Tag Archives: church

Women Are People Too

Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of WomenSarah Bessey. (Howard Books, 2013) $14.99

Jesus-Feminist-Cover-copyIn recent years, there has been a backlash against egalitarianism and Christian Feminism emerging from what could be described as the “young, restless, and reformed” segment of the Church. Fortunately, the voices coming from the other side have been equally loud, calling for mutual submission in the household and full participation of women in ministry. In this conversation, Sarah Bessey’s book Jesus Feminist (2013) stands out. She addresses the Church’s treatment of women with the end goal of “exploring God’s radical notion that women are people too.” At first, I thought this subtitle seemed almost satirical, but in light of the more outspoken complementarians who have published recently, it is perhaps more warranted than my initial impression would have allowed.

Bessey’s gentle and humble tone sets her book apart. From the very first pages, it reads as a letter from a dear friend. In a debate which is fraught with conflict, mud-slinging, and name-calling, Bessey looks for the positive, encouraging women to live into their God-given potential. Rather than spending time debunking arguments on the other side (as many egalitarians do with Wayne Grudem and John Piper), Bessey spends most of the book talking about what women have done, and are currently doing in service to God, the Church, and the world. Her book reminds me of The Junia Project in that it seeks to equip and empower rather than to argue.

The core of Bessey’s argument is that her Feminism is a response to what she cares the most about—following Jesus. The best way for Christians to pursue women’s equality is for us to pursue Christ. “We must remember that all of those efforts are ultimately frustrating, sometimes even misguided, without Christ” (184). Moreover, Bessey makes the claim that “the Feminist Agenda” is, indeed, God’s agenda, because God cares about justice.

Nothing changes in a true, God-lasting way when we use people or push agendas or make finger-pointing arguments or accusations of heresy. The justice we are seeking is God’s justice—justice that leaves no one out, no one left behind. His justice breaks chains, rids the world of injustice, frees the oppressed, cancels debts (184).

As a young woman working for a church, Bessey’s writing speaks to me though I am perhaps not her intended audience, as she debunks the myth that church work is the ultimate calling. However, as a woman and a Christ-follower, I have wrestled with the questions that Bessey wrestles with in her pursuit of Jesus. As such, Bessey’s experiences and hopes resonated with me. The only thing I would change about this book would be to use gender-inclusive language for God. I understand that within the Christian world, understanding God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is our bread and butter but using masculine pronouns for God becomes a stumbling block for some Jesus Feminists as they seek to understand God at work in their lives.

More than anything, I hope that young and old women read this book and feel empowered to pursue God’s calling on their lives. I hope that my seminary professors, who have done so much to encourage my pursuit of ministry, read it and keep doing what they are doing. I hope that complementarians read it, and, at the very least, hear Bessey’s prophetic voice to begin reconsidering their positions.

Naomi Wilson is the Director of Christian Education at Faith Presbyterian Church of Valley Village, nestled between North Hollywood and Studio City in beautiful sunny Southern California. She loves coffee, sunshine, books, and running.

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A Thicker Jesus

A Thicker Jesus: Incarnational Discipleship in a Secular Age, Glen H. Stassen (Westminster John Knox Press, 2012) $25

a-thicker-jesusFrom my days at Fuller Theological Seminary, I so enjoyed the perspective taught and embodied by Dr. Glen Stassen.  His ethics course and seminal text, Kingdom Ethics, gave useful language for budding young seminarians like myself on how the teachings from the Sermon on the Mount must infuse every part of our ethical decisions.  His stories about marching with Dr. King inspired me about the value of civil disobedience and political actions today.  His teachings on just peacemaking, gender roles, and the death penalty deeply guided me into the methodology of forming ethical convictions with the narrative of Scripture as a framework. And more than that, his faithfulness as an educator and a follower of Christ gave life to his teachings and proved an authentic model of deeply reflective pastoral engagement in the world through the power of the living Christ.

Though it had been years since my time with Dr. Stassen, I was eager to dive into his newest text, A Thicker Jesus and the book did not disappoint. I was immediately struck by how helpful this text would be for the field of practical theology as it matures as an academic discipline.  As a academic, Stassen only wants to deepen the conversation about Christian discipleship rather than water down any convictions for the sake of accessibility.  Stassen’s work serves as a robust text for defending a Christian ethic of incarnation and engagement in social inequalities.  Building upon the shoulders of his major influencer, theologian and activist Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Stassen propones that one of the primary challenges for the Church today is to confront secularism with a costly discipleship that will provide the resources for renewal and revival. Incarnational discipleship, as defined by Stassen, will represent three spheres: a thicker interpretation of Jesus of Nazareth, the holistic sovereignty of God, and the Holy Spirit moving the church to what Stassen calls a “repentance from ideological entanglement.”  I could not agree more.  He looks to utilize such a formula as a model to help resolve some of the many challenges facing the Church in the 21st century.  Heroes of the faith throughout Christian history, in his assessment, all share the common trait of a ‘deep and specific interpretation of the apostolic and biblical witness to Jesus Christ.’ Continue reading

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A Call to Faithful Creativity

Manifest: Our Call to Faithful Creativity, ed. Nathan Brown & Joanna Darby (Signs Publishing, 2013) AU$ 24.95

ManifestAs cultural and economic shifts continue to take place, more people are calling themselves “Creatives.” It seems almost anyone, doing anything, can be a virtuoso, cultural kingmaker, filmmaker, or the catchall “artist.” But whether these people are formally trained, self-taught, or simply seeking value for their uniqueness, the Church has not yet begun to tap into the energy and creativity of congregants who are pursuing their passions. Pews and folding chairs both remain empty as religious leaders persist in thinking that the biggest creative choice they will make this year concerns the color of the carpet.

Genuine creativity is, in many ways, absent from our sacred spaces. The evidence is all around us. More churches are turning to portable buildings and weekend rentals that discourage decoration, stained glass, or anything that might develop into differences of opinion. What is it about congregations, committees, and Christians that sidelines ingenuity, given how many of us are designers, painters, musicians, and creative in some many profound ways? And what if the choice were not always presented as creativity or faithfulness?

Manifest: Our Call to Faithful Creativity is a collection of essays addressing those kinds of questions. Continue reading

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Seeing God in Surprising Places

When “Spiritual but Not Religious” is Not Enough: Seeing God in Surprising Places, Even the Church, Lillian Daniel (Jericho Books, 2013) $19.99

spiritualnotreligiousIf nothing else, Lillian Daniel has a breadth of experience in her years of ministry! In her book, When “Spiritual but Not Religious” is Not Enough, Lillian takes us along for the ride as she chats with random strangers on the bus, visits prisons and monasteries, philosophizes with her dog about late-night TV evangelists, and deals with family crises as she takes on the task of “Seeing God in surprising places, even the church.” Her quirky anecdotes draw the reader into her inner thought circle, giving the book the feel of a rambling campfire rant among friends. With each section divided into bite-sized chapters, the author challenges many commonly-held beliefs, both in and outside the church, and shows us through her stories that we need to look deeper into the every day fabric of life than we are accustomed to, in order to find the answers to the big questions.

You won’t find quick and easy theological answers to the questions she poses. You won’t find loosely superimposed object lessons, and you won’t find hum-drum do-it-yourself suggestions for cultivating a lifestyle of prayer or confession or communion. The author resists giving you the answers to the test at all costs. Instead, she tells you about her experience with these aspects of spiritual life, and lets you fill in the blanks. In her discussion of communion, for example, one moment, you’re sitting in her financial planner’s office discussing tithing, and the next minute, you’re whisked off to O’Hare airport to discover the joys of impromptu road trips with strangers in snowy weather—and then you’re in her mother’s dining room, waiting to be served roast duck! And, while there is a conclusion to be drawn from her sharing each of these stories in short succession, the author leaves us to draw that conclusion on our own.

The abruptness of her transitions, interjected with the odd chapter where she can’t resist jumping up onto her soapbox, can be disconcerting. Even the conclusion of the book is abrupt. Yet, there is an endearing quality to the way the author tells her stories. A keen mind and gentle heart shine out of every chapter. It is obvious that Lillian Daniel is actively engaged in wrestling with the deep, unsettling questions of spirituality, and even more impressive—she’s comfortable with the patchwork gaps in her knowledge of God, assured that her faith and her experience will continue to fill the gaps. Indeed, it would seem that from her perspective, the only way to allow the gaps to be filled is to continue to experience life through the lens of faith.

If you’re looking for a book that will encourage introspection, challenge complacency, and make you laugh all at the same time, pick up a copy of When “Spiritual but Not Religious” is Not Enough. You never know where you’ll find God.

Holly Messenger Aamot studied philosophy and botany at the University of Alberta, and now work as the Business Manager for the Chokka Center for Integrative Health in Edmonton, Alberta. When she is not working or reading she enjoys writing, crocheting, and making music. She lives in Edmonton with her husband and daughter.

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