Voices from the Front Lines: The Experiences of African American Women in Nondenominational Ministry and How They Negotiate Power
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This study focuses on the experiences of African American women in nondenominational churches, and how they negotiate power within the historically male- dominated church structure. Although the nondenominational church movement is growing rapidly, little scholarship exists that seeks to understand women ministers in general and even less about African American women in nondenominational ministries in particular. The issue of power within the context of gender relations in the Black church remains a contentious landscape where patriarchal structures are maintained as a community standard for African Americans as a group, and then internalized and recreated at the personal level. By examining Black women’s religious involvement in nondenominational church structures, this research seeks to place Black women at the center of analysis to reveal the many ways leadership is practiced and to redefine power using their situated knowledge and experiences. Findings from this research reveal that despite the fact that clergywomen in nondenominational churches still encounter religious sexism, they have been successful in establishing their own churches and breaking gender barriers within the church. Thus, nondenominational ministries are either a potential site for a paradigm shift toward empowerment to end sexism for African American women in ministry (and potentially Black women as a whole), or a site to perpetuate patriarchal oppression.