If you are looking for a fairly comprehensive perspective of the history of evangelicalism and how it has taken over much of the world, a great place to start is with Global Evangelicalism. Beginning with David Bebbington’s classic definition of an evangelical, including a focus on conversion, the Bible, activism, and the cross, Global Evangelicalism outlines the types of evangelicals, their histories, short-comings and continental reach. Even further, the text dabbles in critical assumptions around gender.
Reading through Global Evangelicalism, I was immediately taken by two aspects: the history of Europe and North America and the chapter on gender. Together, these are the primary focus of the beginning of my dissertation, identifying a problem. The title of my recent essay was, “The Historical Theology of Inclusion in the Wesleyan Tradition,” with inclusion focusing on women and people of color. The history of the Wesleyan Tradition was anchored in an abolitionist movement with the women’s movement into leadership close behind. At the forming of multiple Wesleyan denominations (as noted in Pierard’s section on nineteenth century North America), freedom for slaves and leadership for women in ministry were foundational. However, while many of the denominations created a place for both groups to belong, most did not write into their policy at their founding about the equality of both groups. Thus, over time, the majority of Wesleyan movements waned in expanding their leadership, and even participation, to people of color and women.
Through my research of the history of the Wesleyan Tradition, I realized an aspect of race and ethnicity that was confirmed through the US census and in Global Evangelicalism. There was a long period, from 1790 until 1860 in the US at least, in which people were considered either black or white. Although indigenous people groups, along with others from across the globe resided in the United States, the only ones that were recognized were whites while all people of color were designated as slaves. This narrow focus reveals a small but telling aspect of the depth and breadth of the privilege felt by white leadership in the church as well as in the society.
While evangelical church leadership throughout the world primarily began in the West, many of the countries reached through Western evangelical missions have received the minority among them, even when colonial models were introduced, and allowed for conversion and integration. Only in recent years, as the demographics have begun to shift more dramatically in the US, have American churches reconsidered the need to actively diversify to continue to reach their communities. This may especially be true as the US census predicts less than fifty percent of the population to be white only by 2050.
Two of several important highlights in the history of Global Evangelicalism with reference to the need of all people leading toward individual and societal transformation are Mark Noll’s extensive list of both women and men who promoted evangelism and social activism. Charles Finney is also a significant figure, as a mid-nineteenth century evangelist who both “allowed women to testify and pray in services” as well as urging “converts to become involved in social reform efforts.” As Wolffe and Pierard write of Finney, “Like others of his time, he believed that the way to transform society was through the conversion of individuals.”
With an historical review, the final chapter on “Evangelicals and Gender” points out five problematic assumptions surrounding evangelicalism with regard to masculinity and femininity. Each of the five bely the complexities between the sexes that “inhibit and distort our understanding of the range and depth of evangelical influence on historical structures of thought and patterns of life.” Fear of female authority and feminist reaction tend to sit at the heart of the discussion. Unfortunately, the disunity between male and female is rooted in Genesis with the fall and plays out through all of Christian history, especially in the evangelical church. However, as Williams notes and others have seen, there have been expressions of women and men working together in important and effective ways to grow the church globally, whether as leadership or parishioners or both.
Lewis’ text explains that evangelicalism has risen in the last century to be second only to the long-time leader, the Catholic church. Spreading through the global South, Evangelicalism is alive and well. While Global Evangelicalism claims the continued growth of evangelicals world-wide, the North Atlantic, as Charles Taylor puts it, is beginning to decline in its distinctiveness as the leader in the movement of Christendom. Problems named such as the lack of understanding around the term evangelical and lack of visibility as a singular movement such as the universal Catholic church are only a portion of the struggle for the Wesleyan Tradition. With a growing diversity in the world, the Wesleyan denominations have a ripe opportunity to develop leadership for the future by reaffirming their original DNA. By reasserting the value on those most marginalized by race and gender, particularly women of color, the Wesleyan Holiness denominations would not be deviating from their missions, but rather fulfilling their calling as evangelicals.
 What Census Calls Us: A Historical Timeline,” Pew Research Center: Social & Demographic Trends, June 10, 2015, http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/interactives/multiracial-timeline/.
 Lewis, Donald M., and Richard V. Pierard. Global Evangelicalism : Theology, History & Culture in Regional Perspective. IVP Academic, 2014. Chapter 1.
 Lewis, Chapter 4.
 Lewis, Chapter 10.
 Lewis, Chapter 1.