Dorian Llywelyn SJ
The mother of Jesus is the most important female figure of Christianity. Mary appears in a small number of biblical passages, but the vast Marian phenomenon includes Christian doctrine and a range of cultural expressions. Interest in Mary emerged early in the Eastern Mediterranean, and spread into the West. With slightly different emphases, Catholics and Orthodox Christians share a number of beliefs concerning Mary and pray to her, but most forms of Protestantism reject Marian devotion. While Catholic attention to Mary diminished in the global North following the changes wrought by the Second Vatican Council, it has remained strong in other parts of the world, especially in Latin America. Shrines such as sites where Mary is believed to have appeared draw millions of devotees annually. Contemporary Mariology, the academic study of the figure of Mary, includes considerations from almost all the liberal arts.
This chapter examines the continuities, development, and diversity found among evangelical Christians as they explore different patterns of evangelical response to new and challenging questions relating to sexuality and gender. Evangelicals have generally accepted contraception although there has been some recent opposition. Understandings and responses to divorce and remarriage vary from prohibition to generous accommodation with general acceptance of diverse genuinely evangelical views. Issues of gender and women in church leadership have, however, caused tensions and divisions between more restrictive ‘headship’ views and more egalitarian understandings, raising issues related to biblical inspiration and authority as well as hermeneutics. In contrast to diversity in these areas, most evangelicals remain committed to a sexual ethic focused on marriage and abstinence for the unmarried, and thus opposed to any approval of homosexual partnerships. Although some evangelicals are questioning this, most see change here as unbiblical and going beyond evangelicalism.