A Church of Her Own: What Happens When a Woman Takes the Pulpit, by Sarah Sentilles

While women have been ordained by the Episcopal Church for decades, female clergy still struggle to achieve equality with their male counterparts. Armed with a master of divinity degree from Harvard University, author Sarah Sentilles has collected the experiences of several female ministers in A Church of Her Own: What Happens When a Woman Takes the Pulpit. Alternately inspiring and depressing, Sentilles’s book explores the obstacles and rewards facing today’s female ministers.

A Church of Her Own is passionate, moving… and frustratingly flawed. Rather than taking a journalistic approach, Sentilles’s book consists of personal accounts of the sexism encountered by female ministers. There is no indication that Sentilles bothered to actually verify these women’s stories. The book is full of lines like the following:

“Eve later learned that the church had targeted associate pastors for years, especially when the associates were women.”
Really? Where did Eve learn that her church targeted associate pastors? From whom did she learn it? Is there anyone willing to confirm it? Can she offer proof, or at least supporting testimony? Presenting these unsubstantiated statements as fact only serves to undermine the book’s impact.

I am 100% in favor of female clergy, and I have no reason to doubt the veracity of the stories in this book—but then, I’m not the person Sentilles needs to convince. If a reader opposed to female clergy picked up a copy of A Church of Their Own, there’s little chance it would change their opinion. The stories included in Sentilles’s book might be powerful, but they’re too poorly supported to do anything but preach to the converted.
Posted by: Julianka


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