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Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you.

Therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.

For the Lord is a God of justice.

Blessed are all who wait for him.

Isaiah 30:18

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A Christian pastor and national trainer on strategies to prevent and end situations of domestic violence within faith communities reflects on the most frequently asked question he receives from male clergy and congregation members. He also challenges the commonly held notion that males have been granted special divine privileges to assume headship over females.

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As with Mary,
it was the sound of angel wings
that broke the silence.
 

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The lack of women’s ordination in the Mar Thoma Church cannot be viewed as an isolated issue but must be seen within the greater religious and cultural context of India.

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While it is not addressed nearly enough from the pulpit, Scripture has important information about power, patriarchy, and sexual rhetoric. When we miss these elements in reading the Bible, we are more likely to misinterpret what we see in the world around us.

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I was thirteen the first time I heard the words, “women cannot be preachers” spoken into thin air and inside the walls of that place where I had always been loved, had always felt safe. The words felt like a stone thrown into the rudder of a ship, they caught me, caused me to heave forward and halt.

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“Heather has no business being in the pulpit.” The words leaped out at me from the computer screen, screaming at me from an email not written to me, but about me, to two of my male colleagues.

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What good, I feared, would it do my daughter to know that she was equal, but only in theory? How could she envision herself preaching if there were no women to spark her imagination? How could she be what she could not see?

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As I watch my daughter mature and develop a rather alarming perceptiveness, I wonder when she will start to notice the vocational gender disparity around her, particularly in the church. Her wide-eyed five-year-old self knows nothing of a world in which her gender has something to say about how she can embody the gifts and graces given to her by God. Even as she watches her mom ascend the platform each week to preach, when will she notice that most of the other preachers in our tradition are men? Will that precious gift of presumption be stripped from her hands by the incongruence between her hopes and the reality she encounters? And will she even notice when it’s gone?

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Their stories are strikingly similar. I was lying in bed one night reading Hillary McFarland’s Quivering Daughters, which artfully weaves together the stories of several women caught in a patriarchal branch of Christianity known as the Quiverfull movement. Even though it was very late at night, I couldn’t put the book down. I ached for these women. Under their patriarchal system, they could never be selfless enough, they could never submit enough, they could never be good enough. Abuse, shame, devastating guilt, and suicidal thoughts marked many of their experiences, some on a daily basis. 

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