In case you missed it, there was some heated conversation in the evangelical “blogosphere” and news media this week.
It started when Rachel Held Evans questioned why there were only 4 women speakers out of 112 for The Nines online church conference. The ensuing Twitter conversation between Rachel and producer Todd Rhoades was telling, as this excerpt shows:
The issue of diverse representation in church leadership is an important one.
As you can imagine, a lot of people chimed in with their perspective. Jonathan Merritt asked Are Christian conferences sexist? ‘The Nines’ controversy prompts reflection. A discouraging (but not surprising) response came from complementarian Denny Burk, Are Christian conferences sexist? A brief response to Jonathan Merritt.
In a Christianity Today article, Jeremy Weber gives a concise overview of the whole controversy and reports that Rhoades eventually did some back-peddling, even extending an invitation to Rachel so speak at the next conference. Australian evangelist Christine Caine, one of the few women who did speak, made some insightful observations on the restrictive environment women face in the American church and suggested some ways to move forward.
This weekend one of our writers is interviewing Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian, professor emeritus of biblical studies at Wheaton College, author of Beyond Sex Roles: What the Bible Says a Woman’s Place in Church and Family, and a founding member of Christians for Biblical Equality. In preparing our questions for Dr. B (as he is affectionately known) one thing we are hoping he will address is why some evangelical groups have become more conservative on the issue of women in the home and the church in recent years. In the meantime, David Hayward addressed this question on his blog, suggesting that:
“The more dissenting an opposing group becomes, the more fundamentalist the group in power becomes. This is why we are witnessing the simultaneous growth of radical dissent and radical fundamentalism. If you’re keeping up with the rapid daily reports, you must agree this is happening with women in the church.”
He boils the problem down to three basic issues here: What Women Who Want Equality in the Church Must Face.
God is up to something!
As we watch the news and observe conversations in the “blogosphere”, it seems evident that God is up to something in regard to the issue of women in the church. At the very least, new conversations and questions are surfacing on a regular basis. These conversations about the status of women in faith communities are not just coming from the evangelical world; they are also being discussed in Mormon, Catholic, and Jewish circles.
Let’s continue to add our voices to those important conversations, as tiresome and frustrating as they can be.
Your Turn: In a future post we will address this issue of women’s voices in the public Christian square. In the meantime, we’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas!
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