A General in the Christian ‘Gender Wars’


When I asked a handful of prominent Christian egalitarians (those who oppose gender hierarchy or "gender roles") recently who they considered to be leaders of their movement, all mentioned Dr. Mimi Haddad, president of Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE). In the evangelical "gender wars," it seems Haddad has risen to the rank of general. She isn't always fighting on the front lines, but she works tirelessly to resource those who are. Haddad speaks widely at Christian colleges, churches, and seminaries and has serious academic credentials. She is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and holds a Ph.D. in historical theology from the University of Durham (UK). Mimi is also an adjunct professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, Bethel University, and North Park Theological Seminary.

CBE's mission is to affirm and promote "the biblical truth that all believers—without regard to gender, ethnicity or class—must exercise their God-given gifts with equal authority and equal responsibility in church, home and world."

Because of her felt presence in this important debate, I contacted her to discuss her beliefs about the Bible's teaching on gender and how she formed them.

RNS: What was "gender" like in the family in which you were raised?

MH: My parents devoted much attention that their daughters might become fully-developed people. Dad said I didn’t need to get married to be happy—how many people talk about marriage as if it isn’t the pinnacle of existence? Dad said, “It’s not! The pinnacle of existence is becoming exactly who you were supposed to be. And marriage may or may not be in the equation.” So that really created some comfort and relaxation around relationship expectations and may explain why I married later in life, unlike so many of my friends.

Because of this, there was a welcoming of personal development and a welcoming of higher education. And so as I pursued first a Master’s and then a doctorate, I never sensed that it was sort of a second-tiered option for a woman. I had the confirmation and support of my family to say, “You’re not defined, first of all, by your gender, and second, by the relationships you establish with men. The equation of your life is complex. It’s more complex than gender and relationships."

RNS: What is that you find problematic in churches in terms of gender relations?