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Adam’s and Eve’s work, Orvieto cathedral façade, Orvieto, Italy

Blog Posts About Women, Gender, & Faith

Revisiting the Topic of Women in Public Ministry: My Recommended Resources  (2022)

By Gender & Faith, Life In The Body, WomenOne Comment

For more than two decades, I’ve taught a course on gender and its ramifications in the church and for women in public ministry. Since #MeToo and #ChurchToo combined with Christian leaders saying women have to endure abuse to be biblical and also that women shouldn’t teach in seminaries, I’ve seen a shift in attitudes. Add to that the one-two punches of Jesus and John Wayne by Kristin Kobes Du Mez with Beth Allison Barr’s book, The Making of Biblical Womanhood: People are revisiting what and why they believe on the topic.  Some have sat up and said, basically, “Evangelicals have barred the front door against radical feminism while leaving the back door wide open to misogyny.” Some have heard Beth Moore told to “Go Home!” and responded with, “Stop already. That misrepresents us.” I’m hearing pastors get up and say, “I was wrong” to slut-shame Bathsheba. I’ve been told by radio hosts, “If I had talked with you a year ago…

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Was Abigail Right to Go Behind Nabal’s Back?

By Arts, Gender & Faith, Life In The Body, Marriage, WomenOne Comment

One morning after I taught a women’s Bible study on the life of Abigail—wife of Nabal, a woman hustled over to me, elbows swinging. Seeing her body language, I braced myself. Her argument about my teaching went something like this: “You’re wrong! Abigail was most definitely not righteous. By taking matters into her own hands, she shows what happens when a wife steps out from under her husband’s ‘umbrella of authority.’ If Abigail had submitted to Nabal rather than intervening, David would have felt guilty for killing Nabal, and that guilt would have kept him from killing later.” I’d heard this interpretation already—from Bill Gothard, among others. So how do we figure out how to interpret this story? Was Abigail good or evil? The text itself provides the needed clues. We find the “Abigail and David” story in 1 Samuel 25:2–43. The narrator begins with his assessment: “[Abigail] was both…

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Women’s History Month: Meet Some Female Martyrs from the Early Church

By Gender & Faith, Life In The Body, WomenNo Comments

When I spoke to a class of seminary students recently about women in public ministry in the early church, someone asked me to share some names and narratives about our foremothers. It seemed fitting to provide a sampling here during Women’s History Month. (Some day I hope we will simply learn “history”; but until women are included in the telling of history, we’ll continue to need a special annual focus.) You can find all the women listed below in the mosaics of Ravenna’s “new” (6th c) Basilica of Sant’Apollinare. I’ve included a summary of the stories that usually accompany them, as well. You will notice a theme of women exercising agency over their own bodies to the glory of God. Agatha. Virgin martyr. Agatha died in 251. Born in Sicily into a noble family, she steadfastly vowed to remain a virgin. She was taken to a house of prostitution, tortured by rods,…

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Bible Backgrounds: Read Some NT Books with the Artemis Cult in View

By Gender & FaithNo Comments

Ever seen drawings of the ancient goddess Artemis? If so, she was probably carrying a bow and arrow. More recent iterations of her as Wonder Woman still depict her the same way—with shields, bows, and arrows. Ancient literature includes many references to Artemis as a master of archery. We see a similar connection in the epigraphic (inscription) evidence. In what is known as “the Oracle Inscription” found in the ruins of Ephesus, the goddess is described as “Artemis of the golden quiver,” a “shooter of arrows” and a “straight-shooting one.” In the ancient Ephesians’ manifestation of her, as with the more generic Artemis, the arrow was her primary weapon. What does Artemis have to do with Bible? Maybe a lot… Talking about spiritual warfare in his epistle to the Ephesians (Eph. 6:10–18), Paul was writing to people in this city that served as guardian of Artemis’s temple and Ground Zero…

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The influence of Artemis on the issues of 1 Tim 2:8–15

By Gender & Faith, Women2 Comments

Wendy Wilson, the Mission Advisor for Development of Women and the Women’s Development Track Exec Director over at Missio Nexus asked me to write the following for the Missio Nexus audience, and it provides a sneak preview of what you can expect when my book comes out.* Many have undertaken to explain how understanding the identity of Artemis, the goddess of midwifery in first-century Ephesus, can shed light on the apostle Paul’s instructions about being saved through childbearing (or childbirth, or the childbearing) (2:15), but fewer have explained how understanding first-century Artemis and her cult helps provide a context for the entire pericope or section of 1 Timothy 2 when the apostle talks to his protégé Timothy about women (or wives) in the church. Paul is addressing a problem, but his doing so is often universalized. The problem was specific with broad ramifications, as is always true of Scripture. But…

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Why Don’t We See More Women in the Biblical Text?

By Gender & Faith, WomenOne Comment

Recently, someone asked me why we don’t find more women in the Bible. Last time, I pointed to translation concerns that hide the presence of women. Today, I want us to consider that sometimes we miss the women who are actually named and featured. Here’s a sampling from some of the earliest stories:  * * * Go back in time with me to the thirteenth century BC in Egypt. The king has issued an order to kill all boys born into bondage, because members of the slave class—your own people, descendants of Israel—have proliferated, and the ruling class fears an uprising. Born under the ban, you lie in a pitch-lined basket that your mother, Jochebed, crafted before floating you in the Nile. Soon, the king’s daughter finds you and raises you as her own. So, you get an education in the royal court of Egypt—some of the best academic training in the world….

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The Bible: Women Are More Present Than We Might Think

By Women6 Comments

Recently, I heard from a woman who said that since about the age of 12 years, she has attended church weekly, sometimes multiple times a week. Yet in all those years, she heard little teaching that features, highlights, or affirms women. She said, “From a very early point in my journey I would consider whether words like ‘he,’ ‘men’ or ‘disciple’ were intended for everyone or just males. In many instances during my studies, I would replace those words with ‘she’ or ‘women’ in my notes, because it made it feel more personal and applicable to me as a woman. Still, I have pretty much always felt like an outsider or like there was something wrong with me…. I have often felt like the church was the most repressive institution for me as a woman, and I do not think that could possibly be Jesus’s intent, given the way he interacted with women.”    Indeed,…

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Happy 75th, Dolly Parton!

By Arts, Women, Writing3 Comments

I asked my student, Misty, to share with my readers some of her vast knowledge about her shero, Dolly Parton, who turns 75 today. Misty’s mom went to high school with Dolly, and when Misty asked her parents to host us in their home this past fall, they pulled out the yearbooks. That’s Misty’s index finger on Dolly’s senior picture. In the group shot below, we show off the “What Would Dolly Do?” t-shirts Misty (second from left) gave us. So now from Misty Hedrick I give you… Five Reasons to Love Dolly Parton 1. Billboard estimates Dolly’s current catalog at nearly 5,000 songs. That makes Dolly Parton the most prolific living songwriter. She writes poetry, screenplays, and Broadway musicals, and she starred in hit movies like 9 to 5 and Steel Magnolias. And Dolly now churns out Netflix specials based on her songs, like Jolene and Two Doors Down.   2. From farm-raised to superstardom, Dolly probably never worked 9 to 5 a…

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Kat Armstrong: The In-Between Place

By Books, Gender & Faith, Uncategorized, WomenNo Comments

Today one of my favorite authors, Kat Armstrong, launches her latest book, The In-Between Place. Kat is a powerful voice in our generation. She’s an innovative ministry leader and sought-after communicator who holds a master’s degree from Dallas Theological Seminary and is the author of No More Holding Back and The In-Between Place. She and her husband, Aaron, have been married for eighteen years and live in Dallas, Texas, with their son, Caleb. They attend Dallas Bible Church, where Aaron serves as the lead pastor. I read her most recent book, The In-Between Place, and wrote this endorsement: Sometimes a place in the Bible’s narrative becomes like a character with a voice of its own. Shechem/Sychar is such a place. Dinah was raped in Shechem, and Jesus met “the woman at the well” there. In Kat’s new book she takes readers to this city in Samaria and guides them through a literary, religious, and geographical…

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Shepherd Like a Girl

By Gender & Faith, Life In The Body, WomenOne Comment

Does your nativity set have any female shepherds? Mine doesn’t. And it’s amazing how much I have picked up unconsciously from art….  I didn’t realize that—without anything being said outright—I had internalized the idea that “shepherd” was a “guy” job. So, if I saw a Christmas pageant with girls dressed in bathrobes holding crooks, I told myself the real nativity story lacked girl roles so the directors were taking creative license. But now I know those girls in bathrobes more closely represented reality than did my misinformed imaginations. My understanding about shepherds shifted radically when I traveled with my husband and daughter to Kenya’s Rift Valley. My husband is a U.S.-based missionary serving national leaders there. And while we were in Kenya, his ministry partner, Joseph, a Maasai warrior, introduced us to some of his friends.   The Maasai are pastoral people—shepherds. Like Joseph, they live in individual huts inside bomas—enclosures made…

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Church History: What Do We Learn about Women in Public Ministry?

By Gender & Faith, WomenNo Comments

“It was the feminist teachings of the past few decades that first spurred Christians to try to argue for [women in public ministry]. Like it or not, the two schools of thought are intertwined.” – Christian blogger “The role of women in church ministry was simply not a burning question until it asserted itself in recent decades in conjunction with the modern women’s movement” – Men and Women in Ministry: A Complementary Perspective,p. 20 When I took some doctoral courses in history, I read numerous primary documents which revealed that the question about women in public ministry in the church has been burning since long before the U.S. Women’s Movement. So, I set out to determine when it actually started.   I thought maybe it began with the American and French Revolutions with the cry for individual rights. But then I read documents like the pamphlet that Margaret Fell Fox (think George Fox…

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Artemis of the Ephesians: A Conversation with Wayne Stiles

By Gender & Faith, Women3 Comments

Our understanding of Artemis of the Ephesians at the time of the apostle Paul has, I believe, implications for how we read 1 and 2 Timothy. Recently I spoke with Wayne Stiles with Walking the Bible Lands about my research on this goddess and her influence, especially in the Province of Asia. You can watch our conversation in this video. Right now I’m working on two books right now relating to the Ephesian Artemis and the ramifications for women and our understanding of first-century backgrounds—one a work of fiction and the other, an academic book. My readers can get a free video series on Jesus’s life from Walking the Bible Lands courtesy of Wayne.

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Women and Theological Education:

By Gender & FaithOne Comment

Capitulating to Culture or Historically Rooted? Not long ago, I overhead a female ministry leader noting with some enthusiasm that we are seeing the first generation in Christendom in which women have received theological higher education. But her statement, while well intentioned, was completely untrue. Some of our lack of knowledge about women’s history, particularly in the Protestant tradition, stems from post-Reformation amnesia about women in monastic spaces. About all we know—maybe—is that about 500 years ago a German nun, Katerina, married a former monk, Martin Luther, and religious living spaces were emptied of their occupants, partly in response to the Protestant Reformation. Here’s what we need to know, though: A similar phenomenon happened about that same time in Switzerland. And then in the 1530’s, the emptying-monasteries phenomenon hit England. In his article for History on “The Dissolution of the Monasteries,” G. W. Bernard reminds readers that in the late 1530s, England alone…

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Are the “Widows” in 1 Timothy 5 Leaders, Needers, or Both?

By Gender & Faith, Life In The Body, Marriage, WomenNo Comments

One of my students, Corinne Samuelson, has spent the summer investigating what’s happening with “widows” in 1 Timothy 5. At first glance, one might think Paul was simply instructing Timothy about how to handle the many hungry older women in the Ephesian church (1:3). But on closer exploration we see a description of what might look like an office. That’s a challenging question. As Corinne notes, “While Timothy would have surely understood Paul’s instructions about widows in the Ephesian Church, 1 Timothy 5:3–16 leaves today’s readers with many questions.” Each of the questions below (most of which she crafted) are worth considering when making interpretive decisions about this passage: Meaning of “to honor” (τίμα, v. 3) – (“Give proper honor to those widows who are really in need.”) Does “to honor” imply interpersonal respect, financial support, or both? Is this a parallel to granting “double honor” to elders who teach (v. 17)?  Placement of…

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