On Tuesday, the Foursquare Church elected Oregon pastor Randy Remington its next president over general superintendent Tammy Dunahoo, who would have been the first female president since the denomination’s founder, Aimee Semple McPherson.

After the race brought in double the votes of any other Foursquare election, Dunahoo’s defeat underscores the ongoing struggle for women to reach to the highest positions in evangelical institutions, even in traditions that ordain women and affirm their roles as preachers, teachers, and leaders.

Over the years, many have wondered, “Why hasn’t a denomination founded by a woman elected another?” Foursquare may have begun with a woman at the helm, but after decades of male leadership and moves toward the evangelical mainstream, it’s actually harder for a woman to make it to the top now.

Several mainline denominations such as the Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church, and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have had women in top positions, as have evangelical movements such as the Salvation Army and the Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends (evangelical Quakers). Despite more women are enrolling in seminary and training for ministry now than any other time in history, their presence in local churches remains disproportionately small; only about 5 percent of American churchgoers have a woman as a pastor.

Women pursuing ministry today still look to Aimee Semple McPherson’s example. She founded the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel in 1923 and led the burgeoning movement—which now numbers 68,500 churches around the world—until her untimely death in 1944, when she left some big, flamboyant shoes to fill.

Celebrity culture was ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.