Letha Dawson Scanzoni, an evangelical author who argued, gently however persuasively, that the Bible thought-about ladies equal to males, inspiring a wave of Christian feminism and, maybe inevitably, a backlash towards it, died on Jan. 9 in Charlotte, N.C. She was 88.

Her loss of life, at a talented nursing facility, was from congestive coronary heart failure, her son David Scanzoni mentioned.

Betty Friedan’s “The Female Mystique” was already a greatest vendor within the mid-Nineteen Sixties when Ms. Scanzoni started writing for Eternity, an evangelical Christian journal that usually challenged conservative attitudes on social points. She had the identical questions as her secular sisters: Ought to ladies be submissive to their husbands and keep out of management roles within the church, as many fundamentalist Christians believed?

Ms. Scanzoni didn’t suppose the Bible supported these views — and quoted scripture to show her factors in articles revealed in Eternity, like one titled “Ladies’s Place: Silence or Service?” and one other on egalitarian marriage.

The articles didn’t accrue an excessive amount of opprobrium on the time, although the editors did ask for a photograph of Ms. Scanzoni and her husband to accompany the egalitarian marriage piece to point out that he authorised of her place. And there have been a number of outraged letters to the editor. One reader wrote that “Mrs. Scanzoni’s article is a chief purpose the Apostle Paul instructed ladies to be silent.”

However as the ladies’s liberation motion gained momentum outdoors the church, Ms. Scanzoni felt that Christians had been sitting on the sidelines, save for some gentle carping in regards to the decline of society, and determined to sort out the topic in a e book. What resulted was “All We’re Meant to Be: A Biblical Strategy to Ladies’s Liberation” (1974), which she wrote with Nancy Hardesty, who had been an editor at Eternity.

The e book grew to become a manifesto for evangelical feminism, utilizing a hermeneutic evaluation of the Bible, deciphering the textual content by noting the context during which it was written and extrapolating its tenets to trendy life.

Eternity journal declared it “the e book of the 12 months” in 1975, and Ms. Scanzoni grew to become a sought-after speaker at Christian organizations and a founding member of the Evangelical and Ecumenical Ladies’s Caucus (now referred to as Christian Feminism Today), a networking and social justice group for the motion that she had helped hearth up.

The backlash was fast, mentioned Kristin Kobes Du Mez, a Christian historian and creator of “Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Religion and Fractured a Nation” (2020).

“Conservatives doubled down of their opposition to ladies’s rights,” Ms. Du Mez mentioned by telephone, “making male headship and feminine submission defining options of contemporary evangelicalism. Letha was such a menace as a result of she introduced her case for feminism in evangelical phrases, making it onerous for critics to depict feminism as a completely secular motion intent on undermining conventional Christianity.”

Letha Marion Dawson was born on Oct. 9, 1935, in Pittsburgh and grew up in tiny Mifflintown, in central Pennsylvania. Her mother and father, James and Hilda (Koch) Dawson, owned a gasoline station-cum-diner and different small companies. Her greatest buddy was a preacher’s daughter, and along with her mother and father engaged on many Sundays, Letha would accompany her buddy to church. When she was 11, she had a conversion expertise throughout an altar name and vowed to commit herself to Christian service.

Letha was a proficient musician and glorious pupil, and after graduating early from highschool, she enrolled on the Eastman College of Music in Rochester, N.Y., the place she studied the trombone. There she joined a Christian youth group and had one other epiphany: There have been many hypocrites within the group, she noticed, and to her thoughts one jerk — the group’s director, who kissed her with out her permission and who made racist and antisemitic feedback, as she instructed Kendra Weddle and Jann Aldredge-Clanton, authors of “Constructing Bridges: Letha Scanzoni and Mates” (2018).

She transferred to the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, the place she met John Scanzoni. They married in 1956 and lived for a time in Oregon, the place Mr. Scanzoni grew to become the minister of a small unbiased church earlier than incomes a Ph.D. in sociology. Ms. Scanzoni had left college to care for his or her two younger sons and commenced writing. Her first e book was a courting information for Christian youngsters.

The household was dwelling in Bloomington, Ind., the place Mr. Scanzoni was educating at Indiana College, when she and Ms. Hardesty determined to jot down “All We’re Meant to Be.” Ms. Scanzoni used her analysis for the e book to create her personal unbiased curriculum in spiritual research, incomes her bachelor’s diploma at Indiana in 1972. The couple divorced in 1983.

Along with her son David, Ms. Scanzoni is survived by one other son, Stephen; her brother, Robert Dawson; and 5 grandchildren.

Within the mid-70s, Ms. Scanzoni started collaborating with Virginia Mollenkott, an evangelical English professor and Milton scholar, on a e book about Christian ethics and social points. Ms. Scanzoni was to sort out homosexuality and Ms. Mollenkott would tackle divorce and censorship. However then Ms. Mollenkott, who had been dwelling as a closeted lesbian, shared her secret with Ms. Scanzoni and watched with horror as her writing companion blanched with shock.

Regardless of writing theoretically about homosexuality for years, Ms. Scanzoni had, by her account, by no means knowingly met a homosexual individual earlier than.

Later, Ms. Mollenkott wrote her buddy, saying “it’s a horrible factor to be an individual who has information to inform that may drain the blood from an excellent buddy’s face.” Ms. Scanzoni wrote again — in tears, she mentioned — that she was not condemning Ms. Mollenkott however coming to phrases with new data about her.

They scrapped their e book on social points to deal with one other, one wholly on the now extra pressing matter.

That e book, “Is the Gay My Neighbor?” (1978), confirmed by meticulous, scholarly element how the Bible, which had lengthy been used as a cudgel to bash homosexual folks and ladies, didn’t help the credo that homosexuality was a sin. It explored the struggling that that perception had labored on the world, and it marshaled social science to level out the complexity and vary of sexual orientation.

“It’s simplistic to presume,” they wrote dryly, “that when homosexuals turn out to be Christian, they routinely turn out to be heterosexuals.”

Their writer at Harper Collins described the e book as a “counter-market” title — which means it in all probability wouldn’t promote very properly (he was improper) — however mentioned he was proud to publish it anyway. Whereas many evangelicals condemned its authors as heretics, many younger homosexual Christians instructed Ms. Mollenkott and Ms. Scanzoni that the e book had saved them from suicide.

Ms. Scanzoni was the creator of 9 books. Her most up-to-date, “What God Has Joined Collectively: The Christian Case for Homosexual Marriage” (2006), was a collaboration with David G. Myers, who writes about religion as a professor of psychology at Hope School, a liberal Christian establishment in western Michigan.

In 2006, the journal Christianity Right now included “All We’re Meant to Be” in its roundup of 50 books which have formed evangelicals, together with touchstones like “Mere Christianity,” by C.S. Lewis, and Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time.”

“For higher or for worse,” the editors wrote, “no evangelical marriage or establishment has been capable of ignore the concepts on this e book.”



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