White Women Who Lead: God, Girlfriends, and Diversity Projects in a National Evangelical Ministry

Kelsy Burke, Amy McDowell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


A robust body of literature has used feminist analysis to study white evangelical women in the United States, but few of these studies have addressed the reproduction of racial inequality. Beginning with the assumption that women-led evangelical ministries are racialized organizations, the authors examine the relationship between racial and gender ideologies and the messages of white evangelical women leaders at the IF:Gathering, a popular annual Christian women’s conference in the United States. On the surface, the women who lead IF embody a contradiction: they support the conservative gender ideology of evangelicalism while challenging this religious tradition by encouraging all Christian women, regardless of race, to act as leaders within their communities. However, the authors’ in-depth content analysis of live-streamed and video-recorded conference sessions reveals that the mostly white speakers at IF use race to credential their leadership. Speakers draw from a mixture of racial and gender ideologies to stress the importance of telling diverse “girlfriends” about Jesus and rescuing women of color “in the trenches” (those who are from the global South or living in U.S. cities) from poverty or sexual exploitation. The findings reveal how potentially progressive and empowering messages at a women-led evangelical organization limit the definition and scope of women’s leadership and reinforce the white patriarchal status quo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)86-100
Number of pages15
JournalSociology of Race and Ethnicity
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • gender
  • race
  • racism
  • religion
  • whites
  • women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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