A history that ignores women and minorities is a poor reflection of our Christian heritage

From Augustine to Aquinas, from John Calvin to John Wesley, from Pope John I to Pope John XXIII, church history is filled with famous men who have thought and done great things. But when one reads the major texts of church history in our modern context, an inevitable question arises: Where are the women, the people of color, the non-Westerners in the story?

To raise the question is to see the problem. Although the history of Christianity actually begins in Palestine—outside the confines of Western culture—and includes prominent women, such as Phoebe, Priscilla, and Lydia, the telling of it quickly turns to the church fathers and to the male leaders of the institutionalized church that developed in the West.

If one wants to chart the church by tallying theological and institutional crises, then this focus on prominent male leaders makes some sense. But is it really the most accurate representation of our Christian heritage? Might another perspective on church history more fully reflect the experience of the church and the work of the Holy Spirit?

The issue of who is included in the telling of history is not unique to the church. The academic community is in the midst of a multicultural revolution fanned by the flames of political correctness. With mixed results, scholars are challenging the traditional rendition of history and offering new versions—retelling stories from the points of view of women, the vanquished, minorities, or the poor.

It will be a pity if church historians once again merely follow the lead of secular historians—especially since many in the “PC” movement have anti-Western and even anti-Christian biases. But it is also ...

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