Have you ever been to a really great party? And have you ever found yourself, days later, replaying powerful conversations with friends and coworkers, thankful for the strong community they represent? That’s how the CBE team felt after laboring alongside colleagues in South Africa and Kenya for two weeks during the “Truth Be Told” conferences.
Eight days of events made one thing clear: God intends to heal communities writhing under patriarchy and gender-based violence (GBV). I invite you to celebrate God’s faithfulness throughout our journey, beginning on our flight to Johannesburg.
We were seated near a young couple traveling with their first child—a beautiful newborn baby whose very presence enthralled both parents! Throughout our 16 hour flight, I watched the couple rock their baby, gazing without distraction at their child’s face. I imagined God loving us in this way, and the image of a parent’s sacrificial love became a metaphor for what followed. Over the next two weeks, I watched God’s loving arms hold and heal a wounded church, beginning with CBE’s conference in Johannesburg.
“Truth be Told” Johannesburg
The amazing Xana McCauley, pastor at Rhema Bible church and founder of GEMA (Gender Equality Matters), Hands of Compassion, and CBE’s South Africa chapter, partnered with CBE to host four days of conversations on biblical gender equality attended by over 3,500 people.
Given the rate of gender based violence in South Africa and because access to resources on biblical gender equality is limited, our goal was to flood our conference with resources printed in cities throughout Africa. Rocked in God’s loving arms, CBE received a generous grant to print needed resources through a cloud-based publisher. We were able to distribute 4,000 books to attendees, and many of those resources went to student attendees who will add them to Christian college libraries across Africa.
We were able to use CBE curricula, including Is Gender Equality A Biblical Ideal?, to equip over 100 leaders, pastors, and NGO workers who attended our leaders forum. And we received funding to bring prominent World Vision leaders to participate in these events.
“Truth be Told” South Africa was enriched by prominent leaders like Pastor Taffi Dollar of World Changers International Church (a mega church in Atlanta) and South Africa’s Public Defender, Thuli Madonsela, who opened the conference. Her legal mind and Christian commitment can be appreciated here.
Cape Town Events Challenge Abusive Practices and Harmful Interpretations of Scripture
Following these events, CBE staff and volunteers flew to Cape Town to serve beside Esme Bowers, minister at Calvary Sanctuary, Secretary of the Lausanne Movement’s international board, and leader in the Pan African Women’s Alliance.
Our first event considered “A Whole-Bible Approach to Men and Women in Ministry.” It attracted 150 pastors, students, and church members. The audience was very engaged—pastors asked how they could support the emerging leadership of women and one woman took me aside privately to ask whether Scripture gives her husband the right to force sex on her. God’s loving gaze filled the room as distorted concepts of male-headship fell and marital rape was challenged.
The following day, Esme, her daughter, Dr. Nadine Bowers, professor of theology at Stellenbosch University, and I lectured to 60 students, pastors, and church members. Together, we explored “Paul’s Concept of Biblical Equality.” Specifically, Esme considered how she, an African Christian leader, embraces the “African Way” of empowering women leaders in biblical teachings and practices.
We ended the day by remembering the history of early evangelicals who embraced women’s leadership as a theological priority. God shifted patriarchal perspectives through those conversations. Students asked for additional conversations and some expressed interest in launching a CBE Cape Town chapter. And at both Cape Town events, we distributed hundreds of resources at no cost.
Kenya’s “Truth be Told” Events
Landing next in Kenya, we joined 75 students, pastors, and NGO leaders from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Uganda, and the US for two days of “Truth be Told” lectures in Bondo, Kenya. Lectures by African scholars memorialized the pivotal leadership of Kenyan women who expanded the gospel message in the East African revival, placing their call as evangelists above cultural observance of male-led clan and headship practices.
We also considered the cultural background of 1 Timothy 2 and the profound way Scripture supports gift-based rather than male-only leadership. Finally, we enjoyed a fascinating evaluation of the Mother’s Union movement, which presents both limitations and new possibilities for women’s leadership in African Anglican churches today.
Thanks to cloud-based publishing partners throughout Africa, CBE distributed more than 100 free resources at the “Truth be Told” conference in Kenya. No one went home empty handed. Before leaving, we not only visited CBE partner projects, but we also joined the vision to host a similar conference in Tanzania next year. Those events will be aimed at expanding partnerships and advocating for biblical gender equality as a means of promoting human flourishing and ending GBV.
Conference recordings are available here. In coming months, CBE will publish many of these lectures.
Join me in thanking God for CBE’s staff, volunteers, and donors who, in partnership with our African colleagues, witnessed God’s loving arms healing the church and leading communities to higher biblical and social ground.