Part One in Series “Women of Faith in Leadership”
Posted by Gary David Stratton, Senior Editor
Congratulations to Two Handed Warrior contributors Margaret Feinberg and Rachel Held Evans for their inclusion in Christianity Today’s “50 Women You Should Know” (below). In truth, many if not most of the women on CT’s list are true Two Handed Warriors, including some excellent choices from the world of higher education: Shirley Mullen of Houghton College, Dorothy Chappell of Wheaton College, Kim Phipps of Messiah College, and Kara Powell of Fuller Theological Seminary, as well as reconciliation advocate Brenda Salter McNeil.
While one could quibble with the omission of many of the most influential women of faith in Hollywood (many of whom would never wish to appear in such a public list), it is a great honor and a sign of the growing influence of women in evangelical leadership.
May their tribe increase!
50 Women You Should Know
We asked key leaders which Christian women are most profoundly shaping the evangelical church and North American society. This is who they picked.
Christian women who want to pursue influential roles in politics, the church, and other sectors of public life in the United States and Canada have never before had more opportunities to do so. As the following profiles in our cover package show, they are taking advantage of those opportunities in spades. It’s not just a golden moment for Christian women, of course, but for the entire church, as we benefit from the fruit of their manifold gifts.
Not that long ago, this cover package would have been inconceivable. But that isn’t to say that Christian women had no influence in church and society before 2012. It was women who formed the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society in 1833. Harriet Tubman, a Christian who escaped slavery, went on to lead an influential movement within the Underground Railroad.
Methodist Frances Willard led two million members worldwide in the temperance movement more than a century ago, influencing many to support women’s suffrage as a “weapon of protection to her home and tempted loved ones from the tyranny of drink.” The movement also started kindergartens, passed child labor laws, and in the 1870s created the first daycares for the children of working women.
Today evangelicalism continues to feel the effects of women’s leadership. In the 1940s and ’50s, Henrietta Mears, a dynamic Christian educator, shaped the church’s future in powerful ways, discipling a number of future evangelical leaders, including Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ.
Women writers have played a particularly important role in evangelicalism. Rosalind Rinker’s Prayer: Conversing with God changed the way evangelicals prayed together. Before Rinker, many believed that prayer should be in the King’s English, spoken formally, as if addressing a monarch. The idea that Christians could talk to God as a friend, conversationally, was Rinker’s radical idea that is now commonplace.
Tensions remain—and in some ways are exacerbated—as women pursue leadership in many spheres. Denominations and particular churches continue to argue about the appropriate role of women—whether they can teach men or be ordained, for example. Others debate how to best understand Scripture’s description of the role of women in marriage. Some raise concerns that by recognizing women who find a voice in the public sphere, we may be subtly denigrating the work of stay-at-home mothers. (This would be true only if one believed that public work was intrinsically more valuable than private, which would be hard to defend if one really believes the meek are blessed.)
In some key respects, though, the distinction between public and private, between professional career and mothering, is being blurred. Many stay-at-home moms have become publicly influential as they blog from their farmhouses, tweet from grocery stores, or phone in a conference call while watching a 2-year-old.
The causes and subtleties of Christian women’s newfound public influence will have to wait—it’s a topic that deserves careful analysis. In this issue, we simply want to highlight, indeed, celebrate, the simple fact of this new development, as women’s leadership gifts are changing the life of the evangelical church and North American society in remarkable ways.
Next Post in Series: What Women Think of Leadership and Their Role in the Church