Perspectives of strength: Female elders in United Methodist ministry
Bassford, Virginia O. (Ginger)
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The purpose of this study was to describe the roles and resources that female elders in the United Methodist Church use in ministry. The study used a qualitative approach and strengths-based model. United Methodist female elders who currently serve as bishops, district superintendents, and senior pastors of large congregations (average annual worship attendance of 400 or greater) were interviewed and invited to share the stories of their experiences in ministry. Relational components of ministry were the predominant theme that emerged from the research interviews. The personal attributes of courage and creativity were also important. Aspects of professional roles and leadership skills emerged as well. Recommendations were made that pertain to annual conference leadership, collegial relationships, education needed in the local church, and female clergy. Suggestions for future research include clergy divorce, study of the relationship between courage and resilience, longitudinal research over the span of ministry from call to retirement, congregational dynamics and changes in ministerial orders.