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Dissertation Abstract

How to Reach the Masses: An Appreciative Inquiry Study of Women Clergy in the African American Baptist Church

Donna Patterson Hawkins
April 2007

The glass ceiling prevents women and minorities from moving up into the upper echelons in secular organizations. For African American women the ceiling is more concrete; however, for ordained women clergy there is a stained glass ceiling which prevents numerous women from obtaining a senior pastor role. This study assessed senior women pastors and other ministers who have past and present affiliations with the General Baptist State Convention of NC, Inc. (GBSC) and the New Hope Association (NHA). Assessment was completed through interviews with the senior women pastors and interviews conducted via a workshop named How to Reach the Masses which was attended by a core group of NHA ministers. The Appreciative Inquiry (AI) process was used to determine if AI can serve as an effective communication tool in helping other ordained women clergy within the Baptist denomination obtain senior pastor roles. The glass, concrete, and stained glass ceilings, coupled with African American Baptist history and struggles of women, were reviewed to understand issues which affect past and present women ministers. Through qualitative methods which include interviews, personal observation, and a focus group, AI findings proliferated an appreciation of “what it is we do right” versus “what it is we do wrong” and worked towards gaining a significant understanding as well as generating a model of helping women clergy potentially fulfill their calling by God in becoming senior pastors.