Women as equal partners is part of BGU’s DNA, name, and core values. However, all of this serves as a consistent aspiration for our journey, and never a excuse to say we’ve arrived at our goal.
BGU was founded by a network of global leaders originally formed around a Billy Graham initiative called the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelism Urban Associates. In 2003, a consultant firm was hired to interview 70 of the top leaders of this network along with Seattle-area urban leaders to ask them what was needed to further their work. BGU was created in response to their answers.
One of the things they said was a non-negotiable core value was to ensure that women are equipped as leaders, different but equal with men. Ray Bakke who served as a primary spokesperson for this group was a strong advocate for men and women serving together in urban leadership in the way that God intended. He told stories of urban conflict in Beirut Lebanon in the 1980s where ONLY women could serve as peacemakers moving among the factions since the men were too suspicious of each other.
Ray’s Bible teaching often showed how the Bible honored women in radical ways for the times in which the scripture was written. From the beginning women leaders have served on BGU boards, as the BGU President, Dean, and in all roles within the school. One of the strong points the consultants raised when suggesting the school be named “Bakke” was that the name served as a metaphor of unity and diversity: one family with three brothers serving in diverse careers in urban ministry, business, pastoral ministry and their sister Marilyn Bakke Pearson serving as a gifted Bible teacher. Women as equal partners is part of BGU’s DNA, name, and core values. However, all of this serves as a consistent aspiration for our journey, and never a excuse to say we’ve arrived at our goal.
This edition of BGU’s newsletter includes several articles featuring women leading key initiatives, including a global initiative for evangelicals to be more proactive about understanding the leadership roles that God has already placed women in. There is much work to be done within BGU and in the networks that BGU serves.
One BGU student is doing her doctoral research on how men and women can work together beyond the realm of words and theory and live into the actual experience of being brothers and sisters in the workplace. Another student is researching what is in the background of men who champion this from their hearts? Was it something in their parenting, or serving under coaches and bosses who were women, or a mentor, or a certain culture they live in, or a formational experience? How can these key factors be identified and focused on in more intentional ways? Another BGU leader is exploring the false narratives that many women hold about themselves that open them up to be intimidated by men. This research explores how to change those internal narratives so that women can effectively lead control-attempting men not out of fear, but with compassionate strength. Many are concluding that focusing on word boxes such as “complementarian” and “equalitarian” are more about walls and control than honest solutions and kingdom living. New language, stories, and experiences are needed to be on a honest journey to live out God’s kingdom where men and women steward God’s creation together, different but equal.