Women are from Bethany, Men are from Tyre


The Washington Post reports some interesting data from the Clergy Voices Survey about the gender gap in political ideology among protestant clergy:

In 1969, sociologist Jeffrey K. Hadden warned of the “gathering storm in the churches,” between an increasingly liberal clergy and a moderate to conservative laity. The new Mainline Protestant Clergy Voices Survey, however, shows a diminishing clergy-laity gap. In fact, over the last two decades, we show the clergy holding fairly steady in terms of political ideology and partisan affiliation, and the laity moving into closer alignment with that position over this period.

While the storm between clergy and laity may have largely dissipated, there are signs that clouds are gathering on another front, between male clergy and a growing number of female clergy who hold more progressive views across the board and who have significantly different political priorities than their male colleagues. The results from our recent CVS, the most comprehensive survey of mainline clergy ever conducted, point to what might be more accurately called a gender “chasm” than a gender “gap.”


One more likely explanation for the gap is rooted in the experiences of women clergy, who remain a distinct minority. Despite the fact that all of the mainline denominations in our study have been ordaining women at least since the 1970s (some much longer), in many cases, women in ministry are still blazing trails. In this context, it may be that the challenge of successfully navigating barriers and prejudices appeals to women who are more progressive, or it may be that the experience of walking this path pushes them in more progressive directions. Regardless, for now, there are signs pointing to a potential gathering storm in the mainline Protestant denominations between the growing number of more progressive women clergy and the current establishment of more conservative male clergy.

Robert P. Jones, Ph.D., is the president of Public Religion Research and the author of “Progressive & Religious: How Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist Leaders are Moving Beyond the Culture Wars and Transforming American Public Life.”

Daniel Cox is research director at Public Religion Research.

Read it all here.

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The article points out that "Over the last two decades, the number of women clergy in the mainline increased nearly three-fold, from only 7% in 1989 to 1-in-5 (20%) in 2008," so presumably women are a much smaller percentage of the older clergy population than the younger. But the authors don't seem to control for age in the results -- they keep comparing the male and female clergy gap to male and female gap in the general population. But studies of the general pop show that the gap on issues like same sex marriage is huge along age lines -- younger people are overwhelming more likely than their elders not to care about sexual orientation, for example. It would be interesting to see how much of the alleged m/f clergy gap will simply disappear as older male clergy retire in the next few years.


Mark Preece

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