|Survey considers gains for women in the church|
By Linda Bloom*
Sept. 25, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO (UMNS)
The Rev. Gail Murphy-Geiss
The "glass ceiling" for United Methodist clergywomen seems to be senior pastor positions at churches with 1,000-plus members.
That was one finding of the 2007 local church survey conducted by the
United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women.
The percentage of female senior pastors in the denomination’s largest
churches was 7 percent, up slightly from 5 percent in 2003 and 2
percent in 1999.
The Rev. Gail Murphy-Geiss, who prepared the survey results,
acknowledged the small increase, but noted that "social change is slow. I
think that (percentage) is actually good news, despite the small
Murphy-Geiss, a United Methodist clergywoman and staff member of the
Department of Sociology at Colorado College, presented the survey
findings during COSROW’s Sept. 20-22 annual meeting in San Francisco.
The agency has conducted a local church survey every four years since
1970 in preparation for the United Methodist General Conference, the
denomination’s top legislative body.
This year, COSROW received a 26.29 percent return rate on
questionnaires sent to a random sampling of 1,035 United Methodist
churches – similar to the return rate in 2003. Murphy-Geiss believes the
returns are representative of the larger church, particularly because
the percentage of female bishops and district superintendents indicated
in the survey responses match with those currently serving annual
Survey results show a "statistically significant correlation" between
the size of the church and the gender of its senior pastor. Men and
women are equally likely to serve medium-sized churches, but women are
more likely to serve smaller churches and men to serve larger churches.
Among the survey’s other findings:
- One in five churches has no women ushers at all, particularly churches with less than 100 members;
- Women more often serve as chairpersons of church committees, but men
dominate leadership positions for administrative councils and boards of
- Inclusive language is more likely to be used in larger churches, in
larger communities, in churches with women pastors and, regionally, in
the denomination’s Western Jurisdiction;
- Church members tend to consult women pastors on pastoral care issues
– ranging from depression to work or family problems to child abuse –
more often than male pastors.
Since 1996, The United Methodist Church has required that each annual
conference and local church adopt a sexual harassment policy. In her
report, Murphy-Geiss noted that more churches have done so.
"The very smallest churches continue to have the longest way to go
toward the goal of 100 percent, but in every other category, at least
six out of 10 churches are in compliance, and in the largest churches,
that number is almost nine out of 10," she wrote.
"One way to get at the churches that are lagging behind is to train the pastors," Murphy-Geiss told COSROW directors.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.
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