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Priscilla Papers

This issue of Priscilla Papers begins the journal’s thirtieth year! The first issue, winter of 1987, opened with an article by Kari Torjesen Malcolm. Additional authors included Alvera Mickelsen and Catherine Clark Kroeger, CBE’s founding president. Other early leaders of CBE included James Alsdurf, James Beck, Gilbert Bilezikian, Diane Chynoweth, Betty Elliott, W. Ward Gasque, Stan Gundry, Ruth Hall, Gretchen Gaebelein Hull, Richard Kroeger, Deborah Olsoe Lunde, Jo Anne Lyon, Faith Martin, Alice Mathews, Susan McCoubrie, Dorothy Meyer, Berkeley Mickelsen, Roger Nicole, Nancy Graf Peters, and Betty Shunk. Disturbed by the shallow biblical premise used to exclude the gifts of women, such leaders determined that a national organization was needed to promote biblical equality. Thus CBE was established on January 2, 1988, about a year after Priscilla Papers first went to press. Read more
Though this introduction will arrive in mailboxes in November, I am writing it in July. More specifically, I write as I wait in the Los Angeles airport, having spent the last few days attending the annual CBE conference. The conference was enjoyable and encouraging from beginning to end, and beyond the end as well, for I continued interacting with co-attendees and making new acquaintances even on the airport shuttle bus. Read more
For many Seventh-day Adventists (SDA), July 8, 2015, will go down in history as the Second Great Disappointment. For those not familiar with Seventh-day Adventist history, the first Great Disappointment occurred on October 22, 1844, when Jesus did not return, as some had predicted he would. This time, the issue was not the return of Jesus, but the culmination of a long, hard-fought campaign for equal treatment of women in the ministries of the denomination. Read more
Judges 19 contains a seldom read, let alone studied or discussed, story of misogyny, subjugation, rape, murder, and dismemberment. Determining how to handle such atrocities in the Bible makes texts such as these difficult to address. More than thirty years ago, Phyllis Trible labeled Judg 19 as one of the “texts of terror” in the Hebrew Bible (along with the stories of Hagar, Tamar, and the daughter of Jephthah). Texts of terror tend to be avoided unless the reader can clearly separate the perpetrators of evil in the text from themselves. David Garber and Daniel Stallings have argued that the church must stop ignoring sexually explicit texts “because the story of the Levite’s concubine and the brutality contained therein speak vividly to issues of sexual violence that persist to this day. The silencing of sexually explicit biblical texts in American churches mirrors the silencing of issues of sexual violence in contemporary society.” This article will begin with a look at various approaches to exegesis of this text and then seek to show that we cannot exempt ourselves from this text of terror in light of its application to the twenty-first century problem of human trafficking, especially sex trafficking. Read more
Throughout American history, gender theologies have been used to signify a religious organization’s level of tension to the surrounding culture. As a result, religious organizations have changed their gender theologies in response to cultural change. This process can be illustrated by a tale of two Baptists. Invigorated by the First Great Awakening of the 1740s, a robust American tradition of female piety was born. Revivalists broke with Puritan orthodoxy that equated Christianity to a hierarchical family. The revivalists, instead, envisioned a new covenant—one that emphasized individual rebirth within a community that was related, not by biological ties, but by grace. Within the bond of spiritual fellowship, the revivalists affirmed that men and women, rich and poor, lettered and ignorant, were as capable as ordained clergy of discerning spiritual truth, leading to communities of relative egalitarianism. Read more
Within both mainstream and Christian media outlets in the United States, the dominant message about sexual desire is that men want sex more than women do. Within marriage literature, in particular, Christian writers often urge wives to respond favorably to their husbands’ advances. Embedded within this advice is the assumption that women do not often want to engage in intimate acts. Authors suggest that it is normal and natural for men to desire lots of sex while women purportedly agree to sex on an infrequent and often reluctant basis. In terms of sexual relationships, men are supposedly suited for active pursuit while women are inclined toward being passive and responsive. These assumptions have profound implications, since they set up relationship dynamics that are often unhealthy. Such beliefs can also lead women who have strong sexual desires or assertive personalities to feel excluded or abnormal. Read more
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
For enslaved members of the African diaspora in America, the biblical story of Exodus provided a way of understanding and framing discussions about slavery. Enslaved people would eventually use the Exodus story to shape their arguments for the abolition of slavery. If enslaved people found comparisons between their situation and that of the children of Israel, might not contemporary literary scholarship turn to the Moses narrative to understand and frame discussions, especially theological ones, about the enslaved experience as recounted in slave narratives, whether narratives of the African diaspora in America, of modern-day sex trafficking, or other instances of slavery? Read more
Several years ago, when my family had moved to a new city, we contacted a nearby church that had been recommended to us and we inquired about their stance on women in leadership. Read more
Priscilla Papers is an interdisciplinary journal. And rightly so, for both CBE and Priscilla Papers advocate for an interdisciplinary cause. More precisely, CBE and Priscilla Papers advocate in an interdisciplinary way for a biblical cause, a Christian cause, a kingdom cause.  Read more

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Book Review: Ronald W. Pierce and Rebecca Merrill Groothuis's Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity Without Heirarchy

The editors of this large volume of 515 pages have put together twenty-nine essays arranged under five headings: Setting the Stage (the Historical Backdrop); Looking to Scripture (the Biblical Texts); Thinking It Through (Logical and Theological Perspectives); Addressing the Issues (Hermeneutical and Cultural Perspectives); Living It Out (Practical Applications). All are scholarly presentations that are well documented and compellingly written by more than twenty contributors, three by contributing editor Gordon Fee.

Book Review: Steven R. Tracy's Mending the Soul: Understanding and Healing Abuse

Dr. Steven Tracy is the vice president of academic affairs and associate professor of theology and ethics at Phoenix Seminary. He and his wife founded the Door of Hope ministry, which provides training and resources for abuse healing ministry. Drawing upon his fifteen years of pastoral and counseling experience, the author uses illustrations from real cases and the Bible to provide practical advice on how to minister to abuse survivors.

Book Review: Marriage Made in Eden

Alice Mathews and M. Gay Hubbard write an extraordinary book about Christian marriage and family. The book's purpose is to explore God's perspective on marriage, an ancient view, for a postmodern world. Marriage Made in Eden is bursting with rich historical, cultural, sociological and biblical background on marriage. But the authors' unique contribution in advocating for strong, enduring Christian marriage is their belief that God's purpose for marriage is both to transform us as the people of God and to use us to witness God's amazing love and power to an unbelieving world.

Book Review: Roman Wives, Roman Widows: The Appearance of New Women and Pauline Communities

I was very pleased to be asked to review Bruce Winter's book on women in first century Roman society and the Pauline churches. Bruce and I studied together at Moore Theological College in Sydney in the mid-1960s. He went on to complete a doctorate at Macquarie University, Sydney, and is now the warden at Tyndale House Cambridge. Bruce's scholarship shines through in this work. He is completely conversant with Greek and Latin texts from the first century and makes excellent use of them.

Book Review: Evangelical Identity and Gendered Family Life

Evangelical Identity and Gendered Family Life, by Oregon State University sociology professor Sally K. Gallagher, is a detailed study of evangelical attitudes toward gender and the family. Although many CBE members will be familiar with the basic issues summarized in part I of the book, there remains much to be learned from part II, where Gallagher reviews and interprets results from a major survey of American evangelicals.

Book Review: A Theology of Women: Men and Women in the Church

Sarah Sumner writes an apologetic that is especially helpful to dissatisfied complementarians who do not want to see themselves as "feminists." She wants the Christian community to function as the family of God, where women are mothers in the church and men are fathers in the church, both fulfilling their design to usher in God's reign.

Book Review: How Religious Women View Feminism: God Gave Us the Right

In this carefully done ethnographic study, religion professor Christel Manning offers an intriguing assessment of the lives and beliefs of women in conservative religious traditions today. Manning surveys and assesses responses to feminist social values and the secular feminist movement by women in an Orthodox Jewish synagogue, a charismatic evangelical church, and a Catholic parish with a fairly large conservative constituency.

Book Review: God As Mother: A Translator's Challenge: The Bible in Cross Cultural Perspective

Jacob A. Loewen's recent book The Bible in Cross-Cultural Perspective covers a multitude of subjects—heaven, earth, the afterlife, the spirit world, exorcism, among them. Of particular interest to Priscilla Papers readers is chapter 9, "Images of God: Male, Female, or Both" (pp. 109-16). It is packed with wonderful information regarding inclusive language. Here are excerpts:

Book Review: A Hero from Yesterday: Phoebe Palmer's The Promise of the Father

I wish I had encountered Phoebe Palmer (1807-74) about 25 years ago when wrestling with the issue of the role of women in the church loomed heavily on my heart and mind, and had surfaced in our church as well. Palmer's underlying thesis is that the promise of the Father to pour out his Spirit on all flesh, male and female, and that sons and daughters would prophesy, relates to the role of women in the church today.

Book Review: Women in the Church: A Fresh Analysis of 1 Timothy 2:9-15

After a woman pastor, who had preached in college chapel, spoke in my Women in the Bible class, two women students challenged her right to preach by asking, "But how can you be a pastor and lead men in light of 1Timothy 2:9-15?" The pastor responded, "You know, God called me to preach and I started preaching before anyone ever called my attention to 1 Timothy 2:11-12.

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