Conversations: Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen talks about reclaiming feminism

Why Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen does not want to give up on a perfectly good word.

Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen, a native of Canada, is a self-proclaimed Christian feminist, which has occasionally caused a stir. A leading evangelical scholar and professor of psychology and philosophy at Eastern College in Saint Davids, Pennsylvania, she has been derided by Christians as being too "feminist" in her interpretation of gender issues while being dismissed by feminists as being too "Christian."

Reared in the United Church of Canada, she became disillusioned with the faith until after college, when she served in Zambia as a schoolteacher. She was rebaptized there in 1971 and has remained on the frontlines of evangelical academic debate on gender and other issues for decades. She has written and edited many books and is presently working on a book about masculinity and served as an editor and signer of "Women of Renewal: A Statement," a project of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. The document asserts that the radical feminist agenda "leads to women being demeaned, their lives destroyed, and their spirits en slaved."

Van Leeuwen and her husband, Ray, an Old Testament scholar at Eastern College, are the parents of two grown sons. They shared domestic and parenting responsibilities while their children were young.

Because you identify yourself as a Christian feminist, some have challenged your commitment to orthodox Christianity. How would you describe your faith?
I'm comfortable calling myself a Calvinist evangelical Christian. Through out my childhood and youth, I was skeptical of Christianity. I held the view that to be a Christian, people had to put their minds in cold storage. I began to reconsider this position as a young adult when I encountered Christians who were very thoughtful and intelligent people.

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Conversations: Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen talks ...
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September 6, 1999

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