I have just noticed that there are about 700 hundred papers being delivered at ETS this year and only eight of them will be delivered by women. What is more, I think I actually know half of the women presenters. Now maybe there are more, I looked up the index in the ETS book and some names like “Leslie” can be unisex, and I don’t know the gender of most Asian names. But even give or take a few, this would mean that women presenters make up only 1% of the papers at ETS. This is not satisfactory.
Now I know that ETS is theologically and culturally conservative in ethos, but ETS has no official position on the gender inclusion issue concerning women in ministry and the academy. In fact, full and frank discussion between complementarians and egalitarians takes place very year, it’s one of the highlights. So there is no reason why female scholars and female grad students in theology/biblical studies cannot come. So where the heck are they and why aren’t they there?
As long as ETS is representative of the evangelical church, then we should expect a strong cohort of female scholars to attend, but they are absent. There are probably several reasons for this. Demographically, many evangelicals are complementarians and don’t permit female scholars (you don’t have to like it or agree, but it is a contributing factor). What is more, I think it is safe to say that some women do not think ETS is a “safe” place to go. Some tell me, anecdotally, that they get sick of being asked “Where does yourhusband teach?”. Or else, they fear being ignored or looked down upon by male peers just for being there.
But let me give five reasons why women should go to ETS!
1. Not everyone at ETS is a “hard” complementarian who prohibit women from teaching ministries in church and academy (I don’t mean “hard” as “mean,” rather as conservative in conviction on the gender debate). Some complementarians are “soft” in the sense that they permit women to have pastoral and didactic roles in the church except that of senior pastor/bishop/big kahuna etc. Many complementarians, I think for instance of Craig Blomberg, encourage women to pursue academic ministries. So don’t think the presence of complementarians means ETS is closed to women. Also, many egalitarians attend and Christians for Biblical Equality even have a booth. So on gender issues the membership of ETS is rather broad in spectrum rather than monolithic on the gender issue.
2. Women voices are appreciated by many ETS members and we would like to see more women attend.
3. If you are a female evangelical scholars/student who believes that you have something to contribute to the church and to the academy, then this is a great place to make such a contribution.
4. If you don’t speak out for women’s issues among evangelicals, then who will? Not count on me, I’m male, and I’ll be too busy going to the various receptions and browsing the book exhibits, so it’ll have to be you girlfriend!
5. Look on the bright side, ETS means no big ques for the bathroom!
Let me ask this: What else can we do or needs to be done to bring more women to ETS?