Welcome to CBE’s Library

Tip: to find an exact phrase or title, enclose it in quotation marks.

Could it be that the complementarian notion of “biblical womanhood” (especially the claim that women’s distinct personhood makes no room for women as teachers and leaders of men) is a recent, Western perspective?

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Two hundred years before Martin Luther’s reformation, a woman now known as St. Bridget of Sweden (1302-1373) challenged wayward kings, priests, and popes, calling them to repentance. 

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Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. She used to sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the sons of Israel came to her for judgment. (Judges 4:4–5, NASB)

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As the Church’s new political status gave rise to monasticism, so the monastic movement influenced Christian doctrine in several key areas, one of which is the Church’s view of women.

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Maria Woodworth Etter, known both as the Trance Evangelist and the Mother of the Pentecostal movement, lived and preached in an era when women were required to be silent in church and submit to their husbands.

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Cicero said: “Who knows only their own generation remains always a child.” [1] We gain extraordinary vitality from the stories of Christian women and men who came before us. In fact, our advocacy for women in ministry leans heavily on their stories. Few are better suited to bring this history to life than Dr. Paul Chilcote, author of more than twenty books and publications on the subject. For thirty-five years, he has amplified the history of women’s leadership in the church with his work.

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In prayer this congregation asks for an out pouring of the Holy Spirit, but with an unspoken proviso, that God honor their gender bias: God may pour out His Spirit, but men alone may exhibit the Spirit’s empowering. Yet nothing seems further from the tenor of revival and the passage in Acts where the Holy Spirit was poured out not only on Gentiles, but also on women.

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In 1930, a young woman named Gladys Aylward left the suburbs of London and set out for China, convicted that she was meant to preach the gospel to the people of this remote land. Rejected by the China Inland Mission because her “advanced age” of 28 made her too old to learn Chinese, she headed for the mission field entirely without support. 

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What does it mean to be a prophetic woman in leadership in the church? In many ways, simply to be a Christian woman in leadership is to be a prophet, for, regardless of the advances of women’s rights, the world remains overwhelmingly patriarchal.

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Why should we highlight women in Bible times and throughout Christian history? Wouldn’t it be more timely to focus on women in the church today, by discussing their present aspirations? Aren’t twentieth-century movements what will influence not only the contemporary church, but also its future course?

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