Reflections on ETS, Representation and the Face of Evangelicalism

ETS bigcrowdI just came back from the 2013 annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS). If you are not familiar with this organization, ETS is a professional, academic society of Biblical scholars, teachers, pastors, students, and others involved in evangelical scholarship. In short, it is representative of the conservative arm of Christianity affirmed by members acceptance of the Chicago Statement of Inerrancy as criteria for membership.

The meetings are centered on a particular theme, which changes from year to year and hundreds of papers are presented mainly from professors, PhD students and some who serve in as pastors or in a professional capacity. I was specifically interested in gleaning information that would be useful for my thesis but I’m also interested in research on a variety of topics that are relevant to the church and Christian commitment. I also enjoyed the camaraderie with fellow students, professors, and new friends. Good conversations were well worth the trip.

In all fairness, this was my first annual meeting. I’ve been a member for a few years and have attended the regional meetings, which pale in comparison to this behemoth of a meeting. But it didn’t take long to observe that the overwhelmingly, the majority of the 2,000+ members in attendance are white, male. To be sure, the main panel was homogeneous in this regard.  Best of my knowledge, that is how its always been. Now, I don’t say that to make this an issue of race but of representation.  I don’t know exactly what the percentage of minorities was and certainly there was but in comparison to the whole gathering, its pretty small.

Women made up an even smaller percentage of those represented. According to one session I attended on the future of women in ETS, the presenter noted that women comprise 7% of membership and 1% of papers presented. The percentage is even smaller for women of color. Yikes! That’s pretty low considering that over half of the church comprises women. Continue reading