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The Difficult Calling: Pentecostal Women Clergy face lack of opportunity, support

Pentecostalism, centered around the Church of God, has long been open to the ministry of women as preachers, missionaries and pastors, but has not been willing to accept women in denominational leadership positions despite the support of a significant percentage of male representatives to their General Assembly.

The stated concern of the leadership is that elevating women to top leadership roles will undermine the family structure and that the call to admit women at that level is part of the liberal feminist agenda. However many of the women in ministry are already serving in leadership roles in civil society. They also tend to be quite conservative politically and socially, especially in regard to family values, according to a study conducted by Pentecostal scholars James Bowers and Kimberly Alexander.

In a question-and-answer article prepared for Faith & Leadership, an online offering of Leadership Education at Duke Divinity School, Bowers and Alexander discuss the genesis of their research project and what they learned from their extensive survey. Among the more troubling findings was the discovery that women Pentecostal clergy often have to start their own churches, receive low compensation, have no retirement, receive little to no denominational encouragement, are excluded from denominational clergy gatherings, and are not appointed to larger congregations once they have proven themselves. On the other hand, they feel deeply called to their vocation, are highly tenacious in obeying that call, and are passionate about their faith.

The survey also revealed a decreasing interest in pursuing ministry among younger Pentecostal women who cite the lack of opportunity and support as reasons to exercise their faith in other ways. Read "Leadership and Women in Pentecostal Ministry" for the full picture. You might also want to watch the 9-minute news video report, "Roman Catholic Women Priests" archived on Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, an online source for cutting-edge reporting at the intersection of faith and society. For more research on church leadership, see our articles, "Best Resources for Leadership Research," and "A Reflection on the State of Pastoral Leadership."

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