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Mutuality

I’m not sure if I ever totally believed that the Bible mandated inequality between the sexes, but that’s just the way it was. I grew up in a church that didn’t necessarily preach such inequalities, but practiced them none the less. By their example I understood that there was a “man’s place” and a “woman’s place.” The men held positions of leadership and the women were in charge of the nursery and potluck dinners. Read more
When I reflect on my childhood and young adulthood, it’s not difficult to see why I struggled to understand God’s intent for gender roles. I was surrounded by mixed gender messages from my denomination, my family and my Christian college. Read more
Jon and Carol Trott are members of Jesus People USA (JPUSA) in Chicago, a group of believers practicing gender-equal relationships while living in community and working in ministry. Living with 500 other people gives the Trotts a unique perspective on gender roles in relationships and in the church. Read more
When I was a confirmation student, my pastor took a motley crew of 12 teenagers on a tour of Luther Seminary, in Minneapolis. As I walked into the seminary, my eyes widened. My heart thudded and I heard God speak to me clearly, “You are called to this, my child.” For years I harbored those words deep in my heart. It wasn’t considered “cool” to want to go into ministry, and my mother’s words about a high school friend — “She’s so smart! Why would she go into ministry?” — rang in my ears. Read more
In the first century church, Paul and his fellow workers fought mightily for the Lord. Many Christians then — and throughout the following centuries — suffered persecution, loss, torment and death to serve the Lord and proclaim the gospel message: Christ has died for our sins; he is our salvation, our redeemer and our most holy Lord. But today, the Church itself persecutes some Christians simply for believing God equally gifts men and women. These persecuted Christians believe so earnestly in the truth of biblical equality that they are willing to stand firm and accept loss rather than turn their backs on that belief. For over a decade, Christians for Biblical Equality has bestowed Priscilla and Aquila awards upon those who have stood firm in their convictions. • Joe and Audra Trull, who accepted early retirement from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary rather than agree with the Southern Baptists 1998 “Family Statement,” which stated that women were to “graciously submit” to their husbands. • Dan Gentry and Barbara Kent, who resigned their positions at a Southern Baptist seminary after they were asked to sign the new statement. • Alan Brehm, a New Testament professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, resigned his professorship rather than sign his name to the statement. Read more
CBE has recently become the subject of unexpected news coverage. Our ministry has been featured in publications such as the Christian Science Monitor, the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the Associated Baptist Press. That these stories have led to numerous radio shows is both exciting, and somewhat curious. Why are the leaders of religious news so interested in CBE? Read more
Americans lead busy lives, and Vanessa Chitwood was no exception. Since the beginning of her marriage, Chitwood had worked to part-time as a nurse support her growing family. She also enjoyed volunteering at her local church. Still, she felt God wanted more from her. “There were areas of my life I kept under my own control. God was speaking to me about the need to give everything to him.” One day in 1996 she pulled her car into a parking lot and breathed a prayer of complete surrender to God. Eighteen months later Chitwood felt called to full-time ministry, but uncertainties kept her silent. It was not a direction she would have imagined for herself. “I kept these feelings to myself for about a year, thinking I was crazy, but the desire to serve just grew deeper, and in 1998 I acknowledged the call to my family and pastor and the process began.” Read more
Life sometimes comes in shock waves. A marriage teetering between life and death. A child born to an unmarried teenage daughter. A job loss. A notice of house foreclosure. A middle-of-the-night chaplain’s visit bearing the news of a son’s death. Sometimes life can be too much. Within two years Karen had endured each of these shock waves. When it seemed the hurt could not go any deeper, it managed to seep through whatever remaining façade of togetherness Karen could fake. And then her 23-year-old son — her only son — died. Out in the familiar Michigan countryside near the property of a dear friend, Karen walked. Soon family and friends would be coming to bury the ashes of her son under a sapling that would be planted at the service. Alone in the place that had nurtured her through the years, Karen cried out to God, “You’re still here, aren’t you?”  A butterfly fluttered near her chest. Then it flew away, circling back and coming close several times in the next few minutes. God, through creation, reminded Karen that yes, he was still very present. This butterfly experience may seem coincidental and perhaps strange. Theologically, can we affirm that God answers a mother’s cry with a butterfly? There is at least one realm in which this experience will be taken seriously, even welcomed — a spiritual direction session. In this context, I have found there is freedom to examine life — the best of it and the worst of it — and look for evidence of God. Read more
This is a letter Ron Hankins wrote after the International Mission Board ordered missionaries to sign the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. Over 27 years ago, I came to Japan with the International Mission Board as a journeyman. Here I met another journeyman — Lydia Barrows, the woman I would later marry. As God led us both into full-time Christian service, we returned to the United States, got married and headed for seminary. After graduation, we were both ordained in Lydia’s home church into the “full gospel ministry.” Each of us was appointed to Japan as a “general evangelist” to start and lead churches. There wasn’t a “church and home” designation for Lydia — she was called by God and trained by Southern Baptists to be a church starter and pastor. Read more
Persecution and injustice are expected in a fallen world. Yet, finding the right way to deal with hurtful situations can still be difficult, says spiritual director Lola Scobey. “Persecution because of beliefs in biblical equality can challenge a person’s deepest sense of self and self-worth,” says Scobey. “A constant barrage of views historically held by some church groups ... can undermine a person’s confidence in both their personhood and their viewpoints.” Many emotions can be expected. Among them are anger, hatred, sadness, resentment, self-doubt, derailment, fear and hopelessness, says Scobey. “[D]ifferent strategies are required to deal with each of these negative emotions,” says Scobey. However, she adds that there are six fundamentals for dealing with any negative emotion. Read more

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Book Review: Forgotten Girls: Stories of Hope and Courage

A Tibetan girl named Sonam used to spend her days collecting dung for fuel and desperately trying to patch the worn sides of the tent she shared with her mother. That is, until something as simple as a basic cinder-block house freed her family from the elements and allowed her to attend school. Then there's Meerim, an accomplished young Kyrgyz woman who was kidnapped and forced to reject her Christian faith for an unwanted Muslim marriage. And Mai Lin, a Chinese AIDS orphan. After years of rejection by her community, she was educated and cared for at a Christian school.

Book Review: Singles and the Church: A Match Made in Heaven?

At my former church, I offered a suggestion to the pastor. I told him that his morning sermon had been geared toward the married members of the congregation, but did not have application for singles. I suggested that he try to include messages relevant for single churchgoers as well. He looked at me and straightforwardly replied, "I don't know how to include singles because I am married."

Book Review: What Science Says About Superiority: Shattering the Myth of Race

Shattering the Myth of Race by Dave Unander is a thoughtful discussion of the conflict of race and ethnicity against the backdrop of the history of Western Europe and the United States.

Unander speaks of many people's lack of family roots in his Chicago neighborhood in the 1920s and 1930s to suggest that people can lose a sense of racial or cultural identity. In his multiethnic neighborhood, what people were like had more bearing on what he thought of them than their racial or ethnic background.

Book Review: Unmarried But Not Unimportant: Single Women: Challenge to the Church?

Intended for single women and the churches they attend, Single Women: Challenge to the Church? tackles the unique challenges faced by single, Christian women through the eyes of nearly 100 women who were surveyed and interviewed for the project.

The book also addresses the church's response to these challenges and provides practical suggestions for the church on how to serve its single members. This work is an encouragement for single women because it views singleness as a gift that holds a distinct purpose for a woman's service to God.

Margot Starbuck's Unsqueezed: Springing Free from Skinny Jeans, Nose Jobs, Highlights, and Stilettos: A book review

I will be honest about this. Margot Starbuck's Unsqueezed: Springing Free from Skinny Jeans, Nose Jobs, Highlights and Stilettos (InterVarsity Press, 2010) is not a book I would typically pick up, let alone excitedly read. With its giant, bright red, high heeled shoe on the cover, and a different pair of shoes gracing the first page of each chapter, I worried that it would be a "fluffy" message about how all women are beautiful—a Christian "chick lit" book that would provide milk when I was longing for meat, to use the metaphor of Hebrews 5.

The Gospel of Ruth by Carolyn Custis James: A book review

James begins by giving her readers an in-depth look at what it means to be a widow and a barren woman in Old Testament times, a heart-wrenching reality for both Naomi and Ruth. Her treatment on barrenness is particularly full of insight as she describes how God uses pain to engage his people on a deeper level, while also making it clear that the pain of loss can never be glossed over. She writes, "Even when we can pinpoint 'something good' that came out of tragedy, it never balances out what we have lost . . .

Susan McLeod-Harrison's Saving Women from the Church: A Book Review

I had just finished teaching an adult Sunday School class on spiritual gifts when a friend ran up to me and asked, "Did you hear what pastor said today in his sermon—that women can't teach men—and he used you as an example?" In processing my pain and confusion from that day, I found resources from Christians for Biblical Equality that helped me heal, and led me to Jesus. Now, there's a new publication that offers similar hope and healing for women: Susan McLeod­Harrison's Saving Women from the Church—How Jesus Mends a Divide.

Book Review: Jo Anne Lyon's The Ultimate Blessing

JoAnne Lyon feels the way all of us do sometimes—depressed, bitter, lonely, helpless. But she also remembers what we often forget—that through the pain and frustration of human existence, we are blessed by a transcendent God who loves us and promises to be with us always.

Book Review: Crossing the Divide: Daughters of Islam

Daughters of Islam: Building Bridges with Muslim Women is a wonderfully relevant book for Christians who have little knowledge of Islam or the people who subscribe to it. This book helps readers peer into the hearts of Muslim women, to perceive what they feel and think, and to understand how they live.

Book Review: Kate Hurley's Getting Naked Later

Are you still looking for a way to use those two-for-one coupons you long to share with a spouse? Or, are you constantly giving your single friends advice on how to snag a mate? There's something for you in Getting Naked Later, by Kate Hurley. Don't be put off by the title—she never gets into specifics.

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