Special Issue "Women and Religious Authority"

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A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 April 2011)

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Dr. Jill Peterfeso

Department of Religious Studies, Guilford College, 5800 West Friendly Ave., Greensboro, NC 27410, USA
Phone: +336 316 2946
Interests: religion in America; American cultural history; catholicism in America; mormonism; women's studies of religion; religion and the body; performance studies
Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp (Website)

John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics, Washington University in St. Louis, One Brookings Drive, Campus Box 1066, St. Louis, MO 63130, USA
Phone: +1 314 935 9345
Fax: +1 314 935 5755
Interests: American Religious History; African American religions

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

A woman’s “place” within her religious community is complicated with social, political, cultural, and theological concerns. Changes to church polity do not always signal changes in a tradition’s faithful; meanwhile, women barred from formal leadership positions often exercise power in informal ways. Understanding women’s religious authority, then, always demands a multi-layered investigation. Attention must be paid to the conflicts that arise, the creativity that emerges, and the communities that develop around issues of women’s religious authority. This special issue of Religions enters this discussion, challenging and contributing to existing discourses, both religious and academic. Here, we investigate the authority (or authorities) women exercise within religious spheres. We will investigate questions about women in positions of leadership; contestation over religious authority owing to gender; and women’s theological contributions to religious practices. We encourage contributions from a variety of fields, including but not limited to history, theology, anthropology, sociology, or cultural studies. Multidisciplinary work is encouraged. We seek articles dealing with women from a variety of religious traditions (such as Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Mormonism, Catholicism, and Protestantism, and also New Religious Movements and sectarian groups). We welcome scholarship addressing all different historical moments, and occurring at any place on the globe. We envision this issue of Religions as an opportunity for scholars across the academic spectrum to come together, exploring the multi-dimensional, politically-fraught, and theologically-charged theme of “women and religious authority.”

Prof. Dr. Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp
Ms. Jill Peterfeso
Guest Editors

Keywords

  • women
  • gender
  • authority
  • leadership
  • sexuality
  • power
  • religion/religious

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle Penitence, Confession, and the Power of Submission in Late Medieval Women's Religious Communities
Religions 2012, 3(3), 646-661; doi:10.3390/rel3030646
Received: 7 July 2012 / Revised: 23 July 2012 / Accepted: 25 July 2012 / Published: 6 August 2012
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Abstract
This article argues that depictions of penance and confession in late medieval "Sisterbooks," which were written by women religious for communal use, show that medieval women understood religious authority to be enhanced through submission and service to community members. These collections of [...] Read more.
This article argues that depictions of penance and confession in late medieval "Sisterbooks," which were written by women religious for communal use, show that medieval women understood religious authority to be enhanced through submission and service to community members. These collections of the lives and reminiscences of deceased sisters and father confessors construct idealized piety and religious authority through public acts of obedience and submission which built a reputation for sanctity, not just for the individual penitent, but for her entire community. Thus in the Sisterbooks, obedience to a confessor or spiritual director for both male and female penitents shifts the locus of spiritual authority from the confessor to the penitent and her community through communal observation and evaluation. These medieval Christian women understood the relationships between confessors and confessants as one which conferred power and authority to the penitent, complicating Foucault's influential claim that the sacrament of confession granted all power to the confessor who heard sins in secret. In the Sisterbooks, interactions between women religious and their confessors are depicted as relational, complex, and constantly in flux. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Women and Religious Authority)
Open AccessArticle Inscribing Authority: Female Title Bearers in Jewish Inscriptions
Religions 2012, 3(1), 37-49; doi:10.3390/rel3010037
Received: 10 January 2012 / Revised: 25 January 2012 / Accepted: 8 February 2012 / Published: 8 February 2012
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Abstract
This paper investigates representations of gender in the material culture of the ancient synagogue. The pertinent data are numerous dedicatory and funerary inscriptions linking individual Jews, men and women, with titles seemingly associated with leadership in Late Antique synagogues (ca. 200–600 CE). [...] Read more.
This paper investigates representations of gender in the material culture of the ancient synagogue. The pertinent data are numerous dedicatory and funerary inscriptions linking individual Jews, men and women, with titles seemingly associated with leadership in Late Antique synagogues (ca. 200–600 CE). Bernadette Brooten’s influential 1982 monograph argued against the prevailing tendency to characterize these titles as indications of power, authority, and responsibility when associated with men but as meaningless flattery when applied to women. She suggests that synagogue titles denote power, authority and responsibility on all title bearers equally, both men and women. I question the continued utility of proffering female title-holders as enumerable examples of powerful women rescued from their forgotten place in history. Using theoretical insights developed by historians Elizabeth Clark and Gabrielle Spiegel, this paper will engage a comparative analysis with the work of Riet van Bremen and Saba Mahmood to develop new methods of conceptualizing women’s authority in early Jewish communities. I propose that viewing women’s synagogue titles as culturally constructed representations allows for a fruitful inquiry into how women’s titles were used by male-dominated synagogue communities in their self-articulation and public presentation of Judaism. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Women and Religious Authority)
Open AccessArticle Women’s Voice and Religious Utterances in Ancient Greece
Religions 2011, 2(4), 729-743; doi:10.3390/rel2040729
Received: 16 September 2011 / Revised: 7 December 2011 / Accepted: 16 December 2011 / Published: 20 December 2011
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Abstract
This paper tackles the issue of women and religion through a particular looking glass: religious utterances such as curses, supplication, and prayer, as reflected in some passages from ancient Greek epic and tragedy—pivotal literary genres in the ideological discourse of the Greek [...] Read more.
This paper tackles the issue of women and religion through a particular looking glass: religious utterances such as curses, supplication, and prayer, as reflected in some passages from ancient Greek epic and tragedy—pivotal literary genres in the ideological discourse of the Greek polis. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Women and Religious Authority)
Open AccessArticle Religious Authority in African American Churches: A Study of Six Churches
Religions 2011, 2(4), 628-648; doi:10.3390/rel2040628
Received: 8 October 2011 / Accepted: 17 November 2011 / Published: 22 November 2011
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Abstract
A sociological study of religious authority and gender in the context of a rural, impoverished community was conducted in African American churches in one county of the Arkansas Lower Mississippi Delta region to understand relationships between religious leadership, gender, race, and social [...] Read more.
A sociological study of religious authority and gender in the context of a rural, impoverished community was conducted in African American churches in one county of the Arkansas Lower Mississippi Delta region to understand relationships between religious leadership, gender, race, and social justice. Three female and three male African American pastors were interviewed as key-informants of their churches to investigate views of female religious authority, and to compare and contrast the congregational culture of female-headed vs. male-headed churches. Among male-headed congregations, views of gender and leadership were complex, with beliefs ranging from no support to full support for female-headed congregations. Two congregational cultures emerged from the data: Congregations with a Social Activist orientation focused on meeting the social needs of the community through Christ, whereas congregations with a Teach the Word orientation stressed the importance of meeting the spiritual needs of the community through knowing the Word of God. Although aspects of both congregational cultures were present to some extentin all six congregations studied, the Social Activist culture played a more dominant narrative in female-headed congregations, whereas the Teach the Word culture was more evident in male-headed congregations. This study reports preliminary information about gender and religious authority in rural African American churches by revealing the different clergy training requirements and church placements of female and male clergy, a myriad of views about female religious authority in the African American faith community, and through uncovering two distinct congregational cultures. This study also enhances understanding on the role of gender in Black churches’ perceptions and interactions with rural, socioeconomically challenged communities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Women and Religious Authority)
Open AccessArticle Notions of Female Authority in Modern Shi’i Thought
Religions 2011, 2(3), 449-468; doi:10.3390/rel2030449
Received: 22 August 2011 / Revised: 8 September 2011 / Accepted: 20 September 2011 / Published: 22 September 2011
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Abstract
The dominant Shi’i gender discourse has undergone major shifts in recent years, resulting in revisions of various jurisprudential rulings on women’s rights and status. Among such shifts, there have been rulings on female authority, particularly women’s right to access political decision-making positions. [...] Read more.
The dominant Shi’i gender discourse has undergone major shifts in recent years, resulting in revisions of various jurisprudential rulings on women’s rights and status. Among such shifts, there have been rulings on female authority, particularly women’s right to access political decision-making positions. Despite being a controversial topic that has historically faced much clerical debate and disagreement, in recent years a number of reformist clerics have argued in favor of women’s leadership, which is considered a radical departure from the conventional stance. While there are a number of reasons that have contributed to these modernist clerical views in recent years, I argue that the most significant is women’s demands and mobilization for reform of misogynist Shari‘a-based laws. Through reference to clerical gender discourses unfolding in Iran, a Shi’i state, this work will shed light onto the modernist clerical discourses that resulted from women’s strategic and organized pressuring for enhanced women’s political representation. In this regard, this work will examine the interactions between women’s groups and religious elites, in particular pious women’s efforts to publicize and politicize the issue of female authority and women’s access to leadership positions within the Iranian society, as well as the various types of justifications offered by Shi’i clerics for enhancing women’s political rights. By analyzing the recent clerical reformist discourses, this article identifies two dominant types of justifications used by such clerics in explaining the shift from the conventional stand on the subject of female authority, which are categorized as a contextual rereading and a feminist rereading. This analysis will conclude by evaluating the impact of these different types of clerical responses on the future prospects of reform in the society, especially democratization of religious interpretation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Women and Religious Authority)
Open AccessArticle Prophesying Women and Ruling Men: Women’s Religious Authority in North American Pentecostalism
Religions 2011, 2(3), 410-426; doi:10.3390/rel2030410
Received: 12 June 2011 / Revised: 15 August 2011 / Accepted: 19 August 2011 / Published: 29 August 2011
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Abstract
The issue of religious authority is one of the main reasons why women have been allowed to participate in Pentecostal churches, and why they have been limited. Women are granted access to ministering authority, but not governing authority. Charles Barfoot and Gerald [...] Read more.
The issue of religious authority is one of the main reasons why women have been allowed to participate in Pentecostal churches, and why they have been limited. Women are granted access to ministering authority, but not governing authority. Charles Barfoot and Gerald Sheppard have noted the presence of these two types of authority to be operative within Pentecostalism and have associated them with Max Weber’s typology of prophet and priest. However, in their attempt to describe the history of Pentecostal women in ministry with these categories, Barfoot and Sheppard present the paradigm as one of displacement rather than coexistence. The result is a problematic and misleading account of Pentecostal women in ministry. However, the issue is not Weber’s categories, but how they employ them. The purpose of this article is to utilize the distinction between prophet and priest to differentiate between two types of ecclesial functions and their concomitant religious authority, rather than to differentiate between two periods of Pentecostalism. A brief history of Pentecostal women in ministry is presented, wherein examples are offered of how women in the Church of God, the Church of God in Christ, the Assemblies of God, and the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel operated in the prophetic realms with a ministering authority, but were largely prohibited from the priestly realms and its ruling authority. As these examples demonstrate, the history of Pentecostal women in ministry is told best when the simultaneous existence of the prophetic and priestly functions are recognized, and ministering authority and ruling authority are connected to these two functions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Women and Religious Authority)
Open AccessArticle Women Priests in the Church of England: Psychological Type Profile
Religions 2011, 2(3), 389-397; doi:10.3390/rel2030389
Received: 7 June 2011 / Accepted: 5 July 2011 / Published: 25 August 2011
Cited by 9 | PDF Full-text (221 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This study employed psychological type theory and measurement to explore the psychological profile of women priests ordained in the Church of England. A sample of 83 Anglican clergywomen in England completed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). The data demonstrated clear preferences for [...] Read more.
This study employed psychological type theory and measurement to explore the psychological profile of women priests ordained in the Church of England. A sample of 83 Anglican clergywomen in England completed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). The data demonstrated clear preferences for introversion (63%) over extraversion (37%), for intuition (60%) over sensing (40%), for feeling (76%) over thinking (24%), and for judging (55%) over perceiving (45%). In terms of dominant types, 37% were dominant feelers, 31% dominant intuitives, 23% dominant sensers, and 8% dominant thinkers. These findings are discussed to illuminate the preferred ministry styles of Anglican clergywomen in England and to highlight the significant differences between the psychological type profile of clergywomen and the UK female population norms. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Women and Religious Authority)
Open AccessArticle Female Clergy as Agents of Religious Change?
Religions 2011, 2(3), 358-371; doi:10.3390/rel2030358
Received: 27 April 2011 / Revised: 4 August 2011 / Accepted: 12 August 2011 / Published: 17 August 2011
Cited by 4 | PDF Full-text (669 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This article focuses on female clergy as potential agents of change in the Church. I argue that the adoption of female clergy is one of the main factors that cause the Church to change its practices, policies and theological orientation. The first [...] Read more.
This article focuses on female clergy as potential agents of change in the Church. I argue that the adoption of female clergy is one of the main factors that cause the Church to change its practices, policies and theological orientation. The first female ministers were ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland in 1988. This is fairly late compared to other Nordic countries. However, the number of female ministers and female students has been growing fast and nowadays about 70 percent of theology students are female.The paper is based on quantitative surveys conducted among the members of the Clergy Union in 2002, 2006 and 2010 (N = about 1,000 each) and among the applicants for university studies in theology in 2010. The research shows that clergywomen are changing the Church in a clearly more liberal direction. They do it in various areas of church life: they change the perception of faith and dogma, the policies of the Church as well as daily practices in parishes. Clergymen are notably more traditional in their orientation, even young clergymen. Therefore it is especially the female clergy who serve as agents of religious change in the Church. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Women and Religious Authority)

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