In this feminist investigation into the art of preaching— one of the oldest and least studied rhetorical traditions— Roxanne Mountford explores the relationship between bodies, space, race, and gender in rhetorical performance and American Protestant culture. Refiguring delivery and physicality as significant components of the rhetorical situation, The Gendered Pulpit: Preaching in American Protestant Spaces examines the strategies of three contemporary women preachers who have transgressed traditions, rearranged rhetorical space, and conquered gender bias to establish greater intimacy with their congregations.
Mountford’ s examinations of the rhetoric inherent in preaching manuals from 1850 to the present provide insight into how “ manliness” has remained a central concept in American preaching since the mid-nineteenth century. The manuals illustrate that the character, style, method of delivery, and theological purpose of preachers focused on white men and their cultural standing, leaving contemporary women preachers searching for ways to accommodate themselves to the physicality of preaching.
Three case studies of women preachers who have succeeded or failed in rearranging rhetorical space provide the foundation for the volume. These contemporary examples have important implications for feminist theology and also reveal the importance of gender, space, and bodies to studies of rhetoric in general. Mountford explores the geographies of St. John’ s Lutheran Church and the preaching of Rev. Patricia O’ Connor who reformed rhetorical space through the delivery of her sermons. At Eastside United Church of Christ, Mountford shows, Rev. Barbara Hill employed narrative style and prophetic utterance in the tradition of black preaching to address gender bias and institute change in her congregation. The final case study details the experiences of Pastor Janet Moore and her struggles at Victory Hills United Methodist Church, where the fractured congregation could not be united even with Pastor Moore’ s focus on theological purpose and invention strategies.