Welcome to CBE’s Library

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Although we may idealize the early church, most of us would not have enjoyed a visit to a worship service at Corinth. The impression which one was most likely to receive was that of chaos and delirious insanity.

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It is useless to deny that women can be victims. Increasingly, the secular press documents it. The Christian press has long acknowledged it in society at large and is now beginning to acknowledge it even within the sacred walls of the church of Jesus Christ. People are also beginning to acknowledge that sexual harassment and violence exist on the job, even in strongly Christian organizations. 

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This is not an article about the role of women in the church or in the workplace. It is about managerial responsibility to safeguard women on the job. Our laws today say that employers have that responsibility. They must ensure that women are not unfairly treated as sex objects, and that sexuality not interfere with normal work patterns and practices.

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Abuse is a curse in our land. One definition of abuse is, “Repeated and targeted abuse (from both attitudes and actions) designed to instill fear and used as a means of control.” The abuser may or may not be aware of his/her motives behind the attitudes and actions.

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Although the circles of young people where I minister rarely have a problem with women’s ministry, many young men and women are looking for more models of what it means to be a “real” man. Although some hold traditional and others hold egalitarian ideals of marriage, many of the young women who would like to someday marry lament the fact that there are not enough respectful Christian young men to go around in society as a whole.

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“If wives were submissive like God intended them to be, there wouldn’t be any domestic violence” is a statement that I have heard over and over again during my years as a counselor. These comments have not all come from the lips of battering husbands, but from many Christian workers and members of the clergy as well. Is domestic violence a modern phenomena associated with the feminist movement? Is it the result of non-submissive wives? Is it a phenomena associated with the inner cities, slums or urban blight? Or, is domestic violence just a sign of the times that we live in?

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We Lutherans all want to argue on the basis of God's revealed truth in the authoritative Scripture. Yet all of us come to this debate with our own personal history and agenda. My own history includes aversion to women in the public ministry as a result of experiences, first as a teenager, then as a student in Germany. More recently, I have developed a growing understanding of the just claims of Christian women who have been disempowered and marginalized in the church and a horror for what has been perpetrated in the name of male headship. A re-examination of the texts and another (this time happy) experience of having a woman as my pastor in the United States about a decade ago led me to abandon my previously held view that the ordination of women is not the Lord's will for his church today. I am now convinced to the contrary, although I do not like using the broad term feminist. My own personal pain is not only that close friends and relatives hold an opposing view, but that I fully understand that view as one who once held it (this is not said in any spirit of superiority).

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Unwelcome, sexually suggestive comments are not a new phenomenon, beginning with the alleged activities of either Bob Packwood or Bill Clinton (depending on your political preference). Sexual humor that degrades an entire gender (or sometimes both genders) into mere objects for sexual gratification has a long history.

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Domestic violence is the number one health threat faced by women in the United States today. It accounts for more deaths than automobile accidents, muggings and rapes combined. During America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, the number of women murdered by their intimate partners was equal to the number of U.S. military personnel killed in battle. In 1981 researchers Straus, Gelles and Steinmetz estimated that at least one third of all wives in the United States are beaten during the course of their marriage. By 1987 researchers upped the figure to a “conservative estimate” of half of all marriages experiencing episodes of violence at some time. At least ninety-five percent of domestic violence is male against female and it is rare for violence in a marriage to be an isolated episode. Violence is usually a pattern in the relationship.

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In recent years, Christians have acknowledged that domestic abuse exists within the evangelical community. Some churches have faced this reality and sought resources for healing and reconciliation. But while some have found blessing and growth when they have addressed this concern openly others remain uncomfortable when any significant attention is given to this subject.

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