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Title: The good Christian woman and the experiences of women as priests in the Church of England : an exploration of the self-understanding of ordained women in the light of the hegemonic figure of the good Christian woman
Author: Williams, Susan Jean
ISNI:       0000 0004 2705 3129
Awarding Body: Lancaster University
Current Institution: Lancaster University
Date of Award: 2008
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In November 1992, the Church of England took the step that would irrevocably change its ordained ministry more significantly than at any other time in its 500 year history as the governing body of the Church, the General Synod, voted by an overwhelming majority to remove the historical, legal and theological barriers to women being ordained into its priesthood. Notwithstanding this change it has remained the case that women have had to find their place within existing systems and structures which pay little or no attention to the experiences and self-understanding of ordained women as women and as priests. There is likewise little awareness of the ways in which the formation of the stereotypes of masculinity and femininity play out on the consciousness of individuals and shape institutional practices that have lived consequences for clergymen, clergywomen and the congregations to which they minister. It is, however, not the case that women experience their ministry negatively. Indeed, they find the exercising of their priestly ministry to be both fulfilling and empowering. There remains, however, a subtle play of forces at work upon the self-understanding of women as priests that makes the role an inexact fit for them, a whisper of unease in the story of their experiences. Taking its rise from a Foucauldian analysis of power relations in the construction of gender on the formation of the self-understanding of the individual, and the French feminist theoretical position of 1'ectriture feminine, this thesis will argue that women's place and role in the Church is formed and influenced by the discourses that have created the hegemonic norm of `the good Christian woman', and that this figure is the hidden constant in the consciousness of women, men and the institution. In addition, the formation of the Church of England's practice of priestly ministry has taken place from within a worldview that is founded upon masculinist discourse and patriarchal theology and that this has given rise to the paradigmatic clergyman as the primary model of ministry in the Church. It is the tensions caused by the influence of and the interplay between these two hidden constants on the self-understanding of women that gives rise to the whisper of unease that continues to be the experience of women as priests in the Church of England.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available