A Marginal Majority
Women, Gender, and a Reimagining of Southern Baptists
“I think the entire book is helpful in enabling scholars to understand our current political moment and its historical context, given the centrality of Southern Baptists to conservative political movements since the Civil War.”—Jennifer Woodruff Tait, editor, Christian History
In step with the #MeToo movement and third wave feminism, women’s roles provoke lively debate in today’s evangelical sphere. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has a complicated past regarding this issue, and determining what exactly women’s roles in home, church, and society should be, or even what these roles should be called, has been a contentious subject. In A Marginal Majority: Women, Gender, and a Reimagining of Southern Baptists, editors Elizabeth H. Flowers and Karen K. Seat and eight other contributors examine the SBC’s complex history regarding women and how that history reshapes our understanding of the denomination and its contemporary debates.
This comprehensive volume starts with women as SBC fundraisers, moves to the ways they served Southern Baptist missions, and considers their struggles to find a place at Southern Baptist seminaries as well as their launching of “teaching” or “women’s” ministries. Along the way, it introduces new personalities, offers fresh considerations of familiar figures, and examines the power dynamics of race and class in a denomination that dominated the South and grew into a national behemoth.
Additionally, the essay collection provides insights into why the SBC has often politically aligned with the right. Not only did the denomination become increasingly oriented toward authoritarianism as it clamped down on evangelical feminism, but, as several contributors reveal, even as Southern Baptist women sought agency, they often took it from others. Read together, the chapters strike a somber tone, challenging any triumphal historiography of the past.
By providing a history of contentious issues from the nineteenth century to the present day, A Marginal Majority provides invaluable context for the recurrent struggles women have faced within the United States’ largest Protestant denomination. Moreover, it points to new directions in the study of American denominational life and culture.
ELIZABETH H. FLOWERS is associate professor of religion at Baylor University and the author of Into the Pulpit: Southern Baptist Women and Power since World War II.
KAREN K. SEAT is associate professor of religion at the University of Arizona and is the author of “Providence Has Freed Our Hands”: Women’s Missions and the American Encounter with Japan.