The Ministerial Reformation: A History of Women and Ministry in the Mainline, 1920-1980

Speight, Mae, Religious Studies - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Flake, Kathleen, Religious Studies

At the beginning of the twentieth century, women made up less than 1% of the nation’s clergy. By the end of the century, they were 16%. And within the group of liberal, ecumenical churches we call the Protestant mainline, the change was more dramatic. Today, women are 20 to 40% of the ministers in these denominations. Naming this change the “ministerial reformation,” this project traces the history of the movement to make women into ministers in the mainline between 1920 and 1980. It argues that factors such as the professionalization of the clergy, alternative ministerial careers such as religious education and college chaplaincy, the cultural power of mid-century lay-women’s groups, the liturgical renewal movement, and the emergence of the ministry as a care profession formed the conditions of possibility for women to enter the ministerial force. Further, it argues that many of these changes pre-dated second-wave feminism, whose impact on women’s ministry was far more mixed than has usually been supposed.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
mainline Christianity, women's history, ministry, ritual studies, professionalization, 20th century , American history
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