How many of us remember the person who led us to Christ? Perhaps for some of us, it was a series of encounters that culminated in a decision of faith. If you are like me, you may remember that first Bible and that moment of decision when you prayed and asked Christ to be Lord of your life. My decision to follow Jesus came through the invitation of one of the first women to enroll in seminary in the 1970s. Her godly influence impacted me and those in my circle of high school friends. Women like her are and have been leaders on mission fields throughout history.
According to missiologists like Dana Robert, women were the leading force in one of the largest missionary movements in all of history—the Golden Era of Missions. Women outnumbered men two-to-one on mission fields, and they occupied many levels of leadership and service. They funded mission organizations and founded institutes and schools, so that by:
the final years of the twentieth century, more than half of all Christians were to be found outside the region that had been the historical heartland of Christianity for nearly 1,500 years. New centers of Christian strength and vitality were now to be found where missionary initiatives were focused in widely scattered places in the Americas, Africa, and Asia.1
The sacrifices of women missionaries led to the largest expanse of Christian faith in all of history.
Gender and Missions
From Lottie Moon in northern China to Mary Slessor in Africa, from Pandita Ramabai and Amy Carmichael in India to Emma Dyer in Chicago and Catherine Booth in London, women have been a tireless voice advancing the gospel in places of despair and spiritual depravation. To honor this legacy and to consider how men and women might serve together on mission fields today, Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) will hold a conference in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 18-20 July 2008 on the topic of gender and missions.
CBE conference speakers will explore the biblical, historical, and cultural challenges Christian men and women face as they work together on mission fields around the world and further examine the lives of women who have impacted missionary history so that, as the writer of Hebrews suggests, we might “consider the outcome of their lives and imitate their faith.”
Through four general sessions, a panel discussion, and twenty-one workshops, CBE’s conference will offer a range of practical and academic content for those just beginning their study of gender and scripture, as well as for those eager to study the topic in greater depth.
Conference speakers involved in the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization include: Esme Bowers, Robyn Claydon, and David Claydon. Bowers will examine the growth of the African Church and the importance of team leadership; the Claydons will analyze how kingdom ministry is diminished when gifting is denied due to status, age, or gender. Other speakers include:
Bible expositor John Kohlenberger will lead a workshop entitled “When Fellows Are Female,” a study of the gender and partnership terminology Paul uses in his letters.
Marriage and family therapist Arbutus Sider will lead “The Essence of Marriage: Relationship and Mission,” exploring current answers and biblical examples to questions, such as: How do we nurture “we” without losing “me”? and How do we move beyond the focus of our marriages to participate in world missions?
Retired Evangelical Free Church pastor Austin Stouffer will use humor to equip attendees to introduce a biblical basis for gender equality to churches.
Pastor of global and regional outreach Jeanette Yep will host a workshop entitled “Preparing for Cross-Cultural Mission,” providing opportunities for attendees to share experiences and answer questions about cultural expectations and gender.
Author and speaker Lorry Lutz will review the basic, biblically-supported arguments that affirm women, and men, as called by God to fill leadership positions.
Conference participants will also have access to a prayer room.
CBE’s annual conferences include the awards ceremony that acknowledges Christian leaders accomplished in three categories: Priscilla and Aquila, Lifetime Achievement, and Micah.
To register for the conference, or for
- The Priscilla and Aquila Award honors those who have taken many risks for the sake of biblical equality. The award is named after Priscilla and Aquila mentioned in Romans 16:3-4, who Paul said “…risked their lives for me. Not only I, but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.”
- The Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes a lifetime of courage, sacrifice, and vision in advancing the biblical basis for gift-based ministry.
- The Micah Award is presented to Christians who exhibit extraordinary courage, vision, and tenacity in opposing abuse and advancing justice, equality, and equitable access to human essentials—such as food, education, legal services, and medicine—to women and children.
It is CBE’s desire that, as stated by Ron Sider (president of Evangelicals for Social Action), both men and women are empowered to use their gifts equally for the Great Commission.
In 2007, CBE hosted its conference in Denver, Colorado, USA; the year before that the conference was held in Bangalore, India.
1. Robert, Dana L. 2005. American Women in Mission: A Social History of Their Thought and Practice. Macon: Georgia, USA: Mercer University Press, ix.