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Research Proposal: Evolution of Gender and Ministry in Presbyterian Church USA with Emphasis on Women Ordination

7 pages
1676 words
Carnegie Mellon University
Type of paper: 
Dissertation proposal
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Several beliefs and practices associated with the mainline Protestant churches in the United States have undergone critical changes over the years. Based on the doctrinal and cultural changes and shifts, studies have been carried out to determine the implication and occurrence as well as perspectives and expectations associated with such changes in this churches. Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) is one of the Protestant churches associated with significant doctrinal changes that have impacted theological and ministry perspectives. The church affirmed its position of women ordination in the position paper of 1984 by pointing out that it is not an essential of faith (PCUSA, 1984). PCUSA has been keen to emphasize that the focus of the church is to worship God according to His will. Therefore, it is at liberty for a church to choose to or refrain from ordaining women into a leadership position. However, PCUSA considers the selection of their leadership as the responsibility of the church based on the doctrinal conviction. Nevertheless, the question regarding the impact and contribution of ordained women ministers has remained as a critical concern in the Protestant churches across the United States. Since PCUSA is celebrating 60 years of women clergy, it is essential to carry out a critical evaluation regarding women ordination in this church. The key issues that are of interest include the historical journey, challenges and contributions, and the future of this practice on the existence of the church as well as other Protestant denominations.

Problem Statement

One of the critical areas of concern in protestant denomination associated with gender has been the ordination of women in service. In ancient Judaism, a priest was necessary when a sacrifice was needed. The practice has been in existence for decades until the 16th century when reformers ascertained that Jesus alone was the perfect mediator between man and God. Therefore, the sacrifices and priesthood became void. The PCUSA continued with the ordination of servants but now not as priests but as church ministers. The beliefs of the church regarding unity and open-service for all as defined by the scripture has seen the ordination of both men and women to serve in the church. Different reactions have been presented regarding this move, but the PCUSA has remained steadfast in this practice by presenting the scriptural evidence that supports the contribution of women in the ministry. The critics have been founded on St. Pauls writings regarding the participation of women in prominent church leadership positions and service. Nevertheless, PCUSA has marinated that Spirit is not subject to human rules and the involvement on Gods work should not be based on gender but faith, willingness, and purity. Currently, the church is celebrating 60 years of women clergy by revisiting the contribution of women in the success of the ministry. However, there is need to understand how the current position of PCUSA regarding women ordination has grown over the years. What challenges and success stories characterized their journey and is their story different from other Protestant churches? What is the impact of PCUSA on other churches regarding women ordination in service? Therefore, this study seeks to evaluate the evolution of gender and ministry in PCUSA. The study will focus on the aspect of women ordination where the researcher will critically examine the qualitative implication associated with the gradual doctrinal change regarding women ordination.

Research Questions

The proposed study is seeking to assess the evolution of gender and ministry in line with women ordination in Presbyterian Church USA. Therefore, the research will focus on several factors to present how gender and ministry in PCUSA have evolved based on the inclusion of women ordination in the doctrine. The following research questions will guide this study.

What is the relationship between women ordination and ministry success in Presbyterian Church USA?

What are the vital historical characteristics defining women ordination in Presbyterian Church USA?

What theological backgrounds and scriptural evidence have been used to support the ordination of women in Presbyterian Church USA?

What are the challenges associated with the inclusion of women ordination in the doctrines of Protestant churches based on the experience of Reformed Church in America?

What is the perspective of WARC and WCRC on the issue of women ordination in the United States protestant churches?

What are the impact and future consideration emanating from PCUSAs direction on women ordination to other Protestant churches?

What are the critical elements that characterize the evolution of gender and ministry in American Mainline Protestant churches?

Prior StudiesProtestantism was introduced in America at the beginning of the 16th century by the European colonialists, who came from northern Europe (Bell, 2013). The early Protestants introduced the reformed churches as they traveled along the Carolina, New Netherlands, Virginia, and Massachusetts Bay among other colonies. The first batch of the Protestants demonstrated in the US were adherence to Anglicanism, Presbyterianism, Lutheranism, Congregationalism, Moravian, and Mennonite among others from the significant colonial countries, like Britain, Germany, Netherlands. With the extensive coverage in the American population, Protestantism dominated the nation, while only a few attended the Jews and Roman Catholic Churches. The status of Protestantism as the dominant religion in America has dropped by a more significant percentage that has ended its popularity as other religious groups emerge (Abel, 1943). Nevertheless, several postulates have defined the Protestantism across the globe as depicted below.

Worth pointing out is that several scholars have investigated various aspects associated with the changes in cultural practices and beliefs in mainline Protestant churches in the United States. The centricity of analysis has been how the denominations have considered the position of women and influence of the traditional practice of the gender-based service and ministry (Ruether, 2005; Alexander, 2003). The evaluation of the gender-based religious transformation is founded on critical works by pioneer researchers who examined the trends associated with the culture and doctrinal practices. According to Carroll, Hargrove, and Lummis (1983), the onset of an increasing number of women serving in the church was a remarkable religious change in the United States, which included the seminaries and professional ministries. Based on the need to evaluate the changes regarding women serving as clergy in the churches, Zikmund, Lummis, and Chang (1998) made a diverse follow up where their focus was on the factors that contribute to the changes exhibited in women ministry. Based on the findings of the two publications it was necessary to determine the differences that exist between the clergywomen and men.

Lehman (2002) looked at the various effects and challenges associated with the women who are called to serve in the church. The scholar has published a series of books and articles on women clergy examining the different perspective of the practice in PCUSA. One of the key factors has been the attitude of the congregation on women clergy and other women in religious leadership positions. While other perspectives such as the autonomy of the surrounding authority have been presented as a critical determinant of the degree of which women are incorporated into the church service, other factors such as the historical tendencies remain influential (Chaves, 1996).

Other critical perspectives of the existing literature have given significant concern on women career and their lives in ministry. Such studies have focused on the paths of entry and the contributing factors as well as the associated obstacles. Weber (1996) evaluated the notion of being called to serve in ministry. Founding his proposition on the work and experience of Martin Luther, the scholar argued that the calling to minister in a church or beyond include both the men and women. Therefore, providing an ample time and an environment that encourage leadership and commitment for both the genders is a critical part of Christian service.

Furthermore, studies regarding women ordination are limited. Such a scenario calls for a further assessment of this perspective to present a qualitative outcome of the changes exhibited in the Presbyterian Church USA and other denominations. However, some scholars have attempted to present how the shift in doctrine and culture-based practice regarding ordination has impacted the churches. Since ordination is part of the process for ministry participation, the ordination of women has been perceived differently based on the traditional practices associated with both the Protestant churches and the evangelical denominations across the globe.

According to Brasfield (1990) and Lehman (2002), the experiences of clergywomen of the present Presbyterian Church USA have changed over years when compared to the 1970s and 1980s. The scholars have narrated how women ordination has become part of the current practices. On the other hand, Takahashi (2004) and Schmidt (1999), while carrying out a case study on the Methodist church, pointed out that the changes in the mainline American churches have inclined towards women ministry. Among the critical practices pointed out was the aspect of leadership and ordination. However, the scholar concluded that the experience of women, the institutionalization, and feminism-religion interactions have contributed to the current changes (Takahashi, 2004; Schmidt, 1999). Furthermore, the focus of the research carried out regarding the evolution of gender and ministry in Presbyterian Church USA has been centered on a comparative analysis seeking to evaluate the historical accounts and the present practice (Porterfield, 2001; Mitchell, 2000). The basis of such evaluations has been to determine the impact of the shifts on women leadership in churches as well as the implication on the doctrinal fundamental. Nevertheless, works that seek to advance the works of Weber (1996), Lehman (2002), and Takahashi (2004) are limited, which has been the baseline for the justification of this proposed study.

On the other hand, a critical evaluation of the dimension of gender, justice, and equality as depicted in PCUSA reveals significant insight regarding the direction of the church on women ordination. The current perception of the Protestantism towards gender roles are clear since they encourage equality among sexes with ordination among women acceptable. The view of PCUSA on the human rights and equality issues are based on the reflection of the social context of the church. In such a move, the denominational lines provide no difference in the gender and equality themes but rather the beliefs be dependent on the individuals approach. For instance, the liberalists and conservatives have different judgments on gender among other socia...

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