Review of Religious Research

, Volume 54, Issue 2, pp 175–196 | Cite as

Biblical Literalism: A Test of the Compensatory Schema Hypothesis Among Anglicans in England

  • Andrew VillageEmail author
Original Paper


The compensatory schema hypothesis (Hoffmann and Bartkowski, Soc Forces 86:1245–1272, 2008) has been used to explain why women seem to have higher levels of biblical literalism than men in some Christian denominations. Based on social structuration and gender theories, it proposes that biblical literalism is a key social schema in some denominations that deny women access to institutional power. Women compensate for the lack of access to institutional social resources (leadership) by stressing the accepted schema (literalism) more strongly than men. The theory was tested using two samples from the Church of England, one lay (N = 394) and one ordained (N = 1,052). Laywomen were more literal than laymen among evangelicals and Anglo-catholics, where opposition to women’s ordination is highest, but in both cases the difference was largely explained by differences in education levels between the sexes. Clergywomen, with access to leadership resources, were less literal than clergymen in both Anglo-catholic and evangelical traditions. The results offer rather weak support for the compensatory schema hypothesis, and alternative explanations of the findings are discussed.


Anglican Biblical literalism Clergy Gender Social structuration 



I thank Leslie Francis and Mandy Robbins for allowing me to use a dataset on clergy which we collected together.


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© Religious Research Association, Inc. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Education and TheologyYork St John UniversityYorkUK

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