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When I speak on the topic of biblical equality, I look out at the audience and wonder why each person has chosen to come. Some may be women who feel restricted in their church circles and not given opportunity to use their gifts, who hope to find help. Some may be men who want to understand more clearly the biblical basis for God’s view on gender and who need help in being able to give an answer to the many who hold a gender bias. Others may be women seeking guidance on how to juggle home, family, and marriage responsibilities more effectively with their church or business leadership positions. Read more
Several years ago, a book that I edited appeared in print under the title Jesus and Paul Reconnected: Fresh Pathways into an Old Debate.1 In that volume, six noted New Testament scholars (John M. G. Barclay, Markus Bockmuehl, Beverly Roberts Gaventa, Bruce Longenecker, Francis Watson, and Stephen Westerholm) compared various aspects of Jesus’s thought and practice to those of Paul. One comparison not explored there that I will address in this article pertains to the views of Jesus and Paul with respect to the role of women in ministry and mission. Read more
A superficial glance at the New Testament in translation, combined with an expectation of a subordinate role for women, results in generalizations that Paul commands women not to teach or have authority (1 Tim 2:11–15), except in the case of older women teaching younger women how to be housewives (Titus 2:3–5), and women are not to teach in official, public, formal positions in the church, but they can teach in informal, private, one-on-one situations in the home. Read more
“Can I write a paper on a woman interpreter?” asked a student in Marion’s class in the history of the interpretation of the Old Testament. This question opened the door to the world of women interpreters of the Bible from the past. We have discovered thousands of unremembered published works on the Bible written by women, from the period of the early church to the present.    Read more
In 1771, John Wesley received a remarkable letter from devout Methodist convert Mary Bosanquet (1739–1815). With her friends Sarah Crosby (1729–1804) and Sarah Ryan (1724–1768), Bosanquet had been running an orphanage and leading the small-group Methodist gatherings for spiritual growth that Wesley termed “class meetings.” Crosby had in fact been speaking to groups sometimes numbering in the hundreds — though Wesley would not let her call her spiritual testimony “preaching.” Bosanquet too had been leading class meetings, and been criticized for doing it. Read more
As women ministers, evangelists, and preachers began flooding urban, rural, and global mission fields in the 19th century, Christians started to question assumptions about the inferiority of both women and slaves. They did so from a thorough examination of Scripture. These early evangelicals — many of whom were founders of Bible institutes — insisted that gospel values must triumph over cultural values, especially regarding the gifts God has given all people for Kingdom work.  Read more
The Trail of Tears (1838–1839) culminated in the relocation of over 20,000 Cherokee Indians from Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, and North Carolina to northeastern Oklahoma. Estimates are that 4,000 Cherokee men, women, and children died during this journey.  Read more
A popular question has been posed for a while now in contemporary American society: “What would Jesus do?” The theology behind the question suggests that, perhaps, in the absence of explicit teaching, or as further explanation thereof, if one were to discern how Jesus reacts or handles a situation, because of the utter consistency of Jesus’s character and mission, one might find instruction for how to do likewise in one’s own life. It is based on the simple call and invitation that Jesus gives to his disciples: “Follow me” (e.g., Matt 4:19; Mark 2:14; Luke 9:59; John 1:43). Jesus proclaims good news: the kingdom of God is at hand. And, with that, a new world order is established. Those who follow him are called to demonstrate and embody the values, tenets, and principles of the kingdom. His followers often represent those who, transformed by the healing and restorative ministry of Jesus, then choose to commit their own lives to faithful service of Jesus Christ. These followers are also known as disciples. They not only learn the teachings of Jesus, but also fully embrace his teachings by applying them in their daily walk. Read more
Louisa Woosley was the first Presbyterian woman to be ordained. Woosley’s life coincided with a time of increasing participation by female leadership in the Cumberland Presbyterian (CP) Church, the denomination to which she belonged.1 During the late 1800s, women in CP churches were serving as teachers and officers in the Sunday schools and contributed greatly to missions efforts and to church schools and colleges. In 1877, the appointment of women serving as trustees and deacons in churches was approved by the Pennsylvania Presbytery. This decision was rather low key and noncontroversial, unlike the issue of women as elders or ministers. Read more
M. Madeline Southard (1877–1967) is known among Methodists today for her pioneering work for ecclesiastical rights for women, particularly for the pivotal role she played in the 1920s in opening up ordination to women in the Methodist Church.1 Among religious historians, she is known for founding the International Association of Women Ministers (IAWM) in 1919, an interdenominational organization that, by the 1920s, included around 10 percent of female ministers in America, and which continues to this day.2 Southard also achieved a certain notoriety in her younger years, when she accompanied the infamous Carry Nation on one of her saloon-smashing crusades, and later when she traveled the country preaching and speaking on women’s rights, suffrage, and sexuality from a biblical perspective.3   Read more

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