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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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I flushed with embarrassment. Desire for a soul-mate was something I felt all too keenly, but something I talked about with only a few close friends. Although I looked for him, the man of my dreams had not ridden – on a horse or in a sports car – over the horizon. For my emotional survival, desire was, then and for several years, something to repress.

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Home. What does it mean to someone who lives alone? Countless sermons, seminars, and songs, which define the word in terms of people, make one’s own rooms and furnishings seem less than adequate, less than deserving of the warm word. 

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Most discussions of human relationships center on questions about marriage and the family, but to be inclusive we must examine another area: the needs of singles. It in no way undermines the God-ordained institution of the family for Christians to recognize that we are in danger of developing an almost cultic emphasis on family that discriminates against singles. 

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In this article I will explore some of the positives, negatives, problems and solutions experienced by the never-married woman as she lives and ages within the framework of a couple-dominant society.

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For many people today, singleness feels like an embarrassment, a reason for apology, a motivation for therapy. We are asked if we are “called” to singleness, but no one ever asks if one is “called” to marriage. We have to “deal with” singleness. No one ever talks about “dealing with” marriage, although all marriages are sometimes stressful experiences. We may be asked “Why are you single?” but no one would ever think to ask “Why are you married?”

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The current teaching about a husband being his wife’s “covering” is so popular that some people are surprised to find that is actually is based on a shaky inference from I Corinthians 11:2-16, a passage which is talking about a woman literally covering her hair during Christian worship. 

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For whatever our experience of singleness, be it freedom and joyous fulfillment or agonizing aloneness, our life this side of eternity will never be what God originally intended in creation. Regardless of our marital status, we cannot escape the human condition of fallenness. 

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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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I’d be the first to acknowledge the importance of strong family life, but I fear that by extolling the virtues of the traditional unit, the church alienates those who don’t have ready-made families.

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