A Narrative Inquiry of the Lived Experience of Three Female Assemblies of God Lead Pastors

Ryan Harris, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis


Harris, Ryan L. “A Narrative Inquiry into the Lived Experience of Three Female Assemblies of God Lead Pastors.” Ph.D. diss., Concordia Seminary, 2019. 396 pp.

This study utilizes qualitative narrative inquiry to examine the lived experience of three female Assemblies of God lead pastors. It does so to investigate the following research question: Given the complex and inconsistent history and present reality faced by women in the Assemblies of God, how do the participants in this study narrate their lived experience as lead pastors in Assemblies of God churches?

To engage in this investigation, the study begins by explaining the complex and at times confusing history of the status of female leaders within the Assemblies of God. The research framework for the study is a social-constructionist approach based on the work of Jerome Bruner, George Lindbeck, and Kevin Vanhoozer.

A review of pertinent literature is then presented, which examines works that were related to the research question. This section presents works that examine the question historically, those that examine the question using qualitative feminist approaches, and those that consider the subject of the Pentecostal hermeneutic approach to the status of women leaders/pastors.

The specific methodology used for this study is Corrine Squire’s Experience-Centered and Culturally-Oriented approach to narrative research, which is a hermeneutical approach based on the work of Hans Georg Gadamer and Paul Ricoeur. It focuses on four main elements: how the gathered narratives are sequential and meaningful, how they are definitively human, how they re–present, reconstitute and express experience, and how they display transformation and/or development. The study then presents the analysis of the data which was gathered through semi-structured interviews. (Interview transcripts are attached as appendices). After offering a comprehensive breakdown of themes gathered from the three participants, these themes are synthesized into the results of the study, which are offered in the last chapter.

The results of the study show that the participants have created elaborate narratives that display two main themes. First, the theme of gender-based resistance. This gender-based resistance took many different forms, including things like: being excluded by male leaders, sexual objectification, accusations of heresy or sinful living, scriptural arguments, isolation, and many others. In their response to this resistance, the second major theme became evident: the participants’ concept of being trailblazers or pioneers who are responsible for helping to improve conditions for future women leaders in the Assemblies of God. The study concludes by offering suggestions on how this data may be used in various contexts, though it focuses on how it might be used in the Assemblies of God.