SOUL SISTERS: THE INTERSECTION OF AMANDA BERRY SMITH AND SELECTED WOMEN IN MINISTRY OF THE ATLANTA NORTH GEORGIA ANNUAL CONFERENCE OF THE AME CHURCH
ABSTRACT LIBYA BAAQAR SOUL SISTERS: THE INTERSECTION OF AMANDA BERRY SMITH AND SELECTED WOMEN IN MINISTRY OF THE ATLANTA NORTH GEORGIA ANNUAL CONFERENCE OF THE AME CHURCH Under the direction of PETER RHEA JONES, Ph.D. This project juxtaposes the ministry and call narratives of randomly selected women in ministry ("WIM") of the Atlanta North Georgia Annual Conference ("ANGAC") and Amanda Berry Smith, a nineteenth century evangelist of the AME Church. Her ministry is important to the study of clergywomen in the AME Church, particularly the ANGAC. The call narratives provide an avenue to examine critical intersections between Smith and WIM of the ANGAC as it relates to affirmation of call, the Holy Spirit as liberator, and challenges with gender imbalances in clergy leadership in the AME Church. They show the challenges these women faced in locating their calls amidst the structures of a culturally controlled ecclesiology shaped by a historical patriarchal institution. The object of this project is three-fold: 1) to show a connection between the ministries and call narratives of the selected WIM of ANGAC and Amanda Berry Smith; 2) to show disparities in the ANGAC and Board of Examiners regarding gender and ministerial vocations; and 3) to show that Amanda Berry Smith’s ministry recognizes the importance of the Spirit in the call process and forces the church to reconsider how it looks at ministry. To significantly show the similarities between Amanda Berry Smith and the selected WIM of ANGAC, this project examines six elements found in their call narratives: 1) Divine confrontations; 2) Visions; 3) Commissions; 4) Objections; 5) Reassurances; and 6) Signs/Symbols. These elements help to identify compelling parallels between the two to introduce an AME heroine whose ministry encourages women in ministry to unapologetically pursue their divine call and ministerial vocation. As a result, this study will provide opportunities for the ANGAC Board of Examiners and conferences alike, to view ministry from a larger scale and recognize the role of the Spirit in the call process. In terms of research, this project uses qualitative research, collecting data from a survey and two focus groups. The participants consisted of twenty, randomly selected women in ministry from the ANGAC. They were Senior Pastors (Itinerant Elders) and not bi-vocational, Deacons (non-Itinerant Elders) currently in the Board of Examiners, bi-vocational clergywomen, and former AME clergywomen who are no longer part of the denomination. They were divided into the two groups, one with women in ministry currently in the ANGAC and one with those who left the AME Church. The women currently in the ANGAC received a survey of interview questions. Those who left the church participated in a focus group. Both instruments captured the participants’ experiences, beliefs, and reactions, resulting in beneficial data for this project.