We called attention yesterday to the release of Called to Serve: A Study of Clergy Careers, Clergy Wellness, and Clergy Women produced by The Executive Council’s Committee on the Status of Women, The Church Pension Fund’s Office of Research, The Episcopal Church Center’s Office of Women’s Ministry and CREDO Institute, Inc.
Thus the gender equality policies aimed at the formal structure of the
Church have, it seems, largely succeeded, but the informal mechanisms that perpetuate inequality, those that occur in everyday interactions outside the arena of formal policy making, remain in place. ... [I]t became clear that the world of the parish and the internal workings of the family still present barriers to the advancement of women clergy....
[T]he world of the parish and the internal workings of the family still present barriers to the advancement of women clergy. We found that parish search committees were more likely to contact short-listed male clergy directly than they were to contact female clergy. [There are] continuing barriers women face simply getting a foot on the important early rungs of the career ladder. Even when a rectorship had been obtained, female clergy, in their comments, showed some frustration about their experiences as parish rectors, reflected in the congregation’s resistance to having a female cleric. [F]emale clergy were more likely to be located within congregations where their political and theological views differed from that of the congregation. These mismatches heighten the probability of conflict within the congregation which can then be linked to a decline in congregational numbers. Thus it can be more difficult for female clergy to build up the type of record that will lead to calls to larger congregations. It may be that part of a cleric’s preparation should be to train in how to work optimally in “low-fit” situations, giving female clergy in particular a better opportunity to establish a strong track record of congregational leadership.
We need to have a better sense of the inner dynamics of parish search committees because that is the place in which decisions routinely being made may mean that women are unable to place their foot on the first rung of the career ladder. We need to have a stronger idea of the intra-family dynamics that go into the decision to pursue, or not to pursue, certain career opportunities. Finally, we need to understand how a sense of wellness in each of these spheres affects the cleric’s success in her or his chosen vocation.
Please share your thoughts.
Read the study here.