The Author – Dr. Heather Heflin Hodges
Photo “My Loneliest Place on Earth

Author’s note: This research was birthed out of my own trauma as well as my experience ministering to other women in our tribe who are hurting and who report that their pain is directly related to being in churches of Christ. While we continue to discuss what a woman’s “role” in the church can or cannot be, I want to spend a short time focusing on the repercussions of how we have treated women in churches of Christ.

The research is crystal clear, how churches of Christ have treated women has caused trauma. Regardless of one’s particular beliefs, theology, hermeneutics, or ecclesiology we cannot deny the experiences of women who self-report pain. Their story is their story, and it cannot be ignored, rewritten, or taken from them. I want this research to speak for itself, knowing that within every study or survey exists many flaws. This research is flawed but embedded within it is Truth. I embarked on this journey out of shear curiosity. I was not trying to prove or disprove a theory but to simply ask, listen, and learn. My prayer now is that you, my dearest brothers and sisters, may read on with the same curiosity, empathy, and openness to the stories of others. May we never stop asking hard questions nor be afraid of challenging answers. Soli Deo Gloria! – Heather

Summary

In September of 2018, data were gathered from 516 women to evaluate their self-reported trauma symptoms as a result of being part of churches of Christ. Of the women surveyed 52% reported none to mild trauma symptoms while 48% reported moderate to extremely severe symptoms. The research found that 78% of all respondents experienced one or more trauma symptoms within the past month of the survey as a “result of being raised in churches of Christ and/or serving as ministers in churches of Christ.”

Methodology

The instrument used for the research was the civilian version of the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist (PCL-C.) The PCL-C is a 17-item self-report checklist of PTSD symptoms based closely on the DSM-IV criteria. Respondents rated each item from 1 (“not at all”) to 5 (“extremely”) to indicate the degree to which they have been bothered by that particular symptom over the past month. A total symptom severity score (range = 17-85) was obtained by summing the scores from each of the 17 items. This research assessed the respondents’ scores in the following manner:

Please note: The gold standard for diagnosing PTSD is a structured clinical interview such as the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS). The PCL-C was used in this survey as a research tool and was not intended to diagnose or treat any symptoms.

The respondents were given the following information about the survey, “This survey is designed to explore self-reported trauma and stress by women as a result of being raised in churches of Christ and/or serving as ministers in churches of Christ. This is an independent social sciences study conducted by Dr. Heather Hodges for the purpose of researching the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement.”

Findings

Of the 516 women surveyed, 71% have been part of churches of Christ for over 20 years, 25.53% have served as a paid minister for churches of Christ, and 21.3% are or have been married to a church of Christ minister.

When asked to self-report any trauma symptoms 22.09% reported an absence of trauma symptoms, 30% reported mild symptoms, 18.41% reported moderate symptoms, 16.08% reported severe symptoms and 13.37% reported extremely severe symptoms.

Results of PCL-C survey completed September 2018, by 516 women in churches of Christ.

Conclusion

This research finds that roughly half of women surveyed report moderate to extremely severe trauma symptoms as a “result of being raised in churches of Christ and/or serving as ministers in churches of Christ.” One-third of the 516 women surveyed report mild symptoms and only 22% of the women surveyed reported no symptoms.

Implications

The implications and ramifications of this research are broad and far-ranging. Part – 2 will delve more deeply into individual responses as well as suggestions for how we can help women heal who experience trauma as a result of being part of churches of Christ.

Future Research

More research is needed to accurately assess the severity of self-reported trauma symptoms in women as a result of being part of churches of Christ. I suspect that the degree of self-reported trauma is correlated to whether a woman in churches of Christ feels that her particular spiritual gifts were fully utilized or not. Future research could ask, “To what degree have you felt your spiritual gifts have been utilized by the church of Christ?” “Have you ever been restricted from using your spiritual gifts because of your gender?”

An updated version of the PCL was published in 2018 and is based on the DSM-5 criteria for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Any further research could utilize this expanded and updated tool.

13 Responses

  1. Thank you. I would be interested to see more research exploring this issue. I will look forward to reading part 2 when it comes out.

    I also appreciate the point that this is their story and one should not seek to argue or mitigate their experiences. It is a horrible thing to dismiss the trauma of others by questioning whether they truly were traumatized.This dismissal would only add to the trauma.

    You mentioned there were some flaws to the research and I see one flaw, and really I don’t know if it skews the research in any way, but I could see how it might.

    Nearly 50% of your respondents are either women who serve/ed as ministers or are/were wives of ministers. Have you counted for these variables in your methodology?

    This is not to suggest the results are necessarily inaccurate. But I would be particularly interested if a survey could be done that separated these different demographics. Are those married to ministers or serving as ministers more or less traumatized than those who have not? And I would really like to see further exploration.

    1. Matt…..just read your response to my last response to your previous comments. Obviously you did not read closely my original comment which you deleted….half or more of the original comment dealt directly with the article that Heather wrote. In which I totally disagree…did you miss that? The LAST small part of my reponse was NEVER AN AIR OUT….it was a response in rereference to the writer. In which I state to be cautious about the writer do to my personal experience. That is NOT AN AIR OUT…that is a calling to possibly consider that what Heather is saying is inaccurate. Which totally is INACCURATE for her to select a specific group of women, as if she knew every single woman in that cartergory. Besides, by focusing in ONLY on a certain group of women as she has in the article, that itself should tell you the article is inaccurate, or else ALL OTHER WOMEN from her point of view have it TOTALLY TOGETHER, except the women in the CHURCHES OF CHRIST. What you need to do is not put the spotlight on me airing out. Looks to me very clearly that Heather is airing out about some women she made have had conflict in The Churches of Christ. I also want you to know, that I began reading WINESKIN LONG BEFORE you were probably born unless Im misinterpreting your age from your photo. Morrison one of the originators of Wineskins was my pastor in Miami about 50 years ago. So this is no drive by gangster Christian just speaking without any substance in regards to a MAGAZINE, you happen to now be a part of many years later. If you are going to be a writer whose words are going to affect thousands. You best get your homeland in place first, before you choose to speak to the masses.

      1. Ro, you said in your first comment you were trying to determine Heather’s intent. That’s where it got off on the wrong foot. Then you went after her on a personal note. Over and over. Example after example of things you should have never said in this space. Do you deny you did those two things?

        You are going to need to apologize for that to move forward.

        As far as critiquing her content you made a comment about how if she had looked at other groups too you would be less suspicious. Research can look at many things and groups. It is entirely appropriate to look at a single group. Every study picks who they are studying. Once you pick the population you want to study it limits what you can conclude. For instance Heather then can’t say that women in the CofC experience this worse than other groups because you have no dats to compare your results with. She didn’t do that. Your point has no validity. So yes, you did put one point about her content ;framed as suspicion) within a string of personal attacks.

        Now you go on to come after me on a personal level. That isn’t going to fly either.

        So last time – you can stick with talking about ideas and content or you can find another place to have a conversation.

        I am giving you a path to a productive conversation. If you are interested in having one, dive in. If not, I suggest you move on.

      2. Ro, because you continue taking personal shots at people you have one more comment on this post. I gave my take on how that might go above but ultimately it is your choice how you proceed. Once you choose how you proceed I will tell you up front how it will go from my end. If you choose to be civil, apologize for taking things in the gutter, and get to the content you can stick around. If you choose to continue to escalate your attacks you will first be banned from commenting on these 2 posts regarding Heather’s work. If continue to comment as you have here or elsewhere on the site you will then be banned from the site. It all starts with you and what you want to do moving forward. I am just telegraphing my moves in advance so you can move forward in an informed manner and my actions will be 100% transparent and predicable to you. I don’t wish you any harm. I have no idea why you are doing this but I am praying your heart and mind will find some peace and that God’s will is done in all things…that where I am not seeing things accurately that God will show me those things…and that we can be amicable. Blessings, Matt

  2. It AMAZES ME….that someone can write an article that places women in the CHURCHES OF CHRIST in a very ubsurd negative tone…and when I respond with my opinion to that article my response its removed. Are you kidding me Matt?? what kind of magazine are you running here if a person cannot reply to an article which MANY feel is totally off..So you protect your writer since its of benefit to you, and remove the comments or opinions of those commenting. I think you need to rethink your magazine.

    1. Ro, it is in the best interest of the community at Wineskins to not allow comments such as the ones you posted earlier.

      If you would like to have a conversation this is a place for you. If you want to do drive by comment shootings you can find another place for that.

      I have deleted fewer comments in 6 years than I can count on one hand and you make up half of those. How is it we can have thousands of people read and comment, many of them offering dissenting opinions and them not get taken down? Because they choose to go about their critique in a constructive way.

      There is a path forward to comment here if you want to take it. 99.9% of our readers have found it. I encourage you to take the path of Christian civility.

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