A christian feminist critique of pastors' authority roles: A case study of twelve Pentecostal churches in Lusaka, Zambia

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Mungaila, Stellah Stellah
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University of Zambia
The general objective of the study was to critique from a Christian feminist perspective the unequal religious authority existing among female and male pastors in twelve Pentecostal churches in Lusaka. Specific objectives were to examine the motives behind becoming and training as pastors, pastoral training related to religious authority, attitudes towards pastoral roles and the kinds of religious authority exercised by female and male pastors in the churches under the study. It was a case study involving an action oriented participatory non-experimental research design. The study used a mixed methodology involving both qualitative and quantitative data. The total population of the study was all Pentecostal churches in Zambia. The sample frame was all Pentecostal churches in Lusaka and the actual sample was twelve Pentecostal churches in Lusaka. Purposeful, convenient and respondent driven sampling techniques were used. Methods used to collect data were structured questionnaires, observations, interviews and Focus Group Discussion guides. The theoretical framework involved constructionism and critical theory in the form of feminism and the 'hermeneutic of suspicion'. The findings revealed two categories of pastors, those by ‘divine calling’ and those by ‘automatic co-option’. Divine calling was cited as the reason for becoming pastors by all of the male pastors and by 38.7% of female pastors. The majority of female pastors (61.3%) were automatically co-opted into ministry because of their spouses. Pastors’ wives are compelled by the church policy to become and train as pastors regardless of their academic levels. Theological training exposed pastors to the headship role of males and submissive role of females. Furthermore, it did not prepare female pastors for the existing disparities in religious authority among female and male pastors in the church. The dominant attitude of congregants towards pastors was that of male pastors as ‘heads’ of the church, and female pastors as ‘helpers’ and in charge of the female department. Male pastors mostly made strategic and tactical decisions whilst the majority of female pastors made operational decisions. Female pastors had more of ministering authority whilst male pastors had more of the ruling authority. There was an extensive use of the 'Acquiescence Leadership Model' in performing pastoral roles. Compared to the male pastors, pastoral qualifications were not enough to earn female pastors governing authority. The ordination of female pastors did not translate into equal religious authority among female and male pastors. An analysis of the findings concluded that the churches' attitudes towards female and male pastors were based on patriarchy and sexism. The findings were then subjected to a Christian feminist critique of the exercise of power and authority in pastoral roles. The study concluded that although a fundamentalist and literalist reading of some biblical passages may have played a part in the unequal distribution of authority among female and male pastors, the most dominant factor was found to be patriarchal and sexist social structure which was extended to the religious roles of pastors. The study finally recommended the redesigning of the pastoral training curriculum, a revision of church policies, the use of the Gender Parity Model of Leadership (GPML), mentorship programs for pastors’ wives, an in-service pastoral course for female pastors, a conscientisation program for religious leaders on the impact of unequal religious authority, a greater involvement of Pentecostal church mother bodies and encouraging women to go for pastoral training. As the first study of this nature carried out in Zambia, it will hopefully contribute significantly to greater gender sensitivity in the exercise of authority among female and male pastors in Pentecostal churches.