Church History | CBE International

You are here

Church History

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
Throughout much of my childhood, I possessed my home congregation's three unofficial requirements to serve communion: a sport coat and tie, a family that arrived on time, and a Y chromosome. Therefore my brother (who not surprisingly met the same criteria) and I served communion almost every Sunday morning and evening from seventh grade well into college. As a result, when I am asked to serve the Lord's supper today, I usually give no more than passing notice to the high privilege that such service is. In contrast, I know several women who never served communion until their 30s or 40s, and without exception they were deeply appreciative of the opportunity when it finally came their way. Helping to distribute the elements of the Lord's supper is service, not leadership. No bi... Read more
Being so close in age, my younger sister and I developed a helpful system of negotiating disputes, justice, and restitution in our growing up together. Generally our methods of reconciliation worked pretty well. But there were occasions when our communication failed to reconcile an injury or injustice, compelling us to appeal to the highest court—our parents. We made our appeal only rarely because we recognized that in soliciting our parents' judgment, there would be no turning back. Our parents would provide the ultimate answer. In a similar way, Christians have taken their concerns about gender and authority to the highest court of appeals—to the Trinity. Those who see women as equal in being to men but unequal in authority search for parallels in heaven—where they... Read more
Over the past three weeks I have been challenging the idea that there is a “masculine feel” to Christianity based upon the nature of God, our language for God, and Scripture’s explanation of male-female relationships. Today we will tackle another factor contributing to the mistaken idea of a “masculine Christianity”—the perception that only males held positions of prominence and leadership in Scripture. Some Christians point to the twelve male disciples as evidence that church leadership is limited to men only. At face value this may sound compelling. However, the twelve were not only male, they were also Jewish. In reality, it is much more important to consider the ethnicity of the twelve. Apart from this, their gender is insignificant.... Read more
For years, everyone wondered why my father had difficulty getting dressed, reading maps, and fixing appliances. We later learned the root of his trouble. During his pilot’s training course it was discovered that my father is color blind. He confuses primary colors and has trouble discerning colors that are similar to one another. Despite his best efforts, my father was denied a pilot’s license because he could not find the red switch on the dash or locate wires colored orange and pink. Fortunately, once his disability was diagnosed, he was able to compensate for it. How many of us are left wondering whether some Christians today suffer from a similar condition we might call “gender-blindness”? Christian faith may have a masculine feel because those with gender-blin... Read more
I find myself thinking about this question asked by a child, which Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen shared in her book Gender & Grace (p. 34): My younger son asked me this past Pentecost why people don’t get as excited about this holiday as they do about Christmas and Easter. He thinks we should send up fireworks on Pentecost. (“After all, that’s when God sent fire down, isn’t it?”) Acts 2:1-4 records: When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to s... Read more
Though Hilary was only eight years old, she was old enough to notice the “masculine feel” of her church. As the congregation ended their prayers with an “Amen,” Hilary blurted out “All men!” A friend seated next to her asked “Why did you say all men?” She said, “Well, look at them,” pointing to the church leaders. “They are all men!” For Hilary, the face of Christian leadership was male. Her assertion is based on a child’s limited experience, but those with greater learning have recently raised their voices for the “all men” quality which they believe is both intrinsic to Christian faith and an attribute within the Godhead. How do they arrive at this conclusion? Because, they say, Jesus, as mal... Read more
Of all the literature produced by the early Syrian church, the most prized was composed by Ephrem the Syrian, often called "The Harp of the Holy Spirit". One of his hymns memorialises the faith of the Samaritan woman whom Jesus met at the well and sent forth as a missionary (see John 4) O, to you woman in whom I see a wonder as great as in Mary! For she from within her womb in Bethlehem brought forth His body as a child, but you by your mouth made him manifest as an adult in Shechem, the town of His father's household. Blessed are you, woman, who brought forth by your mouth light for those in darkness. Mary, the thirsty land in Nazareth conceived our Lord by her ear. You, too, O woman thirsting for water, conceived the Son by your hearing. Blessed are your e... Read more
Easter brings to the egalitarian mind the fact that women were the first evangelists to proclaim the risen Lord. One of the gospel accounts attesting to this historical fact is Luke 24; verses 9-10 say, “…and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles” (NRSV). I believe the gospel record, and I consider this point important. But to be honest, I don’t make much of it in my teaching. Why? Because someone who doesn’t value this historical fact may respond, “Yes, but what those women did is far different from modern preaching. That they spoke in private to their friends doesn’t mean modern women c... Read more