Evangelicals, as followers of Jesus Christ, based upon faith beliefs, are divided over what the Bible teaches about women in church leadership. How might this conflict affect the identity formation of women leading in the context of the evangelical church? This qualitative research unites adult identity formation and gender role stereotypes in leadership domains with the evangelical church context on the West Coast exploring the dynamics of women’s leadership and the believer’s identity in union with Christ.
Twenty-five (n = 25) women in vocational church leadership, 25 -71 years old, revealed what impedes or contributes to female leadership adult identity formation. Findings from analysis of the interviews identify five themes from 17 subthemes. Theme one reveals external strategies for women to thrive in church leadership, Theme two reveals vocational challenges shape identity from personal adaptations and holding back, assumptions and mindsets encountered, and devaluations faced. Theme three shows contextual factors impact women’s leadership in work environments including feminism in culture reported as helping and hindering. Theme four exposes the participants’ identity rooted in union with Christ empowers their leadership with agency from practices keeping Christ the focus of their leadership. A minor theme reports some participants engaged in identity reflection as a result of the interview process.
Key findings revealed women leaders thrive through agency found in union with Christ and identity strength in him; hold back identity components and skills available to church leadership teams to fit the male work context; contextual factors impact women’s well-being in leadership including assumptions and mindsets adverse to women leading; and lead pastors and supervisors beliefs about women in leadership are critical.
Study concludes with implications for women leaders, suggestions to enhance ministry and educational settings with recommendations for further research. Engagement of church leaders in safe dialogue about kingdom partnerships expressed in this study could advance the depth and breadth of ministry strengthened by identity in Christ that fully images God as male and female.
|Commitee:||Issler, Klaus, Lee-Barnewall, Michelle|
|Department:||Talbot School of Theolgy|
|School Location:||United States -- California|
|Source:||DAI-A 81/4(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Education, Spirituality, Womens studies|
|Keywords:||church, formation, gender, identity, leadership, women|
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