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The unilateral authority of males is evident in shaping nearly every culture throughout history. Further, when patriarchy is framed as a biblical ideal, it is not only at odds with the teachings of Scripture and the purposes of God’s covenant people, it also becomes a deadly spiritual disease that chokes life all around it. As Jesus said, if the fruit is bad, the tree also is bad (Matt 7:17–20). This is not to say that gifted men should not exercise authority, but, at the same time, they should affirm the gifts and authority that God grants women as well, working mutually to lead and serve the church and the world. As a balance, it was thrilling to see three women receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for their courageous activism in advancing democracy and justice for women. Three days later, a blog appeared by CBE member Jenny Rae Armstrong, who wrote: I haven’t stopped grinning since I heard the news about the Nobel Peace Prize recipients. You see, it was in Liberia that I first witnessed the true ugliness of gender injustice, first understood that a tiny seed of pride and superiority dropped into the heart of a man would blossom not into a sheltering tree but into an ugly, invasive weed that choked...life...around it. Read more
The student council at the seminary I attended called a special meeting to decide one matter: Should supporters of biblical equality have access to student funds to host forums on gender equality, when only a portion of the student body supports this position? In fact, should gender egalitarians be represented on student council at all? The dean of students came to observe deliberations. No one was in high spirits. In fact, the mood was tense and divided. The discussion was circular, until one voice was raised. Read more
Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) has come a long way in 15 years, according to Susan McCoubrie. As CBE’s first membership coordinator, she remembers when the organization’s membership information was organized in a recipe box on a TV tray. “We were very hopeful, but we knew we were on an uphill battle,” said McCoubrie. “We had to continually prove ourselves as possessing a high view of Scripture.” Since January 2, 1988, when CBE was incorporated as a nonprofit organization, the organization has grown by leaps and bounds, not only in the space required for record-keeping, but in influence as well. Read more
Quick Bible quiz: Name one African person in the Bible. Did you mention Hagar, Simon of Cyrene or Apollos of Alexandria? What about the Ethiopian eunuch, or Queen Candace? If none of these characters came to mind, perhaps it’s due to a lack of understanding of the cultural and ethnic forces at work in the Bible. Understanding these forces can bring new light to familiar passages. For example, even though the word “Africa” is not mentioned in the Bible, the word “Cush” is, which scholars think refers to Ethiopia or to Africa as a whole. Countries such as Egypt, Ethiopia and Libya are also mentioned. While they might not correspond exactly to the countries on a 21st century map, they do refer to places in Africa. Read more
Christians’ attitude towards gender, while having some ambiguities, is on the whole pretty straightforward. Churches often state whether leadership positions are open to women or only to men. In relationships between men and women, people usually either believe that the Bible teaches mutual submission or distinct roles. The church’s attitude toward race, however, is hard to nail down. Most Christians would assert that people are equal regardless of race, and few would openly discriminate against people of color. Yet this spoken equity and unity isn’t always visible on Sunday mornings: Our churches are often painfully homogenous. Read more
“To promote a woman to bear rule, superiority, dominion, or empire above any realm, nation, or city is repugnant to nature, contumely to God, and the subversion of good order, of all equity and justice.” So wrote the Scottish theologian John Knox in the year 1558 in his book titled The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women. Although he made his points more strongly than many others, Knox was only repeating the widely held notions of his day. He quoted Aristotle and Aquinas, as well as a host of secular authorities, to demonstrate female inadequacies: “Nature, I say, doth paint them forth to be weak, frail, impatient, feeble, and foolish.” He quoted Saint Paul, along with the ancient Fathers of the Church, to demonstrate the “proper” place of women, and was in full agreement with his contemporary Martin Luther that Kinder, Kirche und Kuche—Children, church and the kitchen, are where women rightly belong, according to the divine plan. Read more
When I was a girl of only seven years old, my father passed away. My mother was left with the job of raising her seven daughters by herself. I realized early on that not having a male in our family was a dishonor. At important events my family felt ashamed because we had no one to represent us to the community, a role reserved for male members of a Korean family. With my father’s death, my family had lost its public voice and had become invisible in the community. As I reached adulthood, I recognized that inherent in the structure of Korean society was gender discrimination. I also recognized that gender discrimination extended even into the Korean churches. When I felt called to attend seminary to train to be a full-time minister, my gender stood as an obstacle. Although others agreed that I had the gift of leadership and that I had been called to ministry, many tried to persuade me to give up my dream, telling me, “Women are not suitable for professional Christian ministry.” Read more
As an expectant mom, I’ve been actively researching this new role I’m plunging into headlong. One friend shared with me that although many people prepared her for the pain of childbirth, no one could prepare her for the joy of having a baby. Another told me that I was heading for a lifetime of split-consciousness—a state in which I would always be myself, of course, but also someone’s mother. Additionally, I’ve been told that even though my husband and I have always lived out our marriage according to our shared vision, no “project” to date would come close to approximating our greatest joint undertaking yet: the raising of a little child. Read more
The pastor to whom I was speaking was adamant: God definitely had roles for husbands and wives to play in marriage. The husband was the leader, the decision-maker, and the wife was to submit to his leadership. “If a woman is single, who makes her decisions?” I asked. “Why, she does!” he replied. “And when she marries, then who makes the decisions?” I persisted. “Her husband does,” was the predictable answer. “So, then, is a woman diminished by marriage?” I asked.  Read more
My friend excitedly shared how much he’d enjoyed Dr. Dobson’s September 1999 letter. “Though I support Focus on the Family’s work,” I responded, “I strongly disagreed with one point Dr. Dobson raised in that letter. I am not encouraged by increased support shown in evangelical circles for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Statement on the Family.” My friend stared. He could not understand how any Christian could object. Dobson states that over 100 Christian leaders have signed their support for the SBC resolution, including Denver-based Promise Keepers, Colorado Springs’ Navigators and Focus on the Family, and many other organizations. Dr. Dobson adds that Family Life Ministries and Campus Crusade for Christ have also adopted an expanded version of the SBC statement. How can this be bad news? Isn’t the unity among Christians praiseworthy? Why should I be concerned? I thought about how to answer my friend, and here’s what I concluded: Read more

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