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



The Anna Howard Shaw Center of Boston University School of Theology and The Division of Ordained Ministry of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry sent invitations to UMC Clergywomen (active and retired) to seek volunteer participation in the survey.  In June 2010, the General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits of the United Methodist Church identified the survey participants and are categorized as follows: 7,531 active clergywomen and 2,700 retired in 2010.  A total of 1906 completed the survey for a response rate of 18.6%. Participants were contacted by postcard on or about July 10, 2010 and by mass email on July 12, 2010 by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

For the most part, the questionnaire respondents are geographically located as indicated in Table B1.  The North Central jurisdiction had the highest response rate.

The distribution of study participants according to appointment type can be found in Table B2. Most questionnaire respondents were serving as Elders at 72.18%,with 12.5% serving as Deacons.

The majority of the study participants indicated an ethnic background of “white” at 91.4%  with Black/African American at 5.4% (see Table B3). There are relatively few differences between the proportions in the remaining ethnic groups.

At least 57.8% of the questionnaire sample were married or in committed relationships at the time the research was conducted; 18% indicated a clergy partner (see Table B4).


In 2010, participants were notified of the study by post card and email.  The notification included instructions for the respondents on how to access the consent form and survey on the internet.  At the conclusion of the survey each respondent received an automated Thank You from the survey hosts.  The survey contained the same questions from the 1994 survey which 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. We finished gathering our data in January 2011.

Methods Tables

Table B1. Distribution of Study Participants by Jurisdiction

All clergywomen 2010-2011 Questionnaire
Number of Women Percent of Total Number of Women Percent of Total
North Central 2065 22.3% 456 24.3%
Northeastern 2061 22.3% 381 20.3%
Western 836 9% 213 11.4%
South Central 1784 19.3% 373 20%
Southeastern 2479 26.8% 448 24%
TOTAL 9225 1871

NOTE: The statistics for all clergywomen in Tables B1 and B2 include women in all categories: Elders in full connection, probationary members, associate members, local pastors, and others.

Table B2. Distribution of Study Participants by Appointment Types

Number of Women Percent of Total
Local Church Pastor 251 14.3
Diaconal Minister 15 0.85%
Deaconess 2 0.11%
Deacon 219 12.5%
Elder 1,264 72.18%
TOTAL 1751

Table B3. Distribution of Study Participants by Ethnicity

Ethnicity Questionnaire
Asian 1.2%
Black/African American 5.4%
White/Caucasian 91.4%
Hispanic 0.7%
Native American 0.4%
Pacific Islander 0.0%
Other 0.9%

Table B4. Distribution of Study Participants by Marital Status and Clergy Partner

Marital Status Questionnaire
Married 57.8%
Divorced 16.1%
Never Married 11.1%
Separated 0.7%
Committed Relationship 1.6%
Divorced 16.1%
Widowed 5.3%
Re-married 7.4%
Married to Clergy 18.1%

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