2016, Spinning the Sacred Yarn

Journeying with Clergy Women: Exploring Self-care in Community

By Choi Hee An, Presbyterian Church USA;  Carole Bohn, United Church of Christ;  Susan Hassinger, Council of Bishops (retired), Northeast Jurisdiction

I. Introduction

The purpose of this article is to share our observations on how female clergy understand, sustain, and support themselves and their ministry. Our report is based on two years of experiences with a female clergy support program sponsored by the Anna Howard Shaw Center at Boston University School of Theology. As Christian history shows, female clergy have suffered in patriarchal and hierarchal Christian culture and its ministerial environment. Many female clergy experience a great deal of agony stemming from sexism in their ministry. Especially among ethnic and racial minority women, the experiences of racism and sexism are overwhelming. From current studies, such as The Anna Howard Shaw Center’s Women’s Retention Study 2013, the Salary Study of The UMC 2010, The Status of Racial-Ethnic Minority Clergywomen in The United Methodist Church 2004, and Racial-Ethnic Members of the Presbyterian Church 2000, it is well documented that female clergy suffer systemically as well as spiritually and psychologically. According to the study Clergy Women: An Uphill Calling, female clergy are crushed between a patriarchal church environment and the patriarchal sociocultural realities of everyday life.[1] Even though many female clergy put their priority in ministry, they find they cannot maintain their ministerial practice in the ways they had envisioned, and they find it stressful to maintain their professional lives without sacrificing their families.

In response to the expressed needs of women clergy, the Anna Howard Shaw Center at the Boston University School of Theology reached out to our local communities and churches to build bridges between academic studies and ministerial practice and to offer support to women clergy. At the same time, the leaders hoped to learn more about the needs of women clergy, so that the Shaw Center could be responsive to these needs in the future as well as share the information learned in the process.

This article will analyze how female clergy understand themselves, express their needs, engage with one another, and develop their psychological and spiritual strength for their own well-being. As we finish two years of this program, we have learned a new interdenominational and cross-cultural model for nurturing female clergy and their ministries and how to establish an ongoing support system for the participants. Thus, this article will contribute to studies on building spiritual and psychological support groups and understanding interdenominational cross-cultural experiences among female clergy. We believe that our findings will provide information on building support and trust not only with female clergy but with all people in ministry in interdenominational and multicultural contexts.

Female Clergy Support Program Design

This support program started from hearing the needs of female clergy to learn from an interdenominational and multicultural group. As many female clergy have experienced prejudice and discrimination against women, they feel that they deal with these experiences alone. Throughout many programs, events, and research programs from the Anna Howard Shaw Center, many female clergy shared that it is very hard to make connections and reach out to other female clergy because they do not know how to begin. Even if they feel able to make such overtures, they do not have enough time, energy, and financial support. Moreover, in their own denominations, while they have peer-support group programs, they report that political sensitivities make it hard to build trust and share their feelings honestly. For example, in their peer-group meetings, they cannot share their personal struggles and private feelings about other pastors, district superintendents, bishops, and other judicatory leaders, and church members (even though these feelings are the most important matters that they need to talk about) because of the possibility that some among their peer-group members may become denominational leaders or supervisors some day. They fear that their peer conversations might be used against them to make judgments that will impact their future in ministry. This tendency is especially prominent in the United Methodist ministerial appointment system. In the case of other denominations, female clergy support systems are rare, often very individualized and scattered. There are very few opportunities for female clergy to speak openly in any supportive system. The result is that female clergy do not have a place to share their honest feelings and struggles with others. Actually this result was shared and confirmed repeatedly throughout two years of our program.

Given these circumstances, this project began with two assumptions. First, female clergy from different denominations needed a context in which they could be full and equal partners in sharing the theological, psychological, and spiritual dimensions of their lives. Second, forming a support system required intentional efforts as well as leadership that was sensitive to interdenominational realities, psychological and spiritual well-being, and common needs/interests in the professional practice of ministry. As this program was established, our leadership intentionally tried to invite female clergy from various denominations, ethnic and racial identities, and a variety of local church settings. As a result, participants of these programs were from The United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ, American Baptist Church, Unitarian Universalist, African Methodist Episcopal Zion, Episcopal Church, and others. Participants were Asian and Pacific Islanders, African Americans, Hispanic/Latina and European American pastors who were more than forty years old and had more than ten years of ministry. In order to encourage strong connections and bonding, we invited one person and asked her to invite another colleague. Through this chain invitation, female clergy members created their own safe place to share their struggles and establish collegiality among group members.

Three facilitators led this project together, creating a spiritual and psychological platform for these groups. Guiding small and larger group discussion and offering spiritual practices and rituals, the leaders tried to provide sacred space for the groups. The project was carried out for two years with different groups each year, but with the same leadership team. While the structure of the groups was similar, some changes were made in the second year based on feedback learned from the first year.

Each group met five times a year, all day on Mondays. These workshops included some simple exercises, spiritual practices, small- and large-group discussions. In each session, the group leaders provided readings based on the theme or goal of each session. The goal of the first session focused on individual introductions and on building group trust and group coherence. Group members were encouraged to share family roots and personal background along with their calling and ministry experiences. The goal of the second session focused on exploring one’s calling and relationship to God. Sharing their pastoral journeys and identifying their ministerial identity, participants explored their relationship with God and tried to understand who they were and are. In the third session, female clergy were asked to share their ministry experience in terms of good outcomes and not-so-good outcomes. Remembering their successful experiences of ministry and sharing their current and previous difficulties of ministry, they sought to find their strength and wisdom. The theme of the fourth session was power and authority. Understanding institutional and structural systemic prejudices, participants shared their personal and church-related struggles. They were encouraged to identify how they understood power and authority, how they navigated these dynamics and learned to resolve them. The last session focused on articulating life goals or vision and reclaiming identity. Writing or creating an artwork, participants were invited to renew their vision of ministry and their personal goals.

This project focused on the spiritual and psychological health of female clergy and sought ways to support their well-being as a whole in the face of the difficult reality of being a woman in ministry.

II. Program Findings

At the conclusion of the project, the three leaders met to look at the data gathered and consider what we had learned from these two years of women’s clergy support group meetings. After reviewing all ten sessions, collating the data, and attending to the process, we started to notice that our conclusions seem to create a circle.

First, the most powerful message we heard from these women was how much they valued being provided with a safe place where they could be unguarded and share their experiences in ministry and their sense of self with other women. From the process of identifying the factors that contributed to their sense of safety and ability to share openly in our groups, the impact of the diversity of the group became clear, both as a positive and negative factor. Then, as we sought to understand the impact of the group’s diversity, we became aware of how significant forming strong connections was for each person. not only the connections experienced through this group process but also their community and familial relationships, which have supported them throughout their ministries. Exploring various connections and relationships in their pastoral work led directly to a focus on the power dynamics at work in our group process and in their individual histories as clergywomen. Finally, in the face of the varieties of external power that each of these women had to navigate through their lives, they were aware of how central a strong sense of self has been to their survival. And that was the same strong self that longed for a safe and supportive place to share and grow.

We had come full circle, beginning with the value of a safe, accepting, and supportive place to share oneself, and finally coming back to that same need. In the discussion that follows, we will explore each of these areas in more depth, reporting on how each factor plays a central role in the experience of these clergywomen.

1. Creating a Safe Place

All of the women in these two groups described themselves as caregivers. They were used to being in charge, taking responsibility for others, looking out for everyone else’s needs. Being natural caregivers is a common theme among ministers, both men and women. It is particularly potent with women, who are culturally designated as nurturers, as demonstrated in women’s psychology over the last several decades, beginning with the work of Jean Baker Miller.[2]

These women were all used to being in charge, being the responsible one on whom others depend for direction, decision making, and guidance. Throughout the five months of the group meetings, the women frequently expressed how appreciative they were to have a place where they were not in charge, where they could rely on others to give direction. Of course, with a room full of leaders, there was the occasional conflict regarding decision making. However, because the women felt that the leadership was flexible and that they had input into the process, they were able to relinquish the need for control and enjoy not being in charge.

Because group facilitators in this program did not function as leaders who exercised their power over participants, but took their role as facilitators who shared power-with, not power-over, members of the group felt comfortable to go with guidelines that facilitators provided. They expressed that not having to be responsible was restorative and sustaining for them. And they concluded that they needed to establish other safe places in their lives where they can share of their deepest selves. In fact, family and friends were the most safe and comfortable places that they identified.

As these groups were organized outside denominational settings, participants felt very comfortable to be who they were without worrying about any exposure of their struggle in their own denominations. These groups provided the safe place they yearned for, in addition to family and friends and structured experiences of therapy or professional supervision. Within these groups, they were interacting with other clergy, women who understand their experiences from the inside out and with whom they could relate immediately.

One of the resources that we gave the first group in preparation for the second session was Merle Jordan’s Reclaiming Your Story.[3] Following on Jordan’s theory that learnings of the past need to be reclaimed—or released—to be fully oneself, these women used the group time well toward that end. Their level of trust and confidence in one another enabled them to share their journeys and be open to new interpretations and learning in the process.

2. Diversity

In our earlier description of how the groups were formed, we noted that great effort was made to create diverse groups, with a variety of denominations and cultural, ethnic, and racial diversity. At the same time, there was enough commonality to enable the women to feel heard and understood by their colleagues and to begin to build additional connections. The leaders expected the diversity of each group to allow for lots of variety, considerable exchange, and learning from one another. While these things did happen, they occurred in ways quite different from what the facilitators initially expected. We learned that different types of diversity create different outcomes. A group culture soon emerged in each group that was primary in shaping the group dynamics. Additional types of diversity became evident in the groups: variety of levels of maturity and experience (both life and work); as many theological orientations as members of the group; previous, unexpected connections between participants; cultural orientations regarding time (use of time, beginning/ending times, etc). The leaders also became aware that their team experience with the first group impacted how they functioned in the second group, thus creating a variation in leadership previously not noted. Each of the leaders experienced the two groups differently, and clearly each member of each group had her own unique experience of the group. We were reminded of the work of Carol Gilligan, who first drew attention to women’s different voice,[4] not a single voice but many, each one reflecting a unique perspective that demanded to be heard.

In other words, we realized that there will always be much more diversity than we initially envision or plan. We may plan for one kind of diversity and discover in the process that we have, in fact, created another type. Whatever the diversity of the group, expressed by leaders or members, it will be a resource only to the extent that we can create enough trust to allow for differences to be acknowledged and valued. Ignoring differences and “pretending” that we are all alike or that differences are inconsequential only undermines trust. Creating an environment where leaders and participants can share our differences, especially ones that we have not noticed before, honors diversity and strengthens trust.

3. Centrality of Connection

Regardless of the specific topic of focus, considerable time was spent in each group on sharing the importance of our various connections. For these women, family connections remained central, whether family of origin, current nuclear family, or friends as family. Members often talked about mentors who had supported them along the way, and mentors who currently undergird them. They described family members who, often unknowingly, serve as their primary support.

For these women, relationships are central—not surprising, since the centrality of relationship in women’s sense of self has been the lynchpin of women’s psychology over the last four decades. What is surprising is how much these overtly strong, independent, self-sufficient women rely on the love and support of their families and significant others. Additionally, they depend on the support of friends and colleagues—people within their denominational systems who enable and encourage them to stay committed in ministry.

Over the course of five sessions, the women were willing to take risks with one another, to share meaningful life experiences, to be real and open without fear of negative consequences. Clearly, these strong women ministers know the power of relationship, so they were able to develop strong bonds with one another through the group process, limited though it was. All expressed a wish that the groups could continue and said they would miss this regular support.

4. Power Dynamics

It is inevitable that women clergy have dealt with the exercise and distribution of power over the course of their ministries. And the formation of any group must eventually lead to some acknowledgment and discussion of the power dynamics in the group. In our discussions of creating a safe place, dealing with diversity, and claiming the centrality of relationship, it is, therefore, no surprise that we came to a discussion of power dynamics.

Resources on women and power are plentiful. For these groups we used Celia Hahn’s evocative unpacking of the dynamics of power in Growth in Authority; Relinquishing Control and Martha Stortz’s Pastor Power.[5] While the women found these resources useful in the theoretical issues around power, they were generally much more energized by sharing their own experiences with power dynamics in their institutions.

Each of the women in both groups shared experiences of struggles with power in a heavily male system. Even with more and more women coming into the clergy, the predominance of males in top leadership positions created situations that the women clergy had to confront. They also identified and discussed situations in which they felt empowered, or when they felt good about how they had exercised power or experienced power with others. These women, who have survived and even flourished within church judicatories, have had to be strong, self-directed, and confident. As mentioned above, group members were used to being leaders, being in charge, having strength in difficult situations. They appear to have brought most of this personality orientation with them into ministry, and then found ways to foster and grow these strengths.

The group members noted that their church power structures continue to be male dominated, not only in the gender of those in power, but in the very patriarchal structures they have inherited. It will take many more generations of women clergy to bring about a gender-neutral structure, but these women see themselves as having made serious inroads in the process. Working with other women, they have learned much about engaging with institutional power.

Sharing these experiences with one another in these two groups was clearly empowering to them. They were able to see how their struggles with power dynamics have led them to overcome their fears of loss of self and pushed them to find new ways to support themselves and provide self-care. They have found ways to claim and live out their own power.

5. Sense of Self

As the women in each of these groups grew closer to one another and trusted themselves and the group process more with each meeting, they also shared more of how they view themselves, what gives them strength and direction. Clearly the necessity of confronting power dynamics in their churches (both at the judicatory and parish levels) has contributed to their growth.

The women talked of ways in which their developing sense of self as minister at times guided them in their ministerial choices. For example, one woman spoke about her call to hospital ministry evolving out of her own experiences of suffering in the larger church. In our group process, they were able to identify and share ways in which they recognized that their own stories were a major factor in shaping their ministries. Even with a variety of ways of defining their own individual ministries, they all agreed that they see themselves as models and conduits for God; they experience themselves as enfleshing God, bringing God more directly into others’ lives, even as they found God themselves more intensely in the process.

Here the women found the readings in Jan L. Richardson’s meditative book, In The Sanctuary of Women, helpful, particularly the reflections on Eve’s loss of safety/Eden, and the story of Harriet Powers’ proclamations made via her quilts.[6] Finding their own source of safety and creating their own expression via quilting provided for some powerful discussion. Laughter was often a part of our group sharing, and it was frequently named as a healthy and enlivening part of our experiences together. In the midst of laughing at themselves, they were able to say that it is okay not to be perfect. “It’s not about me,” they said in a variety of ways; “my ministry is about bringing people to God, not to me.” Tears were an occasional experience and empathizing with the pains and concerns of others was an integral part of the interaction. Occasional expressions of anger, hurt, or frustration with the leaders or another group member were also evidence of being genuine to self and to others.

The two groups functioned somewhat differently in this intimate sharing. The first group was more comfortable in the group as a whole, while the second group valued time in small groups with consistent membership. Clearly the power dynamics of the group played a role in these differences and reflected the variety of diversity between the two groups. However, even with these differences in functioning, it was clear that intimate sharing and personal growth in a safe setting were paramount for these women. So we have come full circle again, an appropriate image for women whose lives rely on the continuous cycle of relationship—those that shaped them from childhood and those that continue to form both their sense of self as person and minister.

III. Implications for Theological Educators

At the conclusion of the second year, the three facilitators considered the implications of the process used as well as the research-based findings from our experience. What follows is an invitation for others to experiment with, practice, learn from, and improve what we have done.

1. Interwoven, Not Linear Realities

The five aspects that we have identified as significant (creating a safe space, developing a group that has inherent diversity, recognizing the centrality of connection and relationship for women, naming and dealing with issues of power and authority, and growing in sense of self as person and as minister) are not isolated or linear. Rather they are interwoven and part of the fabric of individual lives and relations to institutions.

In other words, the process is holistic, rather than simply focusing on the various, isolated parts. That expression of holism took various forms in the group process. Each full-day session was designed to include care for the body as well as the spirit and mind in ways that intertwine. In fact, we could state that the structure with attention to integrating mind, body, and spirit gave shape to the process that evolved as described below.

a) Caring for Physical Needs

For the physical needs, light refreshments were provided at the start of the day, mindful that some participants had traveled a long distance in order to arrive for a 9:00 a.m. starting time. The lunch break included a buffet meal, and provided time for each participant and leader who wished to share, apart from the theme for the day, what had been happening in her life since we last met. That noontime sharing often included extended family concerns, professional challenges, personal struggles, and requests for prayer. As the months evolved, women would explicitly ask another for an update on a matter shared previously. All five of the areas of significance noted above were manifest also in those lunchtime sharing.

b) Providing for Spiritual Life and Connections with God

For the spiritual connection, each session began with a brief time of centering. A center, including a candle, was a visual focal point for that. Sometimes the centering used traditional materials, sometimes non-traditional. In the second year, frequently it was drawn from the resource the participants had been asked to read.[7] A brief time of reflection concluded the morning, as we went to lunch. And, at the end of the day there was a drawing together, a time of reflection on the experience of the day and inviting women to consider what they would carry with them. The poetry of Mary Oliver, often used in our meditations, provided additional means of sharing our reflections.[8]

c) Developing the Creative Side

For the creative side, in some of the sessions there was opportunity for artistic expression of a simple sort. In the opening session in both years, each woman was invited to bring some symbol of herself or her ministry to help to introduce herself. The symbol then became part of the centering table for that day. In one session in the second year, women were invited to create a “life quilt,” using paper and various pencils/markers/crayons. This exercise was based on our readings from Richardson’s chapter on Harriet Powers.[9] In another session, the women created their own “life wheel,” based on Kraybill’s adaptation of the work of Cameron and Bryan.[10] For the final session in each year, women were encouraged to bring with them a written expression, or a visual symbol of self and or ministry and sense of mission or purpose as they were concluding. The final session also involved individuals preparing elements for a home-made vegetable soup, which was then served as part of the concluding “Love Feast.” Playfulness and creativity encouraged exploration of self as they shared in relationship or connection with others.

d) Expanding the Understanding of the Mind

For the mind, participants were asked to read some materials that related to the theme of the day. It was clear that some had read, and others either skimmed the resource or ignored it. In some cases, they reacted very positively to it, and in others, they reacted with questions or negativity. Women were not expected to write papers, nor were they required to speak about the readings. Rather the readings provided a backdrop for the conversation, and at times a place for further exploration beyond the group session. Although the women did not always read the assignments carefully, they expressed appreciation for having these resources to draw on in their future reflection.

2. Group Membership: Implications of Diversity

While the leaders were intentional about creating groups with diversity, they also were aware that problems with race, culture, and gender have not been resolved either in the church or in the culture at large. For example, the sponsoring institution of the Anna Howard Shaw Center, Boston University School of Theology, is a research university, rooted in the Methodist tradition. It operates in a hierarchical institution that primarily functions with white norms and expectations. Inevitably, that reality impacts the context in which the group gathers.

Diversity of the group included denominational differences, theological differences, types of life experiences beyond the church or religious setting. The facilitators included one Asian and two white women, representing three different denominational backgrounds. The facilitators also had expertise in various fields, both in academia and in the church. Demonstrating that diversity within the leadership team is an important part of the “holistic” approach.

Because of our attention to creating a very diverse group, we noticed some different issues around culture. A very diverse group does not mean that some sort of neutral cultural stance evolves with participants. There is always culture at work in a group, even if expressed by one person. We came to recognize that cultural norms would arise periodically and at times dominate. This phenomenon is a problem only if domination persists and the power of culture goes unnamed. When we could recognize and name cultural issues at play, we could increase our respect and understanding for one another.

3. Guide for Leaders: Awareness of Two-Sided Reality

Part of what the leaders learned and would recommend for other leaders is a two-sided reality. For one side of the reality, we as leaders created an atmosphere where we allowed women to put their own limits on what they did and what they shared. They were expected to be present for every session, but the depth to which they shared was up to them. Early in the first session, we provided “Guidelines for Respectful Communication.” Those guidelines were designed to create a safe space, a place where relationships could be developed, where the power was leveled, and where they could share as much of “sense of self” as they were ready to. We gave them permission to acknowledge what they are good at, and what they are not good at. We indicated that the goal was not perfection, but to provide an opening to explore more deeply. Part of allowing the women to identify their own limits was an encouragement for them to take care of “self,” and to recognize that not everyone should be able to do everything.

The second side of that reality is that we tried to encourage the women to explore and experiment with new things, to stretch their comfort zones. Thus, we tried to provide an atmosphere for encouragement and experimentation. Sometimes the results of that experimentation and playfulness were shared in the small groups; at other times they were brought to the whole group. Sometimes we simply invited the women to share in the whole group, “What was it like for you to engage in this?” or “What have you learned about yourself in relation to . . . from this?” Sharing on any subject was optional. A woman could “pass” without explanation. In a number of situations, those who did not share immediately did so later.

The implications of this holism include:

1) It is not possible to simply say to participants, “Come and become one of us.” Leaders needed to consider how we adapt and change in order for the space to be safe, for diversity to be valued, for connection and relationality to develop, for power dynamics and authority to be multi-faceted, and for a sense of self to emerge that could be honest.

2) In terms of power and hierarchy, the leaders/facilitators functioned from a “power with” perspective. Clearly, we were the designated leaders. We provided the outline for the session, offered only minimal direct input on a subject, and created the atmosphere where participants, within the respectful guidelines, could engage primarily with one another. At times we were open to challenges regarding time frames and other matters. Sometimes we had to keep to some limits, but at others times we, together with the participants, made adjustments.

3) Educators may be accustomed to “take control” in a regular classroom. For this type of group engagement, leaders may flow between various expressions of power and control. At times it is important to set the group members free to take responsibility for their own experience and sharing. It is our conviction that releasing our power empowered individuals and the group. At other times it was important for facilitators to ensure that no member of the group took power over others. Claiming the power we had as leaders was as important as releasing it to others.

4) As leaders, we operated out of a model of shared leadership and collaboration. While each of us had some usual roles, we developed the outlines of each session together and divided up the responsibilities both within the group day and beyond. We also debriefed each session together, identifying what we had noticed and what we needed to pay attention to. At times during the sessions we spent time together when the participants were in small groups, reviewing and revising the process based on what we were observing. This meant that we had to be clear and straightforward with one another, respectful of one another’s areas of expertise and interest, developing increasing trust among ourselves.

5) As leaders, we found that we were learning from one another and from the women in the groups.


In closing, we share with you some brief insights from others.

Carol Gilligan, psychologist and researcher in relation to girls and women, is well known for her first book, In a Different Voice. In it she records her interviews with girls and women. More recently, she has written a book, Joining the Resistance, that describes her decades of research and exploration. Gilligan writes about the resistance that is required for women and for men to move from the hierarchical, patriarchal environment in which we live to a practice of resistance that speaks honestly and truthfully to injustice, that exemplifies an ethic of care and empathy for others. Gilligan has worked with David Richards in both research and in teaching at a graduate level. In Joining the Resistance, Gilligan writes about what they observed in adolescents::

Perhaps it is no accident that at precisely this moment, the Love Laws go into effect, enforcing who should be loved, and how , and how much.

When [we] saw the convergence between the freeing of a voice that resists injustice and the freeing of a voice that resists the Love Laws, when we realized how often through history the repression of an ethically resisting voice was accompanied by a tightening of the Love Laws, a series of observations fell into place.[11]

One of those observations is this: “[T]he ethic of care, grounded in voice and relationship, as an ethic of resistance both to injustice and to self-silencing,” is “a human ethic, integral to the practice of democracy and to the functioning of a global society.”[12] While Carol Gilligan’s writing focuses on society as a whole, it is our conviction that the process engaged in with these two female clergy groups is an expression of these insights and observations from Carol Gilligan in relation to religious systems.

A second voice is that of Christopher A. Beeley. In Leading God’s People: Wisdom from the Early Church for Today, Beeley writes: “It is a challenge as old as the church. If we mean to bring the gospel to people where they really are, we must take account of their full particularity as best we can.”[13] He points to the challenges that come from differing conditions, natural qualities, spiritual conditions, spiritual maturity, and suggests that there are “different adaptive treatments,” based on the situation: Frank and direct instruction or example; encouragement or restraint; stirring up the sluggish or cooling the “overzealous”; praise or blame.”[14] He continues,

The medicine chest of a skilled leader must be full of different remedies, and what we lack we must make every effort to borrow, devise, or learn along the way. . . . True love of others calls us out of our comfort zones to provide the treatments that our people really need. For this reason it is important to have the flexibility to learn and adapt as we go. A good leader is always learning.[15]

We also believe that engaging female clergy in the kind of support group we have described invites them to get out of their comfort zones, provides them with relationships and connections that encourages and empowers them for this kind of creative leadership.


Andrews, Dale. 2000. “Racial-Ethnic Members of the Presbyterian Church.” Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Beeley, Christopher A. 2012. Reading God’s People; Wisdom from the Early Church for Today. Grand Rapid, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Choi, Hee An and Jacqueline Blue. 2013. “Women’s Retention Study II.” http://www.bu.edu/shaw/publications/united-methodist-clergywomen-retention-study-ii-2/

Gilligan, Carol. 1982. In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

———. 2011. Joining the Resistance. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

Hahn, Celia. 1994. Growth In Authority, Relinquishing Control. Herndon, VA: Alban Institute.

Johnson, Eric B. 2010. “The Salary Study of The UMC.” The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, The United Methodist Church, http://www.bu.edu/shaw/publications/umc-salary-study/.

Jordan, Judith V, Alexandra G. Kaplan, Irene P. Stiver, Janet L. Surrey, and Jean Baker Miller. 1991. Women’s Growth in Connection: Writing from the Stone Center. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Jordan, Merle R. 1999. Reclaiming Your Story. Louisville: Westminister John Knox Press.

Kidd, Sue Monk. 2002. Dance of the Dissident Daughter. New York: Harper Collins.

Kim, Jung Ha and Rosetta Ross. 2004. “The Status of Racial-Ethnic Minority Clergywomen in The United Methodist Church.” The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, The United Methodist Church, http://www.gbhem.org/sites/default/files/CW_RACIALETHNICSTUDY2004.PDF

Kraybill, Ron. nd. Transforming the Peachbuilder (unpublished draft), adapted from Julia Cameron. 1992. The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. New York: Penguin Group.

Miller, Jean Baker. 1976. Toward a New Psychology of Women. Boston: Beacon Press.

Oliver, Mary, 1992. Images of God, New Selected Poems. Boston: Beacon Press.

Richardson, Jan L. 2010. In the Sanctuary of Women: A Companion for Reflection & Prayer. Nashville: Upper Room Books.

Stortz, Martha Ellen. 1993. Pastor Power. Nashville: Abingdon Press.

Wimberly, Edward. 1997. Recalling Our Own Stories for Caregivers. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Zikmund, Barbara Brown, Adair T. Lummis, and Patricia Mei Yin Chang. eds.1998. Clergy Women: An Uphill Calling. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press.


[1] Barbara Brown Zikmund, Adair T. Lummis, and Patricia Mei Yin Chang. eds., Clergy Women: An Uphill Calling (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1998).

[2] Jean Baker Miller, Toward a New Psychology of Women (Boston: Beacon Press, 1976).

[3] Merle Jordan, Reclaiming Your Story (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1999), 5–20.

[4] Carol Gilligan, In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press,1982).

[5] Celia Hahn, Growth in Authority; Relinquishing Control (Herndon, VA: Alban Institute, 1994); Martha Stortz, Pastor Power (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1993).

[6] Jan L. Richardson, In the Sanctuary of Women: A Companion for Reflection and Prayer (Nashville: Upper Room Books, 2010), 21–64; 215–68.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Mary Oliver, Images of God, New Selected Poems (Boston: Beacon Press, 1992).

[9] Richardson, 215–68.

[10] Ron Kraybill, Transforming the Peachbuilder (unpublished draft), adapted from Julia Cameron, The Artist’ Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity (New York: Penguin Group, 1992).

[11] Carol Gilligan, Joining the Resistance (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2011), 173.

[12] Ibid., 175.

[13] Christopher A. Beeley, Leading God’s People: Wisdom from the Early Church for Today (Grand Rapid, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2012), 63.

[14] Ibid., 64–65.

[15] Ibid., 66.



2019 – Unity in the Church

2018 – Claim Who We Are in Christ

2017 – Bodies, Oppression, and Gospel

2016 – Birthing a Worldwide Church

2015 – Clergywomen Lead Vital Congregations

2014 – Empowerment for All

2013 – What Next?

2012 – What Does the Lord Require of Us?

2011 – See, I am Doing a New Thing

2010 – Voicing Truth With Grace

PDF archive – 1987 to 2009



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WellSprings, A Journal of United Methodist Clergywomen, is published by the Division of Ordained Ministry, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

Editor: HiRho Y. Park

Managing Editor: Barbara A. Dick

Editorial Circle: Patricia Bonilla, Neelley Hicks, Anita Phillips, Jacqui Rose-Tucker, Trudy Hawkins Stringer