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I had the pleasure of worshipping with the Bear-Barnetson family at the annual Wiconi International Family Camp and Pow Wow in Turner, Oregon, in 2008 and 2009, and found myself amazed at the beauty and freedom Cheryl and others expressed as women and as followers of the Jesus Way. Cheryl is Bear Clan, from Nadleh Whut’en First Nation within the Carrier Nation of British Columbia. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Pacific Life Bible College, Surrey, B.C.; an M.Div. from Regent College, Vancouver, B.C.; and a Doctor of Ministry from The King’s College and Seminary in Van Nuys, California. Cheryl and her husband, Randy, travel full time with their three teenage sons, Paul (17), Randall (15), and Justice (14), who also have their own band. I interviewed Cheryl in 2009. Read more
Come and go with me to a Navajo camp about 20 miles away. It can easily take one and a half hours. We will go in a truck because deep irregular ruts and wide deep mud holes or ponds will require a good engine. Our driver is a woman – a missionary who has made this daring trip dozens of times. Shortly after leaving the mission compound, we encounter a “wash.” Winding down the steep sandy road, we wonder if the wash will be running. If so we will ford the “river” if its depth permits. Of course, if the water depth is more than two feet, the flow will be too swift and we will turn back. More than one life has been lost to the violent waters of a treacherous wash. Read more
What a joy it was to be around Cathie! We met seldom, and it was always too short. She had so much information and so many new ideas and insights to share that there was never enough time to do all the discussing we wanted to do. And, underneath the intellectual excitement of learning more about our faith, Cathie always had a related concern for the wellbeing of others. 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
It is apparent that the Christian church is grappling with the issue of women’s roles in ministry. Many churches rely on conclusions not founded in Scripture as the basis for their policies. This article seeks to illustrate such inconsistencies and challenge each church to carefully examine the scriptures as the basis for their attitudes and policies regarding the contribution of women to the ministry of the local church. Read more
Surprises are usually associated with the future—with something unexpected just around the corner. But surprises can also sneak up on us from the past. Sometimes the biggest surprises are discovered in the history we know the best—our own.  Read more
Sam had a hard time with the concept at first. He grew up as a Southern Baptist, so the idea of a woman pastor seemed sort of heretical to him. He had always subconsciously imagined that his wife would do everything that his mom used to do for him (cook, clean, pick up after him). The first time we really talked about it was after a Bible study we attended together where Pastor Dora Wang led us to the truth that God doesn’t intend for women to be silent in the church. After that, we had heated debates and arguments and very productive conversations about its implications. We talked about it all the time — in emails during the day, while cooking in the evening, while brushing our teeth late at night. It was an ongoing conversation for days and weeks.    Read more
I was raised Plymouth Brethren. They are a small denomination that began in Plymouth, England and have churches throughout the US and Canada. Both of my parents’ families are well-known in this denomination and have been active in church life for several generations in Canada and Great Britain. Men and women in the branch of the Brethren that I grew up in have different, well-defined roles. There are no clergy and each local church is very autonomous. Each local body is governed by a group of male elders which usually act in this role for life. The Authorized version [King James Version] is uniformly interpreted by all churches and there is a fairly cohesive set of rules and lifestyle options that "we follow”. I learned to read at 2 1/2 and by 3 I understood that (1) women are silent during church services (I could read 1 Timothy myself and my Grandpa told me what it “meant”); (2) teaching children in Sunday school and at women’s meetings are okay, singing is okay; (3) women wear head coverings (same learning process as above); (4) my father required complete and total obedience from my mother and all four of us children. (He had scripture to back him up on this. My mother believes that she should obey not only his specific commands, but what she believes he would want us to do.); (5) I had specific career options which were to get married and stay at home with children, become a teacher or a nurse. 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

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