Sexism at Christian Colleges (and Seminaries)

I wanted to make you aware of an excellent an important reflection by my Bethel University colleague, Pamela Erwin.

On her blog, “Theological Curves” (gotta like that title), Erwin reflects on a recent Christianity Today study on sexism at Christian colleges. I would think the same certainly applies to evangelical seminaries as well–if not more so. Erwin writes,

The article points out that the results of this study show female faculty often feel excluded from male social groups in part because “evangelicals are more guarded about cross-gender relationships.” The theological wars over issues of women in leadership, the roles of women and men, among other things has fostered an ethos in which men and women are socially awkward in relating professionally with one another. Should a male colleague and a female colleague meet in an office alone to discuss a research project? Can they meet for lunch or at a coffee shop? If someone sees them, what will people think of them?The typical end result of this awkwardness and paranoia is that it’s often just easier NOT to engage professionally, which consequently means that women get left out of the discussion. I cannot even begin to count the number of times I have felt excluded from professional conversations in which I knew or suspected that it was primarily because of my gender. And, sometimes, I was the one making that choice.

Go here for the full reflection (it’s worth letting it sink in).

Perhaps Christian colleges and seminaries should work as hard as possible toward a gender equilibriuim, so as to stave off as much of the negative effects of “benevolent sexism” (however subtle or unintentional it may be). Perhaps faculties should be 50% female / 50% male. Our student enrollments are much closer to that than our faculties.

About Kyle Roberts

(PhD) is Associate Professor of Public Theology and Church and Economic Life, supported by the Schilling Endowment, at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. Roberts has published essays on Kierkegaard and modern theology, including several essays in the series Kierkegaard Research: 2014-10-14 10.26.51Sources, Reception and Resources (Ashgate / University of Copenhagen) and other collected volumes on various topics, including Pietism, Karl Barth, and Christian spirituality. Roberts has published Emerging Prophet: Kierkegaard and the Postmodern People of God (Cascade, 2013) and is currently co-authoring a theological commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Eerdmans) and a book about the virgin birth (Fortress Press, Theology for the People)