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When I recall the day my grandfather held open the door, inviting me into his treasure trove of genealogical information, I smell pickles. At our family gatherings, we’ve never lacked for a variety of briny vegetables—olives, pickles, and lupini beans, collected in an assortment of glass dishes and jammed alongside sticks of carrots and celery (which replaced the harder-to-access fresh fennel, present on special occasions). Growing up, I thought of this as the Sheild way, the way of my father’s family. The spare bedroom at his home was crowded—boxes stacked haphazardly, papers poking out of drawers or piled high and tilting precariously. Despite the chaos, the clutter of the room, combined with the smell of pickled vegetables, was nothing but pleasant to me. My fa... Read more
Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series on difficult Bible passages entitled “What to Say When…” “The Bible says wives should submit to husbands, because men are the head of women.” Sigh. Some of us have heard this overly simplistic and frankly convenient interpretation of Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:18-32. But are we taking the “household codes” seriously enough in their own context? Is there more to this passage than meets the eye? The Household Code and the Paterfamilias Ephesians 5:22-6:9 is often referred to simply as the “household code.” The household code was a literary form for rules about behavior in the household. They used very wealthy families as an idealized model. Everyone in these households... Read more
Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series on difficult Bible passages entitled “What to Say When…” 1 Timothy 2 is a tricky passage to interpret well. Verses 11-15 alone contain four biblical “buzz phrases” often employed by those who oppose women’s equality in the church. Paul writes:[1] 1. Women should learn in silence (2:11). 2. I do not permit a woman to teach or dominate a man (2:12). 3. The woman was deceived and became a sinner (2:14). 4. Women will be saved through childbearing (2:15). These troubling verses form, for many, the foundation of the case for women’s submission to men and against the legitimacy of women’s preaching and teaching in church and/or to men. Though it would appear those opposed to women... Read more
Last Sunday, The Houston Chronicle broke news of credible claims by over 700 victims against more than 250 abusers within the Southern Baptist Convention. Horrifying as it is, this story must not be met with shock. We don’t have time for shock. In these last few years, wave after unrelenting wave of church abuse cases crashed into us, first by the dozens and then the hundreds. They now number in the thousands, and the count grows every day. At first, it was seen as a “Catholic problem”—until cases began piling up in evangelical churches as well. After two plus years of #ChurchToo stories, the church can no longer say, “this is not a problem.” And yet, the next iteration is already echoing: “This is not our problem.” For years, anti-abuse ad... Read more
Editor's Note: This is one of our Top 20 winners from the 2018 CBE Writing Contest. Enjoy! “Your pastor is a woman?!” I was seventeen years old when I first heard this surprised remark. The askers looked at me with such disbelief when I told them “yes, my pastor is a woman.” I looked at them with similar wonder, dying to ask in return: “You go to a Christian church, right?” I grew up in a Spanish-speaking Assemblies of God church. It was normal to hear a woman preach there on any given Sunday. We called them pastoras—pastors. We didn‘t give them any other title because pastoras is what they were. Much to my surprise, few English-speaking churches I’ve encountered allow women to preach, much less give them an official title.... Read more
You’re at a holiday event and you mention that you’ve been asked to guest preach at your church. Your grandpa or your aunt or cousin brings up 1 Corinthians 14. In your college theology class, you mention that your pastor is a woman and a male student cites this troubling verse. You mentioned your egalitarian beliefs at Tuesday night Bible study and several of the members invite you to explain or defend your position. What do you say? How do you explain your egalitarian interpretation of this complex passage? Here’s a few ideas: The book of 1 Corinthians is all about how to be in a mature community of people who have the Spirit of God. Paul begins with a famous verse: “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise” (1 Cor. 1:27). People do not... Read more
By now, you’ve probably seen Gillette’s “We Believe: The Best Men Can Be” ad. Launched last week online, the ad depicts several examples of toxic masculinity, including bullying, harassment, mansplaining, and the notion that “boys will be boys.” For those that may not know, toxic masculinity refers to masculinity that encourages aggressive and violent behavior and discourages emotion and self-control. In other words, masculinity that is both dangerous for women and harmful to men. It's also crucial to note that toxic masculinity does not mean that all masculinity is toxic. The ad ends by exhorting men to embrace a healthy vision for masculinity, with text that reads: “it’s only by challenging ourselves to do more that we can get clos... Read more
Trigger warning: this article contains numerous graphic accounts of sexual violence. “What’s wrong with me?” I’ve asked myself this question each time I’ve been assaulted by a Christian man I trusted. Each time it happened, I felt guilty, alone, and sure it was my fault.   For decades, I hid these painful secrets from everyone. I was a Christian. An excellent student in my native Finland, then in Japan, and then in the US. An accomplished pianist. A missionary. A minister’s wife. A professor. A pilot. A social reformer. I had a PhD. I was well-known in my circles. Nobody knew. Nobody guessed my secret shame. But, I knew it was my fault. It had to be. Otherwise, why would I be the repeated target of sexual offense by Christian ministers and lea... Read more
Editor's Note: This is one of our Top 20 winners from the 2018 CBE Writing Contest. Enjoy! I was seven years old—sitting in a hard, metal desk, staring at the hole-y paddle hanging ominously on the wall, and wearing a skirt that reached three inches from my knee—when my teacher told us God didn’t want women to be pastors. Shocked, I thought, “How can this be? Why does God like boys more than girls?” I went home that day and cried to my mom that I wanted to be a boy. I was in fifth grade, standing with my parents in the church parking lot and staring at the black asphalt beneath my feet as I listened to a grown woman weep. Her ministry had been shut down by church leadership, she told my parents. The elders had determined that even though her minis... Read more
Sarah Lindsay
Editor’s Note: This article is based on an interview conducted by the author. In 2016, pastor Ray Kollbocker felt convicted to examine the issue of women’s leadership in the church. Two years later, in early 2018, his church opened all of its leadership positions to women. Kollbocker has been in ministry for many years, with over twenty years as the senior pastor at a church in Glen Ellyn, IL. During his years at there, he’s guided the church through significant growth and a variety of other changes. For several years, Kollbocker knew that, at some point, he and the church would have to confront the question of whether women should be restricted from some leadership roles. So, during a sabbatical in 2016, Kollbocker dove into a study of Scripture and scholarship. As h... Read more