RELIGION & SPIRITUALITY

The Preacher’s Wife: The Precarious Power of Evangelical Women Celebrities

Princeton Univ. Oct. 2019. 368p. notes. index. ISBN 9780691179612. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9780691185972. REL
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Historian Bowler (Duke Divinity Sch.; Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel) examines the place of celebrity women in Christian evangelical culture since the 1960s. During the second half of the 20th century, women in most mainline Protestant denominations won the right to be ordained into ministry. Though a significant achievement, this formal access to spiritual authority did not eliminate the “stained glass ceiling” that left women less likely to be called into positions of leadership. In contrast, while most evangelicals continue to limit the formal power of women, the culture and structure of Christian megaministry has created alternative roles for women in leadership. In five thematic chapters, Bowler draws on one-to-one interviews and a wealth of public-facing performances, past and present, to explore the constrained authority of high-profile evangelical women as they negotiate their roles as (lay) preachers, homemakers, talents, counselors, and beauties. Many of the women discussed will be familiar: Tammy Faye Bakker, Serita Jakes, Beverly LaHaye, Beth Moore, Victoria Osteen, Ruth Peale, Arvella Schuller. Appendixes provide demographic data that will be useful to future scholars.
VERDICT This study is a fascinating examination of the way conservative Christian women wield power in an ultimately patriarchal faith.

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