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If we all approach the text of Scripture, each having his or her own framework of understanding (even when we share a view of the Bible that it is inerrant and true in all it affirms and teaches), is there any hope that we can ever reach a “correct” or “objectively valid” interpretation,1 especially on passages that are so sensitive as those that deal with the place and privilege of women in the body of Christ today? Surely, no one particular set of presuppositions is to be favored in and of itself over any other set of presuppositions as the proper preparation for understanding a text. And no one starts with a tabula rasa, a blank mind. So does this mean we are hopelessly deadlocked with no possibility for a resolution? Read more
Boundary markers are important to fundamentalists because they need enemies to energize their cause. In the so-called “conservative resurgence” currently seeking to divide Baptist loyalties, the initial “line in the sand” was the inerrancy slogan, which was dropped when it proved too ambiguous to define and enforce. In its place as a litmus test of loyalty was put the subordination of women, first in the home and then in the church, in the form of a 1998 family amendment and 2000 revision of the Baptist Faith & Message. Read more
We stood in the midst of 1,200 internally displaced people living in a makeshift camp of Sierra Leone, all trying desperately to tell their stories. The majority of the people were amputees. This is a sanitized word to describe people of all ages, both male and female, who were brutally chopped with machetes by rebel soldiers. I was in Sierra Leone on an assessment trip with World Hope International and connected with a Washington Post reporter. We traveled together to various parts of the country—he was researching stories while I was doing assessments. We both had heard of the brutalities and both had great compassion for the victims, but the stories became reality as I touched, smelled, listened, and cried with the women, children, and men. Read more
It reads like a tragic novel: Nearly two-thirds of the world’s 876 million illiterate adults are women. Approximately 6,000 girls are subjected to female genital mutilation each day, and 30 percent of girls subjected to its most radical form die from the effects. Four million women are sold each year as slaves. In sub-Saharan Africa, 55 percent of HIV-infected adults are women, and teenage girls are five times more likely to be infected than boys. These numbers, gathered from a variety of sources and published by Global Women, an organization that supports the global ministry of women, are only the tip of an iceberg adrift in developing countries across the world. Read more
I want to share with you my personal reflections on my forty years’ involvement with women in ministry, trusting that I am old enough and have been at it long enough that such personal reflection is not in poor taste. Read more
Dear Pastor Smith: The debate within the body of Christ on the topic of women’s identity and role has often been cast as a battle between traditionalists ardently defending biblical truth and their critics who would, either by design or by ignorance, loosen the church from its biblical moorings in order to promote a foreign agenda. In truth, for many of us, our unease with the traditional position has nothing to do with being swayed by modern liberation movements; rather, our unease is a response to the weaknesses within the traditional position itself. Read more
Once again we shake our heads, laugh, and roll our eyes at the Southern Baptist Convention. The boys who run that outfit never seem to tire of doing silly things. This time, when a few thousand of them [met] in Orlando in June [2000], they [made] all 15.9 million Southern Baptists reject female preachers. Read more
In 1998, the Southern Baptist Convention made headlines around the nation with the addition of the words “A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband” to the Baptist Faith and Message (B F&M). It seemed that everyone, from talk-show hosts to the person on the street, had some commentary to offer on the statement. Many were tempted to dismiss it as an archaic example of a denomination safe and secure in the eighteenth century. Others affirmed the words as a return to “family values.” All were, at the very least, curious as to why such a statement came from such a body of believers at such a time as this. Read more
I have a confession to make. I used to hate being a woman. And I hated God for making me one. But it wasn’t always that way. My parents brought up my siblings (a brother and two sisters) and me equitably, with absolutely no sense of privilege based on gender. “Aim for the stars, and you’re sure to hit one,” was Dad’s constantly quoted axiom. So throughout my school years I competed favorably with my peers, male and female, and felt inferior to no one. My girlhood fantasies alternated wildly between becoming President of Nigeria and performing adorably before millions of fans—movie star, sports champion, politician, whatever—I just knew that I could and would be great. Nothing was beyond my reach. Read more
Last night I waited at Starbucks until it was time to pick up two of our teenage daughters after a home Bible study under the auspices of our conservative evangelical church. While nursing my Coffee of the Day, I could not help overhearing a young adult woman, with Bible open at an adjacent table, discipling four other university-age females. Their informal conversation ranged over a number of topics, and on each one the leader had a forceful and confident opinion. I winced especially when I heard her advise them that the Bible was very clear that a woman should remain silent and never teach a man. As far as I could tell, the group simply nodded assent to this insight and scribbled it down in their journals. As I drove through a darkened suburban neighborhood to pick up my own daughters a few minutes later, I could not help wondering whether the teaching my kids were receiving was any different. Read more

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