stained-glass ceiling

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In the business world, the “glass ceiling” prevents women from rising to the highest levels of corporate leadership. The “stained-glass ceiling” is the churchy parallel.

definition of stained-glass ceilingChristianese has no qualms about taking a prevalent metaphor or figure of speech from the secular world and “Christianizing” it in some way. For example, Christians took the business acronym Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) and came up with Big Hairy Audacious Prayer (BHAP). Christians took the brand name “Starbucks” and turned it into St. Arbucks. And today we see that Christians have taken the business slang term glass ceiling and customized it for the Christian experience, coming up with stained-glass ceiling. Christians are rarely boring when it comes to the way they play with language—their wordplays might be cheesy and corny at times, certainly. But rarely boring.

Have you heard the term stained-glass ceiling? Do you think it’s a good expression to describe the difficulty that women in some denominations have in getting ordained or being promoted to leadership positions?


stained-glass ceiling n. [stained glass ‘a common metonymic metaphor for the Christian church’ + glass ceiling ‘the barrier to career advancement experienced by some women in the corporate world’] The barrier to ordination and leadership roles that is experienced by women in some denominations and religious organizations.
1992 New York Times (9 Apr.) 18 : “They continue to sin the sin of sexism by claiming that women cannot be ordained…. I say, we’ve got to … break the stained glass ceiling.” 1992 New York Times (29 Nov.) : In the business world, women often complain about “the glass ceiling,” that invisible barrier that impedes their progress up the corporate ladder. In the religious world, women call it “the stained glass ceiling.” … The stained glass ceiling, they say, has kept them from the top jobs in the church and often from the pulpit itself. Some add that it has also kept churches from recognizing their special needs as women. 1993 Stanley in Daughters of Sarah 7/2 (Spring) 73 : How is the stained-glass ceiling similar to the glass ceiling women experience in the secular work place? … Some are fabricating a stained-glass ceiling that would limit women to staff positions while preventing them from serving as senior pastors. 1995 Purvis The Stained-Glass Ceiling: Churches and Their Women Pastors [title] 1996 Skaine Power and Gender 18 : Another ceiling for women is the “stained-glass ceiling.” Women are often excluded from the highest ranks of some religious denominations. 1997 New York Times (25 May) : Women in the church refer to it as “the stained-glass ceiling.” They are gaining acceptance as pastors, priests and spiritual leaders in many denominations, but women in religion cope with career barriers remarkably similar to those of their sisters in corporate America. 1999 Sanders Saints in Exile: The Holiness-Pentecostal Experience in African American Religion and Culture 33 : Church historian Susie Stanley uses the term “stained-glass ceiling” to describe increasing barriers to women’s leadership and advancement in denominations with a long history of ordaining them. 2002 Bendroth, Brereton, eds. Women and Twentieth-Century Protestantism 20 : Given the present SBC [=Southern Baptist Convention] male leadership’s hostility to women in the ministry, the stained-glass ceiling will grow even more impenetrable. 2005 Hoge, Wenger Pastors in Transition: Why Clergy Leave Local Church Ministry 45 : Women are less likely to be chosen as senior pastors in flourishing and desirable churches; in many Protestant denominations congregations still prefer men as senior pastors, creating what is sometimes sardonically called a “stained glass ceiling” for women ministers. 2007 Clinton Herald (IA) (19 Jan.) : Henry agrees with a recent New York Times article that reports pastors today do still face a “stained-glass ceiling” that keeps them from becoming senior pastors of larger congregations; case in point, only 27 senior pastors of major ELCA [=Evangelical Lutheran Church in America] congregations are women out of the thousands of senior pastors within the ELCA. 2008 Moore Clergy Moms: A Survival Guide to Balancing Family and Congregation 19 : Women still face a stained glass ceiling that blocks their movement into senior positions in churches with large attendance and large budgets. 2013 Smith Beyond the Stained Glass Ceiling: Equipping and Encouraging Female Pastors [title]
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