By Beth Byrd
Gender inequality at Union University is not a topic I hear students discuss before class or over a cup of coffee at Barefoots Joe. It is not a subject I often think about, either. After receiving this semester’s chapel schedule, however, I began to wonder if this issue could be alive and well on our quiet Christian campus.
The discussion of women’s proper role in worship is not new, neither to church history nor to editorial outcries in the Cardinal and Cream. After all, a former staff member wrote an editorial just last year concerning the lack of estrogen gracing the stage of the G. M. Savage Memorial Chapel. The reason I resurrect this topic is because the scarcity of female chapel speakers remains.
Consider the fact that only one woman will speak at the 30 scheduled chapel services this fall. The sole female speaker also will host the third-to-the-last chapel service – not exactly the place of honor, keeping in mind how chapel attendance grows anemic as the semester wanes.
This information further appalled me when I learned that females make up 58 percent of the Union student body. To put this number into context, I have two classes this semester consisting of only female students.
While I wonder if female voices are underrepresented, I feel it is important for you to know I am not oblivious to the traditional Southern Baptist belief that only males should be preachers. I was raised a Southern Baptist, after all – sitting on the back pew and attending congregation-wide Sunday lunches were simply a part of my childhood.
I also am glad that at least one woman was chosen to speak during Union’s chapel services. A quick scan through chapel itineraries of yesteryear shows some semesters featured only men.
However, I have to wonder what message Union may be sending when women, as a whole, are excluded from taking a vital role in serving God through speaking at chapel services.
Please do not think I do not appreciate the men who facilitate chapel services. My heart has been touched by their messages and I hope Union continues to select such outstanding male Christians as speakers.
But if leading a chapel service meant the candidate needed a background in seminary training, many of the male speakers would never make it to the stage. Chapel services are not a substitute for church, and speakers do not take the role of pastoral care and leadership.
Women can hold specific teaching roles at Southern Baptist congregations; why, then, are not more God-fearing, Christ-centered women considered capable of sharing with students, faculty and staff in a Union chapel service without damaging conservative standards the Union community follows?
The Bible itself provides plenty of examples of strong women taking leadership roles in the name of Christ. For example, Deborah was Israel’s judge and leader, while Esther used her power to save the Jews from annihilation. Even Jesus selected Mary to deliver the news He had overcome death.
If Christ Himself entrusted the message of His resurrection to a woman, how can we not allow more Christian women to share their faith and testimony with us?