Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation



First Advisor

Marjorie J Spruill


"The Spiritual is Political" argues that feminist politics were central to Southern Baptist Convention's notorious schism, which began in 1979, and posits that its new conservative leaders launched the nearly fourteen million member denomination into partisan politics in the 1980s in reaction to their perception that the women's movement was dangerous to the nation's moral and spiritual character. By evaluating both religious and political primary sources from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s, I trace grassroots mobilization and denominational reactions to contentious issues like women's ordination, abortion, homosexuality, and the Equal Rights Amendment. Though the Southern Baptist Convention favored moderate gains in women's equality in the late 1960s to the mid-1970s, its dynamic internal takeover ultimately resulted in reversal of all policies that favored the feminist movement. But my dissertation's close focus on the period before this 1979 transformation reveals crucial information about the mobilization of the nation's largest Protestant denomination into the Religious Right in the 1980s, and it demonstrates why aggressive preservation of gender roles remains one of the Southern Baptist Convention's key priorities.

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