An audio interview for the Church on Reclaiming Eve

slider2This week, I had the pleasure of talking about the value of girls and women on the GirlfriendIt radio show and podcast with cohost Patty Lynn Wyatt.

We talked about the two choices women face in the Church of Jesus when claiming their identity:

  • Eve and woman as defined by her sin: easily deceived, dangerous and inferior
  • Eve and woman as defined by God's intentions in Genesis 1 & 2: an ezer/strong power and image-bearer representative of the living God

Other topics included addressing gender-based violence and pornography, answering the question "Should women be elders?" and even my lunch of bacon-wrapped dates. It was nothing if not interesting—and freeing to talk about the value of every girl and woman being unleashed in the Kingdom of God. (28 minutes)

You can take a listen here:

Reclaiming Eve on the GirlfriendIt! Podcast

Your Turn: What's your take on where the Church is at in empowering girls and women in the Kingdom of God? What do you think it will take for us to move forward?

Why I love my brothers

  brothersScripture says they are my most powerful allies, that we are equipped to partner together to spread God's love & justice in this needy world (Genesis 1:27-28).

But, specifically, I love my brothers because . . .

Todd Render  stuck up for me in seminary preaching class, reading Scripture with female pronouns as I sat there grinning, the only woman in the class. Later, he attended at least two of my sermons at my church.

Jim Kane provided me with my first preaching opportunity at his church, preparing me for it and standing behind me all the way. He dialogued with me on a variety of pastoral subjects—and most recently, blogged about Reclaiming Eve.

Kurt Willems showed up on a popular online blog in which I was being roasted and stuck up for every one of his sisters in a single comment. He later gave me an opportunity to post on his blog. 

Scot McKnight reposted Kurt's blog post about what women will do after seminary, talking about his sisters in ministry over and over again on his blog and in the process, making room for us.

Ed Cyzewski wrote a slam-dunk endorsement for Reclaiming Eve because he believed it was a message that needed to be heard, and even took time to chat via Skype about seminary, ministry and the writing life.

Two pastors, Chuck and Rex, said use your gifts alongside us in this church: preach the word, teach the word, lead the graveside service, visit the sick in the hospital, love well. I follow in their footsteps.

My literary agent, Tim Beals, went to bat for the Reclaiming Eve book and stood behind it no matter what challenge arose. Immediately before its release, he said: You must have courage and fortitude. It is time for you to steward this message well.

Over and over again, my husband David has said: be obedient to the calling of God in your one heart and life no matter the opposition. Shine brightly.

Then this little book released, and the men multiplied. I have seen them in the crowds and my heart soars. Uncle Micky and Steve and Bill and Eric and Tim and Ross and John and Doug and Jeremiah and Ryan and Chris and Scott and Gerald  and Richard and Donovan and some of whom I don't even know their names. Some would lean in and whisper: Everything you have said is so important. Be encouraged. Keep up the great work.

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And all of this changes my perspective and challenges my tired assumptions. I marvel at the beauty of the blessed alliance and the strong partnerships God has placed in my life.

Then last week, I featured Beth Bruno and Chris Bruno and their groundbreaking book End: Engaging Men to End Sex Trafficking. Beth shares a searingly beautiful example of men and women partnering to advance God's love and justice on page 58:

I participated in a different outreach ministry to the women who danced at our local strip club. A group of men always sat in their car in the parking lot praying for us [women], watching us, and timing us. They knew to give us 20 minutes or come in because something had gone wrong. How can you offer physical protection to women you know who are taking risks for the cause?

What if the primary truth about Eve is different than our strongest impressions of her? What if women are not primarily dangerous, easily deceived and inferior, but brilliant image-bearers of the living God?

What if the primary truth about Adam is that he is also a brilliant image-bearer of God, equipped to defend  and uplift women rather than to abuse them? And that men can only be raised up to truly shine and flourish when women are right there beside them, serving together?

And what if, all across this beautifully diverse earth, men and women started to reach out to one another, looking for ways to uplift and partner with one another? What if?

As I was writing this post, I pictured these men strung together in a line, forming a strong wall of encouragement. Then I decided my word picture needed a decidedly different setup. Instead these men are lined up, linking arms with the women in their lives as they advance God's purposes on this earth.

As I think on this image, I picture a world where hatred and brutalization and manipulation no longer rule the day. Instead, I imagine God's vision and justice flourishing, right here, right now, as it is in heaven. The amazing men  in my life prove this is possible, even though there is so much work to do.

That is why I love my brothers.

Comple-galitarian?

Boxing Well, hello there. I'll just say it. It feels like we're in a boxing match.

What with the heated debates between complementarians and egalitarians and all. Everything seems to be getting more black and white, the sides appear to be growing more entrenched and resolute. 

Hear, hear! We have the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood in this corner and the Christians for Biblical Equality in the other. And . . . a well-placed right hook from CBE, cutting into the CBMW’s usually well-maintained defense. This could be a bloody battle, folks!!

And it can be. I'm not speaking of the organizations mentioned specifically, but the people that are oftentimes found debating one another online and otherwise. Sharp words, sharper-edged feelings, better-constructed arguments, each side lining up the people in their corner. Each fighting for what they say they believe is right, for the “God-ordained” role of women in our homes and churches and workplaces and social settings. And I wonder.

Where is the rabbi from Nazareth in all of this? You know, the one whose death and Resurrection turned the world upside down—and somehow, right-side up at last? Where is the reconciliation the gospel makes possible?

Allow me to tip my hand.

Several years ago I was sitting in a Synergy Women’s conference for evangelical women when well-respected speaker and author Carolyn Custis James proposed a different solution, a third way. It was baffling to all of us who are used to sharp arguments and well-refined positions. To anyone with a seminary degree, for instance.

Perhaps there is a third way, she said, and it is the way of the gospel.

My friend and I discussed it later; at the time we felt like it might just be . . . a cop-out. Maybe Carolyn just didn’t want to take a position? It felt like this third way was impossible. We couldn’t see how it was tenable. How in the world could it work?

Until . . .

Other women begin to speak of a new way. People like Halee Gray Scott and Sarah Bessey and Christine Caine. Not only that, I saw women getting on with ministry and life and being faithful with whatever was put in front of them. I remember distinctly an older woman sharing: "Jesus has already set women free." And I realized something about this battle that I have been slow to articulate for fear of backlash. I realized that I simply don’t fit into a preconceived category.

I am coming clean, just in time to finally get this book Reclaiming Eve into this big evangelical conversation, into an arena stacked with boxing gloves. But right here, right now, I want to take the gloves off and pick up a spirit of grace and authenticity.

I don’t identify as a complementarian. I suppose you already knew this, but there it is. Complementarians come in many different stripes, but I have found that most of them don’t approve of my mutually-submissive marriage or the fact that I have served as a pastor and now work part-time as a chaplain. Still, I believe so strongly that men and women do complement one another. I don’t feel the need or the desire to act like a man; I want to live out what it means to image my Creator God as a female.

It would be easier, of course, to identify me as an egalitarian. But the truth is, I’ve never self-identified that way either. I believe that practicing equality is an outrageously beautiful mark of the kingdom, but that it actually flows from reconciliation. The bottom line is this: because of what Jesus has accomplished, I believe the gospel makes gender reconciliation possible.

When the Spirit begins to convict us of the need to see our brother or our sister through a lens of redemption and renewal, we stop being afraid of one another. We can stop viewing women as dangerous, men as wild, and each other as the enemy. (May I suggest that when the gospel begins to reconcile men and women we may even read the Scripture differently?) When the Spirit  prompts change, freedom, and new ways of being and relating, justice rises. And heart change leads to the opportunities God intended for women all along. Dallas Willard says it better than I can:

It is not the rights of women to occupy "official" ministerial roles, nor their equality to men in those roles that set the terms of their service to God and their neighbors. It is their obligations that do so: obligations which derive from their human abilities empowered by divine gifting. It is the good they can do, and the duty to serve that comes from that, which impels them to serve in all ways possible. Women and men are indeed very different, and those differences are essential to how God empowers each to induce the Kingdom of God into their specific life setting and ministry. What we lose by excluding the distinctively feminine from "official" ministries of teaching and preaching is of incalculable value. That loss is one of a few fundamental factors which account for the astonishing weakness of "the Church" in the contemporary context. -How I Changed My Mind on Women in Ministry

And so, here is where I stand. I can do no other. We hold in our hands the power of the gospel, the light of hope for this world, the only key to building his victorious kingdom. We have hope that overcomes addiction and broken relationships and shattered dreams and empty bellies longing for food, bodies longing for a healing touch, for the hands of Jesus. We are to be on the side of global biblical justice, of wholeness, of eternal hope.

Might I suggest a question that might guide us in the way forward? Not “which side are you on?” But “What does the gospel make possible for women (and men)?”

How we answer may well determine whether the Church has the increasing power to advance against the darkness with hope, healing and reconciliation at its heart. I may not fit easily into a label (and maybe you don’t either), but in Jesus we are to move forward, to continue believing that gender reconciliation is possible. And that it starts with us. You and I, participating and praying: May Your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

Your turn: Do you fit into a category or label? What do you believe the gospel makes possible in male/female relationships?