Date of Conferral





Human Services


Andrew Garland-Forshee


Burgeoning evidence has shown rapid growth of licensed and ordained female clergy within the Protestant church. Consequently, dual clergy couples have also increased in number. Research has suggested that African American female clergy have experienced greater challenges than male clergy in leadership roles in the church, including social isolation, sexism, and glass-ceiling barriers. Female clergy are also disproportionately affected by mental and physical health complications including depression, obesity, and burnout. Guided by adult personal resilience theory and its tenets of determination, endurance, adaptability, and recuperability, this interpretive phenomenological study focused on exploring the lived experiences of 13 African American female clergy leaders married to male clergy leaders. African American female clergy, recruited through both purposeful and snowball sampling, through interviews shared their stories of living in a dual-clergy marriage. Using Colaizzi's seven-step process of qualitative analysis and coding, two major themes of Resolve and Resilience, and four sub-themes including Barriers to the Church, Multiple Roles, Health and Wellness, and Adaptation were identified. Findings from this research expand the current body of knowledge on leadership and gender roles in the Protestant church, including the need for a greater understanding of the experiences of female clergy in male-dominated congregational and ministerial spaces. Implications for social change include opening conversations regarding the unique experiences of African American female clergy, supporting awareness of the social, mental and physical challenges of female clergy, and engaging in larger conversations about equal access in all areas of church leadership.