Rites of passage for women in Evangelical Christianity: A theological and ritual analysis

by Davis, Amy Frances, Ph.D., DREW UNIVERSITY, 2010, 359 pages; 3420016


The juxtaposition of the Evangelical Tradition and Ritual Theory is relatively unprecedented, since only one scholar, Lisa Graham McMinn, attempts to put the two into dialog with one another when writing of rites of passage for both men and women. Given the rising North American interest in rites of passage, such a dialog needs further development. Therefore, this dissertation contributes to that development by both inventing a theological and ritual methodology for analysis of rites of passage for women in the Evangelical Tradition, and applying it to four Evangelical rites: Lifeway Christian Resources' True Love Waits, Chuck Stecker's Men of Honor, Women of Virtue, the Ledbetter and Weidemann Spiritual Milestones, and Richelle B. White's Daughters of Imani.

The theological and ritual methodology is based on the defining characteristics of both the Evangelical Tradition and effective rites of passage. David Bebbington was the first to define the Evangelical Tradition by its four core values: Conversionism, Biblicism, Crucicentrism and Activism; many other Evangelical authors have built on his work, including Randall Balmer, Lauren Winner and Robert Webber. Ronald Grimes was the first to define effective Rites of Passage as those that function as attention-givers, have the purpose of transformation, and require much from the community; his work builds on that of Arnold van Gennep and Victor Turner. The two subjects have undergone feminist critique, since both the story of women Evangelicals and that of Rites of Passage for women were neglected. In order to write about this Tradition, I will employ the poststructuralist feminist discursive analysis of Mary McClintock Fulkerson, moving beyond issues of language, but still searching for emancipation for women as evidenced by the rites.

The dissertation concludes with a summary of the findings, including an expansion of the core value of Conversionism, and the additional core value of Counterculturalism that is apparent in the rites. It also questions the application of van Gennep's male three-stage rite of Passage process to rites for women. Finally, it includes recommendations for possible future rites of passage for women in the Evangelical Tradition.

AdviserHeather Murray Elkins
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsReligion; Women's studies; Theology
Publication Number3420016

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