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Title page for ETD etd-03222014-163426

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Johnston, Donna Giver
Author's Email Address dgiverjohnston@gmail.com
URN etd-03222014-163426
Title Call the Question: Reclaiming a Rhetorical Witness of Women's Claims to Preach in Nineteenth-Century America for Contemporary Homiletics
Degree PhD
Department Religion
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
John S. McClure Committee Chair
Beverly A. Zink-Sawyer Committee Member
Dennis C. Dickerson Committee Member
Jaco J. Hamman Committee Member
Vanessa B. Beasley Committee Member
  • Florence Spearing Randolph
  • Louisa Woosley
  • Frances Willard
  • Jarena Lee
  • feminist hermeneutics
  • call narratives
  • history of women preachers
  • homiletics
  • preaching
  • call to preach
  • Antoinette Brown Blackwell
  • voice
  • agency
  • authority
  • experience
  • culture
  • Bible
  • tradition
  • pulpit
Date of Defense 2014-02-21
Availability unrestricted
“Call the Question” critically examines the gap between women’s divine inward call to preach and the institutional outward endorsement of the call to preach. This project is concerned with women’s call to preach and how it continues to be questioned, challenged and denied today. My research recovers a neglected narrative of nineteenth-century women who claimed their call to preach despite institutional restrictions and conventional limitations in order to answer my research question: How did women narrate their call story so as to publicly claim and exercise their call to preach? By examining four representative women—including Jarena Lee, Frances Willard, Louisa Woosley, and Florence Spearing Randolph—I reclaim narrative forms and rhetorical strategies that were contextually fitting and overwhelmingly effective in interrupting the dominant narrative of denial and claiming their call to preach. By challenging cultural conceptions limiting women’s public voice, the women make claim to public space, engage in sacred persuasive speech, and preach as ordained ministers of the sacred office. Through their private, public, prophetic, and pulpit rhetoric, I examine their call to preach through their appeals to the authorities of experience, culture, Bible, and tradition. The women interpret their call to preach in such a way that claims voice, exercises agency, and constructs an alternative narrative of call. I recover this historical witness to equip women today to utilize a script that is suitable for their religious and cultural context, allowing them to diffuse the power of the conventional script and reconstruct their call narratives in order to claim their call to preach. My project names, engages, and “calls the question” for the debate over women’s call to preach to end.
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