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Priscilla Papers

Twelve million women in the United States—a staggering 25 percent of all American women—will be abused by an intimate partner in their lifetimes, according to a recent article in the Hawaii Medical Journal. An estimated two million women in this country are assaulted by an intimate partner every year. The actual numbers are probably much higher because the victims (whom I also refer to as “survivors”) often remain silent, fearing both the stigma associated with abuse and the threat of further violence from the perpetrators. In addition, because verbal, emotional, and psychological abuse don’t leave physical marks, they may be overlooked or dismissed as “not that bad” by caregivers and even by victims themselves. But the pain caused by harsh, sexist language meant to break the spirit is just as real as the pain caused by fists. Read more
Unwelcome, sexually suggestive comments are not a new phenomenon, beginning with the alleged activities of either Bob Packwood or Bill Clinton (depending on your political preference). Sexual humor that degrades an entire gender (or sometimes both genders) into mere objects for sexual gratification has a long history. Read more
“If wives were submissive like God intended them to be, there wouldn’t be any domestic violence” is a statement that I have heard over and over again during my years as a counselor. These comments have not all come from the lips of battering husbands, but from many Christian workers and members of the clergy as well. Is domestic violence a modern phenomena associated with the feminist movement? Is it the result of non-submissive wives? Is it a phenomena associated with the inner cities, slums or urban blight? Or, is domestic violence just a sign of the times that we live in? Read more
Although the circles of young people where I minister rarely have a problem with women’s ministry, many young men and women are looking for more models of what it means to be a “real” man. Although some hold traditional and others hold egalitarian ideals of marriage, many of the young women who would like to someday marry lament the fact that there are not enough respectful Christian young men to go around in society as a whole. Read more
THIS IS NOT A NICE SUBJECT. Abuse is a curse in our land. One definition of abuse is, “Repeated and targeted abuse (from both attitudes and actions) designed to instill fear and used as a means of control.” The abuser may or may not be aware of his/her motives behind the attitudes and actions. Read more
Among reformed Christians (a term which includes Presbyterians, Calvinists, Lutherans, and many others who do not formally use those labels) this is the week in which Reformation Day is celebrated. For it was on October 31, 1517 – the eve of All Saints’ Day – that Martin Luther nailed his Ninety Five Theses, “for the purpose of eliciting the truth,” to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg. We were treated this fall to the sad spectacle of the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Judge Clarence Thomas. Because in my professional life I am both a cross-cultural psychologist and a gender studies scholar, I had students, colleagues, and others asking me what I thought about the Clarence Thomas / Anita Hill episode (one hesitates to use the term “affair”) which recently pre-empted the nation’s soap operas in an unprecedented weekend of media sleaze. My inquirers often seemed to be looking for a neat and clear response from me, but in fact I had no neat conclusions to offer. Because the entire process was such a three-ring circus of political self-interest mixed with ill-disguised racism and sexism, and because no clear conclusions were drawn about the truth of either party’s testimony, I suspect that no neat conclusions are possible. So let me instead share some reflections on this episode, taking it as a classic example of our continuing need for national reformation – specifically reformation in race and gender relations.   Read more
Like many churches, ours on Boston’s North Shore is invested in a mission in a developing country. In our case, we support a school in Haiti. The vision belonged to one of my students in the first class I taught for Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary’s Center for Urban Ministerial Education (its Boston Campus) some fifteen years ago. Joseph is himself a Haitian with a burden for a poor village outside of Port-au-Prince. It had an infant mortality rate of more than 80 percent, since the people had to depend on a river for everything— drinking, washing, etc. Read more
A dramatic statement in a United Nations document in 1980 has often been repeated: “Women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours, produce half of the world’s food, and yet earn only ten percent of the world’s income and own less than one percent of the world’s property.” If that generalization is even close to being accurate, then enormous injustice against women is rampant in our world today. That is the focus of this article. Read more
Of all the social problems confronted by the church, domestic violence is surely one of the most misunderstood and mismanaged by church leaders. I still look back with deep embarrassment on the time when, as a young pastor, I was offended that our women’s ministry had invited a special speaker to address the topic of domestic violence at the mid-week women’s Bible study. I was certain they were simply stirring up trouble where no real problem existed. After all, we were an evangelical church and abuse did not happen in our church. In my youthful naivete (and chauvinism), little did I realize that abuse does happen in evangelical churches. In fact, at that very time, one of the church elders had been beating his wife for years and had put her in the hospital several times. I also did not realize that one of our pastors was about to be arrested for child abuse. Like most clergy, I had gone into the ministry with a deep and genuine desire to serve and help others, but because I was clueless regarding the reality and dynamics of domestic violence, I was unable to minister to abusers and their families. In fact, I made matters worse. Read more
Christian caregivers are to be commended for seeking to provide assistance to the survivors of child sexual abuse. However, we must be aware of a potential danger: the accusations could be false. Read more

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Book Review: The Private War of Mrs. Packard

Every time discouragement sets in because of the slow progress of egalitarian ideas, we ought to be able to reach over our shoulders and pull from the shelf a book such as Sapinsley's. The story of Mrs. Packard (1816-1897), set in the American midwest, should remind all of us how much has been accomplished by our forebears.

Book Review: No Time for Silence

Chosen as one of ETERNITY magazine's best books of the year in 1987, this book encourages women to use their gifts fully in proclaiming the Gospel. Dr. Hassey presents the significant contributions made by American women engaged in public ministry in past years, and who were enthusiastically supported by such institutions as Moody Bible Institute. She writes, 'The earliest Bible conferences welcomed women preachers and Bible teachers . . .

Book Review: Building Your Family to Last

The secret of building families to last is found in Kari's emphasis on parents modelling the Christian life before their children. If the mother and father— who are responsible before God for what happens in the home—are not walking with God, and not walking in harmony with each other before God, how can they become models to their children? Hence this modelling has to start with choosing a life partner with the same foundation in life and faith and loving obedience to Jesus Christ.

Book Review: Is God the Only Reliable Father?

This small, highly provocative book by a staff associate for the General Assembly Mission Board, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has surprising premises and conclusions, worthy of the careful attention of pastors and serious students of the Bible. Tennis pleads with readers not to abandon the imagery and language of God the Father. Her conclusion is not surprising—but some of her reasons are.

Book Review: Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity

The four-volume Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity (DDL) provides a well-rounded overview of life not only across time periods but also across the several cultures of the biblical world. Thirty-three scholars, including editors Edwin M. Yamauchi (Professor Emeritus of History at Miami University) and Marvin R. Wilson (Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Gordon College), have contributed to the DDL.

Book Review: Gender Roles and the People of God

Theologian and author Alice Mathews recently said in a Christianity Today interview with Hannah Anderson, “Satan knows that if he can keep women out of service, in the church and in the world, he will have won an enormous victory.” Mathews’s most recent book, Gender Roles and the People of God, takes back some of the territory gained by the enemy.

Book Review: Emboldened: A Vision for Empowering Women in Ministry

Walter Brueggemann dedicates his seminal work, The Prophetic Imagination: “For my sisters in ministry who teach me daily about the power of grief and the gift of amazement.” As he describes the grief and amazement that together shape the prophetic imagination, he also describes the story of many women in ministry—lamenting what is broken in themselves, the church, and the world while also imagining what can be.

Book Review: The New Perspective on Mary and Martha

Recently, as I was listening to a Christian radio station, the female announcer shared that she was feeling guilty about her busy life. She made reference to the biblical “story of Mary and Martha,” typically feeling at fault because she was not taking ample time to “sit at Jesus’ feet” properly. She went on to say that Martha had it wrong because she was more concerned about her chores than she was about being in the presence of the Lord. These two sisters are examples, one positive and one negative.

Book Review: The Message of Women: Creation, Grace and Gender

As part of the “Bible Themes” series within the larger The Bible Speaks Today collection of Bible commentaries and themes, The Message of Women is an exposition rather than a detailed commentary. It explores the life of women in Old Testament times and in the life of Jesus and the subsequent life of the early church. Without actually saying what is suggested by the title of their work, Derek and Dianne Tidball find a message for the twenty- first century church.

Book Review: Her Story: Autobiographical Portraits of Early Methodist Women

Reading Her Own Story is like looking through an ancient, rusty trunk in your great-grandmother’s attic and finding, hidden under yellowing linens and fading daguerreotypes, the journals of a forgotten female relative. The journals make this unheard-of kinswoman come to life in such a way that you feel you know her intimately. She writes of her spiritual journey in all of its joy, splendor, pain, and frustration.

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