The Preacher's Wife: The Precarious Power of Evangelical Women Celebrities

The Preacher's Wife: The Precarious Power of Evangelical Women Celebrities

by Kate Bowler


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From the New York Times bestselling author of Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved, a fascinating look at the world of Christian women celebrities

Since the 1970s, an important new figure has appeared on the center stage of American evangelicalism—the celebrity preacher's wife. Although most evangelical traditions bar women from ordained ministry, many women have carved out unofficial positions of power in their husbands' spiritual empires or their own ministries. The biggest stars—such as Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer, and Victoria Osteen—write bestselling books, grab high ratings on Christian television, and even preach. In this engaging book, Kate Bowler, an acclaimed historian of religion and the author of the bestselling memoir Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved, offers a sympathetic and revealing portrait of megachurch women celebrities, showing how they must balance the demands of celebrity culture and conservative, male-dominated faiths.

Whether standing alone or next to their husbands, the leading women of megaministry play many parts: the preacher, the homemaker, the talent, the counselor, and the beauty. Boxed in by the high expectations of modern Christian womanhood, they follow and occasionally subvert the visible and invisible rules that govern the lives of evangelical women, earning handsome rewards or incurring harsh penalties. They must be pretty, but not immodest; exemplary, but not fake; vulnerable to sin, but not deviant. And black celebrity preachers' wives carry a special burden of respectability. But despite their influence and wealth, these women are denied the most important symbol of spiritual power—the pulpit.

The story of women who most often started off as somebody's wife and ended up as everyone's almost-pastor, The Preacher's Wife is a compelling account of women's search for spiritual authority in the age of celebrity.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691179612
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 10/01/2019
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 1,191,187
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Kate Bowler is the author of Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel and the New York Times bestselling memoir Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved (Random House), which she wrote after being diagnosed with Stage IV cancer at age 35. She is associate professor at Duke Divinity School and lives in Durham, North Carolina. Twitter @KatecBowler

Table of Contents

A Personal Note ix

Glossary of Important Terms xv

Acknowledgments xix

Introduction 1

Chapter 1 The Preacher 21

Chapter 2 The Homemaker 65

Chapter 3 The Talent 117

Chapter 4 The Counselor 153

Chapter 5 The Beauty 192

Conclusion 237

Appendix I Megachurches in the United States 253

Appendix II Researching Megachurch Pastors' Wives 257

Appendix III Some Demographics from the Profiles 264

Appendix IV Women in Conservative Seminaries 270

Appendix V Women on Staff at Megachurches 275

Appendix VI Highlights of the Timeline of Women's Ordination 279

Notes 283

Index 329

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Excellent. . . . [Bowler’s] wonderful work provocatively considers what women gain and lose in becoming 'market-ready' for evangelical communities.”—Publishers Weekly

“An eye-opener. . . . [Bowler] is a thorough researcher and witty writer.”—LaVonne Neff, Christian Century

"I cannot overstate the effect this book had on me. Whether you are a student of American religious history, a follower of popular Christian culture, or someone who has never thought twice about the women who grant legitimacy to the powerful men they marry, Kate Bowler will take you places you could not have gone on your own.”—Barbara Brown Taylor, New York Times bestselling author of Learning to Walk in the Dark

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