Episcopal Women

Episcopal Women : Gender, Spirituality, and Commitment in an American Mainline Denomination

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The opening of the ordained ministry to women, in the larger context of the women's movement in America, has created an unprecedented situation within Protestant denominations. Women are now increasingly visible in religious organizations previously administered solely by men. Congregations, church agencies, educational institutions, and volunteer organizations are all affected by the "gender shift" within mainstream Protestantism. Episcopal Women is the first careful historical and sociological study of the impact of these gender changes on a particular religious institution. This groundbreaking volume includes essays on Episcopal theology and women's spirituality, the urban church, aging and the church, women's organizations, women donors, clerical leadership, and black women's experience in the Episcopal Church.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 384 pages
  • 138.7 x 209 x 23.6mm | 423g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Revised ed.
  • 019510465X
  • 9780195104653

Back cover copy

Episcopal Women is an unprecedented exploration of the historical and present "lived experience" of women in one mainline-Protestant American church. It probes the realities of women who count themselves members of a contemporary Protestant church - one that is changing, though not as rapidly as the world in which it is set. As women become increasingly visible in religious organizations previously administered entirely by men, congregations, church agencies, educational institutions, and volunteer organizations are all being affected by the "gender shift". Focused on the Episcopal church as a representative case study, these essays offer a careful historical and sociological examination of the impact of these gender changes. Personal narratives are combined with intergenerational studies of women in several congregations to illustrate how women - always the majority in Sunday morning congregations - continue to find and create their own spiritual realities within a traditional institution. The authors highlight the centrality of women in today's church from a variety of perspectives - feminist, historical, biographical, and theoretical. Included are essays on Episcopal women's theology and spirituality, women as mainstays of the urban church, aging as a metaphor for the institutional church, women's organizations, the impact of women in the clerical profession, and black women's experience in the Episcopal Church. Challenging the church's dominantly masculine self-image, this book presents a convincing view of today's religious reality for women in a mainline church.
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Review quote

"Contributions to our own reflections and to the on-going deliberations of the church."-The Witness "Suitably sophisticated...a vital contribution."-Journal of Southern History "A pioneering work in the field of Women's religious Studies...Ground breaking."-Trinity News "Authoritative and certainly of interest to our friends in the Anglican Church in England who are about to set out on the same journey."-Methodist Recorder "Episcopal Women is one of those ground-breaking books that ought to herald a 'next generation' of studies in a number of fields. Feminist theologians and historians will find here a valuable resource for scholarship. I can think of no better new text to introduce to a class of Episcopal seminarians preparing for the ministry. Moreover, one of the greatest strengths of the book is its ability to unearth the wells of wisdom that reside in 'ordinary' women in
'ordinary' congregations."-Anglican Theological Review "Episcopal Women is a timely, provocative and much needed contribution to understnding the distinctive experiences of women in religious organizations....Its genius is its multi-layered approach to the experiences of lay women-a much neglected group which is the book's primary focus. At the same time, it does not neglect the struggles and victories of Episcopal women in becoming ordained. Especially significant are the different ways in which the authors
interpret the changing roles of women in the church: some celebrating women's achievements as a signal victory; others wondering whether much has really changed in a male dominated church. The book will be a valuable resource for both non-specialist readers and scholars alike, and it provides a research model
that other denominations might profitably emulate. I highly commend it!"-Jackson W. Carroll, Hartford Seminary "Although clearly focused on the Episcopal Church, [this book] has much to say to colleagues of other denominations who are willing to listen to long-suppressed voices."-Loren Mead, Alban Institute "Episcopal Women is a must book for anyone who wants to understand what is happening in mainline Protestant churches. Although the focus is on women in a single denomination, one gains nuanced insights into the wider American church....By showing the transformations of women's groups and activities over the last century, the authors enable the reader to appreciate the role and attitudes of the majority of church members."-Michael Eldridge, Queens
College "These essays impress deeply. They are able to do so because they lay out the facts and the analysis with an almost casual straightforwardness and Christian authenticity."-Samuel S. Hill, University of Florida "The special strength of these essays resides in their open-eyed treatment of the Church as an institution in women's historical and contemporary experience."-Lillian S. Robinson, University of Texas at Austin "This is a rich, innovative collection of essays about the majority of Episcopal communicants; as such, it broadens and deepens our understanding of the Church. The various experiences, roles, and works of women are addressed in ways to engage the future as well as the past; the authors tell us what we can know now and should like to know in the future if we are to understand the full meanings of gender, spirituality, and Church. This book is not simply for
Episcopalians or other Christians, but for everyone who truly wants to understand the many ways in which gender and religion intersect to enrich and renovate our culture."-Don Mathews, University of North Carolina "Few developments in the twentieth century have been as consequential for American religion as the rethinking of gender. This evocative collection of essays helps us understand why."-Robert Wuthnow, Princeton University
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About Catherine M. Prelinger

About the Author: The late Catherine M. Prelinger, author of Charity, Challenge, and Change: Religious Dimensions of the Mid-Nineteenth-Century Women's Movement in Germany (1987), was Assistant Editor of the Benjamin Franklin Papers at Yale University.
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