How evangelical black women learn to negotiate power relations based on race and gender in their ministry preparation and practice
Armstrong, Evetta Rose
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The purpose of this study was to explore the power dynamics involved in the careers of evangelical black women in ministry preparation and practice. The questions that guided this study were: How do power relationships based on race and gender affect the ministry preparation and practice of evangelical black women? How do black evangelical women ministers learn to exist in the hierarchical structure of the evangelical church? Qualitative methodology using semi-structured interviews was determined the best approach to be used for this study. Each interview was tape-recorded and transcribed. The constant comparative method was used to tease out the emergent themes among the research participants. Data analysis disclosed four primary findings experienced by the participants: 1) The women experienced gender oppression through unequal access to learning in the seminary, and poor treatment and salary disparity in their ministry workplace; 2) Five of the 11 women experienced racism in the seminary and their ministry workplace and felt assimilation was the price to pay for acceptance; 3) All of the women have considered leaving their job; three of the 11 women did leave due to race or gender oppression, while eight remain in the same ministry position; and 4) All of the women learned how to persevere in the hierarchy of evangelical ministry context through critical reflection and mentoring. Four major conclusions emerged from the findings in this study: power relations based on race and gender in the wider society framed the experiences of the women in their ministry preparation; 2) Power relations based on race and gender in wider society informed the experiences of the women in their ministry practice; a particular interpretation of scripture was deployed to sustain both gender and race domination; and the women learned how to exist in the hierarchical structure of their evangelical ministry context through mentoring relationships and reflecting on their experiences. .