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Published Date: September 14, 2022

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Gathered in Prayer, Exploring Galatians 3:28: A Peek into CBE’s 2022 International Conference

After three years of COVID isolation, CBE’s 2022 International Conference was a joyful, exuberant, in-person reunion of scholars, leaders, and advocates from around the world! Together, we gathered around our commitment to overcome the social barriers cited in Galatians 3:28—race, class, and sex. One attendee said, “Renewed hope filled my heart as I thought of people being enlightened by more accurate translations of key passages, leading to transformative results.” We were indeed transformed by the Holy Spirit—who guided our prayers, hearts, minds, and spirits!

Prayer’s Guidance and Power to Explore Galatians 3:28

Prayer was the silver thread connecting people, resources, and God’s Spirit in every moment! From devotions each morning to vespers each evening, prayer infused the keynotes and workshops, quieting our souls to receive what Christ had for us as individuals and a global egalitarian community.

As with all CBE conferences, we opened each keynote with prayer—in languages that represent CBE’s ethnically diverse community. We prayed in Arabic, Cantonese, French, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Kitsangui, Portuguese, Spanish, Taiwanese, and Urdu. Prayers in Apache opened one breakfast gathering of women leaders affiliated with the Reformed Church of America. Another attendee said, “The fact that I could hear a sister from China pray in Chinese and a sister from Pakistan pray in her native language was refreshing.” It was a global community of Christians coming together to pray, worship, and reason together.

Struck by the impact of prayer guiding our reflections on Galatians 3:28, someone asked, “What if scholars, pastors, writers, and activists met for prayer during the conference, asking God for new insights on biblical passages and strategies to address challenges we repeatedly face?” I cannot stop imagining how collective prayer might take us forward as an international egalitarian family. Taking it one step further, what if we committed ourselves to prayer together with those we disagree with on key issues, like women’s biblical equality?

While CBE is not a monastic community, perhaps we might become more like one! Some of the most impactful theologians were members of monastic communities. Before scholars established a separate space as academics, they were part of praying communities. I believe it was a community of daily prayer that shaped the direction of early Christian theology and its social outcomes. Intriguingly, the church honored (and canonized) many more theologians before scholars moved from monasteries into the academy.

From New Scholarship to Practical Wisdom on Galatians 3:28

Tightly focused on CBE’s cornerstone verse, CBE’s 2022 International Conference represented the culmination of CBE’s strategic planning on women, ethnicity, and race. It was a “blend of theology, experience, and in-depth biblical hermeneutics engaging heart and head,” as one attendee put it.

Keynote speakers like Grace Al-Zoughbi, Andrew Bartlett, David Hart, Craig and Médine Keener, and Michelle Sanchez explored the depths of Galatians 3:28, demonstrating what scholars have often said: this passage summarizes biblical concepts of identity and purpose. Workshop leaders considered how practical outcomes are possible when we embrace this passage more fully. One speaker who has written countless commentary on New Testament texts said that God woke him up in the middle of the night to show him something he had never seen before when reading Galatians 3:28. Thanks be to God!

Another scholar said the three student paper presentations represented the highest of original scholarship. For him, this was the most powerful aspect of the weekend. Others could not wait for the bookstore to open, where they found helpful resources and CBE staff ready to pray with them! CBE’s gender-accurate Bible translation team made numerous contributions throughout the conference, whetting appetites for their final publication, which will address and improve references to women throughout Scripture. Representing the Old Testament team, Boaz Johnson delighted us all by singing Hebrew prayers that drew us into God’s presence.

Communion in a Community Committed to Women’s Biblical Equality

We ended the conference in communion as a CBE family, led by pastor and board member Sarah Ago. Michelle Williams’ powerful sermon dispelled concerns that Christ calls and gifts women preachers. I’m personally thankful to Michelle, also, for leading a workshop and training for key CBE leaders. Michelle’s work as CBE’s consultant is always full of practical wisdom and enthusiasm for God’s ability to do more than we dream or imagine possible.

For those who could stay longer, over forty of us spent Sunday afternoon touring the Martin Luther King, Jr. Historical Park. Sharing dinner together after the tour, conversations were hard to wrap up as we celebrated our weekend. We have much more to do! I give thanks for the privilege of sharing in this work beside so many devoted colleagues.

Birthed and bathed in prayer, God guided our conference content, which is now available for free on YouTube and SoundCloud. May our Lord continue to give us a hunger for prayer, and may we respond to Christ by partnering with our global Christian family to help everyone understand the full meaning of Galatians 3:28.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3:28)

I hope you will join us for our next international conference in July 2023—in Brazil!

Photo of Craig and Médine Keener at CBE’s 2022 International Conference.

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