The 12-year-old Evangelical Women’s Caucus International, a 650-member organization promoting the equality of women and men in theologically conservative churches, expects to have a rough year ahead after passing a resolution at its recent national conference in support of homosexual civil rights.
Dogged for years by accusations from other evangelicals that it is a “lesbian support group,” EWCI delegates last week in Fresno nevertheless approved the resolution, 80 to 16, with 23 abstentions, after about two hours of debate.
The Minnesota delegate indicated that her chapter would not be able to host the next biennial convention because of misunderstandings that would inevitably arise in many churches.
After a post-convention meeting of the group’s officers, Britt Vanden Eykel of Glendale, the caucus’ national coordinator, said: “Our primary purpose is still the same, but many people felt that Christ calls us to speak out for justice.
“We’ve been operating out of fear for a number of years and decided it’s time to confront that fear,” Vanden Eykel said.
The resolution reads:
“Whereas homosexual people are children of God and because of the biblical mandate of Jesus Christ that we are all created equal in God’s sight, and in recognition of the presence of the lesbian minority in Evangelical Women’s Caucus International, EWCI takes a firm stand in favor of civil rights protection for homosexual persons.”
Ann Eggebroten of Costa Mesa, who wrote and introduced the resolution, said: “We have not said that theologically that homosexual behavior is OK with God; we took a stand on civil rights.”
Eggebroten, a founding member, said that lesbian members may number 20 to 30 women in the organization, less than 5% of the membership.
The reason for referring to them in the resolution, she said, was that “they feel very rejected by the group and all of evangelical Christianity. We are just acknowledging that they are there and we are not going to kick them out or not have them as speakers.”
The July 6-10 conference in Fresno had 80 workshops on topics such as non-sexist names for God, church history, pornography’s impact on women’s image, biblical studies, Christian life style and spiritual growth.
While adhering to evangelical tenets that the Bible is the inspired, infallible guide for Christian faith and life, the caucus also maintains in its literature that “the Bible, when properly understood, supports the fundamental equality of the sexes.” In addition to injustices against women by society, “the church especially has encouraged men to prideful domination and women to irresponsible passivity,” according to a general statement of the caucus.
The organization has not taken official positions before on social or political issues except to endorse the ill-fated equal rights amendment. But the homosexual rights resolution was presented to delegates in Fresno after they had earlier approved relatively uncontroversial statements condemning bias against black women and violence against women in the home.
The fear surrounding the homosexual rights statement, Vanden Eykel said, is that “the evangelical church might presume more from the resolution than it actually says.” The 1988 conference is scheduled to be held at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minn., affiliated with the strongly conservative Baptist General Conference. “We need to be careful about judging (prematurely) whether Bethel College will allow us to meet there or not,” she said.
Much of the time at the EWCI officers’ meeting last weekend was spent studying Scriptures to discuss whether “it was God’s will for us to take a stand or whether we were threatening the unity of the organization,” Vanden Eykel said.
“We’re trying to be palatable to the Christian church,” she said. “We feel that many chapters are going to be re-evaluating their positions, largely because of this resolution.”
The Jehovah’s Witnesses holding a four-day meeting in Dodger Stadium through Sunday are from the Los Angeles area and Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. The district convention, which is expected to draw more than 50,000 at peak sessions, is one of 130 such regional meetings organized this summer by the Brooklyn-based Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society.