Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Cornerstone Festival and Christians for Biblical Equality

As I helped the CBE (Christians for Biblical Equality) team set up the Gender Revolution Tent for this year's Cornerstone Festival "Cstone yoU" Seminars, I looked forward to what promised to be a great time together. And in fact, that is precisely how things turned out.

Aida Spencer’s incredible in-depth Biblical study on women in leadership roles made this year worthwhile all by itself to me. I've deeply appreciated Linda Belleville's biblical exegesis over the years, as well as (in years past) Ruth Tucker and others who've dealt as speakers at Cstone with egalitarian vs. hierarchical views of women. But Aida seemed to really have a handle on not only the theological, but also the historical, elements from the Scriptures regarding women leaders. And she harmonized them in an easily accessible, thoroughly convincing way.

My fellow-JPUSA member Sarah Sullivan’s journey (above) through a horrendous multiple rape, cold and skeptical treatment by police, further abuse leveled by defense lawyers and even the judge (who literally did not believe rape was possible), left me shaken and pondering. Her story was not one with a neat, happy ending. And frankly, I feel that our journey toward a truly biblical mutuality is not an easy story, either. Yet Sarah’s story did offer hope, as she told about her own ministry, Threads of Compassion (

Being asked to participate on the marriage panel was, as usual, a great blessing to me. I was deeply impressed with the honesty and transparency shown by the other couples participating, particularly (though not exclusively!) Tim and Heidi Vanderpool.

The discussion led by Julia Butcher (above) on the “Wild at Heart” books by John and Staci Eldredge seemed key to me, somehow bringing together my own deepest anxieties about evangelical mistreatment and misbeliefs regarding women. As both Julia and some seminar participants noted, these books have truly helped some people. Yet my own anxieties regarding them seemed justified further by Julia's careful, gentle yet ultimately critical analysis. For instance, Julia's citation of a lengthy quote from the book regarding men as "strong" and women as "beautiful," complete with descriptions of females passively lying about while the men actively did what men are "supposed" to do really -- ahem! -- frosted my cookies. Julia was a whole lot nicer in dissecting these books than I would have been... which is why it was lovely she did in fact do that. I guess she was just being beautiful AND strong?

My own angst regarding real anger toward the evangelical Church for its treatment of women had been brought to the fore by Sarah and Julia. I found myself deeply pondering the role of anger in being a prophetic witness. I've never been a big fan of human anger, as it almost always ends in someone being injured (either physically or spiritually or both). In my own case, my anger seems more often to end in something destructive, esp. when I think I'm right about something. But after listening to Sarah, and then during Q and A offering what I (and not Julia, so she doesn't get in trouble) called "the evangelical enablement of a rape culture," I was left thinking about anger's positive aspects. As one friend (a woman pastor, appropriately!) told me later after listening to my reflections, William Barclay writes regarding Jesus' words on anger in the Sermon on the Mount that (her words), "When we are angry on behalf of someone else, there's a much better chance that anger is constructive, godly anger, than when we're angry on behalf of ourselves." Yes, something like that. I'm still pondering this issue...

In the end, I could again only thank God for the powerful witness of CBE and the Gender Revolution as it impacts the Church and celebrates our oneness in Christ. I was sorry indeed to see ultra-fundamentalist fliers handed out by self-described “spies” in what to me appeared the bad spirits mentioned in Galatians 2: 4,5: “But because of false believers secretly brought in, who slipped in to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might enslave us--we did not submit to them even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might always remain with you.” I would not dechristianize these people as they apparently were doing to CBE, JPUSA, and Cornerstone fest-goers overall. But they were indeed behaving as legalists intent upon taking our freedom in Christ and replacing it with bondage. For that reason, I all the more celebrate my sisters and brothers in Christ who so eloquently, gracefully and gently, stand for the truth of the gospel and the unity of believers reflected only a few verses later, in Galatians 3:28: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

I bless God for CBE’s positive role in my mind, my heart, my marriage, my church, my family, and my spiritual life. And I am as always glad that Jesus People USA Covenant Church (my community and fellowship for the past 29 years) co-sponsors the Gender Revolution Tent with CBE.

A final thought: It is very sad to me to hear CBE bashed as being goddess-worshippers, or uber-feminists. I honestly have never met a people less angry, yet gently prophetic, than the staff and leaders of Christians for Biblical Equality. These are Christian women and men on fire with a desire to share Jesus' gospel, eager not to "usurp power" but rather eager to serve whole-heartedly together the cause of Christ. These women challenge me, provoking me to good works of love. I think they make Jesus smile.

I apologize for the poor photography, and for the writing itself here which is rather hurried. But I hope the heart of Cornerstone Festival, Jesus People USA, and the CBE folk comes through. It's about Jesus.

Added July 25

CBE's Statement of Faith (see their website for more info)

We believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, is reliable, and is the final authority for faith and practice.

We believe in the unity and trinity of God, eternally existing as three equal persons.

We believe in the full deity and full humanity of Jesus Christ.

We believe in the sinfulness of all persons. One result of sin is shattered relationships with God, others, and self.

We believe that eternal salvation and restored relationships are possible through faith in Jesus Christ who died for us, rose from the dead, and is coming again. This salvation is offered to all people.

We believe in the work of the Holy Spirit in salvation, and in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of believers.

We believe in the equality and essential dignity of men and women of all ethnicities, ages, and classes. We recognize that all persons are made in the image of God and are to reflect that image in the community of believers, in the home, and in society.

We believe that men and women are to diligently develop and use their God-given gifts for the good of the home, church, and society.

We believe in the family, celibate singleness, and faithful heterosexual marriage as God’s design.

We believe that, as mandated by the Bible, men and women are to oppose injustice.

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