or very useful

The [mentors] who have been outside of the conference have been the more supportive, but nothing inside the institution.

To compensate, some clergywomen have worked to establish their own support networks.  One group of clergywomen discovered they needed to work specifically on the interconnections of images of authority and past and present family structures.  They hired a therapist from outside the United Methodist system to facilitate group therapy on a regular basis.

[W]e actually hired, for group therapy once a month, a Lutheran minister, to help us, in a sense, do group therapy or share________And it was our time.  It was a safe place.

While group therapy does not address the larger systemic issues around sexism and lack of trust among clergy colleagues, it can provide a safe, confidential space in which clergywomen (and clergymen) can process the struggles and challenges they experience in their churches, families, and communities.  Since such collegiality is not easily available (or even possible, in many cases), annual conferences should encourage and provide access to free or inexpensive resources outside the system through which clergy can seek confidential guidance from persons such as professional counselors or therapists, negotiators, mediators, or conflict resolution assistance.  Without access to effective support, clergywomen are going to be more likely to leave local church ministry.

Congregations

In addition to annual conference structures and leadership and other clergy, congregations play an important role in the support of female pastors.  Congregational expectations, respect for a clergyperson’s privacy and personal time, effective pastor-parish relations committees, and a strong lay leadership all contribute to a congregation’s participation in a mutually supportive partnership with their clergywoman.

In the interviews, coders observed a sizable proportion of negative effects for the congregational expectations item (86% of the observed effects for that item were negative).  Those expectations paired with the pressures a clergywoman experiences in her other roles (mother, partner, and citizen among them) make it difficult for a clergywoman to fulfill all the expectations.  Clergywomen need to have opportunities to attend to all their roles.  Yet, some congregations do not understand the importance of private time for their pastor.  One woman described receiving non-emergency telephone calls from her parishioners at inappropriate times:

And [members of  the congregation] thought that they should be able to call me at ten at night on business–not emergency priority, you know, or call me at six in the morning, and when I would set boundaries, they were very uncomfortable with that.  They thought I should be all things to all people.

Cultural differences also can complicate understandings about personal and vacation time.  In one farming community, a congregation refused to grant one clergywoman a few days of vacation and instead suggested that the time she spent on a church youth trip was vacation:

[O]ut here, this is a dairy community, and they never take vacations, ever________And I tried to take off three days last fall, and there were questions.  PPR tried to get me to count the youth ski trip as vacation, and I said, ‘No, I wouldn’t do that.’

In some congregations, respect for a clergywoman’s privacy, especially if she is single, is lacking.  One woman talked about how members of her congregation watched her comings and goings from the parsonage:

I would get things like–because it was a small town–’We didn’t see your car in the driveway last night,’ ‘Well that’s because it was in the garage.’ . . . One time, a male friend of mine from seminary who was driving back to [school] from [city], stopped one night to see me.  So, they had seen us driving around.  So I got lots of questions about that.  But then when my female friends would come to stay, that was quite fine. . . . They didn’t see anything inappropriate about that.

Married women also have difficulty negotiating time to care for their needs and demands beyond the congregation, such as maternity leave, which forces women to rally their own support within the congregation:

[T]here were some [parishioners] that didn’t want me to get maternity leave.  We had that struggle, but I was able to rally my own forces when they knew they were really needed.  They didn’t want to speak up–I find a lot of people are like that, they just don’t want to get involved–but when they knew that it was really threatening what I needed, then they all came in mad, and got me what I really needed for the maternity leave.

Just as cabinets need education about living and taking into account a balanced life, so do congregations.  Education should be provided for pastor-parish relations committees regarding the importance of respecting and supporting a clergywoman in all the roles she may play.  Teaching pastor-parish relations committees and incoming pastors how to clarify expectations and needs at the beginning of an appointment, as well as how to negotiate necessary adjustments during the appointment, is essential for a functional partnership between pastors and churches.  If everyone is clear about goals and expectations from the beginning, and each party is held accountable and evaluates those goals and expectations periodically, then everyone is more likely to be satisfied with the outcome.  Included in such negotiations should be specific, practical guidelines about a pastor’s vacation time, compensation time, office hours, and personal time.

One clergywoman interviewed thought educating pastor-parish relations committees would be quite beneficial:

I hope the church could educate parishioners, especially if they’re going to serve on PPR committees to judge pastors, that they should be educated in compassion and understanding.

Once pastor-parish relations committees are educated about boundaries and have negotiated appropriate expectations with a pastor, it should be the responsibility of that committee to communicate those expectations and guidelines to the congregation, as well as to educate the congregation in why allowing a clergywoman to live a balanced life is important to her well-being as well as to the well-being of the congregation.

In addition to the practicalities of negotiating reasonable expectations between congregations and pastors, the Church’s theology of the role of the pastor and the nature of ministry must be considered.  The United Methodist Church in the Book of Discipline affirms the ministry of all Christians.  This ministry of all believers is reiterated at the beginning of chapter two in the Book of Discipline, which outlines the meaning and guidelines for ordained ministry.  Unfortunately, this concept of shared ministry is not always practiced in local congregations.  Some pastors and congregations believe that the ministry is exclusively reserved for the ordained pastor rather than the ministry being shared among the pastor and parishioners.  This theory of ministry is not consonant with The United Methodist Church’s definition of ministry, nor is it conducive to developing healthy congregations in which all members are responsible for the ministry of God.

Empowering and equipping laity is essential for churches to carry out ministry.  Congregations need to take responsibility for their ministry, and they need to encourage their pastors to provide laity with the education, training, and resources necessary to do the work of ministry.  Developing a strong laity will help diffuse some of the excessive expectations placed on pastors who carry out the bulk of the ministry in a congregation.  A strong laity which claims its ministry will also help shift the power structures within the church which are clergy-driven and reinforce authoritarian ideologies and practices.  A paradigm shift to a shared ministry between clergy and laity would allow those in the Church to live authentically as people of God doing the work of God.

Seminaries

Seminaries, as one of the primary places where future clergywomen are prepared for ministry, participate significantly in providing the foundational support of clergywomen.  The interviews during this study resulted in mixed reviews for the seminaries.  While many women felt the theological foundation they received in seminary was formidable, many women also commented that the seminary did not prepare them to make the transition to the local church.

“HOW WELL DID YOUR SEMINARY EDUCATION PREPARE YOU FOR MINISTRY IN A LOCAL CHURCH?  It didn’t.  WHAT WAS IT LACKING?”

Being in touch with reality of what the real world is like out there.  It’s great to study all the theologians, the history of Christian thought, and all of those courses, and I did well on those, and I went on academic scholarship.  I enjoyed studying, but there’s really no connection that I’ve found between seminary and local pastoral work, with the exception of the teaching parish course.

One of my big issues here_______has been the transition from seminary to parish ministry for women and I don’t think we do an adequate job of preparing people for that.  Now as far as the tasks of ministry, I was very well prepared for that________But what it was going to be like to be rejected solely because I was a woman, I was not prepared for that.

Some women commented that their seminary experience prepared them not so much because of their practical theology courses, but because they sought out situations that gave them the practical experience required.

Seminary prepared me well, but not because the seminary did, because I prepared myself while I was in seminary.  I did a lot of field education, and in different settings.  That was really helpful. I took a lot of different kinds of classes that challenged me, and so forth.  But when I look at seminary, I could have gone through seminary and come out really, really ill prepared if I hadn’t sort of done my own picking and choosing along those lines.

My field education experience, I think, really helped me to understand and appreciate, realistically, the world of work of the parish. ______Some of my practical theology courses_______some of that course work was just not terribly helpful.

Some women are leaving the seminaries without the preparation they need to make the transition to parish ministry, and as a result they lack the foundational support to help sustain them in the local church.

Additionally, many women do not expect to enter a system in which sexism exists, blatant or covert.  One clergywoman, in providing her description of the four generations of women to come through the seminaries in recent years, said of her generation,

[T]he fourth wave, which I consider myself to be in, came out and said, ‘Oh my gosh, is this still a problem?’  I was so naive.  I had no idea that this was still a problem for women in ministry, and so, I don’t know where women are now coming out of seminary, whether they’re wiser, or whether they’re still coming out saying, ‘Oh, is this still a problem?’

Seminaries could do a much better job of preparing future clergywomen to enter the local church. The naiveté among seminary students needs to be addressed with information about such topics as self-care, congregational dynamics, power structures within the church, the appointment process, conflict management, and negotiation.

If the interviews are an indication, theology also seems to be an issue in some clergywomen’s churches.  Female pastors find that their theology is sometimes quite different from the theologies of their congregations.  All clergy and congregations experience this discrepancy at times. Fortunately, the appointment system does not attempt to match identical theologies of pastors and congregations.  Nevertheless, clergywomen (and clergymen) need to be provided with the skills necessary to dialogue with and educate congregations and communities in a cooperative manner about theology and biblical interpretation.  For clergywomen, these skills are particularly important as parishioners often ground their resistance to ordained women in theology.  Seminaries, as the places that provide the theological foundation for clergy, must teach students to dialogue effectively with other theological perspectives so that clergywomen in particular are able to respond to conflicts around theology.

Speculation about differences in anticipated roles in the local church, especially for those who sought ordination because priestly duties were important to them and were reared in non-Methodist traditions, raises some specific questions about how seminaries view and present the roles of pastors.  Do seminaries adequately prepare future clergy for the variety of roles they must play in the Church?  In United Methodist seminaries, do students who were reared in traditions other than Methodist, but are seeking ordination in The United Methodist Church, receive adequate education about how the United Methodist system works?  How do seminaries respond to ecumenism?

In many respects, seminaries are microcosms of the larger Church.  Some of the confidentiality and political issues found in the larger United Methodist system are found in relationships among faculty, administrators, supervisors, and fellow students.  Since seminaries provide the primary educational foundation for clergy, they are one of the places where future clergy develop their pastoral and self-identity.  The foundations that are laid prior to and during seminary have a great impact on the identities, attitudes, theologies, and practices of future clergy.

Therefore, the Church and the seminaries must evaluate the foundation that is laid in seminary.  Is the seminary process or product oriented?  How does that orientation effect the approach that clergy, future conference leaders and local church pastors, take when working with churches that are not receptive to local church pastors?  Do the seminary faculty and administration model an authoritarian or a cooperative leadership style?  Are a variety of perspectives respected and allowed voice in the seminary?  Does the seminary encourage a balanced lifestyle for its students and faculty; or does the seminary focus too much on the product for students to develop healthy habits that help sustain them in the local church?  Certainly seminaries should be academically rigorous to nurture an educated clergy, but additional elements in the seminaries also help prepare students, particularly clergywomen, for ministry in the local church.

Clergywomen

Undoubtedly, some of the responsibility for support also lies with the clergywomen themselves.  The systemic problems within The United Methodist Church perpetuate lack of support for clergywomen, but there are some things a clergywoman can do to make sure that she has some of the support and skills she needs to survive and indeed thrive in the local church.  Honoring the dignity of the self, establishing support networks, and supporting other women in ministry are three important areas.  These initiatives can be encouraged and understood as important by the United Methodist system, but clergywomen themselves will have to practice them.

Clergywomen interviewed were asked specifically what they did to take care of themselves while in local church ministry.  Some women admitted they were not effective at establishing self-care boundaries.  One woman said that because she was single she was able to give more time to ministry than to herself.  She said, “I give more time to my ministry than to me, but then again, I’m single.”  Some women indicated that they were people-pleasers, which makes it difficult for them to say “No” to the demands of the annual conference and their congregation.  That reluctance to say “No” prevents them from taking time for themselves or with their families.

Being clear with one’s self and congregation about self-care needs is crucial in preventing the self-consumption which can happen in the role of pastor and results in the subsequent loss of identity.  Self-care needs can be a variety of things such as regular exercise, an established day off during the week, spending time with friends and family, and concentrating on one’s own spiritual growth and renewal.  Self-care means establishing boundaries with congregations and others as to what those needs are.  For example, one clergywoman keeps a careful calendar and honors her weekly day off,

I try real hard to only do what I can do.  I try to keep a real accurate calendar, and I always take my day off. . . . So if it’s something that comes on Friday, unless it’s something exceptional, I don’t do it. . . . And I schedule myself only to be away from the church maybe one day every two weeks. . . . I just really try to keep a good calendar and tell people, ‘I just can’t.’

Taking time to do the things one enjoys is also a part of self-care.  Doing those activities that allow one to “get away” from the pressures of the job is extremely important in finding physical, emotional, and spiritual renewal.

I made sure that I had, while I pursued my own spiritual growth, so I made sure that I had prayer time every day, and that I did things that were nourishing to my soul, like I had–music is important to me, so I always made sure that I had music to listen to, and the area was a beautiful area, so I always would go down to the river, or there were special places I liked to go in nature, kind of renew myself.

I would allow myself to say ‘no’ . . . ‘I need to go and be quiet for a while.’

Similar to self-care boundaries is the establishment of support networks.  Whether they find support from other clergy, mentors, therapists, family, or friends outside the church, clergywomen need to nurture those networks so that when a crisis arises, a confidential space is available where they can go for guidance and support.  The United Methodist system can and should provide resources for services such as therapy and help congregations understand why clergywomen need time away from their roles as pastors to care for themselves.

But clergywomen also have to nurture their relationships, including with each other, in order for self-care to be an efficacious reality.  In annual conferences where artificial support networks among conference clergy have been established by the system, the clergywomen commented that those networks were not very effective since there are confidentiality issues and competition among clergy, including clergywomen.  So, it appears that at this point, such efforts organized by the system in which a network is assigned to (rather than chosen by) the clergywomen (such as cluster groups and supervising elder) may not be as helpful as they could be. Therefore, while demanding the time and encouragement from the system to establish such support networks, clergywomen must also choose those persons who will be a part of their support network and nurture those relationships.

Mentoring future clergywomen is another way clergywomen are responsible for their support.

I think women, themselves, need to be willing to be mentors to other gifted women…And to consciously seek out their younger sisters, their new sisters in ministry, and offer themselves in support to those persons. . . . And to do that without hesitation.

Sharing experiences about the system, congregations, and challenges and opportunities with other women will help prepare future clergywomen to enter ordained ministry.  If future clergywomen know what they may possibly expect from the annual conference leadership, other clergy, and new congregations, they will be better able to establish the support and seek out the skills they need to be successful in the local church.

While the sample in this study is large, it does not include all United Methodist clergywomen.  Yet the women in this study, through their voices, do give some indication as to the reasons some clergywomen leave local church ministry.  They leave the local church primarily due to lack of support from the hierarchical system, a difficulty to maintain their integrity in the current system, family responsibilities, and rejection from their congregations.  Certainly these factors, as well as others, are connected and some of these reasons are more important for different women in different demographic groups.  In general, however, the clergywomen in this study left local church ministry because of systemic issues within The United Methodist Church.

As a result of the painful honesty of these clergywomen, The United Methodist Church has an extraordinary opportunity to examine itself and how it operates as a church.  The appointment system, conference leadership and clergy colleagues, congregations, seminaries, and clergywomen are responsible for providing an advantageous situation in which clergywomen can do ministry.  If each of these components of The United Methodist Church heeded the call of the women in this study and collaboratively worked to make the necessary improvements within the system, the Church probably would not lose as many of its clergywomen to ministries and professions outside the local church.  A strong presence of ordained women in the local church is crucial to the vitality and diversity of the larger Church.  Without them, the image of God and models for ministry each clergywoman represents are dimmed and may be forgotten.

Some additional studies that may aid the Church in its attempt to retain its clergywomen should be considered.  Exploring specific means of training cabinets, other clergy, and congregations in being more sensitive to the needs of clergywomen would help in the development of an education initiative which could lead to a more clergywomen-friendly Church.  Examination of seminaries and the preparation they provide future clergy would also result in some vital information leading to the implementation of some interventions in the seminaries to help prepare clergywomen specifically for local church ministry.  A comparative study on clergymen and their experiences within the United Methodist system would provide interesting information which could help determine how the experiences of men and women differ in the Church and which issues are similar for clergymen and clergywomen.

Decades have passed since The United Methodist Church first approved the ordination of women.  The Church needs to ask itself the difficult questions about the underlying theology that reinforces and affirms a highly hierarchical and political power structure.   The Church needs to develop and embrace a theology that would promote more equitable, cooperative, and respectful mentality among its clergy and laity.  The Church also needs to articulate what kind of God is pleased when clergy must leave the local church, or ordained ministry altogether, in order to live authentically.  These clergywomen are calling the Church to be prophetic in its own way by seizing the opportunity to respond effectively to the painful experiences of these and other clergywomen.  Acknowledgment that those painful experiences are actually symptoms of problems within the larger Church is an important place for the Church to begin.

Results Tables

Table 1.  Primary Reason for Seeking Ordination

Primary Reason for Seeking Ordination
Frequency
(N=1369; None Listed=17)
Percent
Nonspecific Call to Ministry
934
68%
Call to the Local Church
75
5%
Call to Preach
109
8%
Required for Priestly Duties
48
4%
Required for Ministry Other Than the Local Church
19
1%
Talked Into It
6
0.4%
Natural/Logical Progression
142
10%
Other
36
3%

Table 2.  Primary Appointment Intended After Receiving Elders’ Orders

Primary Appointment Intended After Elders’ Orders
Frequency
(N=1361; None Listed=25)
Percent
Local Church Pastor
1113
82%
Counseling
48
4%
Chaplain
69
5%
Campus Ministry
27
2%
Missions (with Missions Board)
7
0.5%
Youth Ministry
7
0.5%
Teaching
26
2%
Social/Community Service
18
1%
Other
46
3%

Table 3.  Primary Reason the Local Church is Best Place of Service

Primary Reason Local is Best Place of Service
Frequency
(N=1007; None listed=376,
27% of total)
Percent
Enjoy; Comfortable; Home
126
13%
Committed to the Church as an Institution
59
6%
Doing God’s Call
619
61%
Priestly Duties are Important
57
6%
Appreciate Parish Relationships
61
6%
Appointment System Secure
7
0.7%
Have Not Found Anything Else Yet
19
2%
Financial Security
8
0.8%
Hours Good for Family
10
1%
Too Invested to Leave
2
0.2%
Other
39
4%

Table 4.  Primary Reason for Seeking Ordination:  Ethnic Background of Participants

Primary Reason for Seeking Ordination
Ethnic Minority Women
(N=111; None listed=2, 2% of total)
White Women
(N=1250; None listed=13, 1% of total)
Nonspecific Call to Ministry
73 (66%)
856 (68%)
Call to the Local Church
2 (2%)
72 (6%)
Call to Preach
15 (14%)
94 (8%)
Required for Priestly duties
7 (6%)
40 (3%)
Required for Ministry Other Than the Local Church
0
19 (2%)
Talked Into It
0
6 (0.5%)
Natural/Logical Progression
11 (10%)
130 (10%)
Other
3 (3%)
33 (3%)

Table 5.  Primary Appointment Intended After Elders’ Orders:  Ethnic Background of Participants

Primary Appointment Intended After Elders’ Orders
Ethnic Minority Women
(N=105; None listed=6, 5% of total)
White Women
(N=1248; None listed=15, 1% of total)
Local Church Pastor
85 (81%)
1021 (82%)
Counseling
3 (3%)
44 (4%)
Chaplain
4 (4%)
65 (5%)
Campus Ministry
4 (4%)
23 (2%)
Missions (with Missions Board)
1 (1%)
6 (0.5%)
Youth Ministry
0
7 (0.6%)
Teaching
2 (2%)
24 (2%)
Social/Community Service
1 (1%)
17 (1%)
Other
7 (7%)
40 (3%)

Table 6.  Primary Reason the Local Church is Best Place of Service:
Ethnic Background of Participants

Primary Reason Local is Best Place of Service
Ethnic Minority Women
(N=76; None listed=37, 33% of total)
White Women
(N=925; None listed=338, 27% of total)
Enjoy; Comfortable; Home
6 (8%)
119 (13%)
Committed to the Church as an Institution
7 (9%)
52 (6%)
Doing God’s Call
53 (70%)
560 (61%)
Priestly Duties are Important
3 (4%)
54 (6%)
Appreciate Parish Relationships
3 (4%)
57 (6%)
Appointment System Secure
0
7 (0.8%)
Have Not Found Anything Else Yet
1 (1%)
18 (2%)
Financial Security
0
8 (0.9%)
Hours Good for Family
1 (1%)
9 (1%)
Too Invested to Leave
0
2 (0.2%)
Other
1 (1%)
39 (4%)

Table 7.  Primary Reason for Seeking Ordination:  Marital Status of Participants

Primary Reason for Seeking Ordination
Never Married (N=217; None listed=5, 2% of total)
Ever Separated/
Divorced/Widowed (N=256; None listed=1, 0.4% of total)
Currently Married
(N=840; None listed=8, 0.9% of total)
In Committed Relationship
(N=52; None listed=0)
Nonspecific Call to Ministry
136 (63%)
168 (66%)
591 (70%)
35 (67%)
Call to the Local Church
8 (4%)
16 (6%)
49 (6%)
2 (4%)
Call to Preach
20 (9%)
27 (11%)
60 (7%)
2 (4%)
Required for Priestly Duties
12 (6%)
6 (2%)
29 (3%)
1 (2%)
Required for Ministry Other Than the Local Church
5 (2%)
2 (0.8%)
10 (1%)
2 (4%)
Talked Into It
0
3 (1%)
3 (0.4%)
0
Natural/Logical Progression
28 (13%)
28 (11%)
80 (10%)
6 (12%)
Other
8 (4%)
6 (2%)
18 (2%)
4 (8%)

Table 8.  Primary Appointment Intended After Receiving Elders’ Orders:
Marital Status of Participants

Primary Appointment Intended After Elders’ Orders
Never Married
(N=216; None listed=6, 3% of total)
Ever Separated/ Divorced/ Widowed
(N=250; None listed=7, 3% of total)
Currently Married
(N=839; None listed=9, 1% of total)
In Committed Relationship
(N=52; None listed=0)
Local Church Pastor
168 (78%)
208 (83%)
695 (83%)
37 (71 %)
Counseling
3 (1%)
14 (6%)
28 (3%)
3 (6%)
Chaplain
12 (6%)
9 (4%)
45 (5%)
3 (6%)
Campus Ministry
6 (3%)
4 (2%)
14 (2%)
3 (6%)
Missions (with Missions Board)
5 (2%)
0
2 (0.2%)
0
Youth Ministry
1 (0.5%)
0
4 (0.5%)
2 (4%)
Teaching
7 (3%)
4 (2%)
14 (2%)
1 (2 %)
Social/Community Service
3 (1%)
2 (0.8%)
12 (1%)
1 (2%)
Other
11 (5%)
9 (4%)
25 (3%)
2 (4%)

Table 9.  Primary Reason the Local Church is Best Place of Service:
Marital Status of Participants

Primary Reason Local Church is Best Place of Service
Never Married
(N=156; None listed=66, 30% of total)
Ever Separated/ Divorced/Widowed
(N=197; None listed=60, 23% of total)
Currently Married
(N=633; None listed=215, 25% of total)
In Committed Relationship
(N=23; None listed=29, 56% of total)
Enjoy; Comfortable; Home
12 (8%)
17 (9%)
90 (14%)
5 (22%)
Committed to the Church as an Institution
10 (6%)
11 (6%)
38 (6%)
0
Doing God’s Call
94 (60%)
137 (70%)
379 (60%)
9 (39%)
Priestly Duties are Important
15 (10%)
8 (4%)
30 (5%)
3 (13%)
Appreciate Parish Relationships
13 (8%)
7 (4%)
38 (6%)
3 (6%)
Appointment System Secure
0
2 (1%)
5 (0.8%)
0
Have Not Found Anything Else Yet
3 (2%)
5 (3%)
10 (2%)
1 (5%)
Financial Security
1 (0.6%)
3 (2%)
3 (0.5%)
1 (5%)
Hours Good for Family
0
2 (1%)
8 (1%)
0
Too Invested to Leave
0
0
2 (0.3%)
0
Other
5 (3%)
4 (2%)
30 (5%)
1 (5%)

Table 10.  Primary Reason for Seeking Ordination:  Participants with a Clergy Partner

Primary Reason for Seeking Ordination
Clergy Partner
(N=389; None listed=4, 1% of total)
No Clergy Partner
(N=982; None listed=13, 1% of total)
Nonspecific call to Ministry
272 (70%)
664 (68%)
Call to the Local Church
22 (6%)
53 (5%)
Call to Preach
22 (6%)
87 (9%)
Required for Priestly duties
22 (6%)
26 (3%)
Required for Ministry Other Than the Local Church
3 (0.8%)
16 (2%)
Talked Into It
1 (0.3%)
5 (0.5%)
Natural/Logical Progression
41 (11%)
101 (10%)
Other
6 (2%)
30 (3%)

Table 11.  Primary Appointment Intended After Receiving Elders’ Orders:
Participants with a Clergy Partner

Primary Appointment Intended After Elders’ Orders
Clergy Partner
(N=390; None listed=3, 0.8% of total)
No Clergy Partner
(N=973; None listed=22, 2% of total)
Local Church Pastor
332 (85%)
782 (80%)
Counseling
10 (3%)
38 (4%)
Chaplain
16 (4%)
53 (5%)
Campus Ministry
6 (2%)
21 (2%)
Missions (with Missions Board)
2 (0.5%)
5 (0.5%)
Youth Ministry
0
7 (0.7%)
Teaching
7 (2%)
19 (2%)
Social/Community Service
6 (2%)
12 (1%)
Other
11 (3%)
36 (4%)

Table 12.  Primary Reason the Local Church is Best Place of Service: Participants with a Clergy Partner

Primary Reason Local Church is Best Place of Service
Clergy Partner
(N=299; None listed=94, 24% of total)
No Clergy Partner
(N=710; None listed=285,  29% of total)
Enjoy; Comfortable; Home
42 (14%)
84 (12%)
Committed to the Church as an Institution
24 (8%)
35 (5%)
Doing God’s Call
169 (57%)
451 (64%)
Priestly Duties are Important
18 (6%)
39 (5%)
Appreciate Parish Relationships
19 (6%)
42 (6%)
Appointment System Secure
5 (2%)
2 (0.3%)
Have Not Found Anything Else Yet
7 (2%)
12 (2%)
Financial Security
1 (0.3%)
7 (1%)
Hours Good for Family
3 (1%)
7 (1%)
Too Invested to Leave
1 (0.3%)
1 (0.1%)
Other
10 (3%)
30 (4%)

Table 13.  Primary Reason for Seeking Ordination:  Denominational Background of Participants

Primary Reason for Seeking Ordination
Reared Methodist
(N=923; None listed=13, 1% of total)
Reared Non-Methodist
(N=417; None listed=1, 0.2% of total)
Nonspecific Call to Ministry
616 (67%)
295 (71%)
Call to the Local Church
54 (6%)
21 (5%)
Call to Preach
74 (8%)
32 (8%)
Required for Priestly Duties
26 (3%)
21 (5%)
Required for Ministry Other Than the Local Church
15 (2%)
4 (1%)
Talked Into It
4 (0.4%)
2 (0.5%)
Natural/Logical Progression
108 (12%)
32 (8%)
Other
26 (3%)
10 (2%)

Table 14.  Primary Appointment Intended After Receiving Elders’ Orders:
Denominational Background of Participants

Primary Appointment Intended After Elders’ Orders
Reared Methodist
(N=921; None listed=15, 2% of total)
Reared Non-Methodist
(N=412; None listed=6, 1% of total)
Local Church Pastor
748 (81%)
343 (83%)
Counseling
33 (4%)
13 (3%)
Chaplain
44 (5%)
24 (6%)
Campus Ministry
19 (2%)
7 (2%)
Missions (with Missions Board)
3 (0.3%)
3 (0.7%)
Youth Ministry
6 (0.7%)
1 (0.2%)
Teaching
16 (2%)
10 (2%)
Social/Community Service
16 (2%)
2 (0.5%)
Other
36 (4%)
9 (2%)

Table 15.  Primary Reason the Local Church is Best Place of Service:
Denominational Background of Participants

Primary Reason Local Church is Best Place of Service
Reared Methodist
(N=680; None listed=256, 27% of total)
Reared Non-Methodist
(N=306; None listed=112, 27% of total)
Enjoy; Comfortable; Home
90 (13%)
35 (11%)
Committed to the Church as an Institution
40 (6%)
19 (6%)
Doing God’s Call
402 (59%)
202 (66%)
Priestly Duties are Important
38 (6%)
18 (6%)
Appreciate Parish Relationships
46 (7%)
14 (5%)
Appointment System Secure
6 (0.9%)
1 (0.3%)
Have Not Found Anything Else Yet
13 (2%)
5 (2%)
Financial Security
4 (0.6%)
2 (0.7%)
Hours Good For Family
8 (1%)
2 (0.7%)
Too Invested to Leave
2 (0.3%)
0
Other
31 (5%)
8 (3%)

Table 16.  Participants In/Out of Local Church Ministry:  Jurisdiction

Jurisdiction
In Local Church Ministry
Out of Local Church Ministry
North Central
(N=427)
313 (73%)
114 (27%)
Northeastern
(N=338)
233 (69%)
105 (31%)
Western
(N=168)
126 (75%)
42 (25%)
South Central
(N=195)
125 (64%)
70 (36%)
Southeastern
(N=258)
172 (67%)
86 (23%)

Table 17.  Frequency of Participants In/Out of Local Church Ministry:
Ethnic Background of Participants

Ethnicity
In Local Church Ministry
Out of Local Church Ministry
Asian
(N=20)
13 (65%)
7 (35%)
Black
(N=61)
36 (59%)
25 (41%)
Hispanic
(N=8)
6 (75%)
2 (25%)
Native American
(N=0)
0
0
Pacific Islander
(N=1)
1 (100%)
0
White
(N=1262)
890 (71%)
372 (29%)
Multiracial
(N=21)
15 (71%)
6 (29%)

Table 18.  Temporary Exit from Local Church Ministry:  Ethnic Background of Participants

Ethnicity
Have Left and Returned to Local Church Ministry
Have Not Left and Returned to Local Church Ministry
Ethnic Minority Women
(N=113)
13 (12%)
100 (88%)
White Women
(N=1263)
215 (17%)
1048 (83%)

Table 19.  Participants In/Out of Local Church Ministry:  Marital Status of Participants

Marital Status
In Local Church Ministry
Out of Local Church Ministry
Never Married
(N=222)
154 (69%)
68 (31%)
Ever Separated/Divorced/ Widowed
(N=257)
188 (73%)
69 (27%)
Currently Married
(N=848; None listed=2, 0.2%of total)
600 (71%)
246 (29%)
In Committed Relationship
(N=52)
21 (40%)
31 (60%)

Table 20.  Temporary Exit from Local Church Ministry:  Marital Status of Participants

Marital Status
Have Left and Returned to Local Church Ministry
Have Not Left and Returned to Local Church Ministry
Never Married
(N=222)
29 (13%)
193 (87%)
Ever Separated/Divorced/ Widowed
(N=257)
36 (14%)
221 (86%)
Currently Married
(N=848; None listed=2, 0.2%of total)
154 (18%)
694 (82%)
In Committed Relationship
(N=52)
8 (15%)
44 (85%)

Table 21.  Participants In/Out of Local Church Ministry:  Participants with a Clergy Partner

In Local Church Ministry
Out of Local Church Ministry
Clergy Partner
(N=390)
287 (73%)
106 (27%)
No Clergy Partner
(N=993; None listed=2, 0.2% of total)
682 (69%)
311 (31%)

Table 22.  Temporary Exit from the Local Church:  Participants with a Clergy Partner

Have Left and Returned to Local Church Ministry
Have Not Left and Returned to Local Church Ministry
Clergy Partner
(N=393)
78 (20%)
315 (80%)
No Clergy Partner
(N=995)
151 (15%)
844 (85%)

Table 23.  Participants In/Out of Local Church Ministry:  Denominational Background of Participants

In Local Church Ministry
Out of Local Church Ministry
Reared Methodist
(N= 935; None listed=1, 0.1% of total)
657 (70%)
278 (30%)
Reared Non-Methodist
(N=417; None listed=1, 0.2% of total)
290 (70%)
127 (30%)

Table 24.  Temporary Exit from Local Church Ministry:  Denominational Background of Participants

Denominational Background
Have Left and Returned to Local Church Ministry
Have Not Left and Returned to Local Church Ministry
Reared Methodist
154 (16.5%)
782 (83.5%)
Reared non-Methodist
70 (17%)
348 (83%)

Table 25.  Participants In/Out of Local Church Ministry:  Primary Reason for Seeking Ordination

Primary Reason for Seeking Ordination
In Local Church Ministry
Out of Local Church Ministry
Nonspecific Call to Ministry
(N=934; None listed=2, 0.2% of total)
670 (72%)
264 (28%)
Call to the Local Church
(N=75)
63 (84%)
12 (16%)
Call to Preach
(N=109)
75 (69%)
34 (31%)
Required for Priestly Duties
(N=48)
29 (60%)
19 (40%)
Required for Ministry Other Than the Local Church
(N=19)
6 (32%)
13 (68%)
Natural/Logical Progression
(N=142)
89 (63%)
53 (37%)

Table 26.  Temporary Exit from Local Church Ministry:  Primary Reason for Seeking Ordination

Primary Reason for Seeking Ordination
Have Left and Returned to Local Church Ministry
Have Not Left and Returned to Local Church Ministry
Nonspecific Call to Ministry
N=936
157 (17%)
779 (83%)
Call to the Local Church
(N=75)
5 (7%)
70 (93%)
Call to Preach
(N=109)
21 (19%)
88 (81%)
Required for Priestly Duties
(N=48)
10 (21%)
38 (79%)
Required for Ministry Other Than the Local Church
(N=19)
3 (16%)
16 (84%)
Natural/Logical Progression
(N=142)
26 (18%)
116 (82%)

Table 27.  Permanent Exit from Ordained Ministry:  Ethnic Background of Participants

Have Withdrawn/Surrendered Credentials
Have Not Withdrawn/ Surrendered Credentials
Ethnic Minority Women
(N=113)
4 (4%)
109 (96%)
White Women
(N=1263)
39 (3%)
1224 (97%)

Table 28.  Permanent Exit from Ordained Ministry:  Marital Status of Participants

Marital Status
Have Withdrawn/Surrendered Credentials
Have Not Withdrawn/Surrendered Credentials
Never Married
(N=222)
5 (2%)
217 (98%)
Ever Separated/Divorced/ Widowed
(N=257)
8 (3%)
249 (97%)
Currently Married
(N=848; None listed=2, 0.2%of total)
25 (3%)
823 (97%)
In Committed Relationship
(N=52)
5 (10%)
47 (90%)

Table 29.  Permanent Exit from Ordained Ministry:  Participants with a Clergy Partner

Have Withdrawn/Surrendered Credentials
Have Not Withdrawn/ Surrendered Credentials
Clergy Partner
(N=393)
11 (3%)
382 (97%)
No Clergy Partner
(N=995)
32 (3%)
963 (97%)

Table 30.  Primary Reasons for Leaving Local Church Ministry Selected by Women Who Have Exited Temporarily or Permanently

Primary Reason For Leaving Local Church Ministry
Frequency
(N=583; None listed=803, 58% of total)
Percent
Lack of Support From the Hierarchical System
90
15%
Lack of Opportunity to Use Gifts
50
9%
Too Much Rejection by Churches
43
7%
Cannot Maintain Integrity in this System
42
7%
To Follow a Call to Another Kind of Ministry
145
25%
Do Not Like Local Church Ministry
5
0.9%
Family Responsibilities
67
11%
Financial Reasons
3
0.5%
Health Reasons
24
4%
Other
114
20%

Table 31.  Reasons for Leaving the Local Church According to Whether Participants Were in Local Church Ministry at the Time of the Questionnaire

Primary Reason For Leaving Local Church Ministry
In the Local Church
(N=242; None listed=727, 75% of total)
Out of the Local Church
(N=341; None listed=76, 18% of total)
Lack of Support From the Hierarchical System
37 (15%)
53 (16%)
Lack of Opportunity to Use Gifts
20 (8%)
30 (9%)
Too Much Rejection by Churches
26 (11%)
17 (5%)
Cannot Maintain Integrity in this System
14 (6%)
28 (8%)
To Follow a Call to Another Kind of Ministry
48 (20%)
97 (28%)
Do Not Like Local Church Ministry
0
5 (1%)
Family Responsibilities
33 (14%)
34 (10%)
Financial Reasons
2 (0.8%)
1 (0.3%)
Health Reasons
8 (3%)
16 (5%)
Other
54 (22%)
60 (18%)

Table 32.  Reasons for Leaving the Local Church Selected by Participants Who Have Left Ordained Ministry

Primary Reason For Leaving Local Church Ministry
Frequency
(N=36; None listed=7, 16%of total)
Percent
Lack of Support From the Hierarchical System
8
22%
Lack of Opportunity to Use Gifts
3
8%
Too Much Rejection by Churches
3
8%
Cannot Maintain Integrity in this System
9
25%
To Follow a Call to Another Kind of Ministry
2
6%
Do Not Like Local Church Ministry
0
0%
Family Responsibilities
0
0%
Financial Reasons
0
0%
Health Reasons
2
6%
Other
9
25%

Table 33.  Additional Reasons for Leaving Local Church Ministry Selected by Women Whose Primary Reason Was to Follow a Call to Another Kind of Ministry.

Reason for Leaving Local Church Ministry
Frequency
(Numbers below are a combination of responses to a second and a third reason)
Percent
Participants Who Did Not List a Second Reason
38
27%
Participants Who Did Not List a Third Reason
67
48%
Lack of Support from the Hierarchical System
20
14%
Lack of Opportunity to Use Gifts
37
26%
Too Much Rejection by Churches
14
10%
Cannot Maintain Integrity in this System
18
12%
Do Not Like Local Church Ministry
10
7%
Family Responsibilities
26
18%
Financial Reasons
12
8%
Health Reasons
5
3%
Other
34
24%

Table 34.  General Results of Interview Content Analysis

Category
Positive Only
(% of category total)
Ambivalent
(% of category total)
Negative Only
(% of category total)
Total
(% of total  observed effects)
Institutional
22%
18%
60%
44%   (N=387)
Congregational
39%
13%
48%
28%   (N=247)
Personal
43%
7%
50%
24%   (N=209)
Community
25%
2%
73%
5%    (N=44)
TOTAL
32%
13%
55%
100%   (N=887)

Table 35. Institutional Category Results for Interview Content Analysis

Item
Positive Only
(% of item total)
Ambivalent
(% of item total)
Negative Only
(% of item total)
Total
Appointment System
15%
11%
74%
22% (N=87)
District Superintendent
31%
19%
50%
18% (N=70)
Support
24%
41%
35%
25% (N=95)
Bishop
49%
10%
41%
11% (N=41)
Sexism
0%
0%
100%
13% (N=52)
Salary
0%
0%
100%
8% (N=17)
Theology
15%
0%
85%
3% (N=13)
Feminism
50%
17%
33%
2% (N=6)
Access to Resources
30%
10%
60%
3% (N=10)
Other
0%
8%
92%
3% (N=13)
TOTAL
22% (N=86)
18% (N=69)
60% (N =232)
100% (N=387)

Table 36.  Primary Reason for Leaving Local Church Ministry:  Ethnic Background of Participants

Primary Reason for Leaving Local Church Ministry
Ethnic Minority Women
(N=48; None listed=65, 58% of total)
White Women
(N=535; None listed=728, 58% of total)
Lack of Support from the Hierarchical System
13 (27%)
77 (14%)
Lack of Opportunity to Use Gifts
4 (8%)
46 (9%)
Too Much Rejection by Churches
5 (10%)
38 (7%)
Cannot Maintain Integrity in this System
0
41 (8%)
To Follow a Call to Another Kind of Ministry
10 (21%)
135 (25%)
Do Not Like Local Church Ministry
0
5 (0.9%)
Family Responsibilities
5 (10%)
62 (12%)
Financial Reasons
0
3 (0.6%)
Health Reasons
2 (4%)
22 (4%)
Other
9 (19%)
106 (20%)

Table 37.  Primary Reasons for Leaving Local Church Ministry:  Marital Status of Participants

Primary Reason for Leaving Local Church Ministry
Never Married
(N=87; None listed=135, 61% of total)
Ever Separated/ Divorced/Widowed
(N=103; None listed=154, 60% of total)
Currently Married
(N=355; None listed=493, 58% of total)
In Committed Relationship
(N=36; None listed=16, 31% of total)
Lack of Support from the Hierarchical System
13 (15%)
21 (20%)
52 (15%)
3 (8%)
Lack of Opportunity to Use Gifts
12 (14%)
9 (9%)
27 (8%)
2 (6%)
Too Much Rejection by Churches
11 (13%)
8 (8%)
22 (6%)
2 (6%)
Cannot Maintain Integrity in this System
2 (2%)
6 (6%)
21 (6%)
13 (36%)
To Follow a Call to Another Kind of Ministry
22 (25%)
27 (26%)
89 (25%)
6 (17%)
Do Not Like Local Church Ministry
0
1 (1%)
3 (0.8%)
1 (3%)
Family Responsibilities
1 (1%)
9 (9%)
56 (16%)
1 (3%)
Financial Reasons
0
1 (1%)
2 (0.6%)
0
Health Reasons
5 (6%)
2 (2%)
15 (4%)
1 (3%)
Other
20 (23%)
19 (18%)
68 (19%)
7 (19%)

Table 38.  Results of Crosstabulations between Selected Interview Items and In/Out of Local Church Ministry, Controlling for Marital Status, Among Interview Participants

Item
Chi-Square Statistic (df=1)
P-Value
MARRIED:
Institutional:
Appointment System
District Superintendent
Bishop
Congregational:
Support

…………
…………
…………

…………

.02*
.46
.63

.02*

NOT MARRIED:
Institutional:
Appointment System
District Superintendent
Bishop
Congregational:
Support

…………
…………
…………

…………

.60
.10*
.08*

.18

*  indicates significance (p<=.10)

Table 39.  Results of Crosstabulations between Selected Interview Items and In/Our of Local Church Ministry, Among Interview Participants

Item
Chi-Square Statistic (df=1)
P-Value
Personal:
Marriage
Clergy Couple
Children
Workload
Salary
5.11248
…………
3.24013
…………
(only negative effects)
.02*
.04*
.07*
.58
…………
Institutional:
Appointment System
District Superintendent
Support
Bishop
Theology
Sexism
…………
2.92504
2.49381
1.97252
…………
(only negative effects)
.05*
.08*
.11
.16
.53
…………
Congregational:
Support
Relations with Women
Feminism
Theology
Expectations of Congregation
Authority
7.32392
…………
…………
…………
…………
…………
.007*
.10*
.11
.30
.68
.67
Community:
Support
Isolation
Acceptance
…………
…………
…………
.29
.75
.60
*  indicates significance (p<=.10)

Table 40.  Congregational Category Results for Interview Content Analysis

Item
Positive Only
(% of item total)
Ambivalent
(% of item total)
Negative Only
(% of item total)
Total
Support
59%
21%
20%
32% (N=80)
Authority
11%
0%
89%
8% (N=19)
Relations with Women
39%
21%
39%
13% (N=33)
Relations with Men
39%
13%
48%
9% (N=23)
Theology
22%
7%
70%
11% (N=27)
Congregational Expectations
14%
0%
86%
11% (N=28)
Expectations of Pastor
10%
0%
90%
4% (N=10)
Feminism
54%
16%
29%
10% (N=24)
Other
33%
0%
67%
1% (N=3)
TOTAL
39% (N=96)
13% (N=33)
48% (N=118)
100% (N=247)

Table 41.  Personal Category Results for Interview Content Analysis

Item
Positive Only
(% of item total)
Ambivalent
(% of item total)
Negative Only
(% of item total)
Total
Workload
31%
4%
65%
12% (N=26)
Marriage
57%
6%
37%
30% (N=63)
Crisis: marriage
75%
0%
25%
2% (N=4)
Crisis: health
18%
9%
73%
5% (N=11)
Theology
78%
0%
22%
4% (N=9)
Clergy Couple
40%
10%
50%
14% (N=30)
Access to Resources
67%
11%
22%
4% (N=9)
Children
38%
7%
55%
14% (N=29)
Other
46%
18%
36%
5% (N=11)
TOTAL
43% (N=90)
7% (N=14)
50% (N=105)
100% (N=209)

Table 42.  Primary Reasons for Leaving Local Church Ministry:  Participants with a Clergy Partner

Primary Reason for Leaving Local Church Ministry
Clergy Partner
(N=172; None listed=221, 56% of total)
No Clergy Partner
(N=412; None listed=583, 59% of total)
Lack of Support from the Hierarchical System
21 (12%)
69 (17%)
Lack of Opportunity to Use Gifts
15 (9%)
35 (8%)
Too Much Rejection by Churches
15 (9%)
28 (7%)
Cannot Maintain Integrity in this System
11 (6%)
31 (8%)
To Follow a Call to Another Kind of Ministry
37 (22%)
108 (26%)
Do Not Like Local Church Ministry
1 (0.6%)
4 (1%)
Family Responsibilities
26 (15%)
41 (10%)
Financial Reasons
0
3 (0.7%)
Health Reasons
9 (5%)
15 (4%)
Other
37 (22%)
78 (19%)

Table 43.  Results of Crosstabulations between Selected Interview Items and In/Out of Local Church Ministry, Controlling for Clergy Partner, Among Interview Participants

Item
Chi-square Statistic (df=1)
P-Value
CLERGY PARTNER:
Institutional:
Appointment System
District Superintendent
Bishop
Congregational:
Support

…………
…………
…………

…………

.08*
.69
.40

.19

NO CLERGY PARTNER:
Institutional:
Appointment System
District Superintendent
Bishop
Congregational:
Support
…………
3.25156
…………

5.36679

.26
.07*
.25

.02*

*  indicates significance (p<=.10)

Table 44.  Additional Reasons for Leaving Local Church Ministry Selected by Participants with Clergy Partners Whose Primary Reason was to Follow a Call to Another Kind of Ministry

Reason for Leaving Local Church Ministry
Frequency
(Numbers below are a combination of responses to a second and a third reason)
Percent
Participant who did not list a second reason
10
28%
Participants who did not list a third reason
20
56%
Lack of Support from the Hierarchical System
6
17%
Lack of Opportunity to Use Gifts
9
25%
Too Much Rejection by Churches
2
6%
Cannot Maintain Integrity in this System
4
11%
Do Not Like Local Church Ministry
0
0%
Family Responsibilities
7
19%
Financial Reasons
4
11%
Health Reasons
2
6%
Other
7
19%

Table 45.  Primary Reason for Leaving Local Church Ministry:  Denominational Background of Participants

Primary Reason for Leaving Local Church Ministry
Reared Methodist
(N=397; None listed=539, 58% of total)
Reared Non-Methodist
(N=178; None listed=240, 57% of total)
Lack of Support from the Hierarchical System
51 (13%)
38 (21%)
Lack of Opportunity to Use Gifts
36 (9%)
12 (7%)
Too Much Rejection by Churches
30 (8%)
13 (7%)
Cannot Maintain Integrity in this System
23 (6%)
19 (11%)
To Follow a Call to Another Kind of Ministry
99 (25%)
44 (25%)
Do Not Like Local Church Ministry
4 (1%)
1 (0.6%)
Family Responsibilities
52 (13%)
12 (7%)
Financial Reasons
1 (0.3%)
2 (1%)
Health Reasons
19 (5%)
4 (2%)
Other
82 (21%)
33 (19%)

Table 46.  Primary Reasons for Leaving Local Church Ministry:  Primary Reason for Seeking Ordination

Primary Reason for Leaving Local Church Ministry
Nonspecific Call to Ministry
(N=399; None listed=537, 57% of total)
Call to the Local Church
(N=14; None listed=61, 81%  of total)
Call to Preach
(N=47; None listed=62, 57% of total)
Required for Priestly Duties
(N=22; None listed=26, 54% of total)
Required for Ministry Other Than the Local Church
(N=12; None listed=7, 37% of total)
Natural/ Logical Progression
(N=65; None listed=77, 54% of total)
Lack of Support from the Hierarchical System
67 (17%)
4 (29%)
7 (15%)
3 (14%)
2 (17%)
5 (8%)
Lack of Opportunity to Use Gifts
30 (8%)
0
5 (11%)
3 (14%)
3 (25%)
7 (11%)
Too Much Rejection by Churches
28 (7%)
2 (14%)
4 (9%)
3 (14%)
0
4 (6%)
Cannot Maintain Integrity in this System
34 (9%)
0
1 (2%)
1 (5%)
1 (8%)
3 (5%)
To Follow a Call to Another Kind of Ministry
96 (24%)
3 (21%)
10 (21%)
7 (32%)
5 (42%)
15 (23%)
Do Not Like Local Church Ministry
3 (0.8%)
0
1 (2%)
0
0
1 (2%)
Family Responsibilities
51 (13%)
1 (7%)
1 (2%)
0
0
12 (18%)
Financial Reasons
0
1 (7%)
1 (2%)
0
0
1 (2%)
Health Reasons
18 (5%)
0
3 (6%)
0
0
3 (5%)
Other
72 (18%)
3 (21%)
14 (30%)
5 (23%)
1 (8%)
14 (22%)

Methods

Participants

Invitations to participate in the United Methodist Clergywomen Retention Study were sent to 2945 of the estimated 4000 United Methodist probationary members and members in full connection who are women on record with the Division of Ordained Ministry.  The researchers recognized that clergywomen in connectional relationships other than probationary or full membership (e.g., local pastor, associate member) may also experience similar issues to the ones that probationary and full members experience.  For the purposes of this study, however, the sample was limited to probationary and full members.  The women to receive the invitations were semi-randomly selected based on a list provided by the Division of Ordained Ministry (semi-random selection because of the inclusion of as many identified ethnic minority women as possible).  Clergywomen from the South Carolina Annual Conference were excluded from the selection because they were the subjects of the pilot project for this study (1993).  Inclusion of them in the larger study may have resulted in the duplication of information, with the possibility of their non-participation.

A total of 2796 current and former clergywomen received the invitation packets; non-receipt was due to incorrect address and inability to forward.  A total of 1388 completed questionnaires were returned for a response rate of 49.64%.  The self-selected sample of 1388 clergywomen was included in the questionnaire analysis.

From the questionnaire population, 159 participants were selected for the interview portion of the study.  Sixteen of the selected participants were excluded from the interviews because of their withdrawal, inability to contact them or schedule an interview, or similar other reasons.  Twenty of the completed interviews were excluded from the interview analysis due to transcription or coding problems (e.g., not completed in time, only one coder).  A total of 123 interviews were considered in the interview analysis.

The following criteria were used in selecting the interview sample:

50 participants who were not currently serving as pastor in any capacity in the local church;
25 participants from the five annual conferences with the highest attrition rates from the local church for clergywomen;
25 participants from the five annual conferences with the lowest attrition rates from the local church for clergywomen;
50 participants randomly selected from the remainder of the questionnaire sample, regardless of appointment type or geographic location;
9 participants who expressed a particular interest in the project.

The distinction between low, high, and other attrition rates is somewhat arbitrary.  The difference between the fifth and sixth highest attrition rate conferences is only 2.9%.  The difference between the fifth and sixth lowest attrition rate conferences is 9.5%.  This interview sample design was selected in order to acquire as much information as possible about the reasons clergywomen leave local church ministry.  The middle attrition rate group consisted of all annual conferences except for those in the top five and bottom five attrition rate groups.

For the most part, the questionnaire respondents are geographically representative of the proportions of all United Methodist clergywomen in each jurisdiction (see Table B1).  Such representation allows for the increased possibility of generalizing the results of the study to the larger population of United Methodist clergywomen.  The geographic representation in the interview sample was planned to a certain extent.  The high and low attrition rate conferences from which approximately 33% of the interview sample was drawn are jurisdictionally diverse:  Mississippi, Kentucky, Western North Carolina, and Northern Alabama are in the Southeastern Jurisdiction; North Texas, Little Rock, and Oklahoma-Indian are in the South Central Jurisdiction; the Dakotas are in the North Central Jurisdiction; and Desert Southwest and Yellowstone are in the Western Jurisdiction.  The Northeastern Jurisdiction is the only jurisdiction without representation in the high and low attrition rate groups.

Table B2 illustrates the distribution of study participants by attrition rate groups.  Twenty-six percent of all United Methodist clergywomen (which includes local pastors, associate members, and others) responded to the questionnaire.  Nine percent of all United Methodist clergywomen participated in the interviews.   Sixty-eight percent of all United Methodist clergywomen in high attrition rate conferences responded to the questionnaire, while only 15% of all United Methodist clergywomen in low attrition rate conferences responded.  The high response rate among participants in high attrition rate conferences may indicate an increased motivation on their part since their conferences are losing clergywomen from local church ministry at the highest rates.  Fourteen participants interviewed were from low attrition rate annual conferences (Desert Southwest, Little Rock, North Dakota [now Dakotas], Oklahoma-Indian Missionary, Yellowstone).  Eighteen participants interviewed were from high attrition rate annual conferences (Mississippi, Kentucky, Western North Carolina, North Alabama, North Texas).  The other 91 interview participants were members of annual conferences that fall in the middle attrition rate groups.

The distribution of study participants according to appointment type can be found in Table B3.  Most questionnaire respondents were in local church ministry, while only 38% of interview participants were in local church ministry.  The differences in the proportions of interview participants’ appointment types are the result of intentional over-sampling for the interviews among those clergywomen who are not in local church ministry.  That over-sampling technique reflects one of the objectives of the study:  to identify reasons for women leaving local church ministry.  The sampling technique yielded almost twice as many women not in local church ministry.

Age distribution of study participants reveals that almost 67% of questionnaire participants and 70% of interview participants were in the 30-49 year age range at the time of the study (see Tables B4 and B5).  The relative youth of the participants is not surprising, given the fact that the greatest numbers of United Methodist clergywomen have entered ministry since 1970.  Almost 30% of questionnaire respondents (and approximately 25% of the interview sample) are age 50 or older.  Sixty-four percent of the women age 50 or older who responded to the questionnaire (and about half of the interview participants who were 50 or older) have been ordained elder 10 years or less, reflecting the increasing number of women who are entering ministry as a second career.

Sampling for the questionnaire and interview did not use ethnicity or marital status as criteria.  The majority of the study participants in both the questionnaire and interview samples indicated an ethnic background of “white” (see Table B6).  There are relatively few differences between the proportions of participants in other ethnic groups.  The study sample does appear to be overwhelmingly “white” with regard to ethnicity; however, the proportions of ethnic minority clergywomen in The United Methodist Church and in the questionnaire population are very similar (9.5% in the United Methodist Church, 9.3% of respondents).

At least 50% of the questionnaire sample were married or in committed relationships at the time of the questionnaire; 28% indicated a clergy partner (see Table B7).  The participants interviewed were more often than the questionnaire population married or in committed relationships, and more often had clergy partners.

Procedure

In 1994, participants were sent an invitation packet that included a letter of invitation, informed consent form, questionnaire, and postage-paid return envelope.  The questionnaire requested information regarding basic demographic information, family and other support background, major life events and transitions, and professional ministry experience.    The questionnaire required approximately thirty minutes to complete.  Participants were asked to return the questionnaire using the postage-paid envelope provided in the invitation packet.

From the questionnaire population, the interview sample was selected using the criteria previously outlined.  One interviewer conducted all interviews by telephone, except for two interviews conducted in person.  With the permission of the interview participants, each interview was audiotaped for transcription.  The interviewer also made notes during the interview to assist transcription.  In the rare case a participant did not grant permission to audiotape the interview, the transcription was made from notes made by the interviewer.  Interviews lasted an average of 90 minutes.  The interview was designed to be semi-structured; thus, the questions were modified as necessary to accommodate the individual situation.  Pertinent areas beyond the scope of the interview instrument were also explored.

Content analysis was conducted on the interview transcripts.  Two independent readers coded the interview transcripts for 35 separate items in four categories:  Institutional, Congregational, Personal, and Community (see Table B8).  These four categories were chosen to represent four primary dimensions in the lives of  clergy; the researchers anticipated these dimensions being influential in whether or not a clergywoman remained in local church ministry.  The readers coded each comment that corresponded with one or more of these items as having positive and/or negative effects.   A positive effect was considered to be supportive of remaining in local church ministry, whereas a negative effect was considered not supportive of remaining in local church ministry.  Frequently, coders observed positive and negative effects; in that case, the item was considered ambivalent, since there were combined positive and negative effects. Statistical Methods

Frequencies of responses on the questionnaire were counted, as a whole and in the various divisions (eg., marital status, reason for ordination), and then converted into percentages where necessary.  Percentages based on the raw tallies of observed positive and negative effects for each item were used for the interview analysis.

In some of the interview analysis, crosstabulations (tests of the association between two variables) were performed to determine the statistical significance, if any, of relationships between particular content analysis categories and leaving local church ministry.  Crosstabulations also were used while controlling for certain factors such as marital status.  Chi-square statistics (which measure the probability and degree to which two variables change at the same time) were reported when the expected frequency for each cell in the crosstabulation was five or greater.  When the expected frequency was less than five in at least one cell, the Fisher’s exact test was reported.  P-values for all of these tests were considered significant if p was less than or equal to .10 (p<=.10).  In addition, differences in proportions between various sub-groups of participants were tested for significance.  P-values for these tests were considered significant if p was less than or equal to .05 (p<=.05)

Methods Tables

Table B1. Distribution of Study Participants by Jurisdiction

All clergywomen
1994 Questionnaire
1995 Interview
Number of Women
Percent of Total
Number of Women
Percent of Total
Number of Women
Percent of Total
North Central
1496
28%
429
31%
40
33%
Northeastern
1402
26%
338
24%
28
23%
Western
603
11%
169
12%
15
12%
South Central
905
17%
195
14%
14
11%
Southeastern
986
18%
257
19%
26
21%
TOTAL
5392
1388
123

NOTE:  The statistics for all clergywomen in Tables A1 and A2 include women in all categories:  Elders in full connection, probationary members, associate members, local pastors, and others (Division of Ordained Ministry of The United Methodist Church, “1994 Statistics United Methodist Clergywomen,” Wellsprings 8 [Spring 1995]:  24-25.)   The questionnaire and interview statistics include only current and former probationary members and elders in full connection.

Table B2. Distribution of Study Participants by Attrition Rate Conference Groups

All clergywomen
1994 Questionnaire
1995 Interview
Number of Women
Percent of Total
Number of Women
Percent of All Clergy-women
Number of Women
Percent of Question-naire
Low Attrition Rate Conferences
297
5.5%
46
15%
14
30%
Middle Attrition Rate Conferences
4962
92%
1251
25%
91
7%
High Attrition Rate Conferences
133
2.5%
91
68%
18
20%
TOTAL
5392
100%
1388
26%
123
9%

NOTE:  The percentage reported in the questionnaire column is the ratio of the number of questionnaire respondents in the specified attrition rate group to the number of clergywomen in the same attrition rate group.  The percentage reported in the interview column is the ratio of the number of interview participants in the specified attrition rate group to the number of questionnaire respondents in the same attrition rate group.

Table B3. Distribution of Study Participants by Appointment Types

Questionnaire
Interview
Number of Women
Percent of Total
Number of Women
Percent of Total Interviewed
Local Church Pastor, Associate, Co-Pastor
986
73%
47
38%
School, Extension Ministries
247
18%
42
34%
Leaves, Location
81
6%
19
15%
Retired
25
2%
8
7%
Withdrawn, Surrendered Credentials
43
1%
7
6%
TOTAL
1382
123

Table B4.  Study Participants by Age and Years as Elder

Questionnaire
Interview
Age:  Range 60 years, ages 25-85, mean is 45+ years 59 years, ages 26-85, mean is 45+ years
Years as Elder:  Range Just ordained elder-48 years, 109 deacons, mean is 8 years Just ordained elder-48 years, 16 deacons, mean is 9+ years

Table B5.  Age Distribution of Study Participants

Questionnaire
Interview
Range
Frequency
Percent
Frequency
Percent
25-29 years
30
2.2%
2
1.6%
30-39 years
394
28.4%
45
36.6%
40-49 years
534
38.5%
42
34.1%
50-59 years
307
22.1%
20
16.3%
60-69 years
84
6.1%
6
4.9%
70-79 years
22
1.6%
5
4.1%
80-89 years
4
0.3%
3
2.4%

Table B6.  Distribution of Study Participants by Ethnicity

Ethnicity
Questionnaire
Interview
Asian 1.5% 3.3%
Black 4.4% < 1%
White 90.7% 94.3%
Multiracial 1.5% < 1%

Table B7.  Distribution of Study Participants by Marital Status and Clergy Partner

Marital Status
Questionnaire
Interview
Married/Committed Relationship
54%
58%
Divorced
16%
12%
Never Married
16%
13%
Married to Clergy
28%
32.5%

Table B8.  Items for Interview Coding

INSTITUTIONAL
CONGREGATIONAL
access to resources
appointment system
bishop
feminism
relationship with district superintendent
salary
sexism
support
theology
other (list)
authority
expectations of congregation
expectations of pastor
feminism
relations with men
relations with women
support
theology
other (list)
PERSONAL
COMMUNITY
access to resources
children
clergy couple
crisis:  health
crisis:  marriage
marriage
theology
workload
other (list)
acceptance
culture shock
isolation
respect of community
support
theology
other (list)

Questionnaire

The questionnaire used in this study is available as an Adobe Acrobat PDF document. You will need to download and install the free Acrobat Reader if you do not currently have it installed on your computer.

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