Evangelical boundaries and the threat of biblical feminism, 1973-present: a theological and institutional history

Cochran, Pamela Dunkin Hass, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia
Hunter, James, Department of Sociology, University of Virginia
Warren, Heather, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia

Women engaged in theological reflection are among the key catalysts for change within Protestantism and broader American culture today. This effect is fairly clear when one considers the work of such feminist theologians as Mary Daly and Delores Williams. It is, however, less clear when one tums attention to more theologically conservative feminists. This work traces the development of "evangelical feminism," to explore the ways in which more conservative feminists have been a catalyst of change within their own community and beyond. It focuses primarily on the intellectual history of Biblical feminist theology (principally on the view of Biblical authority) and, secondarily, on the institutional history of its leading organizations, the Evangelical and Ecumenical Women's Caucus and Christians for Biblical Equality, and their social agenda. It concludes that Biblical feminists have been at the center of changes both within evangelicalism and American culture by renegotiating the religious symbols that shape its deepest values.

Since the rise of contemporary evangelicalism after World War II, historians and sociologists alike have observed changes within its relationship to American culture. Many scholars have concluded that evangelicals have accommodated to secular culture in behavior and practice while maintaining at least a superficial adherence to doctrine. But even at the level of doctrine, evangelicals have shown an increasing openness to change, especially in the doctrine of inerrancy.

At the heart of this engagement has been a negotiation over the nature, meaning, and scope of authority. Women have been a significant part of this renegotiation by employing modem hermeneutical methods, including new conceptions of Biblical inerrancy. In doing so, they have also helped to shift the boundaries of American evangelicalism. Yet, few studies have addressed the question of women in the more progressive wing of evangelicalism. Indeed, no study as yet has analyzed biblical feminist theology to determine its impact in evangelicalism and American culture. Studying the development of biblical feminist theology will reveal in what ways and to what extent, women in conservative religious traditions, like other feminist theologians, have played a part in the changes occurring within their religious tradition and American life more generally.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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