Spiritual and religious leaders

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We are coming through exceptionally stressful, and disrupted times, times of illness and death, and major change. As in each age, spiritual and religious leaders work to interpret and articulate their traditions within the boundaries and constraints of their contexts in order to be culturally responsive to the times they live in, and among the people they are dedicated and called to care for.

Resilient and caring communities of spiritual belief and religious faith make a positive difference in communities in many ways. Whether or not you belong to a community of faith, having communities of faith and spiritual practice in your community contributes to community resilience and well being. This is precisely because some of the people in our broader communities cross pollinate between the two, and such people recognize an integrated relation to each in both tangible and intangible ways.

In these challenging times, faith leaders are much like healthcare workers experiencing high degrees of stress from mounting demands and expectations as leaders, to injustice, and other cultural and civil society challenges. Often working in partnership with other community leaders, schools, and organizations, leaders of religious and spiritual communities respond to the needs beyond their congregation to the community as a whole.

What we're interested in is how leaders of communities of spiritual practice, and the systems that care for them (judicatories/seminaries) are doing; what kinds of experiences they are having that have been supportive and life-giving for them; and also what kinds of experiences do they find themselves inhabiting that create overwhelming struggle and burnout.

It's important to understand how the leaders of these caring communities, and the systems that care for them, are being impacted. Collecting stories within the existing relationships between religious leaders and communities of faith and communities will help to recover and rebuild more resilient, caring and sustainable futures.

This collector looks at how these spiritual leaders of faith communities make sense of what they are doing, what experiences inform their practice as leaders, and what experience have mattered to them in and among their leadership network ecologies.


Existing activity

Experiences of ordained women and femme-identifying people in Jewish and Christian traditions

This project seeks to understand more deeply the experiences that empower and/or create limitations for white women, women of color, those who are LGBQTIA+, and femme-identifying and/or gender-non-conforming persons who are ordained religious leaders, and how to create change in congregational and adjudicatory systems.

Most of the progress toward ordaining women as religious leaders -- whether within the Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist movements of the Jewish tradition, or among mainline Protestant Christian denominations -- has occurred unevenly in the past 50 to 60 years. However, even as ordination has become more inclusive for these traditions, because employment laws often do not extend to the religious workplace, many women who are Jewish or Christian clergy, particularly in the U.S., experience harassment, discrimination, and theological rejection related to gender, race/ethnicity, and/or sexual orientation. 1, 2.

This project offers two choices: One collector that explores stories of empowerment vs. limitations; the other focuses on collecting stories of experiences involving harassment, bias, and discrimination.

How to join

References and links

Campbell-Reed, E. R. (2018). [[ https://cdn.eileencampbellreed.org/wp-content/uploads/No_Joke_Campbell-Reed_Rev_4-25-2018_Submitted_Version.pdf%7CNo joke! Resisting the "Culture of Disbelief" that keeps clergy women pushing uphill.]]

Lupu, I.C., & Tuttle, R.W. (2018). #MeToo meets the ministerial exception: Sexual harassment claims by clergy and the First Amendment's religion clauses. Forthcoming 2019, William & Mary Journal of Race, Gender, & Social Justice (formerly Journal of Women and the Law).; GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper; GWU Legal Studies Research Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3152640.

Musleah, R. (2021). Navigating the fallout from sexual harassment claims in synagogues. Hadassah Magazine.

Sachar, H. (n.d.). Women rabbis: A history of the struggle for ordination. My Jewish Learning.

Wikipedia. Women rabbis and Torah scholars.

Women of Color in Ministry Project. (n.d.).