Prof David Hempton delivers this fifth lecture in the Gifford Series. Most religious traditions and movements have majorities of women, but most are led by men and are based on deeply embedded patriarchal assumptions. That underlying reality is played out in multiple different Christian traditions and shapes the subsequent contests for power, representation, and influence. This lecture is animated by a primary question from which other questions naturally flow. What are the characteristics of the religious networks constructed by women and to what extent do they function differently from those built largely by men? In attempting to answer that question, I will identify five different kinds of networks, representing different varieties of female leadership and participation. It is important to state that this typology should not be read as either an ascension or declension narrative about women’s agency and the role of patriarchy in shaping that agency.
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