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Priscilla Papers

Biblical feminism is an oxymoron—or so I thought when I met Becky Merrill in 1983. She had leanings in this direction, but I did not let that stop me from being interested in her. But time makes fools of us all, especially when God undermines our convictions and replaces them with new insights into old issues. That year Becky joined the staff of The McKenzie Study Center, a campus ministry in Eugene, Oregon, which served The University of Oregon through teaching, writing, and discipleship. Fresh after receiving my bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1979, I joined this ambitious ministry, modeled on the vision of Francis Schaeffer. As a small team of under-funded but earnest evangelicals, we desired to defend and apply the Christian worldview at a secular university. Becky joined us to work as a graphic designer, editor, and writer—all before computers were used for this.  Read more
Some years ago my lovely niece Shoshanna had her Bat Mitzvah along with a dozen or so of her friends. These bright-eyed, beautiful and intelligent twelve-year-olds with their lives in front of them each spoke about their favorite heroine, the woman they most wanted to emulate. Some picked the big women in the Bible—Sarah, who leaves security and home behind to found a nation, Deborah, who leads a nation, Esther, who saves a nation, Ruth, who introduces the Gentile nation into King David’s family tree. Others preferred the little heroines with the cameo parts—the clever women who save the day: the woman of Thebez in the Book of Judges who drops a millstone on Abimelech and saves her city, Jael, who kills General Sisera with a tentpeg, Abigail, who outwits her twit of a husband and takes food to David and saves her household. Ah, such women! Intelligent enough to understand that, in extremis, brain is better than brawn every time. A few of the girls chose contemporary women, holocaust survivors, dissidents and wives of dissidents, leaders and martyrs. Read more
I have agreed to tell my story for two fundamental reasons. 1) I want to give tribute to the person who opened my eyes to a new paradigm through which to view Scripture and who did not allow me to be satisfied with the easy answers. These were answers that had been drilled into my head as a youth and were assumed throughout my college and seminary training. 2) Arguments alone often do not convince. This is especially so with theological and exegetical arguments on this subject that for many has so much emotional baggage associated with it. So, when people come to me asking questions and searching for answers on the “women’s issue,” I often just tell them my story—where I have come from, where I have landed, and how and why I got there. Read more
I haven’t gone home for Mother’s Day in years—a conscious decision. My mother’s delight in my presence hasn’t measured up to the comfort I’ve received by attending my own predictably liturgical church, tied to the lectionary that marks milestones of Jesus’ life, without regard to the secular calendar. Except for a one-line prayer of thanksgiving for our collective mothers, my church leaves the May commemoration in the hands of the family-breakfast in bed or dinner on the town. Read more
I was alerted to the fact that all might not be quiet on the male-female front as I wandered out of a class one day—probably around 1969—on the University of Washington campus. Yet another student demonstration, complete with bullhorn, angry defiance, and hand-lettered posters, caught my attention. To my surprise, however, racist complicity or the war-mongering military-industrial complex wasn’t the target this time. 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
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
We as Christians have a responsibility to do our utmost to reach the world for Christ. This mission must be fulfilled through communication, and much of our communication is surely accomplished through language. That is the central issue of the gender-inclusive translation debate. What language is most effective in communicating the true meaning of Scripture? It is the language of the people with whom we want to communicate. We are at a point today where traditional Bible translations, with their male-oriented language, seem to many to be outdated. Read more
Historically, Baptists have pretty well reflected culture on this issue as they did on the race issue. Baptist women, as in most denominations, are vital to the church. Nevertheless, they have been pretty much relegated to a secondary role, To some degree, the movements of the late 1800s and 1900s gave more freedom to Baptist women, though—being mainly in the South—the Abolishionist movement affected Baptists less than the rest of the culture. Read more

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Book Review: The Rise and Fall of the Complementarian Doctrine of the Trinity

The terms “page turner” and “doctrine of the Trinity” would not often be found in the same sentence, but they are appropriate in the case of Kevin Giles’s most recent book on the issue. I found this five-chapter account of a recent theological dispute absolutely riveting, even though I already knew how it would end! It is an extraordinary story, told by a major player in the drama.

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.

Book Review: Equal to Serve

When I attended the last Sydney Diocesan Synod I was aware that events outside the Chapter House were frequently of greater interest than those inside that hallowed structure. One of the exciting extramural activities was the visit of Mrs.G.G. Hull who spoke lucidly and informatively on the subject of the role of women in the church.

What Mrs. Hull said on that occasion is available on tape from the Anglican Radio Unit and is expanded in this book. The book has as its subtitle, ''Women and Men in the Church and Home".

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