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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 church in China is different from that anywhere else in the world. But then, China itself is also quite different from other countries. China, more perhaps than in any other place and time since of beginning of USA, is a nation trying to forge its destiny in new ways that are not really copied from anywhere else. It has made many mistakes, as its current leaders readily admit. That in itself makes it quite different from most other nations! Read more
Former Prime Minister Wen Jiabao of China said, “The speed of a fleet is judged not by the fastest ones in the front, but by the slowest ones trailing at the end.” This imagery, unintended though it was for the women’s movement, provides a vivid depiction of women and girls who are left behind. Though gender equality has seemingly made significant strides inside and outside the church in the past few decades, there remain many overwhelmingly horrid stories of women and girls whose lives are severely broken by extreme abuse and exploitation. In the biblical framework of creation-fall-redemption, and against the cultural backdrops of China and Cambodia, we look into God’s intention in restoring lives of these violated girls. Read more
“So, how do you handle dowries in the United States?” I blinked at the young Anglican priest in surprise. It was the second day of the Ekklesia Foundation for Gender Education’s (EFOGE) training event in Bondo, Kenya, where a group of schoolteachers, clergy, and church leaders had gathered to talk about biblical equality and discuss how to implement CBE’s curriculum, Called Out!, in Kenyan schools. But the conversation never stayed strictly within the confines of the curriculum, and that morning’s impassioned debate about dowries was the talk of the lunch line. Read more
Recently, I’ve been trying to picture Jesus. Really picture him. Not just slide into a lazy picture of the Jesus in countless religious storefronts on Mission Street. Moving beyond a plump, fed on mac-and-cheese Jesus, I ask him, “Do you know what it’s like to be me?  Do you know what it’s like to be Japanese American? And if you do, do you have any changes you’d like to make regarding your commands?” I ask because I find some of Jesus’ words hard and culturally insensitive. Did the command to leave family and fields for the sake of the gospel refer to Asian families, too? Does the suggestion to serve others and take the lowest spot apply when it seems that we often start with the lowest seat—or no seat—at the table? Read more

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