AAR Reading Religion Book Review: Anatomy of a Schism

imagesToday we are featuring STH doctoral student Matthew S. Beal’s review of Eileen R. Campbell-Reed’s Anatomy of a Schism: How Clergywomen’s Narratives Reinterpret the Fracturing of the Southern Baptist Convention. Below is the beginning of Matt’s review, and be sure to visit the Reading Religion website for the full review.

Reading Religion (RR) is an open book review website published by the American Academy of Religion (AAR). The site provides up-to-date coverage of scholarly publishing in religious studies, reviewed by scholars with special interest and/or expertise in the relevant subfields.

Anatomy of a Schism: How Clergywomen’s Narratives Reinterpret the Fracturing of the Southern Baptist Convention by Eileen R. Campbell-Reed

Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press, April 2016. 212 pages. $34.95. Paperback. ISBN 9781621901785. For other formats: Link to Publisher’s Website.


The struggle for Baptist identity that split the Southern Baptist Convention in the latter decades of the twentieth century has generated much discussion and analysis. The debate centered on the matter of women’s ordination and the degree to which Baptists would uphold the autonomy of local churches. In Anatomy of a Schism, Eileen R. Campbell-Reed notes, “almost all of the academic and partisan literature interpreting the schism lacks an adequate analysis of the roles, identities, or contributions of actual women” (5). To rectify this deficiency, Campbell-Reed attends closely to women’s stories through qualitative interviews, treating them as rich, paradigmatic readings of the schism. She thus moves “women’s narratives front and center” in the conviction that doing so “shows how clergywomen’s stories offer a compelling new structure for understanding the plot of Southern Baptists at the close of the twentieth century” (3). Through the analysis of the stories of five Baptist women, Campbell-Reed moves the conversation beyond the usual construal of the schism as an ecclesial power struggle, reinterpreting it through gendered, psychological, and theological lenses. Follow this link to read more of Beal’s review of Anatomy of a Schism.

View all posts