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Searching for a Priest ... or a Man? Using Gender as a Cultural Resource in an Episcopal Campus Chapel

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This paper examines an Episcopal campus chapel's search process for a new priest. I argue that gender, at the group level, is a fluid cultural resource that search committee members use in contradictory ways to select a male priest. I illustrate my argument using data drawn from twenty-eight in-depth interviews and participant observation (1994–1995) of a search committee in an Episcopal campus ministry located on the grounds of a southeastern state university. My findings show that a patriarchal agenda can be upheld by a search committee without it ever being specified or codified. Well-intentioned search committee members routinely do gender even as they claim and believe they act in gender-free ways. The contribution this analysis makes to our understanding of congregational search processes and discrimination against female clergy is considered.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, Alma College

Publication date: 2001-03-01

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