The Stained-Glass Ceiling: Churches and Their Women Pastors

Purvis, Sally B. The Stained-Glass Ceiling: Churches and Their Women Pastors. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995.

In The Stained-Glass Ceiling, author Sally Purvis draws on research of two Atlanta-based churches pastored by women to present unique portraits of change, power and authority in the lives and work of these pastors, their churches, and the social settings in which they participate. The two churches and pastors featured in the book—all real though fictitiously named—are Bethany Episcopal Church, shepherded by the Reverend Cameron Clark, and St. Matthew’s Presbyterian Church, pastored by the Reverend Suzanne Jefferson. Purvis employs congregational and personal narratives to introduce the reader to differing dynamics of identity, ministry and pastoral leadership in both congregations. <p> The nature of power and authority in the context of gender and role expectations drives the discussion, interpreted through the lens of feminist congregational research. Purvis finds that, in both cases, gender proves not to be an impediment to the pastors’ success nor to their ability to accomplish complex job requirements in difficult circumstances. At the same time, and in contrast to some feminist and womanist studies, she also concludes that due to their outstanding success both women are able to lead transgressive lives and break down traditional gender expectations precisely because they embody “conventional roles in unconventional combinations.”