Ordaining Women: Culture and Conflict in Religious Organizations

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Chaves provides a carefully researched and documented study of the 19th and 20th-century ordination policies and practices in the United States, including the Roman Catholic Church...Highly recommended for all libraries; essential for seminary libraries. -- Carolyn Craft Library Journal Chaves examines the forces that have influenced debates over women's ordination...The research and the author's conclusions are vital and valuable. -- Ruth McDonough Fitzpatrick National Catholic Reporter [Ordaining Women] challenges both the proponents and the opponents of the ordination of women. Its findings, presented with admirable clarity, should provide both constituencies with much food for thought. -- Paul Avis Church Times Although based on a large-scale quantitative study, Chaves's book makes illuminating use of official documents as well...A balanced, instructive account. -- L. D. Lagerquist Christian Century [Ordaining Women] is the culmination of several years' work, and it is clearly worth the wait...This book makes important contributions to the literature dealing with women's ordination. No one who wants to understand the roles of women in American churches can afford to ignore this important work. -- Edward C. Lehman, Jr. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion This work is a valuable addition to the literature analyzing the struggle for women's ordination through the lens of organizational theory...Looking at the question from the perspective of sociology of organizations sheds light on a situation not completely explainable theologically...[Chaves's] well-documented and persuasive study makes for interesting and provocative reading. -- Mary E. Hines Theological Studies An extensive bibliography and statistical tables make this historical and comparative analysis of women's ordination in the USA an invaluable background resource...Women's ordination is about something more than women in leadership. Chaves has deftly analyzed this "more." His work is a good example of sociology applied to religious practice and even demonstrates how theology can undergo permutations. -- Donald Dietrich The European Legacy

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Why does a denomination prohibiting women clergy support parishes run by women? Why does a denomination opt to ordain women when there are few women seeking to join that clergy? And why have some denominations ordained women so much earlier than others? In an examination of the complex relationship among religion, social forces, and organizational structure, this book draws examples and data from over 100 Christian denominations to explore the meaning of institutional rules about women's ordination. Combining historical and sociological perspectives, Mark Chaves shows that formal institutional rules about ordination often diverge from the actual roles of women and are best understood as symbolic gestures in favour of, or in opposition to gender equality. The book concludes that external pressures from the women's movement and ecumenical pressure expressed through interdenominational organizations such as the National Council of Churches influence ordination practices. At the same time, internal factors such as having a source of religious authority that is considered superior to modern principles of equal rights also explain why some denominations ordain women much earlier than others. Surprisingly, "the Bible forbids it" does not account for policies even among fundamentalists and other biblical inerrantists. Chaves historical and comparative approach offers an analysis of how the internal denominational debates have changed over time, becoming more frequent, more politicized, and more contentious. The delineation of forces affecting debates and policies about women's ordination makes this book a contribution to our understanding of religious organizations and of gender equality.

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