Debate over women in leadership forces para-church groups to rethink their unwritten policies.

Campus Crusade for Christ staff member Pamela Miller was in for a surprise when she arrived at a ministry Christmas conference in 1982. Unlike previous years, she was not assigned to lead a discussion group. The reason: Miller had been married earlier that year. “I assumed it was an oversight,” she says, “but the leadership responded as if they just didn’t know what to do with me, a married woman with no children.”

During her seven years with the ministry, Miller also grew disturbed by Crusade’s “wife days.” In her view, the weekly half-day off seemed “blatantly sexist.” And when she asked if she and her husband could alternate taking the time off, or share a half-day off every two weeks, the suggestions “were not taken seriously,” she says. “The attitude this policy promotes is that wives are dispensable, but husbands are not, and that wives are expected to do the housework on these days off.”

Miller’s experience is typical of the tightrope that ministries such as Campus Crusade, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF), and the Navigators walk when dealing with sensitive “secondary” doctrinal issues. But the topic of women’s roles, which has sparked intense debate among evangelical denominations and other institutions, is one the nondenominational ministries find even harder to avoid.

All three campus groups have tried to maintain an official “no policy” approach. But insiders say that undeniable, unspoken policies exist. And in the past two years, all three have formally or informally re-examined their policies on women’s roles.

Politically Correct?

If Miller’s experience represents one side of the coin, David Green’s might be the ...

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