YWAM Leadership Embraces Egalitarianism -- By: Steve Heitland
JBMW 7:1 (Spring 2002) p. 24
Director, School of Biblical Foundations,
Eden/Youth With A Mission (YWAM)
In 1955 God gave 20 year-old Loren Cunningham a vision of waves of young people cascading onto the shores of the nations with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.1 By 1960, that vision had begun to crystallize into a missions organization dedicated to harnessing the zeal of young people for worldwide missions. Today, over 40 years later, Mr. Cunningham is one of the most well-known figures in international missionary circles. The organization that he founded—Youth With A Mission (YWAM)—has gone on to become one of the world’s largest full-time missions organizations.
Much has changed within YWAM over the past forty years. Far from being solely a missionary organization, YWAM now runs dozens of training schools through its University of the Nations in Hawaii, owns four Mercy Ships that provide free medical care worldwide, takes tens of thousands of people on short-term outreaches every year, and has approximately 10,000 full-time staff dedicated to presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ worldwide—some of whom are in the world’s most unreached nations. Indeed, YWAM has garnered a reputation for being a “wild-eyed, radical group” that people love.2 YWAM has played a very important role in mobilizing Christians—and especially youth—worldwide to fulfill the Great Commission.
Much of YWAM’s success has been due, no doubt, to her generally orthodox doctrine. Her foundational values are biblical, and her emphases are largely God-centered, which provides sufficient room for Christians from many denominations to participate in her programs.3 However, those traditional values were challenged in 2000, when Cunningham wrote the book with another YWAMer, David Hamilton, entitled Why Not Women?4 As the title implies, Why Not Women? is an egalitarian apologetic. Because it is published by YWAM Publishing and written by YWAM’s founder, Why Not Women? will unfortunately be perceived as standard YWAM doctrine.
Points of Agreement
There are some commendable portions to Why Not Women? In particular, I would praise the authors’ concern with the horrible abuses suffered by women at the hands of men. It is not difficult to find examples, both contemporary and ancient, of male abuse of women. The ones cited in the book are of the worst kind. Surely, the reasoning goes, God’s children are...
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