Welcome to CBE’s Library

How often do egalitarian beliefs and lived experiences coincide? This articles explores how we might address the gap and deal with the guilt and shame and stress that sometimes accompanies these questions.

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We spent many years of our marriage and raised our sons in a church that sought to form men into manly Christian leaders and women into submissive followers. Thankfully, we realized that model didn’t make sense for our marriage or for our sons.

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Christians are used to hearing about Joseph and Mary, usually around Christmas. Then, they’re the supporting cast, and Jesus is the focus. They certainly don’t often come up in conversations about Christian marriage. Perhaps they should. If we pay attention, Joseph and Mary point us toward what makes a good marriage.

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Egalitarians believe the Bible promotes two senses of equality: equality of nature and equality of opportunity. Neither requires or even hints that women and men are or should be identical. Egalitarians don’t deny difference, we deny that difference is destiny.

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I was raised in something of a theological echo chamber where my complementarian convictions went undisputed. All diligent Bible readers would obviously conclude that men were to lead, and even more obviously, that women were not to be pastors. What could be simpler?

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Christian egalitarians love biblical submission because it is part of God’s perfect will. It reflects the love of Christ. It uplifts and honors the gifts and calling of others.

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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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Karen and Mark are both pastors with vibrant ministries, but their marriage is at a crossroads. Karen has been offered a large church in a growing area that sounds like a perfect fit. Mark has no desire to leave his flourishing ministry. They love the Lord and each other, but they can‘t agree. How can they decide?

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Jon and Carol Trott are members of Jesus People USA (JPUSA) in Chicago, a group of believers practicing gender-equal relationships while living in community and working in ministry. Living with 500 other people gives the Trotts a unique perspective on gender roles in relationships and in the church.

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"For the husband is the head of the wife, is that not what the Bible says?" my friend asked in all earnestness.

"No," I replied, "that is not what the Bible says. Paul says that the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. How is Christ the head of the church?"

"I guess," he responded, "he is the Holy Spirit."

On the way home from church, my preoccupation with our conversation puzzled me. Why is it, I thought, that someone like my friend had spent so much time serving as pastor and yet had not grasped this basic truth of which Paul spoke? A lifetime of sermons and I had rarely, if ever, heard about how Christ is the head of the church. The essential exposition is not the husband as head of the wife. The critical question is, "How is Christ the head of the church?"

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