United Methodist Clergywomen Retention Study II in the U.S. Context

In and Out

The survey reached out to clergywomen in all five jurisdictions to determine how many were in and out of local church ministry. Understanding how many and who (as much as possible) has the potential to assist the UMC in its care and support of clergywomen across the denomination. As of this survey, there are 96% (previously 73%) of clergywomen in local church ministry in the North Central region, 97% (previously 69%) in the Northeastern, 96% (previously 75%) in the Western, 95% (previously 64%) in the South Central, and 98% (previously 67%) in the Southeastern. In general, all regions show about 20% to 30% of growth for clergywomen’s participation in local church ministry. Therefore, we can conclude that the percentages of “In Local Church” are significantly higher compared to our previous research.

In contrast, there are 4% (previously 27%) of clergywomen out of local church ministry in the North Central region, 3% (previously 31%) in the Northeastern, 4% (previously 25%) in the Western, 5% (previously 36%) in the South Central and 2% (previously 23%) in the Southeastern (see Tbl 6). This is quite a dramatic change. While the survey populations are a factor, it appears that in all regions, the percentages of “Out of Local Church Ministry” are significantly lower than the percentages in the previous survey while the percentages of “In Local Church Ministry” are drastically higher.

The same pattern applies when the numbers are broken down across ethnicities, marital status, clergy partner, previous denomination, and ordination; the number of clergywomen out of local church ministry is significantly lower than the previous survey (see Tbls 7-11).  In case of Asian clergywomen, the current research showed 100% of “In Local Church Ministry” as the previous research found only 65%. There is 35% of increase over the past twenty years. The numbers of Asian clergywomen are also increased from 13 clergywomen to 22 clergywomen. In case of African American/African clergywomen, the change of “In Local Church Ministry” is more significant from 59% in the previous research to 98% in our current research. The numbers of African American/African clergywomen are also increased from 36 clergywomen to 100 clergywomen. In case of Hispanic/Latina, the previous study noted, 6 clergywomen stayed in local church ministry, but the current study reflects 14 clergywomen participants. No Native American clergywomen participated in the previous research, but now 8 Native American clergywomen gave a voice to this research. In the case of white clergywomen for “In Local Church Ministry”, the percentage increase is 21%, from 71% (890 white clergywomen) in the previous research to 96% (1605 white clergywomen) in the current research. However, multiracial group of clergywomen have not shown any significant changes: 18 clergywomen participated in the current study, (previously 21 in total) in terms of numbers of people who participated in the study; even as their percentage reflected significant changes from 71% to 100%. Consequently, clergywomen for “Out of Local Church” have significantly decreased. These remarkable numbers imply that more and more clergywomen are actively engaged in local church ministry over the past twenty years regardless of race.

When marital status of participants is considered, it shows a similar pattern. Clergywomen with all status showed higher percentages of “In Local Church Ministry.”  The NM group shows an increase of 28.5 percentage points from the previous research (97.5%, previously 69%), while the SDW group shows an increase of 22 percentage points (73% to 95%), the CM group shows an increase of 25 percentage points (96%, previously 71%), and the CR group has an increase of  49 percentage points (89%, previously 40%). Participants with a clergy partner (96%, previously 73%) and without a clergy partner (95%, previously 69%) also present a similar pattern. In the case of the denominational background of participants, both groups (Reared Methodist and Reared Non-Methodist) presented the exact same higher percentages (both groups, 96%, previously 70%).

In the summary, regardless of conference, race, marital status, participants with/without clergy partners, and denominational background, clergywomen in general vigorously have participated in local church ministry for the last twenty years.

To obtain a more detailed assessment of those who may be out of local church ministry, we asked questions pertaining to temporary and permanent exits from ministry.  Temporary exit applies to those who have left for a brief time and returned to the local church.  The current research indicated that racial ethnic clergywomen and white clergywomen left and returned at similar rates, 17.8% and 17.4% respectively (see Tbl 12).  In case of racial ethnic clergywomen for this question, the current research discovered a higher percentage with temporary exits (17.8%, previously 12%), while white clergywomen percentages remained consistent (17.4%, previously 17%). When marital status is considered, clergywomen who were separated/divorced/widowed and those currently married, left and returned at the same rate of 18% (see Tbls 13-16).  These numbers are comparable to those from the previous survey.  The percentage rates for clergy partner, denominational background, and ordination are also similar. Permanent exit speaks to those who have left the ministry and in some cases surrendered their credentials.  Reviewing the responses, we see no significant increases between this survey and the last in terms of the number of clergywomen who have left permanently (see Tbls 17-19).  As a form of summation, we asked those who have left either temporarily or permanently their reasons for leaving.  The number one response was to follow a call to another kind of ministry at 20% (previously 25%).  The second responses were family responsibilities and other, both at 18% (previously other at 20%) (see Tbl 20). Additional responses, such as lack of support from the hierarchical system, lack of opportunity to use gifts, too much rejection by churches, cannot maintain integrity in this system, etc. remained in the similar rates compared to our previous research.

The following comments were received from survey participations regarding why clergywomen left, or left and returned to, service in the local church:  1) Hit the glass ceiling; no opportunities to move up; 2)  Unsupportive process of ordination, 2) Don’t like church politics, 3)  Burn-out, 4)  To pursue a doctoral degree, 5)  Moved to conference then national staff, 6) Sabbatical leave to fine tune my ministry, 7)  Appointed to D.S, and 8) Left for four months and returned. These reasons were similar to what our previous research discovered. In summary, clergywomen in general who chose either temporary exits or permanent exits from ministry remained in the similar rates compared to the previous research, even though racial ethnic clergywomen showed a slightly higher percentage for temporary exit from ministry.

Table 6.  Participants In/Out of Local Church Ministry:  Jurisdiction

1994 2011
Jurisdiction In Local Church Ministry Out of Local Church Ministry Jurisdiction In Local Church Ministry Out of Local Church Ministry
North Central
(N=427)
313 (73%) 114 (27%) North Central
(N=433)
415 (96%) 18 (4%)
Northeastern
(N=338)
233 (69%) 105 (31%) Northeastern
(N=358)
346 (97%) 12 (3%)
Western
(N=168)
126 (75%) 42 (25%) Western
(N=194)
186 (96%) 8 (4%)
South Central
(N=195)
125 (64%) 70 (36%) South Central
(N=370)
352 (95%) 18 (5%)
Southeastern
(N=258)
172 (67%) 86 (23%) Southeastern
(N=433)
423 (98%) 10 (2%)

Table 7.  Frequency of Participants In/Out of Local Church Ministry:
Ethnic Background of Participants

1994 2011
Ethnicity In Local Church Ministry Out of Local Church Ministry Ethnicity In Local Church Ministry Out of Local Church Ministry
Asian
(N=20)
13 (65%) 7 (35%) Asian
(N=22)
22 (100%) 0
Black
(N=61)
36 (59%) 25 (41%) Black
(N=102)
100 (98%) 2 (2%)
Hispanic
(N=8)
6 (75%) 2 (25%) Hispanic
(N=14)
14 (100%) 0
Native American
(N=0)
0 0 Native American
(N=8)
8 (100%) 0
Pacific Islander
(N=1)
1 (100%) 0 Pacific Islander
(N=0)
0 0
White
(N=1262)
890 (71%) 372 (29%) White
(N=1742)
1605 (92%) 67 (4%)
Multiracial
(N=21)
15 (71%) 6 (29%) Multiracial
(N=18)
18 (100%) 0

Table 8.  Participants In/Out of Local Church Ministry:  Marital Status of Participants

1994 2011
Marital Status In Local Church Ministry Out of Local Church Ministry Marital Status In Local Church Ministry Out of Local Church Ministry
Never Married
(N=222)
154 (69%) 68 (31%) Never Married
(N=164)
160 (97.5%) 4 (2%)
Ever Separated/Divorced/ Widowed
(N=257)
188 (73%) 69 (27%) Ever Separated/Divorced/ Widowed
(N=381)
362 (95%) 19 (5%)
Currently Married
(N=848; None listed=2, 0.2%of total)
600 (71%) 246 (29%) Currently Married
(N=1072)
1030 (96%) 42 (4%)
In Committed Relationship
(N=52)
21 (40%) 31 (60%) In Committed Relationship
(N=28)
25 (89%) 2 (10%)

Table 9.  Participants In/Out of Local Church Ministry:  Participants with a Clergy Partner

1994 2011
In Local Church Ministry Out of Local Church Ministry In Local Church Ministry Out of Local Church Ministry
Clergy Partner
(N=390)
287 (73%) 106 (27%) Clergy Partner
(N=298)
286 (96%) 12 (4%)
No Clergy Partner
(N=993; None listed=2, 0.2% of total)
682 (69%) 311 (31%) No Clergy Partner
(N=1366)
1297 (95%) 69 (5%)

Table 10.  Participants In/Out of Local Church Ministry:  Denominational Background of Participants

1994 2011
In Local Church Ministry Out of Local Church Ministry 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 Methodist
(N= 1017)
976 (96%) 41 (4%)
Reared Non-Methodist
(N=417; None listed=1, 0.2% of total)
290 (70%) 127 (30%) Reared Non-Methodist
(N=651)
623 (96%) 28 (4%)

Table 11.  Participants In/Out of Local Church Ministry:  Primary Reason for Seeking Ordination

1994 2011
Primary Reason for Seeking Ordination In Local Church Ministry Out of Local Church Ministry 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%) Nonspecific Call to Ministry
(N=1097)
1044 (95%) 53 (5%)
Call to the Local Church
(N=75)
63 (84%) 12 (16%) Call to the Local Church
(N=80)
79 (99%) 1 (1%)
Call to Preach
(N=109)
75 (69%) 34 (31%) Call to Preach
(N=148)
139 (94%) 9 (6%)
Required for Priestly Duties
(N=48)
29 (60%) 19 (40%) Required for Priestly Duties
(N=84)
81 (96%) 3 (4%)
Required for Ministry Other Than the Local Church
(N=19)
6 (32%) 13 (68%) Required for Ministry Other Than the Local Church
(N=55)
52 (95%) 3 (5%)
Natural/Logical Progression
(N=142)
89 (63%) 53 (37%) Natural/Logical Progression
(N=115)
110 (95%) 5 (4%)

Table 12.  Temporary Exit from Local Church Ministry:  Ethnic Background of Participants

1994 2011
Ethnicity Have Left and Returned to Local Church Ministry Have Not Left and Returned to Local Church Ministry 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%) Ethnic Minority Women
(N=129)
23 (17.8%) 106 (82.1%)
White Women
(N=1263)
215 (17%) 1048 (83%) White Women
(N=1475)
257 (17.4%) 1218 (82.5%)

Table 13.  Temporary Exit from Local Church Ministry:  Marital Status of Participants

1994 2011
Marital Status Have Left and Returned to Local Church Ministry Have Not Left and Returned to Local Church Ministry 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%) Never Married
(N=181)
29 (16%) 152 (84%)
Ever Separated/Divorced/ Widowed
(N=257)
36 (14%) 221 (86%) Ever Separated/Divorced/ Widowed
(N=339)
60 (18%) 279 (82.5%)
Currently Married
(N=848; None listed=2, 0.2%of total)
154 (18%) 694 (82%) Currently Married
(N=1051)
185 (18%) 866 (82%)
In Committed Relationship
(N=52)
8 (15%) 44 (85%) In Committed Relationship
(N=24)
3 (12.5%) 21 (87.5%)

Table 14.  Temporary Exit from the Local Church:  Participants with a Clergy Partner

1994 2011
Have Left and Returned to Local Church Ministry Have Not Left and Returned to Local Church Ministry 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%) Clergy Partner
(N=292)
57 (19.5%) 235 (80%)
No Clergy Partner
(N=995)
151 (15%) 844 (85%) No Clergy Partner
(N=1304)
219 (17%) 1085 (83%)

Table 15.  Temporary Exit from Local Church Ministry:  Denominational Background of Participants

1994 2011
Denominational Background Have Left and Returned to Local Church Ministry Have Not Left and Returned to Local Church Ministry 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 Methodist (N=996) 176 (18%) 820 (82%)
Reared non-Methodist 70 (17%) 348 (83%) Reared non-Methodist (N=605) 101 (17%) 504 (83%)

Table 16.  Temporary Exit from Local Church Ministry:  Primary Reason for Seeking Ordination

1994 2011
Primary Reason for Seeking Ordination Have Left and Returned to Local Church Ministry Have Not Left and Returned to Local Church Ministry 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%) Nonspecific Call to Ministry
N=1321
224 (17%) 1097 (83%)
Call to the Local Church
(N=75)
5 (7%) 70 (93%) Call to the Local Church
(N=75)
16 (21%) 59 (78%)
Call to Preach
(N=109)
21 (19%) 88 (81%) Call to Preach
(N=137)
31 (23%) 106 (77%)
Required for Priestly Duties
(N=48)
10 (21%) 38 (79%) Required for Priestly Duties
(N=79)
24 (30%) 55 (70%)
Required for Ministry Other Than the Local Church
(N=19)
3 (16%) 16 (84%) Required for Ministry Other Than the Local Church
(N=44)
13 (30%) 31 (70%)
Natural/Logical Progression
(N=142)
26 (18%) 116 (82%) Natural/Logical Progression
(N=114)
24 (21%) 90 (79%)

Table 17.  Permanent Exit from Ordained Ministry:  Ethnic Background of Participants

1994 2011
Have Withdrawn/Surrendered Credentials Have Not Withdrawn/ Surrendered Credentials Have Withdrawn/Surrendered Credentials Have Not Withdrawn/ Surrendered Credentials
Ethnic Minority Women
(N=113)
4 (4%) 109 (96%) Ethnic Minority Women
(N=138)
6 (4%) 132 (96%)
White Women
(N=1263)
39 (3%) 1224 (97%) White Women
(N=1563)
19 (1%) 1544 (99%)

Table 18.  Permanent Exit from Ordained Ministry:  Marital Status of Participants

1994 2011
Marital Status Have Withdrawn/Surrendered Credentials Have Not Withdrawn/Surrendered Credentials Marital Status Have Withdrawn/Surrendered Credentials Have Not Withdrawn/Surrendered Credentials
Never Married
(N=222)
5 (2%) 217 (98%) Never Married
(N=190)
2 (1%) 188 (99%)
Ever Separated/Divorced/ Widowed
(N=257)
8 (3%) 249 (97%) Ever Separated/Divorced/ Widowed
(N=374)
10 (3%) 364 (97%)
Currently Married
(N=848; None listed=2, 0.2%of total)
25 (3%) 823 (97%) Currently Married
(N=1102; None listed=)
11 (1%) 1091 (99%)
In Committed Relationship
(N=52)
5 (10%) 47 (90%) In Committed Relationship
(N=27)
2 (7%) 25 (92%)

Table 19.  Permanent Exit from Ordained Ministry:  Participants with a Clergy Partner

1994 2011
Have Withdrawn/Surrendered Credentials Have Not Withdrawn/ Surrendered Credentials Have Withdrawn/Surrendered Credentials Have Not Withdrawn/ Surrendered Credentials
Clergy Partner
(N=393)
11 (3%) 382 (97%) Clergy Partner
(N=307)
3 (1%) 304 (99%)
No Clergy Partner
(N=995)
32 (3%) 963 (97%) No Clergy Partner
(N=985)
22 (2%) 963 (98%)

Table 20.  Primary Reasons for Leaving Local Church Ministry Selected by Women Who Have Exited Temporarily or Permanently

1994 2011
Primary Reason For Leaving Local Church Ministry Frequency
(N=583; None listed=803, 58% of total)
Percent Primary Reason For Leaving Local Church Ministry Frequency
(N=307)
Percent
Lack of Support From the Hierarchical System 90 15% Lack of Support From the Hierarchical System 46 15%
Lack of Opportunity to Use Gifts 50 9% Lack of Opportunity to Use Gifts 27 9%
Too Much Rejection by Churches 43 7% Too Much Rejection by Churches 23 7%
Cannot Maintain Integrity in this System 42 7% Cannot Maintain Integrity in this System 17 6%
To Follow a Call to Another Kind of Ministry 145 25% To Follow a Call to Another Kind of Ministry 62 20%
Do Not Like Local Church Ministry 5 0.9% Do Not Like Local Church Ministry 4 1%
Family Responsibilities 67 11% Family Responsibilities 54 18%
Financial Reasons 3 0.5% Financial Reasons 8 3%
Health Reasons 24 4% Health Reasons 12 4%
Other 114 20% Other 54 18%

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