Emma K. Merryman, Kevin O'Gorman, Olivia Brooke Parson, Natalie Marie Yersavich


This poster reflects research conducted as part of a course project designed to give students experience in the research process. Course: SSC 200



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The roles and levels of autonomy given to women in religious leadership cannot be seen solely as a theological or even denominational split. Rather, the different levels of inclusion fall along a spectrum that is truly unique to each religious community. The spectrum ranges from a strictly traditional attitude that places women in more limited roles with less organizational autonomy to a liberal interpretation which understands the inclusion of women as a broader ideological mission. Traditional communities, especially within certain Catholic parishes, heavily identify organizational direction and leadership with male priests or pastors, with women working in service-oriented roles. Women have a particularly maternal focus in their ministries and are actively discouraged when taking on approaches outside of expectations. Conversely, liberal communities do not confine female leadership roles to specific ministries, but instead, promote inclusion in all aspects of church culture. Female involvement is supported and promoted both structurally and theologically by all faith communities researched in this project. However, the specific ways in which they identify along the spectrum fundamentally alters the amount of autonomy given to women and how they approach their ministries. Discussion ranges from Catholic religious sisters to Evangelical pastors and volunteers, respecting their individual faith traditions while critically analyzing their placement along our spectrum. By comparing these examples from a variety of sociological, anthropological, and psychological perspectives, this presentation aims to provide insight into how the broader Christian faith communities affect the work of women in ministry.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Course Project

Primary Advisor

Laura M. Leming

Primary Advisor's Department

Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work


Stander Symposium project, College of Arts and Sciences

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Gender Equality

Spectrum of Inclusion: How attitudes towards women’s leadership in Christian religious communities affect their autonomy and approach in ministry