The Center for Women’s Studies researches the needs of women in the ministry, workplace and home
Vanguard University is working to advance the status of
women worldwide through its Center for Women’s Studies (CWS), the first
such program at an Assemblies of God (AG) institution.
Launched in 2002, the center, located at Vanguard’s main campus
in Costa Mesa, Calif., uses research, education and advocacy to study
issues such as women in leadership, domestic violence, the status of
women in the church, media images of women and human trafficking.
Carol Taylor, Vanguard’s provost and CWS director, said the
center seeks to empower both men and women to be the “head, heart and
hands” of Jesus—the head being informed and educated, the heart being
broken for those who are suffering from unjust causes, and the hands
being practically extended to make a difference.
The center currently offers a minor in women’s studies and its
leaders hope to develop a bachelor’s and master’s degree program. Until
then, they are raising awareness about women’s needs through workshops,
including CWS’ annual Gender and Justice conference, hosted in
partnership with Christians for Biblical Equality. Past conferences
have featured speakers such as senior U.S. State Department adviser
Laura Lederer, National Assemblies of God Women in Ministry Task Force
chairwoman Beth Grant, and Lisa Thompson, Salvation Army liaison for
the abolition of sex trafficking.
CWS leaders insist that the program does not promote female
superiority, but affirms that men and women are equal spiritually.
Elizabeth Leonard, Ph.D., a sociology professor at Vanguard and CWS
board member, believes there are several instances in the Bible when
Christ challenged cultural limits put on women.
“The resurrected Christ chooses not to reveal Himself to His
disciples, but chooses to reveal Himself to the women,” she said. “Why?
I think He’s once again broadcasting that women are equal to men. We’re
not trying to twist the gospel; we’re trying to expose the cultural
biases through which we read the life of Christ.”
“[Men and women] need to lead together,” Morgan said. “That’s
what we’re doing here at the Center for Women’s Studies. We’re trying
to learn how to lead, how to live in mutual respect for the greater
purpose of seeing God’s purpose accomplished in our world today.”
CWS leaders note that globally women are at greater risk of
being trafficked for sex, raped and abused. “Figuring out what we can
do so women aren’t at risk is part of our goal,” Morgan said.
Leonard’s research on women imprisoned for killing their
abusers and an alumna’s efforts to rescue women abused by soldiers in
the Congo are part of those efforts. The center also sponsors an
international scholarship; the first recipient is an Iraqi woman who
plans to pursue a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy so she
can serve as a counselor in Iraq.
The women’s studies center comes at a time when more women are
pursuing ministry leadership. In its 2005 Ministers Report, the AG
found that the number of credentialed women rose almost 17 percent that
year, a trend that is being mirrored nationwide. Yet Morgan said that
though the AG has ordained women as pastors since 1914, many women
still don’t know how to balance gender roles with pastoral leadership.
She said the center was taking a group of students to the AG’s women in
ministry conference to show them models of women who are doing that
CWS continues Vanguard’s commitment to address the needs of
diverse groups, as the school has developed centers for Hispanic
leadership, urban studies and peacemaking. The next Gender and Justice
conference will be held March 6-7.
—Adrienne S. Gaines with Vanessa Chandler