Date of Graduation

Spring 2016


Master of Arts in Communication



Committee Chair

Isabelle Bauman


sensemaking, qualitative, women, faith, identity, narrative

Subject Categories



Many church organizations require women to adhere to a strict code of conduct and dress that affects every area of their lives. While some women choose to create a narrative that validates these guidelines, others choose to leave the church. The purpose of this study is to explicate how women who have left the United Pentecostal Church (UPC), a legalistic splinter group of Pentecostalism, make sense of that decision, redefine their language, and construct new identities in and through the leave-taking process. Current research on women in gendered faith-based organizations focuses on feminist theory and folklore, often ignoring the voices of those who have left. This study takes a multi-methodological qualitative sensemaking approach to explore the leave-taking process. The data revealed that women who have left the UPC make sense of that decision through a long process of questioning and honoring their past; redefine their shared cultural narratives as misogynistic, limiting, and embarrassing; and redefine their identity as a woman of faith as one who values relationships, welcomes difference and uncertainty, and lives in freedom. This study contributes a deeper understanding of the role language and narrative play in creating and recreating gendered faith systems and in the leave-taking process.


© Janice Nadine Hersey

Open Access

Included in

Communication Commons