“There is no doubt that the primary source material is at least partially responsible for the adoption of this more limited lens. Much of the material upon which we depend as historians is written from the male perspective and more often than not from the vantage point of the pulpit rather than the pew”
This week we read the book Global Evangelicalism by Donald Lewis and Richard V. Pierard. It is a composition of 10 different short essays looking at the influence and evidence of evangelicalism in the world over the course of history. In chapter 10 “Evangelicals and Gender” by Sarah C. Williams briefly discusses five assumptions that have been made concerning the relationship that exists between evangelicalism and gender throughout history. The differing of historical depictions, materials and discussions are highly influenced by an evangelical world view the can be witnessed in various writings, cultural influences, and church doctrine. My reflections will seek to touch on a few of the assumptions outlined in her critic.
Who is in charge or what qualifies someone to be in charge? are questions that are reflected upon when discussing leadership matters within the Church. Historically, there has been a bias that has favored men due to the fact that much of our historical materials have been written primarily by other men. This bias has highlighted aspects of church leadership that depict a males point of view despite the fact that history has proven that it is the women who have remained devout and influential in the building up of the church. Due to the fact that women historically did not hold pulpit ministerial positions most of church doctrine, materials, etc. come from those who have held those positions.
In my experience, it has been many of the female laypeople within the church who have been pivotal to the growth and life of their church community. While many were not allowed to sit in the pulpit or hold particular leadership roles deemed only for men to serve in, they were the anchor that the church stood on. “In most cases it was the mothers in working-class families who were more devout, who attended the regular mothers meetings, taught their children to pray at night and organized familial participation in ecclesial rites of passage.” Personally, I can name far more women than men who were influential in my upbringing. Growing up our church attendance was primarily majority women than men. It was the woman who organized the ministries in the background making sure the operations of the church functioned. It was the men who were in the forefront of those efforts more as a figureheads than functionally driving initiatives forward. It would be the “church mothers” who would lead prayer prior to weekly services and teach women and children Sunday school classes. It is known that these women, some who have gone on to be with the Lord, are unsung heroes of faith who were pivotal in the spiritual transformation of every life they touched. They never saw it as a badge of honor but humbly as their reasonable service to the Lord.
Williams wrote “The traditional neglect of women in historical discussions of religious influence pushed the historiography so decisively in the direction of a kind of corrective women’s history that it hassled to a scholarly neglect of masculinity and the formative construction of male and female cultural identities in dialogue with one another.”  Within the previous assumption surfaces another problem, noted by Williams, where the gender bias historical accounts and narratives were being rejected and new ones were emerging resulting in a pull in different directions. The male dominated historical discussions were being met with a push for scholarly historical constructions of women’s influences in life, culture, politics, religion etc. As culture continued to change in the mid nineteenth century through the 1940’s, there were writings on how the ideal nature of manliness became synonymous with spirituality and thus evangelical Christian code of conduct. “To study either at the exclusion of the other gender is to do an injustice to the material and to contemporary understandings of the family as a complex web of relationships.”
She goes on further to acknowledge that these different directions have also shed light on what she calls the separation of spheres between men and women. These spheres were rooted in social and cultural views during the Industrial Revolution where “domestic ideology” that emphasized a woman’s role was in the home as a nurturer, mother and a care giver. The man’s role was “acquisition and competition”. Having these spheres allowed for the family structure to hold both the Christian values within the home and maintain the capitalist values outside of the home which inevitably led to private versus public spheres in society. These views shaped and influenced the culture and reinforced differences between men and women in society.
Today there is still the push for returning to practicing these values and restoring the “family order”. Much of what John Piper and others like him are attempting to reshape society through regaining religious control. The Nashville statement reflects a lot of the attitudes, biases and beliefs that have continued to be a part of the religious history of Western Christianity. Williams critic of these assumptions and views still hold true today in the 21st century.
Her summation was that when looking at gender in history evangelical women have had influence on church and culture. We should not look at evangelicalism or even church history solely from a woman or man perspective but to hold them in tandem. This will allows for us to see the interrelationship without the polarization of one gender view over another. There is no longer one domain or sphere that held by men or women but together is a part of history, present and future. William asserts that “[i]n so doing we are able to reclaim the public sphere as a place of deep reflection on the ethical direction of modern economic development from a Christian perspective and the private sphere as a profoundly important basis for cultural and political critique.”
 Sarah C. Williams, “Evangelicals and Gender,” in Global Evangelicalism, eds. Donald M. Lewis and Richard V. Pierard (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity, 2014), 276.
 Ibid., 277.
 Ibid., 279.