Christians for Biblical Equality’s founder, Catherine Clark Kroeger, was one of the most amazing people I have ever met. She defined the words “can do.”
She was a pioneer woman, a globally renowned statesperson who made things happen; for Cathie, to think was to do. I have always contended that her contributions in their international impact will be among the most significant to emerge from our generation: she started two absolutely essential organizations that are changing the world—Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) and Peace and Safety in the Christian Home (PASCH)—both aimed at bettering the lot of whole people groups oppressed for reasons of gender or vulnerability. But her compassion also extended and particularized to individuals. She reared dozens of foster children, along with her own, while enriching every life she touched, including mine. Countless people consider Cathie one of their dearest friends—my wife and me included.
Months would go by as all of us worked intensely in our own spheres of ministry, and then, with one phone call from Cathie, there was instant rapport, as if no time at all had passed. To be in Cathie’s presence was to have one’s vision instantly expanded. She was alive to countless areas of need, and she seemed to have an idea about how to fix everything, because everything seemed to be of interest and importance to her.
I remember once walking with her and a group of Gordon-Conwell faculty, spouses, and children in Ephesus. Looking over at a weather-beaten slab of stone, I muttered, “Hmmm, I think there might be writing on that.” “Let’s see,” Cathie said, peering over an intervening wall. “Why, yes, that’s a funeral inscription for a woman—and, oh, she was a bad girl. Oh, my, look at that . . .” and she rattled off a translation. Cathie with her trained eye deciphered out the eroded letters and spent the rest of the stroll reading out loud every sign and inscription all the way up the street.
Cathie’s knowledge of Greek was formidable and legendary among those who knew her. Her authoritative work on “head,” her classic book I Suffer Not a Woman, her many other articles and books, each of which is excellent, are but a small sampling of her overall knowledge. Teaching her classes without notes, she seemed to be able to answer any question by pulling information about any New Testament or classical issue out of her memory, which is reported to have been photographic. She not only seemed to know everything about her subject matter, but she also seemed to be everywhere.
One weekend, my wife, Aída, and I came in to do some teaching at her church. Cathie wasn’t there. She flew in that night, bustled down to breakfast, announced, “I have to go,” and headed off again to the airport. She seemed indefatigable.
In the last several years, bouts with Lyme and related diseases, however, began to take their toll on her rugged constitution. As this spring semester began, she taught her opening class at Gordon-
Conwell Theological Seminary’s (GCTS) Hamilton campus, “Women in the Early Church,” and felt tired and ill at the end, but still insisted on driving home to Cape Cod to rest—a trip that could run three hours with traffic. Meanwhile, her next teaching trip to Egypt was announced. She was planning two services for the seminary’s chapel. She was working on plans for the upcoming Peace and Safety in the Christian Home conference and, at the same time, completing for Wipf and Stock publishers a new book manuscript, pulling together her vast knowledge and her enlightening photographs on the meaning of “head” in the New Testament. She had also delivered to me the article that appears in this issue of Priscilla Papers to help introduce her newly published co-edited book on combating abuse, which has just now appeared from the House of Prisca and Aquila Series (HPA) of Wipf and Stock (and is reviewed in this issue). And those are only the things I knew about through our connection in GCTS, CBE, PASCH, and HPA.
The recent devastating loss of her husband, Richard, a wonderful friend and leader in his own right, had severed a one-flesh relationship that stretched out to almost sixty years. Terrible weather that had dropped record snows on New England, spiraling temperatures from highs in the 50s to lows below zero, had been felling countless people with flu and pneumonia, and this had apparently been exacerbating the difficulties in her already taxed system from the effects of Lyme disease and its accompaniments, the crushing demands of her great schedule, and the burden of grief of her recent loss. All of this was taking a toll to an extent none of us, perhaps not even Cathie herself, realized.
After all, Cathie was Cathie, a force of nature in herself. Few thought of her as an octogenarian—she was too alive, too brilliant, too innovative, too courageous. And, then, suddenly, she was gone—gathered up in the everlasting arms to join her husband and her Lord on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2011.
What she left undone was now for others to do. In true Catherine Clark Kroeger fashion, her last words were “book outline.”
It was like a telephone call with Cathie. Anyone who ever called her knows that you had to get the reason why you called into the first minute, or Cathie would start right in on a multitude of issues and then suddenly announce, “Oops, I’ve got another call—I’ve got to go,” and she was gone. And now, just like that, she has heard another call, and she is gone.
Goodbye, dear sister Cathie. We’ll be seeing you again.
And Cathie—thank you for everything.
Love with gratitude from your brother in Jesus,
(With contributions and affirmation by your sister in Christ, Aída)
This editorial is adapted from the tribute I had the privilege to deliver at Catherine Kroeger’s funeral service at Brewster Baptist Church in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and then again at the memorial service held in her honor at the Kaiser Chapel of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Hamilton, Massachusetts.