Welcome to CBE’s Library

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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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Recently, someone asked my thoughts on racial segregation in the US church on Sunday mornings: “How will we ever move forward together, as a unified church, if people of color don’t forgive us for the past?”

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It’s Thursday and I am four hours from home at my daughter, Shauna’s, house. I sit at my computer with my four-month-old grandson, Henry, on my lap.

While he grabs at the keypad I search the web for the most recent updates on the situation in Darfur. I find only bad news: escalated violence has led to another major withdrawal of international aid workers and supplies, leaving hundreds of thousands of refugees without food, water, blankets. 

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The doctrine of the fall of humanity is easy to verify — all we have to do is pay attention to the news. Injustice is easy to spot, both blatantly and subtly, in institutions such as the Church, government, corporations, families, and my own field, Christian 
higher education. 

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While it sounds virtuous, and is appealing to those who would like to believe that involved fathering is the answer to all society’s ills, the idea that any human being, apart from Christ himself, can take spiritual responsibility for another has no place in historic, biblically-based Christian doctrine.

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The gender equity component of the community’s development efforts came up repeatedly in my interviews and conversations. “Could it be possible,” I began to think, “that by modeling and empowering a community of equity, justice, and liberating education, such practice becomes modeled and reproduced continually?”

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