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"I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me" (Rom 16:1-2 TNIV). I love messing with my students. Yes, I know it catches them off guard, but exposing their assumptions and ignorance is both enjoyable and actually educational too. When I get to my Romans class, I ask the students four questions: So who actually wrote Romans? "Paul," they immediately reply in chorus. "No," I retort, "Who physically sat down and penned the letter to Paul's dictation?" Blank faces, deep thoughts, then some bright spark will blurt out, "Oh, oh, th... Read more
Why would the Christian community reject or fail to support well-trained female ministers when the apparent need for ministers is so great throughout the world? The Barna Research group has investigated gender differences in the American population. Among their findings women are more likely than men to read the Bible, attend church, pray, be born again, believe the Bible is totally accurate in all of its teachings, and describe themselves as "deeply spiritual." Historically, women have been the backbone of churches. It is only logical that women would desire to attend seminary as a means of better equipping themselves for ministry. Because of the advances women have made in the non-church culture, however, women now expect the same level of respect, compensation, and leadership... Read more
Equal and Complementary was a hierarchical-complementarian conference held recently in Melbourne, Australia and organised by an informal working group. Kevin Giles, a prominent evangelical-egalitarian, has written a lengthy response to the conference. Giles spends a lot of time discussing Greek words like exousia and authentein. It may seem that continued discussion about such words won’t move the discussion forward. But Giles’ definition of ‘moving forward’ may differ from how others see it. He sees the issue as having the same impact in our society as slavery did last century. Retrospectively, we would not say slave owners and liberationists agreeing to disagree about slavery (but affirming their shared belief in the glor... Read more
If you’re looking for a powerful film to watch, consider Iron Jawed Angels, a dramatization of the American suffragist Alice Paul (1885-1977). Her legacy is one of a kind. Few leaders exhibit more genius in responding to the rhetoric and strategies of their opponents than Paul. For egalitarians today, her struggle and ours have significant parallels. We have much to learn from Paul’s challenge to the illogic that portrayed women as wholly different from men and therefore unsuitable for decision making responsibilities. At a crucial moment in the film, while imprisoned for picketing the White House, Paul is examined by a psychiatrist for mental instability. In a penetrating declaration, she establishes her sanity as well as woman’s shared humanity with men. She tell... Read more
Caryn Rivadeneira
If you read the GFL e-newsletter, you may recall my mention of a certain giddiness when I saw an ad for a one-day conference about “Women and Christian History” being held right in my neighborhood. Well, this past weekend, I went. Some highlights for me included seeing archaeological evidence of women priests, deacons, and elders in the early church, and that Notre Dame in Paris had women priests as recently as the Middle Ages. And I enjoyed learning about ancient Jewish and Roman marriage and divorce practices and how those related to the apparently mis-read and misunderstood story of the Samaritan woman at the well. But my favorite moment of the day, the one that lingered and has made me smile whenever I replay it, came when Dr. Mimi Haddad talked about the women of the... Read more
Certainly one of the most puzzling remarks in Paul’s writings is found in 1 Timothy 2:15, “But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety” (TNIV). This verse has spawned a host of widely divergent interpretations. Is there any hope for recovering what Paul had in view regarding this phrase, “saved through childbearing”? Absolutely! It is safe to say that he did not have female salvation from sin in view, for we know that the forgiveness of sin comes because of Christ’s finished work through grace, not by the labor of mothers giving birth to children! It is better to see the phrase as referring to temporal deliverance—“women will be kept safe through their pregnancy and la... Read more
Some interpreters have argued that Paul himself considered his words limiting women directly applicable not only to the women of Corinth (in the case of 1 Cor. 14) and Ephesus (in the case of 1 Tim. 2), but to all women in his era. If Paul intended such broad ancient application, as the argument goes, it is appropriate to take the next step and apply his words directly to women of other generations as well. One key text for accomplishing such a move is 1 Corinthians 11:16, which has been used to teach that Paul himself applied his restrictions on women throughout his ministry, not only among the Corinthian recipients. Accurate translation of this passage, however, disallows such an interpretation. The immediate context of this verse comprises a curious and difficult passage about p... Read more
When you think of Jesus, who do you imagine? Does an image of a kind, blonde-haired young man in a white robe surrounded by little children come to mind? Do you view Jesus as a tough, commanding, radical who spoke truth to power? Has your vision of Jesus, like mine, been shaped by the soft-focused picture of our Savior which hung in your grandma's house? The church and Christian culture offer a dizzying array of images of Jesus. Most of which look nothing like the first century Jew Jesus was, in reality. A stroll through your local Christian bookstore will prove my point. Before we commence an iconoclastic crusade to purge Christendom of its Americanized Christs, let's consider the significance of our representations of Jesus. These images or interpretations of Jesus are impo... Read more
Kindness, gentleness, love, peace, joy. Would you be more likely to describe these character traits as "masculine" or "feminine"? If you answered "feminine," you would not be alone—but you would be wrong. These are human traits—neither exclusively feminine nor masculine. Yet, our society and the church seem overly comfortable associating these attributes as feminine. When is the last time you encountered a Christian book for men that exalted gentleness and joy as defining marks of masculinity? On the other hand, most Christian resources for women emphasize patience and peace as necessary marks of a believing wife and mother. When patience, kindness, gentleness, love, peace, joy—the "fruits of the Spirit" (Gal. 3:22-26)... Read more
How many of us come from traditions where we have been told that women cannot serve in positions of leadership because Jesus was male? And, as denominations consider where women may hold positions of service, inevitably the gender of Jesus becomes a consideration. Previous generations of Christians have also asked important questions about the gender of Jesus. Here is one example: Gregory of Nazianzus, who lived at the end of the fourth century stated, "To gar aprosleptom atherapeuton," which in English means, "What is not assumed is not redeemed." His words remind us that Christ came to represent all of humanity on the Cross. Thus, if we absolutize one aspect of Christ, such as his gender, ethnicity, or class, we run the risk of excluding people without those char... Read more