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Women’s participation in development and leadership is not an imposition of our times. It is as old as creation itself. In the biblical accounts of creation (Gen 1:26), the command of God to steward the earth is given to both women and men, meaning that they are both to take leadership in overseeing the wellbeing of the population in their care. Throughout the Bible, God gives gifts so that both women and men may lead; therefore, we should recognize those gifts as our “sons and daughters prophesy” to lead us. This is clearly seen in the book of Acts, where both women and men answer the call to ministry as community workers (9:36, 39), as teachers of the word (18:26), and as prophets (21:9). Both women and men were exhorted to use their spiritual gifts fully without restrictions on the basis of gender (Rom 12:14–20; 1 Cor 12:7, 11; Eph 4:6–8; 1 Pet 4:10–11). This shows that men and women participated equally in the service (1 Cor 11:5) as confirmed by the presence of active women such as Lydia (who appears to have bankrolled a church as well as Paul’s ministry). The Proverbs 31 woman is commended for all her businesses (real estate, textiles, etc.). By the same token today, women’s gifts should be utilized in the marketplace as well as men’s, and equal participation in the development process should be encouraged as a biblical ideal.

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The well-known words in Ecclesiastes —“a cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Eccles. 4:12b) — are often used to create a visual icon in our minds of the marriage bond.

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I find myself thinking about this question asked by a child, which Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen shared in her book Gender & Grace (p. 34):

My younger son asked me this past Pentecost why people don’t get as excited about this holiday as they do about Christmas and Easter. He thinks we should send up fireworks on Pentecost. (“After all, that’s when God sent fire down, isn’t it?”)

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I’m trying to understand the appeal of Civil War Balls or Civil War Dances. They seem as out of place as Remember the Alamo Celebrations or World War II Festivities would be. Why celebrate a time of death and destruction? In my quest for understanding, I traveled to various destinations on the world wide web. I visited sites dedicated to promoting future, and recently past, Civil War Balls and read firsthand accounts of ball attendees. Here is what I’ve learned.

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Some hierarchical teachers stress that submission is a choice and cannot be forced. When a husband is careful to never force or coerce his wife to submit, the assumption seems to be made that the wife’s submission is completely voluntary. Yet many hierarchical teachings also tell a wife that God wants her to willingly and joyfully submit to her husband’s final decision anytime they are unable to agree on something—unless he is asking her to sin. These teachers go on to explain that sometimes a husband might choose to defer to his wife’s decision and other times he might not. He has the freedom to choose. She does not. These teachers emphasize that God wants wives to give up this freedom of choice for the health of their marriage.

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Jesus calls each of his sheep by name, and they hear and know his voice (John 10:1-16). Sheep encompasses rams and ewes, males and females. Ewes can hear the voice of their Shepherd just as clearly as rams. While Jesus made a clear distinction between sheep and goats based upon their actions (Matthew 25:31-33), his sheep are not separated into masculine and feminine groups.

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Like a swimmer gripped by an undertow, the following words in the Bible when taken out of context and misinterpreted can pull women down spiritually.

“Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says… it is disgraceful for a women to speak in the church.” (1 Corinthians 14:34, 35b TNIV)

Feel the strong undercurrents “disgraceful” carries. To be disgraced is to have brought shame upon one’s self and to have lost favor and respect. So when the above verses are isolated, they appear to tell all women that if they do not silence their voices and become mute within the church, then they will be viewed with shame and dishonor. Words from their mouths are unwelcome.

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Imagine a sanctuary filled with teachers and students of various ages singing:
            “It’s the child on his wedding day,
             It’s the mommy that gives him away,
             Something beautiful”
A child on his wedding day… given away. Pause for a moment and think about that. Young, teenage boys married off to older, wiser, and more mature women... mothers handing over the care of their sons to other women... sons never allowed to become fully functioning adults but instead, entrusted to the parental-type care of a matriarchal wife who will always decide what is best for her husband. Would you find this strange and alarming? 

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Concrete. Five broken slabs of ordinary-looking concrete carried around in their suitcases. My parents normally travel light (very light by American standards). But on one particular trip, they hauled home several pounds of stone-like material in their suitcases. Why? Inspired by their historical significance, my parents brought home one slab to keep for themselves and four others that they offered as gifts to each of their children. These gifts were given to memorialize the reunification of East and West Berlin. These chunks of concrete were once a part of the Berlin Wall. A city, once divided, had been reunited. The walls had come down.

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According to a well-known Christian author, the feminization of schools is to blame for the decreasing grades and academic skill levels of boys over the past few decades. The implication is that a feminizing of schools has redesigned them to teach girls more effectively than boys. Jim Trelease, who advocates for improving children’s literacy, has reached a different conclusion in his book The Read-Aloud Handbook. ((Trelease, Jim. The Read-Aloud Handbook. New York: Penguin Books, 2001.))

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