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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
“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
As a couple, we have always valued equality, even if we haven’t always practiced it. It seemed to be not only an issue of basic fairness but also a practical way to share the joys and burdens of our life together. But implementing this ideal has been an incremental process. Like most newlyweds, we came to our marriage with great optimism, but also with ambivalent beliefs about roles. Our ideals of equality competed with traditional expectations of who would actually cook the meals, take out the garbage, change the oil, earn the money, and change the diapers. One of the first arenas where we faced this incongruity was meal preparation. It seemed easy at first. We have always loved to do things together, so as newlyweds we planned meals, shopped, cooked and washed dishes jointly. We enjoyed experimenting with new recipes and re-creating old family favorites. Read more
Political polls unnerve me. The questions are carefully phrased such that one’s answer must support the perspective of the pollster (not unlike the classic question, “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?”). When those who provide the answers also pose the questions, the debate easily veers off into conceptual territory that is favorable to those who are framing it. We need to keep an eye out for questions that serve more as assertions than genuine queries. Read more
In the last issue of Mutuality we asked a critical question—why does it take so long for certain truths to become part of everyday life? For example, the Royal Navy knew for decades that drinking citrus juice would eliminate scurvy, saving the lives of thousands—yet no one adopted the behavior. Even after watching sailors recover within hours of consuming citrus products, few changed their behavior. Why is this? Read more
Religion is the most deadly tool of oppression, according to Eugene Peterson. “More people are exploited and abused in the cause of religion than in any other way.” What is the first line of defense to exploitation driven by religious zeal? God’s prophets! Read more

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