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Personal Stories

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
Recently, a friend asked me an unexpected question. “Do you identify first as a Christian or as a feminist?” I was surprised by but not unprepared for her question. I’d considered it before, and the answer is complicated. Stick with me here. Many Christians believe that Christianity and feminism are incompatible. But this assumption is drawn from biased definitions of both feminism and Christianity. Some Christians have an extremely negative perception of feminism. Feminism conjures up images of angry, man-hating, bra-burning women fighting for unnecessary ends. After all, they argue, what more do women need when they can work outside the home and vote? They believe that women are already equal, but need to accept their different roles. With this skewed definition of f... Read more
Babies love contrasting colors, repetition, and music. Some brilliant people realized this attraction and created baby sensory videos. My granddaughter has a few favorites. One of them is set to classical music and begins with a black background and a bird dropping a seed. Then, a rain cloud comes and waters the seed. A tree grows, and the cycle of seasons begins: a fruitful tree becomes an autumn tree, which becomes a wintery, snow-covered tree, which becomes a springtime, blossoming tree, which becomes a fruitful tree. This repeats over and over again. One of my daughters recently commented about her niece, “You can actually see on the baby’s face when she is learning something, processing something.” And, this is true! You can see, on her face, in her eyes, and i... Read more
Women make up 19% of active duty service members in the Air Force. I’m a chaplain in the Air Force Reserves, and the numbers in my career field are even lower. The last statistics I saw reflected fewer than twenty female chaplains in the Reserves out of about two hundred.  And yet it’s in Air Force chapels where I have felt most welcomed, most encouraged, and most supported in my ministry. Yes, I have stories of harassment and marginalization, of being singled out because of my gender. And by highlighting the positives about my experience, I don’t intend to gloss over these challenges and offenses. Many women do experience sexual harassment and gender discrimination in the military, and those issues certainly should be addressed. But the military is also one of... Read more
“I'm okay with a woman sharing, but not preaching,” I said. “Why?” the woman responded. With that pithy question, I was forced to take a hard look at a theological position I had long held. I confess that I had extra incentive to take her question seriously; the sister-in-Christ with whom I was speaking had gone out on several dates with me, and I was hoping that would continue. But despite my mixed motives, I did honestly feel the need to wrestle with her question. “Why?” was not something I had ever really asked myself about my complementarian view of women's roles in the church. In truth, my conviction—that 1 Timothy 2:12 taught that women should not preach to a mixed-gender crowd of adults—was not very well thought-through, and... Read more
"I am an egalitarian." I make this statement with pride, but my journey into egalitarianism was a long one. In fact, my students are often shocked to learn that my once-traditional view of men and women's roles led to the biggest fight my husband and I had before we married. We argued over whether God approved of women preaching—with my husband trying to convince me that God calls women to be pastors. But I'm getting ahead of myself. My egalitarian journey didn't begin with a debate with my fiancé. It began with my parents who, though holding to traditional roles, raised me to think for myself and to appreciate my headstrong temperament. My parents worked as a team and had absolute respect for each other. They are two of the most unselfish people I... Read more

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