Survey finds strong support for women leadership in church
A survey has found strong support among evangelicals for women having leadership roles in church.
The Evangelical Alliance survey asked the views of more than 1,800 people, with a male to female ratio of 53:47.
Nearly three-quarters (73%) of respondents agreed women should hold senior positions in the church, with 80% agreeing women should preach or teach.
This is despite the fact that the majority of the churches attended by the respondents are led by men. The survey found that 84% of senior leaders among respondents' churches were men and only 16% women. Women were also heavily outnumbered by men in leadership teams, accounting for only 36% of team membership.
The figures are similar to the results of a 2010 EA survey of 17,000 evangelicals, which found that 71% were in favour of women being eligible for all roles within the church.
The Evangelical Alliance said there could soon be a shift in the balance if the number of women in ministry training go on to become involved in church leadership.
At present, more than 40 per cent of ordinands in the Church of England and at the London School of Theology are women. The LST, Europe's largest evangelical training college, reports an upward trend in the number of women studying theology.
Dr Graham McFarlane, vice principal academic, London School of Theology, said: "We are encouraged in seeing a growing number of women studying theology who then go on to positions of leadership in churches.
"As an interdenominational evangelical college we train people from across the denominational spectrum to change the world. More female graduates than ever are now rising to this exciting challenge."
Other findings from the latest EA survey reveal optimism among evangelical church leaders about future growth, with 47 per cent agreeing that their church is growing in number and 70 per cent expecting an increase in attendance over the next 20 years.
Job satisfaction is high, with 84 per cent of church leaders saying they greatly enjoy their ministry work, even though a quarter say relationships with friends and family can suffer as a result of the long working hours.
The survey found that biblical truth is vital to evangelical Christians, with 99 per cent agreeing that a church should faithfully teach the Bible as the true word of God.
Over two-thirds (68%) prioritise the doctrinal and theological stance of a church when choosing where to attend. This was particularly the case among those born after 1980.
Community engagement is also high, with just under a third (32%) taking part in social action projects and more than half (54%) taking the level of outreach into consideration when choosing a new church.
Dr Dave Landrum, director of advocacy, Evangelical Alliance, said: "This report confirms our earlier research showing that evangelicals are strongly supportive of women being in all kinds of church leadership. Countering some of the less helpful caricatures of evangelicals, the survey shows church life as being vibrant and healthy.
"The survey also illustrates how much churches both value and contribute to community wellbeing – further evidence that community engagement by the Church is propping up a Big Society that would otherwise wither and die."