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Research shows many Christian events are failing to achieve an equal split between male and female speakers. Natalie Collins explains why gender parity is a worthwhile aim
Women are over 50% of the UK population and account for well over half of Christians in the UK. However, according to research I have conducted for Project 3:28 they make up only 34% of speakers contributing to national Christian events.
Some events like the Baptist Assembly, the Church and Media Conference and Soul Survivor achieved close to a 50/50 split for speakers, while events like Keswick, Word Alive and New Horizon (who hold an 'equal but differently called' view of men and women) had fewer than 20% women.
In light of this, it seemed like a good idea to list some of the many ways the church and Christian culture misses out when women are refused an equal platform to men.
1. On the fullness of God’s creation
God created us male and female. By not including women equally with men, Christian events are depriving the body of Christ of the fullness God created us with.
2. Opportunities for evangelism
The majority of evangelistic speakers are men. Clearly women are not prevented from accepting the gospel if men are delivering the message. However, it is alienating to women and girls without Christian faith if there are no people like them sharing the difference the gospel could make to them. If we want everyone to have access to the truth of Jesus, we need to ensure that the platform has people on it that can be related to (and identified with) by both women and men.
3. Women’s unique experiences
Although there is no ubiquitous experience of womanhood, many women have experiences of the world that are rarely shared by male speakers. Most of us bleed for a few days a month, many of us have been subjected to harassment and stereotyping, some of us are teachers, carers, CEOs and mothers. The world currently treats women very differently to men, and ensuring those experiences are spoken from the Christian platform and heard by those in the church is of utmost importance.
4. Wisdom and skill
Women are massively skilled and as the saying goes "Women have to be twice as good as men to get half as far as them". The Church is missing out on some incredibly talented, knowledgeable and experienced people when they don’t include women equally to men.
5. On avoiding losing women from the Church
Research has found women are leaving the Church. More and more women are finding that the Church has little to say to them. Women’s roles within the Church remain focused on caring and support responsibilities and for millennial women (and many older women) that is not the reality of their lives. By having more women on the platform, sharing their lives, women generally may find the church’s message becomes more relevant to them.
6. Addressing the root causes of male violence
Domestic abuse, child sexual exploitation, female genital mutilation, trafficking and pornography are rooted in men’s superiority over women. By having equal numbers of women on the platform we are modelling a culture that says we value women’s voices equally to men’s. By striving for gender equality, we undermine the gendered oppression and in doing so model a new way of being men and women in the Kingdom and in society.
7. Inspiring girls and young women
As has often been repeated, "it’s hard to be what you can’t see". When girls and young women don’t see platforms that include women, they may conclude that public leadership, preaching and teaching are gifts solely given to men. They are less likely to aspire to become leaders themselves, perhaps unintentionally missing out on God’s calling!
8. Releasing women to fulfill their calling
Women in our churches and across Christian culture may be called by God to lead, teach, preach and write. However, if they rarely see women in those roles, they may assume there are mishearing God. By giving women an equal share of leadership opportunities we ensure God’s call is being fulfilled and we are part of ensuring that those women are given space to live out God’s calling on their life.
9. Honouring the Bible
This may be a contentious one! The few Bible passages on men and women’s roles and responsibilities are far from clear cut and the wider context of Scripture gives us women such as Deborah, Esther, Mary, Priscilla and Junia who evidence that God calls women to lead too. Those who have a complementarian perspective would argue that they are being faithful to the Bible, but as an evangelical I too would want to insist that by fully including women on Christian platforms we are honouring the Biblical mandate for women and men.
10. Following the Spirit’s leading
The Spirit of God is falling on women across the globe, gifting and calling them, and we must be open to seeing and facilitating that, in our events, churches, mission and social action projects and in each of our lives.
Project 3:28 is in the process of developing a database for Christian women speakers. Visit www.project328.info/database for more information
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