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Don’t miss the forest for the trees. In the well-known maxim above, I’m thinking of “the trees” as the numerous fine points of interpretation that we encounter when grappling with those 1 Corinthians passages that are frequently featured in complementarian /egalitarian discussions. In chapter 11, for example, these “trees” include the metaphorical meaning of kephalē and the phrase “because of the angels.” In chapter 14, the phrase “as the law also says” and theories about the authenticity of verses 34-35 quickly come to mind. Please don’t misunderstand—there would be no forest without the trees, and I join many readers of Arise in being especially interested in each of those “trees” and even their several... Read more
This submission is one of our top ten CBE Writing Contest winners. Enjoy! I was thirty years old when I first met a female pastor. At the time, I was wrestling over a decision to quit my freelance job and attend seminary in order to pursue a long-denied call to pastoral ministry. A decade earlier, I was a college student and leader of a campus ministry, considering seminary as the next step in my calling. I nixed the idea after considering what I thought were my options after getting a degree and going into debt: finding a male pastor to marry or resigning myself to a church job that women were “allowed” to hold. I had never been exposed to the idea of female pastors, and the leadership at my church was all male. I thought I had misconstrued my life trajectory, so I buried my... Read more
I once worked as a young adult director in a church. This church was and continues to be a great church, filled with people who love God, one another, and the world with genuine affection and generosity. During the time I worked as a director, they gave me freedom to lead and preach and dream with great liberty. But because they did not license women as pastors, I was called a director. While my male friends got licensed, sought ordination, and received recognition for being ministers of the gospel, I did not. I advocated for women in leadership and pressed the church to consider the ordination of woman. Some listened, but not enough to do much about it. In hindsight, the rejection I felt, and the intense confusion I dealt with—why the men, and not the women—took a toll on my... Read more
When I was in college I joined a college ministry that told me: “Women can ‘share,’ but they cannot ‘preach. They can teach children and other women out of the Scripture, but they cannot teach men.’” I internalized this. I thought it was heresy for a woman to preach. And ordination was out of the question. Later, after four of the seven greatest sermons I heard were given by women, I reconsidered. I re-examined the Scripture and found that God made both men and women in God’s image with equal and indistinguishable call and capacity to protect, serve, and cultivate the world. If that is the case, I wondered, why is it that women in my evangelical universe were only encouraged when we took up as little space as possible—when we were a size 0?... Read more
This submission is one of our top ten CBE Writing Contest winners. Enjoy! I am fortunate to belong to a global denomination that affirms and supports women in ministry. Since its official formation in 1908, the Church of the Nazarene has ordained women right alongside their male colleagues. I’ve often heard it remarked that Nazarene women could preach twelve years before they could vote in US elections! However, even in a church tradition with a strong history of ordaining women into ministry, I have often seen and experienced what might be called “subtle sexism.” It is not blatant or overt. It is more like an undercurrent, silently churning beneath apparently calm waters. It ripples to the surface in indirect ways: through poor exegesis that does not take into account... Read more
“The silence surrounding domestic violence affects all of us. It’s a big secret... We sit in churches every Sunday and we rarely, if ever, hear a sermon preached about the devastation of domestic violence.” —Johnrice Newton at CBE’s conference in Orlando Domestic violence, particularly against women, isn’t always something the church wants to talk about. After all, it hurts to admit that abuse happens within the community of God, perhaps more so than it hurts to acknowledge the violence of the secular world. But we cannot afford to remain silent or apathetic, not when the stakes are so high. Not when our brothers and sisters are at risk. Domestic violence leaves so many people made in the image of God dead or walking wounded—physically or spirit... Read more
This submission is one of our top ten CBE Writing Contest winners. Enjoy! It was a typical summer weekend service at our local church. I was perusing the bulletin announcements about our son’s upcoming youth group trip that included a water park excursion. Amidst the details for the trip was the following blurb instructing students what to bring: “Bring: Sleeping bag, pillow, toiletries, change of clothes (dress for the weather), swimsuit (girls one-piece or tankini please), towel and $$ for two fast food dinners.” I was immediately uncomfortable with the assumptions behind the swimming suit instructions; the question became what was I going to do about it? A a busy mom of four boys ages 7-12, it took me a couple weeks to carve out time to sit down, pray through i... Read more
A few years ago, when my middle daughter was three, we were discussing her favorite preschool job: leading the lunchtime prayer. I said that maybe she could be a pastor, like our own pastor Todd, when she grew up. Her eyes lit up and she proclaimed: “Yes! I will be pastor Todd! And I will live in his house! And I will be Olivia’s daddy!” I got a good chuckle out of that, as did pastor Todd when he heard the story. But the truth is, as the reality sets in that she can’t actually be pastor Todd, my daughter isn’t likely to see many women as pastors—women who can serve as her role models. While numbers are hard to pin down, probably only 10% of senior pastors are women — which means that even denominations that ordain women don’t see anything... Read more
This submission is one of our top ten CBE Writing Contest winners. Enjoy! When I was six I asked my father, “Daddy, why can’t Mommy be a deacon?” I don’t remember my father’s response, but I remember puzzling over gender roles in my Southern church from an early age. My dad was a member of the all-male deacon board at our church. Complementarianism was like the carbon dioxide in the air I breathed. It was there in my church and my congregation—flowing in and out of my lungs moment by moment though I was rarely conscious of it. Keeping women out of leadership in my church didn’t give spiritual life to me or my loved ones, but we accepted it as part of the atmosphere Despite being raised in such a conservative, complementarian church, my family wa... Read more
Why can’t Christians just agree? Or, when they must disagree, why can’t they disagree quietly? Many people, both inside and outside the church, feel impatient and frustrated with in-fighting and dissent in the body of Christ—even over critical issues like racial and gender justice or domestic violence. See the recent response to Australian journalist Julia Baird’s coverage of domestic abuse in the Christian church. Many of the initial responses accused Baird of undercutting the church in highlighting the issue. Essentially, because we, the church, are meant to be one body—united in faith and newness in Christ—disagreement is sometimes seen as a threat and a liability. And certainly, unity is the ideal for Christian community. But does striving for uni... Read more

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