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Lecture from 2016 CBE International Conference "Truth Be Told" in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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Even in the Christian church, women are often valued for what they do rather than for who they are. This is why the women’s liberation movement has struck a responsive chord in the hearts of many Christian women.

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Before the nineteenth century, a Chinese woman’s life was wrapped around three men: father, husband, and son. When missionaries brought the gospel to China, the destiny of Chinese women began to change.

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In the so-called “conservative resurgence” currently seeking to divide Baptist loyalties, the initial “line in the sand” was the inerrancy slogan, which was dropped when it proved too ambiguous to define and enforce. In its place as a litmus test of loyalty was put the subordination of women, first in the home and then in the church, in the form of a 1998 family amendment and 2000 revision of the Baptist Faith & Message.

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The status of “women and other creatures” has been a topic of constant debate ever since the woman ate the forbidden fruit and the man blamed her and God for the consequences (Gen 3:9-12).

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The newly formed Advisory Council on Violence Against Women, co-chaired by Attorney General Janet Reno and Secretary of Health and Human Services, Donna Shalala, is seeking to maximize the impact of the Violence Against Women Act by recruiting the collaboration of national leaders from law enforcement, the media, colleges and universities, sports, health care, primary and secondary education, the corporate workplace and also from religion. On October 11, 1996, leaders from many faiths and religious groups gathered in Washington DC at an interfaith breakfast, with President Clinton as honorary chairperson of the event. The Attorney General gave the key-note address, and leaders of various faith communities were asked to respond briefly. Speaking for evangelicals, Catherine Kroeger made the following remarks:

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C. F. D. Moule wrote that the problems raised by 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 “still await a really convincing explanation.” G. B. Caird added, “It can hardly be said that the passage has yet surrendered its secret.” W. Meeks regarded it as “one of the most obscure passages in the Pauline letters.”

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I have a confession to make. I used to hate being a woman. And I hated God for making me one. But it wasn’t always that way.

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What I am against is the disgusting and deceptive way that some use the Bible to oppress and manipulate faithful, honest church folks. The SBC’s recent “statement on the family,” which faculty members at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary were asked to sign, presents a case in point.

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Too often the patriarchy of Bible culture has been confused with the moral teachings of Scripture. This workshop will explore how Christians working to end slavery challenged power, dominance, and self-interest in interpreting Scripture so that the church might become more effective agents of reconciliation in the world. What might egalitarians today learn from the interpretative methods of the abolitionists in their work as agents of gender justice?

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