Jamys Carter is a PhD student in the School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science at the University of Leeds. Jamys is a member of the Leeds Centre for Religion and Public Life whose research focuses on the history of pentecostalism in the UK, with a particular focus on women in ministry.
Tell us a little about your ‘research journey’ – how did you get to where you are right now?
As a Pentecostal Pastor I was inspired through a number of experiences to consider Postgraduate research. In late 2013, whilst recuperating from an illness I read through a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I was inspired by his ability to Pastor and study (other aspects of his life, like martyrdom and spying were less appealing). The ebb and flow of pastoring allowed me to consider doing a part-time Masters by Research, and having approached TRS, I started this in 2014. This led to a fruitful time, during which I explored the experiences of women ministers within the Elim Pentecostal movement in Britain. Despite not expecting to continue with research, before the end of the Masters I had decided to undertake a PhD, picking up on an area I had hinted at in the Masters.
Who, or what, sparked your interest to work on your particular research area?
There have been a number of inspirational people and moments that have driven me into researching areas of Pentecostalism and Feminism (within a limited scope). Primarily I have come to realise that my wife has been a key influencer, without her observations it is possible that I would have remained somewhat oblivious to the experiences that women were having in Pentecostal churches. In particular there were specific occasions and discussions in my own local church that highlighted the varying views individual members had regarding the role that women should or should not have in church. My presumption in suggesting a woman could be a deacon, and later on, an Associate Minister, led to some people leaving the church. These moments were the biggest inspiration to study both the experiences of women ministers, and the way in which Pentecostals interpret the Bible.
What are you currently, or about to start, working on?
I am currently working on a couple of projects. The largest and most important is completing my PhD, I am in my final year, and hoping to submit in September. In my thesis I am examining the ways that lay leaders in Elim churches in Britain interpret the Bible regarding women in ministry. As side projects I have published two papers on the history of women within Elim in the twentieth century and have started to work on a third paper looking at Pentecostal methodology. As well as this, I am part-way through a placement at a large church in Leeds, assessing the social impact of their parent and toddler group (this is being funded by the ESRC); this should also lead to some form of publication. On top of that I am also back in church leadership for six months too! Whilst life can get rather full, I don’t want to lose touch with my foundational calling to local church.
In what way(s) do you feel your research examines the role of religion in public life and the relationship between the two?
The role that women play in Elim churches is a determining factor in the way that younger women perceive the potential call of God on their lives. Where there are no female role models, or where there is teaching that restricts women from ministry, then it is far harder for a woman who feels called to the ministry to actually find an avenue in which she is encouraged and accepted. Although my research largely focuses on the details of how Pentecostal lay leaders interpret the Bible, the underlying emphasis remains on women in ministry. The most significant current constraint for a woman wanting to enter ministry lies, not with Elim as a movement, but with local church lay leaders’ interpretation of the Bible. My examination of this will help to provide interesting observations and suggestions for reducing the bottleneck effect on women’s ministry. The intersection of biblical Pentecostal hermeneutics and the public role that women can have is fundamental to my thesis. Not only will my thesis provide a qualitative analysis of Pentecostal hermeneutics, but it will continue the theme of my Masters by speaking into the ongoing issues that women (and women ministers) can face in their public/church life.