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!