Who's right about women leading & the Bible?

That is a question for the ages, isn't it?  Fortunately, my friend Dr. Natalie Wilson Eastman, from the Redbud Writers' Guild, has written an in-depth but practical guide to biblical interpretation. For those of us who don't have a doctorate, but long to know how to interpret what the Bible says on any given subject, Natalie has graciously brought key principles for exegesis—the art and science of getting to what the Bible says—to a lower shelf. And she's done it for "women who want to know for themselves." Genius.

Using the case study of women and leadership in the Church, Natalie gives us a manual for how to discern biblical truth for ourselves. Although we had a few technical difficulties, I managed to pull this video on what a "starting point" is when we approach theology and the Bible. Listen in:

Truth be told, I believe we are responsible for how we wrestle with God's word and whether we are obedient to what we discover. This is best done in our church communities, as we come together to discern, each person's study informing and shaping the discussion.

51Fg8uGDnYL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Although Women, Leadership, and the Bible holds a higher price tag than most books at $31.50 (but only $9.99 on Kindle), it's a go-to guide you'll use for the long haul alongside your Bible. Inside its pages, you'll hear the stories of a variety of women who hold differing viewpoints on what the Bible says about the presenting issue of women and leadership, and you'll easily identify the nuts-and-bolts steps to your own study:

  1. Prepare.
  2. Identify.
  3. Study.
  4. Filter.
  5. Choose.

And the appendix in the back will point you to quick checklists that will keep you on track while doing exegesis on a Bible passage and other resources that will enrich your study of women leading in the church. Believe it or not, the author even pulls all of this off with touches of humor and inspiration along the way. At the end of the book, she quotes the movie "Brother, Where Art Thou?" when she writes:

"Congratulations! Now, you are bona fide! You have prospects!"

To which I reply: it's high-time for women to believe and become confident that they can interpret the Bible for themselves, and to be given the tools to do so. Dr. Natalie Wilson Eastman does a beautiful job of equipping us and sending us on our way.

Enter to win a giveaway copy here on Julie Holly's blog through July 14.

Your turn: Are you settled in your mind on what the Bible says  on women leading in the Church? If not, what issues or passages are you still struggling with?

Favorite posts from 2014

If I didn't fully grasp it before, I've become fully convinced this year: God loves his daughters. Virgin Mary and Eve Crayon & pencil drawing by Sr. Grace Remington, OCSO © 2005, Sisters of the Mississippi Abbey

I believe he is, in fact, crazy about them. And that his heart beats to set women and men free through the gospel, arms linked, hearts joined, to spread the good news of his offer of forgiveness and reconciliation to all. So this is my image for 2014: men and women, boys and girls, arms linked, forming a beautiful alliance, their hearts joined to beat a path to hope and healing that can only be explained through the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Each week I hear cries of frustration and pain from women who are struggling to find their place. But there are stories of hope, too: Jesus, who came to reconcile all things to himself, is Reclaiming Eve and her daughters. Let me preach it from the rooftops for anyone who cares to hear: the reconciling mission of Jesus will not be stopped by any earthly power; the example of Jesus treating the women in his life with dignity, value and revolutionary mutuality is undeniable; the restoration Jesus provides is happening, story by story, relationship by relationship, home by home, church by church. 

Taste and see by sampling these diverse stories of women who are being reclaimed: Reclaiming Eve story series: Heather, Natasha, Vivian, Dorcas, Dorothy, Natalie, Robin and Cara. And now, the top posts for 2014. Thank you so much for being a part of this blog community! Your support sustains me.

Top Blog Posts on suzanneburden.com:

  1. Barren Guilt by Association
  2. When Men Subvert Gender Hierarchy in the Church
  3. What We Talk about When We Talk about Women in Church: Part One, "Does danger lurk in a woman sitting near you?"
  4. How One Women Struggles with Traditional Church
  5. For the Childless this Mother's Day (and Those Who Love Them)

Favorite Posts Around the Internet:

  1. When Gender Reconciliation Doesn't Preach (asistasjourney.com)
  2. Reclaiming Eve at Advent (missioalliance.org)
  3. When We Close Our Wombs (hermeneutics at Christianity Today)
  4. When I Opposed Women in Ministry (Intervarsity's The Well)
  5. A Woman Fully Alive (shelovesmagazine.com)
On #ReclaimingEve: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!”
— Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author, Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church
Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD sample here. Includes print Bible study piece. Order here.

Reclaiming Eve: Natalie Wilson Eastman's story

photo 2Natalie Wilson Eastman (MDiv, DMin) is the author of Women, Leadership and the Bible: How Do I Know What I Believe? A Practical Guide to Biblical Interpretation and a member of the Redbud Writers Guild. She has served as a full-time youth minister to girls and women; worship leader and team developer; missionary to East Asia; and a retreat and event teacher/speaker. She lives in Delaware, OH, with her husband and three children. Find out more at natalieeastman.com. "I don't 'write,' Lord—not in that way, anyway."

"Perhaps I wasn't clear the first time: I'm not a 'writer,' Lord."

"I'm too extroverted to sit and write. I'd rather speak. I'm much better in the moment directly with people, Lord." 

"I'm no good at structuring and outlining a paper, Lord, much less a book."

"Are you sure you have the right Natalie Wilson, Lord?"

The story of writing my new book  testifies to God's urging, wooing, and guiding to reclaim me as the ezer (strong power) he created (Genesis 2:18). The transformation has occurred on so many levels that it's hard to know where to begin. You saw the beginning of the movement in the opening lines of this post. I'll continue by saying that it took between twelve and thirteen years to finally publish the book.

While Suzanne is my colleague through the Redbud Writers Guild, and I took notes on what she and Carla Sunberg wrote in Reclaiming Eve, it was Jamie Wright's words in the final chapter (pps. 161-162) that struck a chord with me as I considered what God has been calling me to reclaim: how does my life reflect that I am his ezer, a woman  created in his image to reflect him to the world?

In discussing the parable of the talents (Mt. 25:14-30), Jamie says,

[God] isn't looking for qualified applicants with a certain amount of experience. The only way we can disappoint him is if we sit on our hands and do nothing.

photo 5I've disclosed to you that from the start I doubted my ability, questioned the calling, and even questioned whether God realized he was speaking to me. I had many of what I've come to call "Moses Moments" during those dozen or so years—moments when doubts made me feel paralyzed. Still, I finally said "yes" to God. And then I just kept on saying "yes."

This meant, literally, that I kept showing up: I just kept writing, I just kept sending out query letters and proposals; I just kept ignoring the many rejections; I just kept sitting to write when I could find or make (or was given as a gift)—some time.

And that, my friends, is a testimony to God's patience, provision, and poking. For all of that, I praise him and give him all the glory for the book, for the forthcoming accompanying e-books (something I thought would never happen in a million years). But most important is the message to be shared, and the joy of helping women develop their Bible study skills, find their own interpretive voice, and experience the freedom and competence to stand on their own two theological feet.

Even as I throw myself into this new season, planning an outreach ministry-business to surround the book and support women's efforts to grow in their ability to study the Bible and interpret what they read with both spiritual and academic tools and integrity, I still have my “Moses Moments.” Although the book is now complete and published, and I must admit I'm "humbly proud" (for those who can appreciate that oxymoron) of how it turned out, a reality check testifies that I'm twelve years older than when I started, and the old grey matter is definitely showing signs of struggling.

I'm now married with three small children, a small business, a part-time job, and a lot of sleep deprivation—on top of the book work. Some days, it feels like I have no grey matter left, or that the grey appears to be transferring to my hair. In addition to those challenges, I get to experience the joys of the hormonal swings of perimenopause, during which estrogen levels cyclically rise and drastically plummet. With them, my memory surges to crystal clarity then inexplicably and completely disappears.

I struggle: "What if people ask me to come speak? What if I can't remember the points in my book?" I do have a basis for that fear: my husband asked me the five pain points of my book once and I couldn't remember them. Truth be told, I've balked on my children's names before, as my mind went completely blank. Yet, I have to say, to sisters and brothers alike, my experiences and fears aren't unique and my challenges aren't the worst there are; but I keep showing up. And I'll keep on showing up to contribute whatever God calls me to contribute, no matter how crazy or frightening they seem to me, as long as God continues to call me as an ezer to his people. I trust and hope that will be until he calls me home.

To what do you think God may be calling you? (Please share in comments below.)

Is there a task, passion, or grief (see Reclaiming Eve pps. 156-157) you can't get off your mind , or that keeps coming to you while in prayer or contemplation? Take time to have conversation with the Lord about it. Test it out with a few steps of faith, time in the Word, individual prayer, and community prayer, and see what God confirms, redirects, and/or corrects. May God bless you as you find the will and space to say "yes" and then just keep showing up.

On #ReclaimingEve: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!” — Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author, Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church