A month ago Jonathan Merritt wrote an article about whether or not Christian conferences were sexist. Here’s some highlights from Merrit’s article: (I recommend you read the whole article for better context and understanding).
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? …
I began to ask an even bigger question: Is the Christian conference industry sexist? I’ve attended or spoken at many Christian conferences over the years and most had either an exclusively male speaker list or were male-dominated. But I haven’t encountered them all or even most of the major ones. So I decided to survey some of the biggest Christian conferences in the evangelical world to uncover what level of female representation they had on stage. Here’s what I found: ….
Total speakers: 805 / Female speakers: 159
By my count, that’s around 19% female speaker representation at these major Christian conferences–presumably better than it was even a few years ago, but still lower than it should be. 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.
This past week Rachel Held Evan’s came out with a list – a list of 101 Christian Women Speakers. (Yes, I’m on the list)
The list says to those Christian conference organizers – You no longer have an excuse. If you “just didn’t know of any female speakers” – you do now.
But I think the list has some real potential besides “helping” those organizers. I suspect, I have no proof yet, but I suspect the list can tell us some very valuable things about God and what he’s up to in the world.
After reading the list one has to ask, “Why these women?”
If I sat with them would I discover common thread (s)? Do these women possess similar passions, perspectives, and purposes? I know – Jesus- but what I want to know is Jesus speaking a message through their collective voices? If so, what?
I ask because for a while now I’ve believed God is speaking to us, his global church, about some very specific issues. (Like gender, injustice, the marginalized and economic inequality or as Pope Francis stated the plight of systems that worship money like those “savage capitalists,” just to name a few.) He’s been talking and there’s been resistance, particularly from the right-wing conservatives. As Betty Friedan said so well, “Change has always been threatening to the keepers of the status quo.”
Even still, if I lean in and listen carefully I can hear some new lyrics. And the tune each person is playing has a similar ring. This song is not a (wo)man-made song. It’s God’s.
In all honesty there have been many times I’ve felt alone while playing my particular note in the song (gender injustice). It’s not fun to go against the safe, comfortable, biblically correct (meaning you’re unbiblical if you disagree with them) crowd. They can shoot you. Let’s remember with every new movement there are martyers. There have been times in my ministry life when I’ve felt like Elijah. Remember he was exhausted and afraid (of Jezebel) so he fled. He sulked for a bit, God cared for him then said, “What are you doing Elijah? Get back in the game. You’re not the only one. I’ve got 7000 other’s out there too!” (1 Kings 19 my paraphrase)
When I read the list I felt a spark of hope.
What if God has a 100 women (and more) out there, all over the place? Women I know. Women I’ve heard of. Some I don’t know at all. Each playing their part in God’s new song.
And if that’s true then what does that say about what God is wanting talked about? And why aren’t the conservative evangelicals listening?
How about it? Want to help compile a list from the list?
If you know one of the woman on the list would you write a sentence or two describing her passions? What’s she talking about? Let’s put together a list from the list and see if there are any threads.
Thanks to Rachel for taking the time to compile a list. May the Lord continue to use these women (and so many other men and women) to speak God song to the world; a world that’s literally been dying to hear a new tune.