Study Shows Number of Clergywomen Has Increased Exponentially Over the Last 2 Decades

The percentage of clergy in the United States who are women has exponentially increased over the past several decades, a new report shows.

Dr. Eileen Campbell-Reed, a professor of practical theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas, has released a new report titled “State of Clergywomen in the U.S.: A Statistical Update.”

According to Campbell-Reed, the report is designed to fill a data gap on female clergy that has existed for about 20 years since previous major multi-denominational studies of women’s church leadership were published.

With the assistance of three graduate assistants, Campbell-Reed’s team contacted denominational offices, researched online data and received data from the Association of Theological Schools in the U.S. and Canada to assemble a “snapshot” of today’s clergy gender demographic.

“I knew waiting for another big study might take 20 more years, and I wanted to understand the landscape of women’s progress in leading the church now,” Campbell-Reed said in a statement.

In the 1960s, sociologist Wilbur Bock used census data to suggest that women comprised just 2.3 percent of clergy in the U.S. According to Campbell-Reed, women’s ordination “exploded” in the 1970s and continued to rise through the next four decades.

As of 2017, the new report states, women comprise about 20.7 percent of clergy in the U.S. today with results varying depending on the denomination or religious tradition.

The report states that in most mainline denominations, the percentage of clergywomen have doubled or tripled since 1994.

In combining totals from American Baptist Churches USA, Disciples of Christ, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ and United Methodist denominations, the data shows that women comprised about 32 percent of clergy from those denominations in 2017.

By comparison, women only accounted for 15 percent of clergy from those denominations in 1994 and 2.8 percent of clergy in those denominations in 1977.

Women comprised at least half of Unitarian Universalist (57 percent) and United Church of Christ (50 percent) clergy in 2017, meaning that clergywomen have reached “numerical equity” with clergymen in those denominations.

“In 2017, the combined average percentage of female pastors in the Mainline churches stands at 27 percent, based on our calculations of denominational reporting,” the report states. “This data provides a contrast to Barna’s 2017 State of Pastors report that estimates about 9 percent of the pastors in the U.S. are women. The Barna study looked at all Protestant pastors, and many Evangelical and Baptist groups still do not admit women to the pastorate in large numbers, if at all.”

The study notes that in 2018, women are pastoring churches in nearly every denomination except two of America’s largest denominations: the Roman Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention.

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Source: Christian Post