Theologians, ministers, professors and community organizers from across the PC(USA) will gather to develop resources to help further women’s equality and equity in the church during the Study on the Status of Women Theological Consultation Oct. 1-3, at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago.
“We know relatively little about the experience of women who serve the church as ruling elders, deacons, Christian educators, candidates for ministry, those who serve extra-parish ministries or in other roles in congregations,” says Dr. Elizabeth Hinson Hasty, a minister member of Mid-Kentucky presbytery and professor of theology, and chair of the department of theology at Bellarmine University in Louisville.
Hinson Hasty served as the chair of the Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns that first began discussing a church-wide study on the status of women in 2004 and brought a resolution to form a task force to design the study at the 217th General Assembly in 2006.
She, along with Sera Chung, associate for Gender and Racial Justice in Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries; Deborah Kapp, professor of urban ministry at McCormick Theological Seminary; Joanne Rodriguez, director of the Hispanic Theological Initiative and Consortium at Princeton Theological Seminary; Young Lee Hertig, executive director at the Institute for the Study of Asian American Christianity; and Angela Cowser, Assistant Professor of the Sociology of Religion and director of the Center for the Church and the Black Experience at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, serve on the planning team for the theological component of this study.
“Our goal is to connect—to bridge the missing stories of women, and claim the voice and agency of current and next generation of women leaders; to equip—identify, create, and make available up-to-date resources; and to inspire—organize to change. Our mission is to be brave, bold, and Biblical,” says Chung, facilitator of the 2015 Study on the Status of Women gathering in Chicago.
“This is also an opportunity for us to gather to examine how intersecting dynamics of gender, race, ethnicity and age impact the experience of these leaders,” she says. “We are set to bring together women from across the church to begin to develop innovative resources for the church to help further women’s equality and equity, and to set a vision statement for the church for gender justice.”
The study, as outlined by the task force and staff from across the Presbyterian Mission Agency, will be comprehensive and conducted in two main research areas: sociological and theological. There are five main questions that the study seeks to answer:
- Where are women doing the work of leadership, and how do women define their own leadership within the PC(USA)?
- What is the status of women, relative to men, in the areas of leadership in which they are working?
- What factors support or hinder women’s level of representation and participation in decision-making?
- In what ways are our perceptions of leadership in the church shaped not only by our gender but also by race, ethnicity, class and age?
- How do our current definitions of leadership reflect the Reformed theological traditions of the church, and how do these definitions of leadership specifically impact women?
In addition to the theological consultation, the task force charged with designing the Study on the Status of Women determined that a sociological component also be included. The Office of Research Services of the Presbyterian Mission Agency is currently working to determine ways in which women define and enact their roles and identities as leaders within the PC(USA), to assess the extent to which gender inequality exists and have changed over time in PC(USA) leadership and to analyze the roadblocks to success that are commonly faced by women leaders. Their research will focus on three areas, including:
- A meta-analysis of existing data on the status of women in the church
- A leadership survey, which will be completed by a representative sample of women who serve in leadership roles in the church
- A 2015 Presbyterian Panel, which includes a combination of web and paper-based surveys for members, ruling elders and teaching elders.
To learn more about the Study on the Status of Women or the work of the Office of Gender and Racial Justice, visit www.pcusa.org/genderjustice.