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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
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
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
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
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

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Book Review: I Suffer Not a Woman

Until now, this reviewer had to acknowledge he simply did not understand Paul's statement: "I suffer not a woman to teach nor to usurp authority over the man" (1Tim 2:12).

No explanation rang scripturally true: e.g. "rabbinical male bias" or "a local cultural problem." Exceptions for women teaching or preaching ("only occasionally" or "under male authority" or "if there aren't male missionaries") sounded like semantics.

Book Review: Beyond the Curse

Subtitled "Women Called to Ministry," Dr. Spencer's book presents a new look at Scripture's description of women's roles. She writes, "Whole dimensions of God, ministry, education and theology are being obscured and ignored if women are not properly trained, then invited, even more so welcomed, to participate as significant and affirmed once they do lead." Dr. Spencer reminds the reader that "God has often surprised the church by the workers He sent out."

Book Review: How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership

Alan Johnson, emeritus professor of New Testament and Christian ethics at Wheaton College (Illinois), has put together autobiographical accounts of twenty-seven evangelical leaders, both men and women, from many denominations. These stories recount journeys from belief in a restrictive role for women to a realization of freedom for women to use all their gifts and callings for God’s kingdom. In many of these accounts, the implications for Christian marriage are brought out: a side-by-side partnership of mutual love and submission, where no one is “boss” and no one needs to dominate.

Book Review: Christian Standard Bible

The Christian Standard Bible (CSB) is a revision of the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). The CSB was published in March 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers, which is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.
 

Book Review: Does God Make the Man? Media, Religion, and the Crisis of Masculinity

Does God Make the Man? is a fascinating look at how evangelical and ecumenical men process the messages they hear about masculinity from religion and media. The authors organized focus groups and recorded hundreds of hours of conversations to see if religion is vital to developing masculine identity. They conclude that, although evangelical men may claim to learn gender roles from the Bible, the actual sources of this knowledge are media and culture.

Book Review: Women's Socioeconomic Status and Religious Leadership in Asia Minor in the First Two Centuries C.E.

This book is a PhD dissertation, published in Fortress Press’s selective “Emerging Scholars” series. Indeed, it reads like a dissertation, and only specialists will resist the urge to skim through the survey of scholarship and explanation of method in the introduction and first chapter. (That is not to say these sections are of no value.)

Book Review: Paul and Gender: Reclaiming the Apostle's Vison for Men and Women in Christ

In the often-heated evangelical debate concerning the ordination of women, one struggles to find a coherent and exhaustive work that covers more than the relevant Pauline texts. For example, the respected works by Philip Payne and Craig Keener provide concentrated exegesis on the significant Pauline texts.1 Cynthia Long Westfall’s recent book offers a larger interpretive framework for the evangelical gender debate, a framework that is lucid, compelling, and profoundly refreshing, and one which does not miss the theological forest for the exegetical trees.

Book Review: What's Right With Feminism

Many people are aware that women's wider opportunities to use their leadership gifts in both society and the church are due primarily to the efforts of women's movement—a feminist movement that began in this country in the mid-eighteen hundreds and was closely allied with the abolitionist movement. Yet as Christian women confront the complex (and often negative) baggage carried by the word "feminist" today, these women can often feel ill-equipped to sort out the many social and theological issues regarding women's roles in the nineteen nineties.

Book Review: Call Me Blessed: The Emerging Christian Woman

Faith Martin begins her book by stating: ''In the eyes of the church, a woman's humanity is overshadowed by her being perceived as a sex. Woman is the spiritual equal of man, but the church teaches that a woman's sex prevents a practical working out of that equality...All of this contrasts with the Holy Scriptures. When reading the Bible I am not conscious of my sex but conscious of my humanity. And so felt the women who flocked to Jesus. No man before or since has treated women as so completely human."

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