You Can Be What You Can See – Introducing Logia by Christa McKirland
For those following the Logos Institute blog, you will also see the Logia monthly post featured on this platform. As the Director of Logia, I am introducing Logia and setting the tone for what our posts will look like this coming semester.
Recently, I had a strong and unexpected emotional experience while walking down a toy aisle in a large department store. We were in the superhero section—the place I would always run to first when I was a little girl—and instead of only finding Batman, Superman, and Ironman, I saw the costumes for Wonder Woman and Rey. I was first struck with sadness as I reflected on my childhood of longing for strong women role models and how anomalous I felt as I wanted to be a commander, a visionary, and a leader. And yet, equally as powerful, came the opposite feeling of joy as I looked down at my two-year-old daughter and knew that she would have those role models herself.
While theologians and biblical studies scholars don’t wear capes or have special powers, they are still influencers of culture. Acting on this, the Logos Institute was founded to be a constructive voice of influence by bringing several divinity disciplines together into one conversation. However, as Logos sought to include scholars from biblical studies, theology, and philosophy, there was a glaring lack of women. Such scarcity was further highlighted by the smaller number of women applicants for the Logos Institute, and divinity in general, resulting in fewer women than men in the M.Litt., M.Phil., and Ph.D. programs. The reasons for this are many, but one of the most obvious contributors is that it’s difficult to be what you can’t see—and, historically, women have not often reached the upper echelons (or even the lower echelons) of these disciplines. The result is not only an impoverished academy, but also an impoverished Church. The founders of Logos and I began to ask how we might address this dearth of women in the divinity disciplines. We started to talk about how we might endeavor to turn things around, to establish a better balance between women and men in both the academy and the Church. The answer was Logia—an intentional initiative spotlighting women already in these disciplines, helping this next generation to see what they can be.
Since our context is the University of St Andrews, the most logical place to begin to address this has been at St Mary’s School of Divinity. The hope is that many of the ideas we implement here will be transferable to other contexts. From informal mentorship to specialized workshops, to inviting women to present their research, the opportunities to increase their visibility and implicitly recognize the value of women are many. However, not all contexts are as supportive of women as St Mary’s. We are fortunate to have the backing of the School and to have stellar women in both biblical studies and theology. While there is still room for growth here, the ground is fertile for this project to flourish and grow beyond St Andrews.
One of the ways such growth can happen will be through this blog. By sharing more narratives of women who have pursued and are pursuing postgraduate degrees in divinity, we can continue to model the possibilities for others. Just recently, the University published an e-book chronicling the academic journeys of over forty women who are professors here.
The diversity of ways in which women have taken these career paths is encouraging to see and provides a clear source of inspiration for other female scholars. For this semester, the women who contribute to Logia’s blog channel will be asked if and how being a woman has affected their decision to pursue post-graduate divinity education, as well as being asked to provide a brief entrée into their own research.
Beyond the blog, Logia has many aims. The future hopes of this initiative include: addressing the “leak” which seems to occur between undergraduate divinity enrollment and postgraduate divinity enrollment for women; consulting for the benefit of institutions, organizations, and individuals about strategies for improving the environment for women in their specific contexts; engaging with women of color who have additional barriers to their scholarly success; working with publishers to help produce more theological resources written by women; organizing “academy meets the church” conferences to support women in the local community; hosting educational workshops to encourage women and men to collaborate in bringing about meaningful change; having a presence at major theological and biblical studies conferences to help women network with one another and with men who want to encourage this effort; and learning from and equipping women in the majority world to pursue postgraduate divinity degrees. These ideas are only the tip of the iceberg and, as progress is made, other avenues for development will be pursued, allowing this initiative to continue to evolve.
Logia’s motto: You can be what you can see is also an invitation to be what you want to see. We hope you will walk with us as this initiative takes root and that you too will be a part of this change as it begins and as it continues.
Christa L. McKirland is a Ph.D. candidate in the Logos Institute for Analytic and Exegetical Theology and the Director of Logia. Her research is focusing on the concept of fundamental human need as an untapped resource for understanding theological anthropology.