First Woman Steps into Leadership of Evangelical Theological Society

Wheaton professor Karen Jobes becomes president a decade after a study found “hostile and unwelcoming” atmosphere.

The Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) has instated its first female president in 75 years. Karen Jobes, emeritus professor of New Testament and exegesis at Wheaton College, will lead the professional society of evangelical Bible scholars and theologians in 2024.

Her election marks a significant step for an association that has faced criticism over the years for the marginalization of women. In 2014 a qualitative study of women’s experiences at ETS gatherings, commissioned by Christians for Biblical Equality, found “an atmosphere that feels hostile and unwelcoming.”

Jobes, who joined in 1989, recalled uncomfortable experiences of her own at ETS.

“My earliest recollections of coming to ETS is that there were very, very few women. And most of the men who attended would ask, ‘Well, whose wife are you?’” Jobes told CT at ETS’s annual gathering, held this year in San Antonio. “A lot has happened in the church and in our world since the 1980s.”

Other women share similar stories.

“In some sessions, I was the only woman attending. Very few women presented papers,” said Carmen Joy Imes, an Old Testament professor at Biola University. “Men would ask me, ‘Where does your husband teach?’ assuming that I was there as a spouse rather than as a scholar.”

This year’s conference, held in San Antonio in conjunction with the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature, saw some of the highest levels of women’s participation in the society’s history.

Two of the three plenary speakers were female, which has happened only once before at ETS. University of Notre Dame professor Abigale Favale’s …

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