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How often women lament that their lives were blocked from answering God's call to ministry. So many obstructions were put in their way because of their gender. They could not receive theological education, ordination, or employment in a church setting, and many have experienced a lifelong heartbreak that they were not permitted to fulfill the mission to which they had felt God's leading. But a new wind is blowing. We live in a time of ecclesiastical upheaval. In my office I see a procession of students who have become disillusioned with the failures of their denominational affiliation and are seeking new forms of Christian community. Daily, the Boston Globe brings news not only of distressing developments within the Catholic Church, but within many other faith communit... Read more
"So God created human beings in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:27, TNIV). A noted church historian once observed that the great error of history is presumption—presuming that one has grasped the necessary facts related to a person, a group or situation when in reality one is largely uninformed. Perhaps you can recall a time in your own life when presumption led you into deep waters. I certainly can. Some of the deepest waters in American history are the result of acting on presumptions rather than facts. Consider the presumption that created and legitimized American slavery. Slavery in the US was based on the mistaken belief that Africans as an ethnic group were inferior. In his towering book, ... Read more
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16 NRSV). Have you ever pondered the dangers of reading the Bible? Perhaps booksellers should provide consumer warning labels that read: “Be careful, reading this book may change you and your worldview forever.” If Christians are correct, we encounter God’s infinite power every time we read Scripture. Should we be surprised then that as we ask difficult questions, God’s Spirit gives us new ideas and new direction? And, should it astonish us that Christians often arrive at different conclusions on matters considered “orthodox” by previous generations? There are many examples of this, but here are a few.... Read more
“. . .The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things” (Gal. 5:22-23, NRSV). In examining the biblical qualities of a leader, last week we considered the similarity between the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) and the qualities Paul requires for elders and overseers (1 Tim. 3:2-3), deacons (1 Tim. 3:8), and widows who also held leadership (1 Tim. 3:11). While many churches today have specific gender requirements for leadership, Scripture is far more concerned with character than gender. Shortly after making this point, a reader wrote in to say that while gender should not be the primary issue, to “leave gender out of 1 Timothy” is not a fair... Read more
“Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation” (Gal. 6:15, TNIV). Does it seem curious to you that when the issue of leadership in the church is discussed, gender is frequently cited as a primary element to consider? In fact, when determining who may or may not serve as an elder, deacon, pastor, or church board member, gender rises to the foreground so quickly and so often that some churches are reluctant to discuss the issue for fear their churches will divide as a result. What are the most important qualities leaders should possess, according to Scripture? Is it education, wealth, experiences, or a person’s capacity to influence others? Is it a certain gender, age or ethnicity? No! The “must have” qualities in a... Read more
“Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. ‘Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.’ But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet. 3:13-15, TNIV). Have you ever noticed how problems become worse the longer we ignore them? Perhaps this is one reason why a gifted attorney, now a judge in Chicago, frequently reminds her family and friends of the importance of being proactive. As it relates to biblical equality, this is never more the case. Here are a few examples of how valuable it is to have an answer for those who ask for the r... Read more
 “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae, so that you may welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a benefactor of many and of myself as well” (Rom. 16:1-2 NRSV). In last week’s Arise, we argued that because the apostle Paul commended the work of Phoebe—a deacon (Rom. 16:1-2)—the tradition of female deacons continued throughout the early centuries, as noted both by the archaeological evidence and also in Christian literature preserved from this period. For example, Clement of Alexandria (150-215 AD), Origen (185-242 AD), John Chrysostom (347- 407 AD) and Egeria—a fifth century pilgrim—refer to female deacons without reserva... Read more
"Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord" (1 Cor. 1:31, NRSV). Have you noticed how God selects the most unlikely individuals to accomplish extraordinary feats? Defying human standards and expectations, we discover God’s power working in astonishing ways in the lives of people we might consider less than ordinary. There are so many examples of God’s power among people who would never make it in Hollywood! Consider the remarkable leadership of the stuttering Moses, the elderly and barren Sarah, the young Virgin Mary, the impetuous Peter, or the slaves Andronicus and Junia. These biblical leaders, and many others, were not impressive by any earthly standard. Yet God seems to delight in countering human prejudice by accomplishing more than we might “ask or... Read more
"All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16-17, NRSV). As friends and I met for dinner to enjoy pictures of mutual friends’ wedding, their four-year old joined in the fun. At one point I asked this child which picture was her favorite, and she quickly pointed to one saying, “This one!” When I asked why, she pointed again and uttered the name of her best friend. Her parents and I strained our eyes to have another look. We’d been focusing on the images of adults and failed to observe a little girl—her best friend—poking her head just slightly around her mother’... Read more
Is gender the most important factor in the equation of life? Do you find yourself reluctant to attend women’s retreats because they tend to focus on things like fashion, women’s emotions, crafts,and new forms of stomach exercises? Are you confused by so-called Christian blogs for women, where again, the discussions center on fashion and emotions? I was recently invited to develop a women’s track as part of an international conference for evangelicals, only to learn that the conveners intended to include workshops for women on fashion, beauty, and women’s emotions. Is that what inspires us today as Christian women?When I consider how Christians might better mentor women today, I reflect upon prominent Christian women such as Sojourner Truth (1797-1883), Pandita... Read more

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