to whom do you attribute religious authority? a pilot study.

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The text “To whom do you attribute religious authority?” is the report of a pilot-study into patterns of attribution of religious authority among participants of the seventh Synod-weekend of the (Dutch) Ecumenical Women’s Synod. It must be situated in the broader discussion on changing patterns in (religious) authority and departs from the presupposition that authority is relational and attributed, instead of linked to a position; an idea that is further developed in the Italian-German discourse on a symbolic in the feminine. Two questions guided this pilot-study: 1) to whom – and for what reasons – do the participants of this Synod-weekend attribute religious authority, and 2) do they distinguish between women and men in the attribution of authority. The pilot-study consisted of a questionnaire, followed by eight interviews, in which respondents to the questionnaire reflected upon their answers.
The answers indicate that the respondents prefer horizontally organized authority relations. Being inspired by the other, either by their wisdom or faith, and by their integrity, is an important impulse to trust and hence to attribute religious authority to this person. They also show an ambivalence between the paradigm of equality between the sexes and a practice of relating to women. The majority of respondents did not distinguish between women and men in the attribution of religious authority; the answers on the question who had inspired their faith indicated, however, that they were more inspired by women than by men in their life.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-121
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of the European Society of Women in Theological Research
Issue number30
Publication statusPublished - 16 Sept 2022


  • attributing authority, religious authority, empirical pilot-study, relating to women, sexual difference

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