Why does a denomination prohibiting women clergy support parishes run by women? Why does a denomination opt to ordain women when there are few women seeking to join that clergy? And why have some denominations ordained women so much earlier than others? In an examination of the complex relationship among religion, social forces, and organizational structure, this book draws examples and data from over 100 Christian denominations to explore the meaning of institutional rules about women's ordination. Combining historical and sociological perspectives, Mark Chaves shows that formal institutional rules about ordination often diverge from the actual roles of women and are best understood as symbolic gestures in favour of, or in opposition to gender equality. The book concludes that external pressures from the women's movement and ecumenical pressure expressed through interdenominational organizations such as the National Council of Churches influence ordination practices.
At the same time, internal factors such as having a source of religious authority that is considered superior to modern principles of equal rights also explain why some denominations ordain women much earlier than others. Surprisingly, "the Bible forbids it" does not account for policies even among fundamentalists and other biblical inerrantists. Chaves historical and comparative approach offers an analysis of how the internal denominational debates have changed over time, becoming more frequent, more politicized, and more contentious. The delineation of forces affecting debates and policies about women's ordination makes this book a contribution to our understanding of religious organizations and of gender equality.
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(210mm x 140mm x 17mm)
Harvard University Press
Publisher: Harvard University Press
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Author Biography - Mark Chaves
Mark Chaves is Professor of Professor of Sociology, Religion, and Divinity at Duke University.