Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Mutual by Design 2017 Christians for Biblical Equality Conference

Dear friends,

Two weeks ago, my longtime fellow blogger and FB friend Julie Anne Smith noted on her FB page that she would be in Orlando for a conference. She wanted to know if anyone would like to meet up there, which for me is "here" since I live just north of Orlando.

I jumped at the chance to meet her in person, as she lives on the opposite end of the country - not much farther you can get from Florida than Washington State, unless we're talking Alaska. And I was intrigued by what conference she was attending.

Julie Anne Smith
It turned out to be Mutual by Design, the 2017 international conference of Christians for Biblical Equality. The funny thing is, I had just been on the CBE web site a few days before that to look for book recommendations and hadn't even noticed the conference information! I got to thinking how much I would enjoy attending - and fortunately for me, another kind FB friend (whom I also had not met in person) worked out the details for me to go to the conference and to stay at the hotel for the weekend.  She was also responsible for several other women being able to attend.

All of this was on very short notice. I found out about the conference on Tuesday, and it started on Friday morning! And I went out to dinner with some of the ladies when they arrived in town on Wednesday!

Dinner at Sweet Tomatoes two days before
the conference with some of the CBE attendees:
Lindon, Tega, Mabel, Reagan, Tega's
daughter (I don't know her name!), and Gwen
I am super grateful that I went. I have been learning about Christian egalitarian theology in recent years, and see it as so refreshing as compared to the patriarchal/complementarian theology to which I had been heavily exposed in some of our former churches and in certain edges of the home schooling movement.

Egalitarians believe that men and women are truly equal. Not identical. There are obvious differences. But they are equal. No hierarchy. No superiority. No gender rank pulling nor rigid gender roles in the family, the church, or the work place. No "Woman, SUBMIT!" They certainly believe in submission in marriage! But it is mutual submission, mutual leadership, mutual serving, mutual respect, and mutual love.

I see the beauty of that.
I see the promise in that.
I see the fruit borne by it.
I see the power of the gospel at work in it.

Many complementarians claim that egalitarians don't take the Bible seriously. What struck me was how seriously they actually did treat Scripture at this conference. These are serious students of the Word. Many of them are professors in seminaries and Christian universities, with doctorates and decades of faithful teaching and/or pastoral work to their names. They carefully parsed the Greek and Hebrew. They researched the ancient cultures within which the Bible was penned, including the Greco-Roman household codes.They have shown how Scriptural principles can be universally applied in each culture and time period, even if the details of how they are carried out necessarily differ by time and place. And, as Dr. Ronald Pierce explained, they teach what they do "in light of Scripture, not in spite of Scripture."

Dr. Ronald Pierce,
professor, author, speaker
The people I met were kind, caring, curious, and passionate. At times I felt out of my league when I heard what each one had been doing for God's Kingdom, but they were so humble and approachable that I still felt right at home. Never mind that I am a home schooling mother of ten who has been "at home" in my house for over 30 years, and who emerged from what I call deep patriarchy.  

God bless the work of CBE, and God bless the women and men there who are rising up to serve with liberty and justice and compassion among the heartbreaking crises in this world.

Dr. Mimi Haddad,
President of CBE

Mary Gonsior,
who works for CBE
I'll be writing more on the conference as time allows. I already posted a poem that I wrote there: No Little Women.

Virginia Knowles

P.S. Now I'm dreaming of the 2018 conference in Helsinki, Finland. Not much of a chance I'll get there, but who knows?

Edit to add: As an indirect result of attending this CBE conference, I am in the middle of my Master of Arts in Ministry degree at Asbury Theological Seminary. I walked right by their booth at the conference because seminary wasn't on my radar at the time. It was a long domino effect after that, but here I am, loving every minute!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

No Little Women (CBE17)

"No Little Women"
Virginia Knowles

In the beauty of the Kingdom

There shall be no little women:
No, never!
Lo and behold
Sisters and brothers together
In mutual love and honor
Lift their lights high
Raise their voices strong and clear
Boldly proclaiming
Peace, joy, liberty, mercy
Healing, justice in Jesus
Together, strong and free
In the glory of the gospel of grace
No little women and no little men.
"May your Kingdom come
May your will be done
On earth as it is in Heaven."

~~ I wrote and posted this poem from my phone while attending Mutual by Design, the 2017 international conference of Christians for Biblical Equality. I'll be writing more about the conference and some recommended resources this month as I have time.

~~ I'm obviously not talking about physical height here. I'm talking about the tendency of many in the church to see women as "less than" men - and oh, "bless their little hearts!" We all talk about equality, but then women are still treated with condescension.

~~ But speaking of physical height, here are two women from the conference. Julie Anne, on the right, is a watchdog blogger at www.spiritualsoundingboard.com. We've been in touch for several years about issues in the home schooling movement and patriarchal churches. I really appreciate the sacrificial work she does.  Diane, on the left, was a nun for about 20 years and then was ordained as a Catholic priest. I'm not sure how that works, but she says there are 250 women priests. Now in her 70's, she hosts a radio show aimed at preventing domestic violence. She may be only 5 feet tall, but she's a powerhouse. Julie Anne is 6' 4". Whatever their height, these two women get the job done.

~~ I picked the Statue of Liberty picture for the top of this post, because I believe that women are emerging as powerful leaders in the fight for liberty for the oppressed around the world. The women at this conference included ones who work in dangerous places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo doing rape prevention and aftercare, or who labor from and within the USA to end sex trafficking, domestic violence, female genital mutilation, and other evils.


Think about it.

Act on it.

Virginia Knowles

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

International Women's Day 2017: What Do You Stand For?

Dear friends,

It is International Women's Day again! 

What does that mean?

Different things to different people, I'm sure.

I am an evangelical Christian and a feminist, and no, those are not mutually exclusive. And yes, I am still very pro-life. (And not just until the baby is born!) I also have seven daughters, three sons, four grandsons, and two granddaughters. I've put my time in.


This morning, I started going through my "On This Day" memories feed on Facebook and re-sharing IWD posts from years past, like my own article here on Watch the Shepherd: Women's Voices Rising

One of my Facebook posts read: "I am a woman. But this day, though for me, is not just for or about me. Think of women around the globe. Think of their challenges, their heartaches, their opportunities, their examples, their gifts for their families and communities. Let us sit with them in empathy, stand with them in solidarity, walk with them into a future of progress, dignity, and equality. We are women. Let's make this about each other, all of us, and about all of the girls in generations following us."

I added a fresh new picture for my quote. I had taken down my bulletin board recently and piled its contents on my desk: baby announcement, cards from friends, clipped quotes. The postcard above, purchased at the holocaust museum in Washington D.C., sums it up for me.

I stand for women on this day. One of my missions in life is to empower women around the globe. Courage. Strength. Respect. Purpose. Equality. Assertiveness. Confidence. Justice. Honor. These don't come easy in a world where many religious and social systems subjugate women. Think that's just far away in some Third World country? Nope. It's here in the USA, too. Been there, done that, walked away from it. It has hurt way too many people whom I know and love. These are just some of the articles I have written.

This past year, it's been difficult to watch the ascendancy of Donald Trump to the presidency. Even though he acknowledged International Women's Day on Twitter today (be sure to read comments), he does not, in my opinion, represent the interests of women very well. It's not just a lack of support, but his attacks on women, not the least of which would be the sexual assault of strangers.

By coincidence, I was in Washington D.C. the weekend of the huge women's march. I was en route to my aunt's funeral in Pennsylvania so I didn't go. I also have concerns about the march organizers not welcoming pro-life leaders. However, there is so much more that I do support about the aims of the march. On my flight back to Florida the next day, I sat next to a woman who was in D.C. for her grandmother's birthday and had walked along with part of the march while she was downtown. We shared so many common views about empowering women. I loved to hear her story, face to face, of succeeding as a woman of color despite many challenges.

When I was a small child, the only jobs commonly open to women were nurse, teacher, secretary, and maid. And I'm only 53! Things were much better by the time I reached high school and college, but there was (and still is) discrimination. This should not be. Women need the ability to provide for themselves and their families. Instead of restricting women based on what we think they should do, why not empower them with the same opportunities so they can learn and work according to their own needs, talents, and desires? 

I remember in my early 20's telling a man from church that I had just gotten a new job. He asked if I was a secretary. It was more of an assumption than a question. I was actually a computer programmer for a military contractor, and likely made more money per hour than he did. By choice, I have spent most of the last 30 years (with the exception of one year as a part-time teacher) as a stay-at-home mom. I don't regret that at all. I love being home, and wish I could always do that. I am planning to transition back into the paid workforce out of necessity. This should be interesting. I am a bit nervous. 

The comment from the man at church over 30 years ago was actually more amusing than annoying at the time. Worse than that by far was the sexual harassment I experienced in the work place and other situations, including losing a job for refusing a boss's advances. I wrote about some of this here: #YesAllWomen: My Many Stories of Sexual Harassment.  Yet as distressing as those experiences were to me, they were nothing compared to what other women in this country have suffered. Listen to these quotes about domestic violence and sexual abuse in the home: Voices of Survivors. Then watch some videos from the recent Awaken:Awareness Matters conference.

Photo credit: www.AmyRBuckley.com
See also: 25 Essential Quotes of Women

And then when I think of the world beyond, I am absolutely appalled at what women and girls have to endure. There is no way I can be silent about trafficking, child marriage, FMG (female genital mutililation), honor killings, rape, and lack of decent health care for women.

From Catapult Cover Stories - click for more
Photo Credit: The Times of Israel Facebook

Two of my other Facebook posts were videos I recorded from my spot in the audience at the Synergy conference in March 2011 here in Orlando. It was organized by Carolyn Custis James and keynoted by Sheryl WuDunn. Later this morning, Carolyn Custis James asked permission to post them on her YouTube channel, which I happily granted. She too has written a post for International Women’s Day, and I think she has another one coming up that has my videos in it. 

So here are the videos on her channel:

Carolyn Custis James introducing Sheryl WuDunn at 2011 Synergy conference in Orlando (Video Link)


Sheryl WuDunn talking about forced child marriage, obstetric fistulas, and maternal mortality at 2011 Synergy conference in Orlando (Video Link)


Here is another of Carolyn's YouTube videos: Patriarchy is a Fallen System

Carolyn and Sheryl are both authors. You can find their books on their web sites:

Or you can order these titles, which I have read, through ChristianBook.com (Disclosure: I am a CBD affiliate and would get a small percentage.)

There is so much more that I could write, but instead, I'll leave you with one last article link 
by Sarah Bessey, author of Jesus Feminist (I've read part of this) and Out of Sorts (just bought this one and hope to read soon): A Prayer for International Women's Day 


Walking with one of my granddaughters
- and wondering what the future holds
for her generation