A couple of times last week Scot advertised a conference on Evangelicals and the Early Church to be held next week at Wheaton College. I wish I could attend, as it looks fascinating. But one of the things I noticed immediately when Scot posted the agenda was the ratio of male to female speakers and respondents (17 men, 1 woman). Now I don’t think that this rather lopsided agenda is the result of discrimination on the part of Wheaton or the conference organizers. In fact I’ve been told that more women were asked. Rather, I expect that it reflects, at least in part, a deeper problem – and the subject of this post.
Perhaps the title of this post should be “Family First!” but the question I wish to address is not the importance of family or the commitment of parents to invest time and energy in raising rearing their children. Those are a given. Rather I would like to consider how this plays out in our world today, especially within evangelicalism. For those who would like to see a diversity of voices both male and female represented in evangelical thought, making use of the gifts of all, it is a particularly significant question.
Family commitments play a significant role in the decisions women make – and these decision influence the availability of women to contribute to the intellectual life of our church. Within evangelical circles there is a pressure, sometimes subtle, sometimes not so subtle, to focus inward on family commitments at the expense of outward commitments. This can take many forms – none of them wrong in and of themselves – individual families make decisions that are best for their situation. But there is an underlying implication that a woman has somehow failed by putting an outward focused goal over the milestones, small or large, of family life; not over family, but over some ideal of what family commitment should be.
There is no one right answer or easy solution – but I would like to open this topic up for conversation. Perhaps the following questions will help guide the conversation:
Is it important to have both male and female voices represented in evangelical thought?
What does it mean to put family first? and What are the relative merits of an inward focus and an outward focus?
Should a mother’s focus be first and foremost inward? A father’s?
How does this play out in your life?
If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net