Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Social Welfare

Content Description

1 online resource (pages x, 424) : illustrations

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Robert L. Miller

Committee Members

Zulema E. Saurez, Katharine Briar-Lawson


Clergy, Identity, Lesbian, Oppression, Religious, Spiritual, Lesbian clergy

Subject Categories

Counseling | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies | Social Work


This study explores the multiplicity of challenging issues that lesbian clergy face today from a social work perspective, utilizing the intersecting concepts found in social work and theology as an interpretive framework. From the social work perspective, the theoretical constructs of social identity theory, ecological theory, and anti-oppressive theory inform the qualitative questions of this study. Answers flow from the data extracted from interviews with the sample, utilizing modified grounded theory and listening guide methodologies to give “voice” to the lesbian clergy and the challenges that they faced due to their religious, spiritual, and sexual identities. Specifically, this is a qualitative study offering new insights into the current debate about the inclusion or exclusion of lesbian clergy in four Protestant mainline denominations. The Reformed Church in America (RCA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the Presbyterian Church in the USA (PCUSA), and the United Church of Christ (UCC). While lesbian clergy remain marginalized in each of these denominations, nonetheless, this study reveals the many positive contributions made to the church and society by these lesbian clergy. who remain active in their denominations and utilize their abilities to benefit their congregations.