Persistence in honoring self as expressed in the lives of ordained Southern Baptist women
Morrison, Karen Lyn
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The purpose of this study was to examine the lives of selected women in search of clues as to what enabled some of them to persist in pursuit of their self-defined life purposes despite opposition and resistance to that pursuit. The research process combined information from previously-gathered oral histories with data from newly-conducted in-depth interviews of 20 women whose "call," seminary training, and ordination equipped them for pastoral ministry within the Southern Baptist denomination. The research questions focused on these women's perceptions of their calls, their expectations regarding opportunities to fulfill those calls, and their experiences in attempting to do so. Emergent themes from the analysis related to common developmental experiences and influences as well as similar individual characteristics. A life course perspective was utilized to assess the interaction of individual characteristics with family, community, and societal influences during a particular historical period. The women's perceptions and experiences of family, church, seminary, and career were traced from childhood to the present. The accounts revealed the discrepancy between these women's anticipated response to call (opportunities to serve in Southern Baptist pastoral ministry) and their actual experiences (opposition to their seeking certain pastoral roles or positions). The overarching theme was one of struggle to reconcile the women's understanding of their purpose with the realities of their circumstances. The major contextual themes which emerged included multiple family connections and loyalties; contradictory messages of affirmation and discrimination; struggles between conservative patriarchal tradition and evolving feminist understanding; and a struggle between response to either an internal or an external locus of control. In an effort to analyze which individual characteristics or experiences contribute to persistence, the findings are interpreted through the following developmental perspectives: ecological, focusing on mesosystemic linkages; moral, focusing on the ethic of care, self-in-relation, and contextual interpretations; and Erikson's issues of trust, generativity, and integrity. Issues of ego strength, hardiness and resilience are also discussed.