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I was a young child in the 1960's--a time when women were making small steps toward equality.  Even so, in the small Midwestern town where I lived, family and church structures were still fairly traditional. It was assumed that men would be the leaders in the family, the church, and the community. Women were often the followers. They typically cared for the home and children, making it possible for their husbands to take on those positions of leadership. This was seen as the best model for leadership in Christian families and in churches. As a young adult, I found that others in the Christian community saw it differently.  As I listened to their interpretation of Scripture, I began to reexamine my own beliefs and revised them to take into account the social context of pass... Read more
“Hear, O LORD, and be gracious to me; O LORD, be my helper. You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness, That my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever” (Psalm 30: 10-12). If there was ever an embodiment of these verses, it is in the lives touched by Channels of Hope for Gender in rural Durham. From middle-school children dramatizing the importance of HIV awareness, to children mesmerized by a math teacher, to Sunday School teachers, youth and pastors who have welcomed the liberating message in Scripture, one that free males and females from bondage—newness of life danced before us these past few days. Yet, the deepest transformation seemed to... Read more
Don’t be afraid to be big, women. That’s what I learned at a conference this weekend. Women are taught to be small. Tomorrow, pay attention to how women walk, sit and stand compared to men. You’ll notice women take smaller steps with their hands closer to their sides, cross their legs, fold their hands in their laps. Men are more likely to swing their arms when they walk, stretch out their legs, drape their arm over the seat next to them. And of course, mainstream American media portrays thin women as the ideal. We women aren’t supposed to take up space with our bodies. We’re not supposed to draw attention to ourselves in other ways, either. American girls’ achievement, particularly in math and science, starts dropping off in middle school. They... Read more
Father’s Day is a great opportunity to thank the men around us for the job they have done raising us. My experience is no different. My father has been a great influence in my life, and as I grow older into a strong woman who fights the hold of patriarchy, I cannot help but think he has been influential in this. Even before I was born, it seemed that he knew the struggle for equality that I would have to go through. With his international perspective on the struggle women face, he equipped me with the biggest tool to survive this battle and named me Florkime: a traditional name from northern Liberia, his homeland. My name Florkime in the simplest terms means perseverance and to keep trying. He has constantly reminded me that my academic efforts are valued and my personal s... Read more
I sat in the back row of the church and quietly observed. The brave woman who had invited me to the event had taught me tremendous truths about biblical sexuality in my postgraduate course and now she was releasing her very own set of booklets for toddlers, teenagers, and parents. She has such a profound call on her life to teach true biblical sexuality to the world, especially to Africa, so I was excited to be among her honored guests. Unbeknownst to me at the offset, the night would take a dramatic turn, much to my horror. While the brave woman stood sharing her vision, her words were not yet cold when a young man jumped up and grabbed the microphone, he began bombastically telling the audience that he was this woman's (who was three times his age) spiritual father and that unl... Read more
No matter how much I try to ignore it, minimize or overlook it, it manages to pop out of nowhere, sometimes when and where I least expect: the persistent reminder that I am, “just a woman.” How often have I heard that phrase from some man who felt I, or some other female, was getting too big for my boots! Take for instance the day I was driving to work in my new Toyota Sienna. On the corner of the road about 6 km (3.73 mi) to my office I stopped to give a colleague a lift; he was by far my junior in rank. It was shortly after the outbreak of violence in Jos, and there were security checkpoints everywhere. The soldier manning the first one we got to wouldn’t even look me in the eye or acknowledge my cheery, “Good morning.” Looking straight across at my passenge... Read more
Flashback to Cleveland, Tennessee, 1981: I became aware of a small Pentecostal Bible institute and church I wanted to visit. One Friday evening during a weekend seminar, I slipped into the back pew, as the special guests were already fully engaged. He spoke, then she spoke, then he spoke, then she on and so forth. Wait a minute, I thought, they're not simply testifying, and she's not going to sit down while he ministers the word. They're preaching in tandem, a finely choreographed presentation of God's word that I had never witnessed before nor any time since. The man's wife didn't sit down after her few words of greeting, an action typical among evangelicals and Pentecostals. She was speaking as one having authority, just as he was. After they finishe... Read more
To read Emily Nielsen Jones's full article, click here. Do Our Own Religious Codes Diminish the Full Humanity of Women? Regardless of one's religious affiliation, it can be a useful exercise to reflect on the combined influence of religion on the collective status of girls and women in our world. While each tradition is unique, many spring from the same patriarchal soil of the ancient world and bear some similar dynamics and contradictions as they are lived and applied in contemporary society. Paradoxically, faith has been and continues to be both a source of challenge and a source of validation of cultural gender norms that limit and prescribe women's place in society to a subordinate role/sphere. On a recent family ski weekend, a Christian friend and I discussed the... Read more
One of my friends works in Christian ministry at a large, secular university. She is passionate about Christ; she is a gifted teacher, preacher, and apologist. Her tenacious use of her spiritual gifts, her holiness, and her love for others is a model to us all. She said to me once, “Mimi, do you realize that my church spends thousands of dollars so I can lead college students, both men and women, to Christ, yet they won't let me preach from the pulpit because I am a woman? This is not only inconsistent, it says to me that there is something wrong with being female!” Her logic was compelling, and yet her experience may explain a sad phenomenon. Wicca is one of the fastest growing religions in America, particularly among women. According to one expert, the idea of a goddes... Read more
Many engaged couples tend to read books together, and sometimes have a few pre-marital sessions with a counselor in preparation for marriage. When we were engaged, we too read books and met with our pastor, and understandably, both were invaluably helpful and hilariously uncomfortable. We also were lucky enough to stumble upon three key principles for a partnership in marriage through a hobby we both love: rock climbing. They are communication, trust, and give and take.  As Adam was maybe ten or twelve feet in the air, Caroline, his belay (the one connected to and supporting the climber by the rope), had the revelation, “Hey, this is sort of like our own pre-martial counseling!” Caroline continued, “Your life is literally in my hands! I could drop you if I wa... Read more