"Just when it appears we’ve crossed the rubicon on gender equality in the evangelical world, we realize we haven’t."
Earlier this week Rachel Held Evans via Twitter called attention to a phenomenon that we have been observing since we first began blogging – speakers at Christian conferences are predominantly MALE. The spark that ignited a firestorm on Twitter was the following Tweet by Rachel:
More than 100 speakers and only four of them are women. This is not what the church looks like.
Todd Rhodes, who was involved in planning the 'Nines' conference (to which Rachel was referring), responded with this Tweet:
I think @rachelheldevans is the new Mark Driscoll.
Then Rachel followed up with this:
You don't have to be disrespectful, Todd.
To see the chatter, go over to Rachel Held Evans' Twitter feed. This exchange caught the attention of Jonathan Merritt, who decided to do some investigating…
He shared his findings in a post – Are Christian Conferences Sexist? – which begins as follows:
Just when it appears we’ve crossed the rubicon on gender equality in the evangelical world, we realize we haven’t.
The 21st century has seen massive strides on the issue. Leading theologians like N.T. Wright, Scot McKnight, Stanley Gundry, I. Howard Marshall and Gordon Fee made cases for gender equality on Biblical grounds, and they’ve were joined by prominent pastors like Bill Hybels and John Ortberg. Books by women began filling the shelves of Christian bookstores, often outselling those written by men. In 2008, hoards of evangelicals voted for a Presidential ticket that would have placed a woman in governmental authority over them in the second highest office in the land. And perhaps the greatest sign of the times is that the most popular preacher in the Southern Baptist Convention is, well, Beth Moore.
And yet, debates among some Christians about women’s roles in the church and home still rage. Organizations like the conservative Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood still wield a lot of power in American evangelicalism. Many churches will not ordain women—though they often offer women the same jobs and responsibilities as other ministers with a lesser title—and refuse to let them teach men in any capacity.
And what of the state of the multi-million dollar Christian conference industry?
This question was addressed yesterday in the Twitterverse when Rachel Held Evans, a progressive blogger and author of A Year of Biblical Womanhood, sent a tweet calling attention to the abysmal number of women speakers at The Nines, an annual online church leadership conference
See more at: http://jonathanmerritt.religionnews.com/2013/11/13/christian-conferences-sexist-nines-controversy-prompts-reflection/#sthash.VKMZSYA0.dpuf
Jonathan conducted a survey of 34 various conferences and discovered that of the 805 speakers (collectively), only 159 were female. We have discussed a number of the conferences he listed here at TWW, and none of them have female speakers. Those include:
Together for the Gospel
Desiring God National Conference
There are other conferences not included in Jonathan's list with MALE ONLY speakers. He ends his post by drawing the following conclusion:
While I don’t think we can conclude that the Christian conference industry is downright sexist, we can say that most conferences have some serious work to do if they want their stage to look anything like the 21st century church.
From our perspective, these conferences have done a fantastic job of attracting those who are in Christian leadership (or who want to be); however, with the rise of the Nones and the decline of some conservative denominations such as the Southern Baptist Convention, it appears that the 'shepherds' may not be attracting large numbers of followers. Instead, the flock is being scattered for a number of important reasons, which we have also been discussing. Some of those reasons include: extreme authoritarian leadership, a wooden interpretation of Scripture, lack of congregational input, among other reasons.
Your glam blog queens predict that this trend will likely become more prevalent in the years to come as Christians run for the hills so to speak… We have heard from a number of sincere Christians who have been deeply hurt by those who are supposed to be serving them.
Soon after her Tweet (see above), Rachel wrote a post she called: On Being Divisive…
In her post, Rachel explains:
Just yesterday, when I raised some challenges about an evangelical leadership conference in which just 4 out 112 speakers were women, another writer characterized the situation as a “meltdown…from which no one has seemed to emerge more Christlike” and then issued a call for unity, complete with a prayer.
Similarly, when a group of Christians in the Asian American community recently released a letter detailing some of their concerns about common stereotypes and prejudices within the evangelical community, I saw many on social media critique this action as “divisive” and “harmful to Christian unity.” One person asked why this group had to “air the church’s dirty laundry” before a watching world?
This is a common response to those of us who speak from the margins of evangelical Christianity about issues around gender, race, and sexuality, and it’s an effective one because it appeals to something most of us value deeply: Christian unity.
It is interesting that those who want to be inclusive (by encouraging more female conference speakers) are criticized for being divisive. Go figure…
Lydia's Corner: Song of Solomon 1:1-4:16 2 Corinthians 8:16-24 Psalm 50:1-23 Proverbs 22:22-23