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Personal Stories

When women come forward about abuse—sexual, religious, emotional, physical, financial, verbal, etc.—reactions often vary widely. Some people cheer on the survivors. Some people question why the victims didn’t come forward earlier. Some people worry that people have been falsely accused. Two years ago, I posted my own story of sexual and religious abuse on YouTube. Knowing that people often respond defensively, I worried: In telling my story, who would be impacted and how? What if telling my story caused harm instead of good? I wasn’t concerned about my abusers. But I agonized over how my truth could affect the lives of those close to my abusers, people I still care about. People who had something to lose. What if they were hurt? I thought about the wives of my ab... Read more
The #MeToo movement has successfully pulled back the curtain on hidden misogyny and rampant abuse of women in US culture. #ChurchToo has highlighted the sexism that’s just as alive in American pews and pulpits. Women from churches around the country have shared their stories of being abused, silenced, and sidelined. As I read these accounts, I sympathized deeply. I have my own #MeToo stories and #ChurchToo stories. Yet, I also have #MissionsToo stories and they have yet to be given space in these movements. The child of conservative missionaries, one of my first memories when we moved overseas was listening to the teary words of my mother's friend, a woman recently arrived from the United States. "He's my husband, and he believes that we should be overseas. My role is t... Read more
When I recall the day my grandfather held open the door, inviting me into his treasure trove of genealogical information, I smell pickles. At our family gatherings, we’ve never lacked for a variety of briny vegetables—olives, pickles, and lupini beans, collected in an assortment of glass dishes and jammed alongside sticks of carrots and celery (which replaced the harder-to-access fresh fennel, present on special occasions). Growing up, I thought of this as the Sheild way, the way of my father’s family. The spare bedroom at his home was crowded—boxes stacked haphazardly, papers poking out of drawers or piled high and tilting precariously. Despite the chaos, the clutter of the room, combined with the smell of pickled vegetables, was nothing but pleasant to me. My fa... Read more
Editor's Note: This is one of our Top 20 winners from the 2018 CBE Writing Contest. Enjoy! I was seven years old—sitting in a hard, metal desk, staring at the hole-y paddle hanging ominously on the wall, and wearing a skirt that reached three inches from my knee—when my teacher told us God didn’t want women to be pastors. Shocked, I thought, “How can this be? Why does God like boys more than girls?” I went home that day and cried to my mom that I wanted to be a boy. I was in fifth grade, standing with my parents in the church parking lot and staring at the black asphalt beneath my feet as I listened to a grown woman weep. Her ministry had been shut down by church leadership, she told my parents. The elders had determined that even though her minis... Read more
Editor's Note: This is one of our Top 20 winners from the 2018 CBE Writing Contest. Enjoy! In May of 2018, John Piper responded to a young woman struggling with persistent, unrelenting body hatred. In his article, he suggested that there’s a good form of body hatred because the body is the site of sin. His response quickly went viral, and many took issue with Piper’s authority to write on the topic of body hatred and mental illness in general, and in particular, with the statement that there is a right and biblical way to hate your body. Most women don’t need even the slightest encouragement to hate their bodies. We live in a culture that teaches us to do this. We starve, shave, pluck, pierce, and adorn our bodies to gain social acceptance, and we bond sociall... Read more
Editor's Note: This is one of our Top 20 winners from the 2018 CBE Writing Contest. Enjoy! I propped up the corners of my mouth in a smile when I saw the elder’s wife weaving towards me after Sunday service. Although I’d been attending the church for over a year, she’d never before attempted conversation. I was a youth leader and she had teenagers who weren’t allowed to participate, one of a few signals I’d received that she might not approve of me. Immediately, I was conscious of the new ring in my nose. We didn’t have a policy on piercings, but I’d been asked to reinforce a dress code for the girls on discipleship training school or short term mission trips in the past. Shorts must not be too short. Tank straps must not be “spagh... Read more
For most of my life, I didn’t attend a church that affirmed women in ministry. In fact, most of the churches I grew up in held the opposite view. They took the issue very seriously too. One Wednesday night when I was in maybe sixth grade, the male teacher for the boys’ class was absent. The female teacher for the girls’ class refused to allow the junior high boys to join us. Why? Women weren’t allowed to teach males once they graduated from elementary school. The same teacher encouraged us to aspire to become elders’ wives when we grew up. We were never encouraged to focus on our own gifts for ministry. We were not encouraged to serve the kingdom as writers, singers, missionaries, or worship ministers, and certainly not as preachers. I never saw a woman teac... Read more
I grew up in Finland—one of the most egalitarian societies in the world. Though no culture is perfect, Finland continuously tops UN and World Bank rankings for best place in the world to be a mother and woman, and is also home to some of the happiest people in the world. The World Economic Forum named Finland the third most gender-equal country in the world in 2017. As a young person, it seemed that my generation had moved beyond the issue of patriarchy. Due to the work of my grandmother’s generation and many generations before her, gender equality and egalitarianism were well-established cultural values in secular Finnish society.   Historically, the Finnish nation-building project didn’t start out with a feminist ethos. It was birthed by a small, northern people... Read more
This submission is one of our top ten CBE Writing Contest winners. Enjoy! It was a typical summer weekend service at our local church. I was perusing the bulletin announcements about our son’s upcoming youth group trip that included a water park excursion. Amidst the details for the trip was the following blurb instructing students what to bring: “Bring: Sleeping bag, pillow, toiletries, change of clothes (dress for the weather), swimsuit (girls one-piece or tankini please), towel and $$ for two fast food dinners.” I was immediately uncomfortable with the assumptions behind the swimming suit instructions; the question became what was I going to do about it? A a busy mom of four boys ages 7-12, it took me a couple weeks to carve out time to sit down, pray through i... Read more
Bronwen Speedie
The Australian church and media have hotly debated domestic and family violence (DFV) in Christian homes since journalists Julia Baird and Hayley Gleeson published this controversial report: "'Submit to your husbands': Women told to endure domestic violence in the name of God."  Responses from Christians and church groups have been varied. Some have welcomed the report and subsequent coverage as a catalyst for developing awareness of abuse and creating change, and others have denied the truth of the report or tried to distract from the central issue by arguing over finer details. On August 9, 2017, an Australian Christian women’s online community, Fixing Her Eyes, published several true stories of DFV experienced by Christia... Read more

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