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Church History

Margaret Mowczko
I am reading through The Apostolic Fathers at the moment, a collection of Christian writings which date roughly from the late 1st century to the middle of the second century. One of the books in this collection is called Second Clement. Second Clement is a sermon in the form of a letter. Dated at around 140-160 AD, it is “the oldest surviving complete Christian sermon outside of the New Testament.” (Michael Holmes, p. 132.) I was inspired by the content of Second Clement, and found most of the teaching sound and timeless. However, its use was not widespread in the Early Church. The fourth century church historian Eusebius refers to it and writes, “But it must be observed also that there is said to be a second epistle of Clement. But we do not know that this i... Read more
I just read an account of part of the life of St. Francis of Assisi who was known for his simple life and itinerant preaching. What I didn’t know was that on December 24th 1223, Francis found a cave near Greccio, Italy and brought in animals traditionally associated with the birth of Christ. He built a crib, arranged the hay and finished the scene. Crowds gathered full of curiosity and wonder and there Francis preached the wonder of God made human, born a humble infant and laid in a manger. “Behold your God” he said, “a poor and helpless child, the ox and donkey beside him. Your God is of your flesh.” That evening, the people of Greccio learned the real meaning of the word CHRISTmas. Read more
Was the first Thanksgiving really held by pilgrims shortly after the Mayflower anchored at Plymouth? Texans claim the first Thanksgiving in America was proclaimed in Palo Duro Canyon by Padre De Cadilla for Coronado’s troops in 1541, 79 years before the pilgrims. At any rate, Thanksgiving as an annual national holiday was slow in coming. Throughout American history some leaders issued Thanksgiving proclamations, some did not. Many were against it for various reasons and Thanksgiving was an on-again, off-again affair……until Sarah Hale got hold of it! Sarah was a young widow with five children and a millinery shop. She used spare moments for writing and in 1823 her first book appeared. She was soon hired as editor of a small magazine, then in 1837 she was named e... Read more
Essentially any book on New Testament backgrounds will include some description of the cultural values of honor and shame. (For a full and admirable treatment of the subject, see David deSilva’s Honor, Patronage, Kinship, and Purity: Unlocking New Testament Culture [InterVarsity, 2000]). Simply put, most people in the Greco-Roman world were constantly conscious that their social status was potentially in flux, moving up or down by accumulating honor or shame, respectively. Some aspects of a person’s shame would be unchangeable fixtures, such as being born into an unimpressive family. Other shameful realities were more up for grabs, such as failing in a trade or not getting an education. Though shame could be acquired by an individual’s actions, such actions tend... Read more
There are still church pastors and church leaders worldwide who believe women have no authority to pastor and should remain silent in the church. It is further exacerbated by the misinterpretation of 1 Timothy 2:11-12. Saint Paul wrote these scriptures to guide a troubled, first century church, not to create a discriminatory church policy against women in the 21st century. Yet, the reality is women are being discriminated against. It is a silent and stifling church policy that must come to an end! Sacred scriptures are misused to silence women and some stop them from pastoring because there is no biblical model. The truth is some men use sacred scriptures to limit competition for pastoral jobs, church management, and remain in power. There are some churches founded by women, bu... Read more
For Women’s History Month, I thought it would be appropriate to remember the early Christian martyr, Blandina, whose story is told by (pseudo?) Irenaeus in his “Letter of the Churches of Vienna and Lugdunum to the Churches of Asia and Phrygia” (A.D. 177) and later recounted in Eusebius’s Church History (c. A.D. 300). What follows are excerpts of the letter, which can be found in volume 8 of the Ante-Nicene Fathers (now public domain and online at Christian Classics Ethereal Library). While this martyrdom account needs no commentary, I find it striking how Blandina’s Spirit-filled strength defies the stereotypes (gender, age?, disability?) of her torturers and onlookers, including fellow Christians, so that, as the author writes,... Read more
Exhorting the Church of England (CoE) to "get with the program" dilutes the argument for women bishops. "But that would be putting the clock back," gasps a feckless official in one of C. S. Lewis’s stories. "Have you no idea of progress, of development?" "I have seen them both in an egg," replies the young hero. "We call it Going bad in Narnia." Lewis nails a lie at the heart of our culture. As long as we repeat it, we shall never understand our world, let alone the Church’s calling. And until proponents of women bishops stop using it, the biblical arguments for women's ordination will never appear in full strength. "Now that we live in the 21st century," begins the interviewer, invoking the c... Read more
Perhaps, like me, you've been asked, "If you could give someone only one argument for egalitarianism, what would it be?" Perhaps, like me, you don't like that question because the answer differs depending on the audience. I know people who would respond best to an appeal to theology, focusing on the loving and freeing character of God. I know people who would respond best to an appeal to Church history, focusing on the stories of certain women over the ages. I know a few people who would respond best to an appeal to the social sciences, focusing on how modern research upholds egalitarian ideals. Most of the people I know, however, would respond best to an appeal to the Bible. More specifically, most people who ask for an argument in favor of egalitarianism are in fact ask... Read more
Synopsis of the situation: Mordecai, a Jew, is an important man, known to the leadership of the Medes and Persians. His cousin, Esther, whom he raised, is now queen of the Medes and Persians. Haman is a very high official who hates Mordecai and has set up a law so that Mordecai and his entire community will be exterminated. Whether by revelation or just giving him wisdom, God shows Mordecai that Esther must save her people. Mordecai tells Esther this. Esther knows she can be executed for approaching the king without an invitation, queen or not. She’s afraid, but she submits to Mordecai as being a messenger from God. So far, so hierarchical: God tells man, man tells woman, woman obeys. But… Whether by revelation or just giving her wisdom, God shows Esther what she and th... Read more
“Sometimes silence is golden. Sometimes, it’s just plain yella’.” That one-liner is one of my summary takeaways from Christians for Biblical Equality's conference in Houston. The gathering was a multifaceted engagement with God’s calling of women into all ministries of the church: there was teaching, digging into scripture, and, perhaps most importantly, a lot of storytelling. Women in many parts of the church are told, through word and deed, that they are not needed for the church’s work. Not only are they in denominations that will not ordain them, they are in worship services where women will never be able to read scripture or preside at the table or, in some places, take the offering. Dear everyone: this destroys women. Listen to t... Read more

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