Original Research - Special Collection: Christian Leadership

Rising against all odds: An analysis of the leadership experiences of three female clergy in the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe

Martin Mujinga
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 76, No 2 | a5864 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v76i2.5864 | © 2020 Martin Mujinga | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 29 October 2019 | Published: 18 September 2020

About the author(s)

Martin Mujinga, Research Institute for Theology and Religion, College of Human Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

The Methodist Church in Zimbabwe (MCZ) was established in 1891. In 1977, it was granted autonomy by the British Methodist Church. From 1891, top church leadership has been dominated by male clergy. This article explores three instances of a challenge to this trend. The first occurred in 1994 when there was a leadership crisis in one of the districts, and for the first time, a woman was appointed district chairperson. The second followed the election in August 2004 of a male presiding bishop. However, allegations of moral impropriety were made against him. He approached the secular courts, and it led to his withdrawal from the position. The church appointed a woman to the position of acting presiding bishop. When the time came for the substantive post to be filled in August 2005, she was not confirmed in the position; a man was elected instead. The third relates to the controversial appointment in 2017 of a woman to one of the five vacant positions of district bishops. The aim of the research was to analyse the way in which these three women rose to positions of leadership in a male-dominated church. A qualitative research methodology was followed, with data being collected through open-ended interviews. The study highlighted that to be a female clergy leader in the MCZ entails rising against all odds. The study concluded by encouraging the MCZ to support women on their path to leadership rather than overlooking or, worse still, undermining them.

Contribution: In spite of the challenges female clergy face in their quest for leadership roles, this feminist ecclesiological study shows stories of rising against all odds, describing the momentum-gaining progress of the ecclesiastical effort in the MCZ to accommodate female leaders, despite slow-moving processes.


Keywords

Rising against all odds; Leadership experiences; Three female clergy; Methodist Church in Zimbabwe; Bishop

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