Arise: the official blog of CBE International. Mobilizing Christians for biblical gender equality

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I overheard an amazing conversation on my way back from lunch at a conference I recently attended. A university student casually mentioned the history of strong women leaders in the early church, using Priscilla as an example, to his friend. He then passionately contended for women as equal partners in church leadership. I quickly realized that I knew the student who was advocating for female pastors and teachers. Two years ago, I was invited to teach a session about women in ministry to a group of bright, young students. One young man was quiet and seemed unresponsive to my words. During the class, he mentioned his conservative upbringing, which excluded women from ministry. I left not knowing his response to my session. At the time, I wondered how, or if, those few hours of teachin... Read more
Since my first week at Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE), I’ve heard stories from women who have struggled with their faith in God because they were abused by men. These women were emotionally, physically, sexually, and spiritually abused by husbands, fathers, uncles, brothers, pastors, or other men close to them. Their abusers believed that Scripture (and therefore God) gave men authority to monitor, manage, and discipline women. Longing to please God, these women submitted to abusive men, regardless of the cost to themselves. Some nearly lost their lives, others went into hiding. All are deeply wounded. To protect these women, CBE developed a comprehensive privacy policy that predates standards now used by the medical industry. CBE’s first president, Cathie Kroeger, e... Read more
On Tuesday, July 12, Alvera Mickelsen was welcomed into the loving arms of Jesus. Our beloved leader, mentor, mother, and friend died at the age of ninety-seven. A founder of CBE, she was CBE’s first board chair in 1997, worked with grassroots CBE chapters, and served for years as a CBE board member. She authored accessible books that remain bestsellers not only in CBE’s community, but around the world. Alvera and her husband, Dr. Berkeley Mickelsen, a Bible scholar, were among the founders of Christians for Biblical Equality. They devoted much of their efforts to teaching, writing, and participating in public debates on biblical gender equality. A gifted teacher, writer, and editor, Alvera attributed her skills to her own mother who taught Bible at their Swedish Bapt... Read more
Join me, for a moment, in a thought experiment. Does it seem to you that women are equally, or nearly equally, represented in the ministries of your church? Think especially about activities with high visibility, such as preaching, reading, serving communion, leading worship, teaching Sunday school classes, and participating on boards or leadership teams. Now that you have your impression, take another step with me. Actually count, as best as you can, how many women serve and lead in visible ways in your church. Do the numbers match up with your impression? If not, you’re not alone: one of the reasons I loved the church I attended before I moved was because, despite the fact that they did not ordain women or let women preach, women seemed extensively involved in every other asp... Read more
I want to confess something to you: I am a sinful woman. To some, I am sinful when I preach. To others, I am sinful when I teach. To even more, I am sinful when I serve communion, lead worship, or read the Bible aloud to a mixed group of people. I have committed these “sins” time and time again—willingly, even eagerly. Let me confess something else to you: I will continue to live in such “sin.” I’m sure I am not the only one, not the only sinful woman in the room. Can I get an “amen”? Who else here has been condemned for their preaching? Silenced for their teaching? Who else can raise a hand to these “sins” in agreement? Yes, me too! Here is a hopeful truth, love: you are in good company. These days, I am h... Read more
“He’s kicking.” Few words can elicit as much excitement from me these days. A few times a day, my sister rests her hand on her stomach and proclaims my new favorite phrase, “He’s kicking.” I try to wait patiently, hoping she’ll grab my hand and place it over the offending limb. Sure enough, when she does, the baby is kicking away. Or dancing. Or boxing. Or finishing up a tough session of power yoga. It’s a strong kick, sure and steady. To me, it feels a bit like a warning. It’s like the siren before a tornado. Here I come, people. I’m a force of nature. It’s going to be beautiful, and a little bit scary, and you can be sure that I’m going to make a mess. Can’t wait, little one. My sister usuall... Read more
Recently, a friend of mine was asked why she chose to work, and not stay home full-time with her child, even though her husband makes enough money to support their family. The question is unsurprising given the ongoing pressure on Christian women to prioritize home and family over career. It seems that Christian women are still expected to choose between the public and the private. Being a more even-tempered person than I am, my friend sidestepped the question. Later, she asked me how I would have responded. I work outside the home, because it’s the best fit for my family and marriage. But virtually all parents are trying to do what’s right for their families. We all have different callings, and we all live them out in unique, creative ways. Some women pursue professional... Read more
I have gone through some significant theological changes in my twenty years as a follower of Jesus. I’ve moved from Calvinist to non-Calvinist. I’ve moved from thinking the church of today knows better than the church of old to believing the church of old might have more to teach us than we them. I’ve moved from occasionally celebrating the Lord’s Table to longing for it each and every week. And for our purposes today, I’ve moved from a complementarian view of gender roles to an egalitarian view. Embracing a fully egalitarian perspective was a long twelve-year process. When all was said and done, there was one final hurdle to overcome. By the time I began pastoring in 2008, I already understood that God gifted both women and men with “spee... Read more
In Part 1 of this series, we established four points: Jesus affirmed Mary and Martha’s learning. Jesus intended for all “sitters at his feet” to act on his teachings. Jesus’ life demonstrated that he valued practical service. Martha studied at Jesus’ feet, just like Mary. With these points in mind, I’d like to reframe the story around Mary and Martha’s individual callings, and how Jesus directed and nurtured those callings. Mary and Martha have been my Bible story companions since childhood. My mother used to read their story from The Child’s Garden of Bible Stories. In the book, Mary was pictured sitting sweetly at Jesus’ feet, while Martha, broom in hand, angrily looked on from the kitchen. It was clear to me that... Read more
Mary and Martha continue to stir up heated dispute in the church, but their contribution to egalitarian arguments appears to have been wrung dry. I propose a new look at the sisters—a look that goes far beyond the tale of a “Mary” trying to fit into a “Martha” world. The Old Interpretation The primary takeaway from the traditional interpretation of Mary and Martha is the importance of putting “first things first.” In other words, crumbs under the sofa cushions are a sign of correct priorities. Jesus is said to be admonishing us to cut housekeeping corners for the sake of Bible study. Let’s examine the usual discussion points. Do we really believe these sisters were too wimpy to settle their disagreements themselves? How would our int... Read more

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