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A Still Small Voice

Drawing from interviews of fifty ordained and seminary-trained women, Frederick W. Schmidt, Jr. explores the bureaucratic and cultural underpinnings of the church that continues to bar women from positions of authority. Writing as a seminary-trained sociologist, Schmidt concentrates on the roles of clergywomen in five denominations - Episcopal, United Methodist, Evangelical Lutheran, Southern Baptist, and Roman Catholic. He maintains that behind the facade of equanimity, women are often relegated to the outskirts of church hierarchy. In compelling stories, we learn about the Episcopal woman denied a job because she was too short; the Methodist women burdened by the old saw of women preachers being like dogs walking on their hind legs; the Evangelical Lutheran who, in protest to her denomination's trickle-down reform, camped outside her bishop's office; and Roman Catholic women who, frustrated and beleaguered by their church's refusal to ordain them, become active reformers. To substantiate his assertion that churches are cultures as well as organizations, Schmidt examines both official policies regarding women's ordination in each denomination and the cultural context in which those policies must play out. Through their stories, the clergywomen remind us that the church influences society whether society acknowledges it or not.
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