Challenges and resolution strategies of ordained Protestant clergywomen

Jessica A Suckle, University of Rhode Island


Although women have been entering ordained ministry since the early 1970s, there is still opposition to their ordination. This study examined the difficult experiences as well as the resolution strategies of 39 ordained clergywomen in mainstream Christian denominations. Transcribed interviews were qualitatively analyzed using the grounded theory method by Glaser & Strauss (1967). ^ Some conflicts occurred because of the call itself. Sometimes moving forward in the call resulted in additional conflict—the concerns were a result of the call but not the call itself. Once ordained, however, questioning the call rarely occurred. ^ Three other sources of difficulty also emerged. These sources included the career of a clergy, simply being a woman, and an interaction of being a clergy and a woman. Overall, the clergywomen in this study appear to experience less role conflict than expected, but still faced difficulties from a variety of sources, including other people's expectations regarding the roles of a clergywoman. ^ Ten resolution strategies emerged in the analysis. These methods included: using faith, God, and prayer; communicating with the antagonist; moving forward through the difficulty; using their support network; and accepting other's viewpoints without internalizing them. Secondary strategies included: humor; protecting oneself from unnecessary friction by involving other people; engaging in activities or hobbies outside of the church environment; developing other strategies for dealing with issues in response to a conflict; and having emotional or psychological reactions. An unusual coping strategy of wearing a mask of one emotion or identity over another emerged as a source of conflict as well. ^ The findings of this study begin to expose some of the unique difficulties and coping strategies of women in ordained ministry. Limitations of this study arose due to a relatively homogenous sample of women, including their location (New England) and race (Caucasian). In addition, all the participants were concrete in their call to ministry. Therefore, these findings may not be generalized to women of color or women outside of this particular region, nor can they be applied to women who did not answer their call or who left the ministry altogether. ^

Subject Area

Religion, Clergy|Women's Studies|Psychology, Experimental

Recommended Citation

Jessica A Suckle, "Challenges and resolution strategies of ordained Protestant clergywomen" (2005). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3186922.