David Lipscomb and the First Female President of Lipscomb University

This is a historic moment, and it is one I welcome. Dr. Candice McQueen has been appointed the President of Lipscomb University beginning in September, 2021.

What would David Lipscomb think about a female leader of the school he and James A. Harding founded?

The views and opinions expressed in that article are my own and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Lipscomb University.

I fully celebrate the appointment of Dr. McQueen as the President of Lipscomb University. I do not affirm David Lipscomb’s position as presented in this article. Rather, the shift from David Lipscomb’s own personal position (and practice of the school in his day) to the present practice (including hiring Dr. McQueen) is the point of the history in this article.

I appreciate the need for historical sympathy for how enculturated people are, including ourselves. We are all, to some extent, people of our times, and we may have thought differently if we lived then or Lipscomb lived now. In that sense, of course, we extend grace as we hope others will extend grace to us. To raise the question for Lipscomb about a female president in 2021 is rather anachronistic, to say the least.

At the same time, we must tell the truth. But we don’t tell the truth to berate the past; we tell it to understand ourselves, our journey, and the present moment. I hope that is part of the function of this article.

My interest in this piece is to illustrate the shift in understanding over the past 100 years. In 1911, it would have been inconceivable for those associated with the Nashville Bible School to invite a woman president to lead the institution. David Lipscomb did not believe women should be public speakers or any kind of public leaders, whether in church or society.

Lipscomb regarded this question–whether women should have public leadership in society–as the same sort of point as female leadership in a congregational assembly. According to him, both were rooted in the nature of men and women as well as rooted in the created order. One was as sinful as the other.

Of course, as readers of this blog would know, I do not think either is sinful. In fact, I believe congregations and institutions should encourage the use of gifts in both public and private spaces, in both church and society.

This is the link to the Christian Chronicle opinion piece.

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