“Because the Bible tells me so”: gender and authority in conservative Presbyterianism on the Isle of Lewis (Scotland)

PhD Thesis

Bennett, Y. 2020. “Because the Bible tells me so”: gender and authority in conservative Presbyterianism on the Isle of Lewis (Scotland). PhD Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University School of Humanities and Education Studies
AuthorsBennett, Y.
TypePhD Thesis

This ethnographic study explores the ways in which religion impacts the lives of those who live and visit the Isle of Lewis, an island off the northwest coast of Scotland. The churches on the island are, predominantly, of conservative Presbyterian denominations; the island has one Roman Catholic church and a mosque. I will argue that religion remains relevant to the cultural and familial traditions of the community.

Data were gathered using semi-structured interviews and observation as I immersed myself in island life utilising symbolic interactionism. One aim of this research was to examine female inequality in the church communities. I scrutinised ways in which women gained agency as they navigated between the patriarchal religious sphere and equality-driven social sphere of their lives. Power and authority are studied as separate entities, and the manner in which women uphold the patriarchy also comes under examination. I analysed the portrayal of women as ‘bad wives’ or ‘temptresses’ based on biblical role models and in particular in reference to adultery. There is a non-legitimate use of power by both genders which is played out in the media and from the pulpit, yet the research revealed resistance and agency as the betrayed wife strove for justice.

A second aim of the study was to examine the ways in which tradition, both cultural and familial, might impact on religious belief and practice. I explored this utilising the theory of religion as a chain of memory (Hervieu-Léger 2000). My research also scrutinised the boundaries between religious and secular traditions with reference to funeral rites. Likewise, the persistence of the rules surrounding Sabbatarianism, which are maintained by both religious and non-religious people alike, were studied to determine the ways in which religious tradition has become an integral part of a cultural identity of the islanders.

KeywordsPresbyterianism; Isle of Lewis; Conservative; Gender; Authority
File Access Level
Supplemental file
Publication process dates
Deposited13 Dec 2021
Permalink -


Download files


Supplemental file
  • 34
    total views
  • 30
    total downloads
  • 1
    views this month
  • 2
    downloads this month

Export as