AbstractEvangelicals are frequently perceived as conservative, for instance in their perspective on women. There is indeed a widespread evangelical hierarchical or complementarian theological view which objects to women in church leadership. There is, however, a growing egalitarian counter position, sometimes also referred to as “evangelical feminism”, which supports female leadership.
This article concentrates on the international missionary organisation Youth With A Mission (YWAM), which clearly endorses female leaders in formal statements. In YWAM Germany, however, women are under-represented in leadership positions. The article seeks to explain this under-representation, especially in terms of the role played by Scripture.
By means of interviews with leaders in YWAM Germany, possible answers were explored. Surprisingly, for an evangelical organisation, the interpretation of Scripture proved not to be a significant factor. Factors that do play a role are church background, the lack of female role models, lower self-confidence of women, family responsibilities, and the role of incumbent leadership. The latter appears to be the most crucial factor, since the incumbent leaders, who mostly are men, select and appoint new leaders. It is likely that in this they are influenced by stereotypical conceptions of the leader as male and are inclined to appoint leaders similar to themselves.