This article originally appeared in the July 16, 1990 issue.
It happens every time we publish something about Women in Leadership (WIL). It happened after we ran a profile of Roberta Hestenes, president of Eastern College. It happened after we printed a two-page advertisement from the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. It happened after we ran a competing message from another group, Christians for Biblical Equality. And as sure as the sun will come up tomorrow, it will happen in response to articles in this issue: Mary Van Leeuwen's essay on the meaning of Pentecost for gender issues; and a report on a CT survey of readers' attitudes.
What happens is that we get lots of (predictable) letters. If an article endorses women in leadership roles, many letters object and a few congratulate. If the article endorses a male hierarchy, many object and a few congratulate. Letters come from men and women alike, though we have not studied trends to see how either sex tends to respond to the issues.
Usually, our letters to the editor include a certain percentage from axe-grinders. But the letters on WIL are from serious-minded evangelicals who have strong beliefs on this subject and want to share them. Many are filled with solid exegesis. Others passionately marshal theological, philosophical, sociological, and psychological data. These are not harsh, unknown critics, but friends of CT.
Perhaps the mail response is so passionate because CT readers are still trying to work out gender issues in their own lives. Our survey data show that while CT readers' beliefs are consistently more conservative than those of the general populace, in actual practice, the gender aspects of their lives are very similar. This clash between lifestyle and values suggests a serious tension in CT readers' families.
But our readers are not the only ones divided on this issue. Members of our in-house editorial staff also line up on opposite sides of the question. As do our senior editors and our board members.
We have not made a hard-and-fast position on WIL a crusade. But there are certain elements of the issue we are willing to crusade for: We believe women should be treated as well as men; we believe God has gifted each of us, male and female, and expects us to help all believers exercise their gifts; we believe sexism is real and should be eradicated.
But that does not exhaust all the elements of the question: Should women be ordained? What is the full meaning of Paul's statements in 1 Corinthians 14:35 and 1 Timothy 2:12? What role does culture (both Paul's and ours) play in how we decide WIL issues?
What is the role of a magazine like CT when it confronts an issue on which its core audience is divided? Although we have taken editorial positions on aspects of WIL in the past, our tone has not been dogmatic because we realize that this question needs continuing work from the best theological minds. We would like CT's pages to be a platform where divisive issues can be debated with logical yet loving force. As you read Mary Van Leeuwen's essay in this issue, senior editor J. I. Packer is writing out his reasons (to be published early in 1991) for not making women presbyters. Although Drs. Packer and Van Leeuwen disagree on such issues, they provide excellent models for carrying on the WIL discussion.
We believe that WIL should not divide us. Resolution can be achieved without radical surgery, without cutting off any limb from the body of Christ. Indeed, it must be if the conclusions are to carry any weight. We pledge our pages to work toward that end.
This article originally appeared in the July 16, 1990 issue.,
Copyright © 2002 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Also appearing on our site today:
Nuptial Agreements | Two models of marriage claim biblical warrant and vie for evangelicals' allegiance. Advocates of both claim good results. But do we have to choose?
Adam and Eve in the 21st Century | When it comes to gender roles, CT readers oscillate between complementarian and egalitarian ideas.
CT Classic: Adam and Eve in America | In 1990, readers first revealed what they thought it means to be created male and female.
Earlier Christianity Today articles on gender roles include:
The Next Christian Men's Movement | Just because Promise Keepers no longer fills stadiums doesn't mean men's ministry is dead. Far from it. (Sept. 15, 2000)
What Has Gender Got to Do with It? | Wesleyan-Holiness churches were led by women long before the rise of the modern women's movement. (Sept. 12, 2000)
A Woman's Place | Women reaching women is key to the future of missions. (Aug. 4, 2000)
Integrating Mars and Venus | Gender-based ministries may be effective, but are they biblical? (July 12, 1999)
Finding Power in Submission | Two feminist scholars write about women you'll recognize. (Apr. 27,1998)
Will Episcopalians Step into the 'Radical Center'? | Homosexual ordination discussed, women's ordination mandated. (Sept. 1, 1997)
Presbyterian Groups Sever CRC Ties | Women's ordination spli