July 29, 2004
Alena Amato Ruggerio
Correction: July column "Biblical Feminists" (7/29/04), by Dr. Alena Amato Ruggerio, asserted that Christianity Today cancelled an advertisement after receiving pressure from the organization Christians for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. No one from that organization contacted Christianity Today prior to its decision to pull the ad. Sightings regrets the error.
Recently, the Evangelical and Ecumenical Women's Caucus (EEWC), advocates of biblical equality, met resistance in promoting their 2004 biennial conference. They sought to increase their group's visibility by announcing the event with a full-page ad in Christianity Today. All went as planned: the ad was placed and ran in the evangelical magazine's March issue. But, within days of publishing the ad, the magazine yielded to pressure from religious conservatives and rescinded it.
Founded in 1974, on the heels of the publication of Nancy A. Hardesty and Letha Dawson Scanzoni's, All We're Meant to Be: A Biblical Approach to Women's Liberation, the Evangelical and Ecumenical Women's Caucus defines feminism within a biblical context and promotes gender equality within the church, home, and society. The EEWC ad that appeared in Christianity Today informed readers that the voices of those who identify as both Christian and feminist have been thriving for thirty years, despite the attempts of religious conservatives to silence them.
Particularly unsettling to conservatives is EEWC's inclusion of persons regardless of gender expression or sexual orientation, a position that is scripturally justified and defended in such books as Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? A Positive Christian Response, co-authored in 1978 by Virginia Ramey Mollenkott and Letha Dawson Scanzoni. The EEWC slogan, featured prominently in the advertisement, is: "We are Christian, We are Feminist, We are Inclusive."
Christianity Today accepted payment and ran EEWC's ad without incident until Christians for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW), a conservative group opposing gender equality on religious grounds, pressured the magazine to apologize for printing it. A report posted on the CBMW website, "CT VP calls feminist ad in March issue a mistake," labeled EEWC a "radical feminist group" whose theology is "dangerously unbiblical." According to this report, Christianity Today's vice president of sales, Brian Ondracek, explained that the Christian feminist ad slipped through their content checks during a time of staff transition because of the word "evangelical" in EEWC's name, an oversight he promised would never happen again.
Although Ondracek indicated that Christianity Today had heard nothing but negative feedback after printing the ad, EEWC received positive letters and calls of interest. They also enjoyed a successful conference this past June at Scripps College in Claremont, California, where Bible scholars Phyllis Trible and Reta Halteman Finger and feminist theologians Rosemary Radford Ruether and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott addressed the conference theme, "Where Wisdom Calls: Crossroads and Open Gates," based on Proverbs 8. In response, several members of EEWC cancelled their subscriptions to Christianity Today's publications and the group plans to advertise their summer 2006 conference elsewhere.
One wonders: will today's progressive Christian causes still be considered "a mistake" tomorrow?
Alena Amato Ruggerio is Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at Southern Oregon University.