Gender gap in chapel speakers contradicts Biola's goal to equip students
On Friday, Aug. 31, Todd Pickett provides students with daily prayers for spiritual growth, as well as the upcoming chapel schedule. | Olivia Blinn/THE CHIMES
“Chapel schedule for the semester is up!” read a tweet from @biolau on Aug. 23. As has been a habit of mine for some time now, I clicked on the link to review the schedule of upcoming speakers. I skimmed the description of Biola’s Chapel Programs displayed above the schedule.
“University chapels and conferences are intended to bring the Biola community together regularly for worship, spiritual nurture and education regarding relevant issues facing us in our lives. The overall program brings a unique distinction to the ethos of Biola as a Christian university,” it reads.
I counted silently, dragging my finger down my computer screen for accuracy. There will be 34 chapels: 27 different male speakers, six female speakers.
For the past three years, I have been told over and over again that the goal of my education at Biola University is to equip me — in mind and character — to influence the world for the Lord Jesus Christ. But as I write this today in the fall of my senior year, I do not feel equipped, particularly as a woman, to influence the world. Or at least, I feel less equipped than my brothers. There are a number of reasons why I feel this way, but one of the most significant is numbers like these.
Do women not have something to offer the students of Biola University about influencing the world for the Lord Jesus Christ?
What are we telling our undergraduate population, Biola University? What are we communicating to them about who does and does not have something to teach us about the life of faith? Because the message these numbers scream is that men are to be this University’s primary source of “spiritual nurture and education regarding relevant issues facing us in our lives,” and conversely, women’s voices and perspectives are not as valuable.
Now, I know that part of the reason chapels feature so few women speakers is due to the fact that most chapel speakers are pastors, professional ministers or Bible professors, and these professions are largely occupied by men. However, I have a theory that this is so partly because we have sent generations of Christian young women through institutions like Biola and have failed to give them examples of women who have pursued their masters degrees in theology, their masters of divinity or their doctorates. We have not given them examples of women who believe that they too can study and teach from Scripture, women who do not view their gender as a hindrance that keeps them from contributing to the community of faith. As I prepare to leave Biola, I worry for the many bright, talented, anointed young women I leave behind. Who will tell them that their voices are valuable? Who will give them examples to aspire to?
Biola, if you desire to equip your students to influence the world for the Lord Jesus Christ, you must make a conscious effort to position both men and women as examples for your students to learn from. And as the generation behind us comes to faith, we must be sure that we communicate — not only in word but in practice — the very real need our community has for the voices of both men and women.
To quote theologian and philosopher Dallas Willard, “What we lose by excluding the distinctively feminine from ‘official’ ministries of teaching and preaching is of incalculable value. It profoundly affects the sense of identity and worth on both sides of the gender line; and, if wrongly grasped, it restricts the resources for blessing, through the Church, upon an appallingly needy world.”