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Women’s participation in development and leadership is not an imposition of our times. It is as old as creation itself. In the biblical accounts of creation (Gen 1:26), the command of God to steward the earth is given to both women and men, meaning that they are both to take leadership in overseeing the wellbeing of the population in their care. Throughout the Bible, God gives gifts so that both women and men may lead; therefore, we should recognize those gifts as our “sons and daughters prophesy” to lead us. This is clearly seen in the book of Acts, where both women and men answer the call to ministry as community workers (9:36, 39), as teachers of the word (18:26), and as prophets (21:9). Both women and men were exhorted to use their spiritual gifts fully without restrictions on the basis of gender (Rom 12:14–20; 1 Cor 12:7, 11; Eph 4:6–8; 1 Pet 4:10–11). This shows that men and women participated equally in the service (1 Cor 11:5) as confirmed by the presence of active women such as Lydia (who appears to have bankrolled a church as well as Paul’s ministry). The Proverbs 31 woman is commended for all her businesses (real estate, textiles, etc.). By the same token today, women’s gifts should be utilized in the marketplace as well as men’s, and equal participation in the development process should be encouraged as a biblical ideal. Read more
It is useless to deny that women can be victims. Increasingly, the secular press documents it. The Christian press has long acknowledged it in society at large and is now beginning to acknowledge it even within the sacred walls of the church of Jesus Christ. People are also beginning to acknowledge that sexual harassment and violence exist on the job, even in strongly Christian organizations. I recently stood beside a woman in such a situation. (In referring to her in this article, we will call her Sue.) I, too, had experienced sexual harassment on the job, but in a secular context. I found few differences in what needed to be done between the secular context and the Christian organizational context. Read more
So when Mariana arrived in Costa Rica in 1984, she was in for a shock. She saw that people with physical limitations generally were given no responsibility for, or control over, their own lives. In some homes, people with physical limitations were kept “hidden away in a back room.” She immediately set out to help persons with physical limitations run their own lives, excel and even serve others. In the process, she said, “God has opened doors.” Read more
At least 10% of the people in developing countries have functional limitations, said a 1984 World Health Organization report. Of these, women and girls receive proportionately less food, less education and less opportunity. Women with physical limitations are the poorest of the poor. Read more
Whereas I see no need to defend, only to lament, the sexism of Christendom, I do think feminine Christians should think again about what Jesus himself taught. Jesus was a man. How did his maleness affect how he related to, and what he taught about, women? Read more
As one might expect, much of the research in the area of wife abuse has been done by feminists, some of whom themselves have been victims of wife beating. They speak with an understandable bitterness and anger toward a society so insensitive that it only publicly acknowledged the plight of battered women decades after having established laws to prohibit the abuse of animals. And often they have given up on the hope that change will come through social institutions such as the church. Rather than seeing the church as part of the solution to the abuse of women, they almost unanimously perceive the church as a big part of the problem. Read more
In 1664, a young Puritan minister named John Cotton Jr. was found guilty of “lascivious unclean practices with three women.”1 Mr. Cotton was a Harvard graduate, a descendant of well-respected parents, and a husband and father. As a punishment for his sinful deeds, English officials in Massachusetts forced Cotton to give up his pastorate of a local church. The question was, what could he do to support Joanna, his wife, and their children? Puritan leaders found the answer in an unlikely place: Martha’s Vineyard. For many years, members of the Mayhew family had labored as missionaries on the island, trying to teach local Indians about Christianity. The Mayhews needed help, and John Cotton Jr. was sufficiently qualified, in the eyes of the English at least, to preach to Indians. So, in 1666, John Cotton Jr. began a long missionary career on both Martha’s Vineyard and in the town of Plymouth. In many respects, his legacy lasted beyond his death, for his two sons, Josiah and Roland Cotton, preached to Indians in Massachusetts long after their father was gone.2 Other scholarly works have examined male members of the Cotton family and how they interacted with Native Americans.3 In this article, however, I wish to explore the experiences of Joanna Cotton, a wife and mother of missionaries in colonial America. In particular, I will explore the extent to which Joanna fell in line with expectations regarding gender roles in colonial New England. These roles typically involved a degree of female subordination to males. Read more
“The problem of patriarchy in the church is the problem of male as norm,” charged British author Elaine Storkey at a recent meeting of Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) in St. Paul, Minnesota. Read more
At the evangelical colloquium on women and the Bible October 9-11, 1984 in Oakbrook, Illinois (see the papers in Women, Authority, and the Bible, ed. A. Mickelsen, Inter Varsity Press, 1986), I introduced the section on biblical hermeneutics (the art of interpreting Scripture) by saying that the most crucial issues for evangelicals in the modern world of biblical studies were not in the arena of the so-called "Battle for the Bible" (inerrancy and authority). Important as these considerations may be, the hermeneutical issues are still more critical. Read more
When we say, “We are persuaded from Scripture that masculinity and femininity are rooted in who we are by nature,”1 what do we mean by “nature”? How do we relate our view of nature to our understanding of the role of women? In this article, I will examine how John Calvin, to whom contemporary Reformed churches owe so much for their confessions and practices, used the argument from nature to understand the role of women as different from that of men. Read more

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