Date of Award



© 2019 James Jeffrey Butcher

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Carol Burbank

Second Advisor

Angela Young

Third Advisor

Robert Vaughn


This dissertation analyzes how the leadership decisions of thirty local church Protestant clergy in Virginia were influenced by personal, organizational, and cultural identity issues on matters related to homosexuality or LGBTQ inclusion. Self-understanding of identity issues affected clergy practice of biblical and theological interpretations on topics that include: purity, inclusion, same-sex marriage, ordination of LGBTQ persons, denominational loyalty, local church loyalty, transactional leadership, transformational leadership, and transformative leadership. The researcher used semi-structured phenomenological interviews with seven focus groups and seven individual follow-up interviews. The researcher explored the process by which clergy construct their identities, while noting the resulting leadership strategies implemented by local church Protestant clergy in their local congregations. This qualitative research study fills an existing gap caused by a majority of research being conducted on denominational level rather than local church level leadership decisions in relationship to homosexuality or LGBTQ inclusion. This study advances substantive knowledge about how personal, organizational, and cultural identities play integral roles in leadership methods employed by clergy at the local church level on issues related to homosexuality or LGBTQ inclusion. The study revealed that traditional clergy did not believe same-sex attraction to be a sin, but that sin occurred through the participation in homosexual acts. In response to same-sex attraction traditional clergy advocated for celibacy, while progressive clergy advocated for same-sex marriage. When doing biblical interpretation on homosexuality, traditional clergy focused on specific passages where God commands “You shall not (commit this homosexual act)” in order to maintain purity. When doing biblical interpretation on homosexuality, progressive clergy allow for contextualization of the narrative stories in the Bible, and focus on passages that contain the word “all” as a witness for inclusion. Both traditional and progressive clergy gravitate toward transformational leadership to promote dialogue on homosexuality or LGBTQ inclusion, however, only progressive clergy follow transformative leadership in creating new leaders of LGBTQ persons. Also, both traditional and progressive clergy have a stronger gestalt identity through their local church, than an aggregate identity with their denomination.


Ed.D. Dissertation