Handmaidens of the Lord: Pentecostal Women Preachers and Traditional Religion

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9781608994120: Handmaidens of the Lord: Pentecostal Women Preachers and Traditional Religion

Handmaidens of the Lord focuses on the lives and ministry of Pentecostal women pastors and preachers in central Missouri. In devoting themselves to energetically serving their Lord, they often spend days and nights away from home ministering to their flock. How do they pursue this course in a church so fundamentalist that it decrees a woman's only place to be the home? In a religion that believes the Bible inerrant, Paul's admonition that women keep out of church business is taken very seriously. How then do the men and women in the churches view these women in authority? Elaine Lawless contends that it is the woman preacher's dedication to the sacred (as opposed to the secular) which provides her access to the pulpit. The preacher and her congregation firmly believe that her commission comes from God, and her task is not to overturn Pentecostal beliefs about home and family but to be both the epitome of good wife and mother and also the loyal servant of God. The congregation sees her as a mother figure, an image of nurturer that is compatible with Pentecostal beliefs about a woman's place. Lawless stresses that the women recognize, but perhaps could never articulate, that they walk a fine line between power and subservience. She concludes from hours of interviews and recordings that the woman pastor or preacher copes with this dichotomy by continuously re-scripting her life into a pattern acceptable to her community, because it is perceived by them, and by her, to be God's plan. The ""calling"" to serve becomes the central event in her life stories, and all her work revolves around it. Handmaidens of the Lord includes life histories of four women preachers, transcriptions of sermons, and analyses by Lawless of both life stories and sermons. It will be valuable to scholars of religion, ethnography, folklore, and women's studies. Elaine Lawless is Curators' Distinguished Professor of English and Women's Studies and also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Missouri, Columbia. She is also the current President of the American Folklore Society. Her works include Troubling Violence (with M. Heather Carver), God's Peculiar People, a study of Pentecostals in Indiana, and Holy Women, Wholly Women.

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About the Author:

Elaine J. Lawless is Curators' Professor Emerita of English and Folklore Studies at the University of Missouri.

From Publishers Weekly:

In her study of Pentecostal women preachers and pastors in the antifeminist evangelical church, Lawless ( God's Peculiar People ), associate professor of English and folklore at the University of Missouri, pk focuses on the Mid-Missouri region and allows those women to stand as the representatives upon which she bases her examination. While the life stories of these women are touching, the disorganized, disjointed and nearly verbatim manner in which they are presented will ultimately confuse the reader.makes it difficult for a reader to follow or ap preciate. However, in her analysis of the unusual careers, Lawless introduces a number of stimulating ideas (the preachers have "rescripted" their lives in a similar way to make religion their focal point; they all believe their calling from God legitimizes actions that others say go against scripture; the women preachers "decry the feminist movement and deny that they have chosen a strong, feminist stance against the dictums of their world"), although due to her limited field of study she is forced to repeat many quotes. The dissection of the women's sermons is likewise interesting (they repeatedly apologize for their position and emphasize their subservience to God) but is not enhanced by comparison with the sermons of African male preachers. The study includes lengthy transcriptions of sermons by the women pastors featured here. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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