Book & Commentary

The Creation of Patriarchy

1 Comment » Written on August 2nd, 2016     
Filed under: Book & Commentary, Testimonies and Stories

Dru McLeland graduated with a Master of Divinity degree from Northern Theological Seminary in June and is currently seeking God’s next place of ministry call in the ECC. In the meantime, she and her family are enjoying their new Cavachon puppy, Zoë Ruby Regina.

Recently, I had a conversation with a young woman who is a chaplain in training about women in ministry and I mentioned the ECC’s Commission on Biblical Gender Equality. She asked, “Is there gender equality in the Bible? Isn’t the Bible patriarchal?” I answered, “Well, yes, especially in the Old Testament.” I started asking, why? I don’t see patriarchy in the creation of Adam and Eve. Both are created in the image of God. God blessed THEM, and told THEM to “fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion…over every living thing that moves upon the earth. God did not give a command that society has to be patriarchal. I wonder is patriarchy God’s design or is it something humans created?

Several years ago, I read All God’s People (here). In that book, Jay Phelan’s brief history of hierarchal development was my first introduction to the idea that patriarchy may not be God’s creation, but I wanted to know more. Since I had thousands of pages to read for seminary classes, I set aside my question but occasionally returned to it and asked God to show me more. The Teacher did not forget my question. My final class in seminary, Women of the Old Testament, addressed it. One of our texts was The Creation of Patriarchy, (here)by Gerda Lerner (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.) the first in a two-volume work.creation of patriarchy

Lerner, who died in 2013, had an unusual childhood in the early 20th century that included a Bohemian mother, escaping the Nazi’s, and targeting by McCarthyism. She made the study of African American and women’s history her life’s work. For a brief biography of Lerner, click here.

Her book is an attempt “to trace, by means of historical evidence, the development of the leading ideas, symbols, and metaphors by which patriarchal gender relations were incorporated into Western civilization” (p. 10). As one who is newly conscious of the role of patriarchy in Western society and witness to its creep into the Church, but not a historian, I found her book a great place to start and a springboard for further investigation and study. She includes anthropological evidence of societies that may have been egalitarian and others that may have been matriarchal to show that not all ancient societies were patriarchal. She challenges the tradition of patriarchy which she asserts has been “mystified… making it ahistoric, eternal, invisible, and unchanging” (p. 37). This may seem a little over the top to some, but I think it challenges us to think about our views of patriarchy and how it effects our lives as well as those around us.

One of the main ways Lerner’s writing challenged me was the connection she made between the oppression of women when they are seen as objects and how this paved the way for slavery of all kinds. Women came to be seen as a commodity, as belonging to a man or household, with their status established because of their ability or lack of ability to produce offspring. The strength of the natural urges of a mother to protect the life of a baby set her apart from men. Especially in war, this vulnerability made women more easily subdued and subjected to slavery by conquerors. Lerner hypothesizes that the enslavement of women was a precursor to slavery in general. Women came to be seen as less than human, “other” and treated as an object or commodity. Lest we think this is history only, we have only to look at the numbers of people who are victims of human trafficking because someone is willing to pay for them as a sex object. (See the US Government 2016 report on human trafficking here; find your state here.)

Against the context of Lerner’s book, I see the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians as just as radical in our day as in his. Christ came to break down the divisions patriarchal systems create. He came to create a new humanity where all are one with new identity as members of the household of God, no matter what we are able contribute, but because we are human beings, created in God’s image.

But now, in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God. (Eph. 2:13-22, NRSV)

Whether one agrees with Lerner about the creation of patriarchy or not, I believe there is a challenge for us as we look at others. I ask myself and invite you to ask yourself a couple of questions. When interacting with others, do I see them as objects or commodities in anyway? Do I remember I am united in Christ with other Christians when we interact?

I would like to continue this conversation. Where have you discovered that you might be seeing another as an object or “the other” rather than God’s created person? If you have read Lerner’s book, what do you think about it? Please leave a reply.


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5 Feminist Reads for the Summer

4 comments Written on May 24th, 2016     
Filed under: Book & Commentary, Resources

Mandi Cherico recently graduated with a Master of Divinity from North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago. Born on the East Coast and raised in the Midwest, her interests include feminism, aesthetics, and Beyonce.

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Growing up, I didn’t know what feminism was. I had always been an independent girl, but I never knew about any larger movement having to do with this tension I felt about being confined to gender roles.

In my senior year of high school, I had an English literature teacher, Mrs. Butcher. Mrs. Butcher was one of those cool, young teachers who high school students want to pattern their lives after. She was a strong and confident woman, committed to her faith and not afraid to speak the truth. She was both unflinching in her critique of the patriarchy and an avid wearer of bright lipstick. In short, she spoke my language. Mrs. Butcher introduced our class to feminist literature, and my mind was opened. These authors wrote about things I had been thinking my whole life but never been able to name. They taught me that there were words for this strength in me; this deep personal resistance I felt towards antiquated gender norms. The things I read in this class set me on a path of liberation, not only for myself but for other women, particularly in the context of the Church.

While feminism and gender equality require us to practically engage with and for both women and men, we’d be remiss to not read the writings of the women who shape and power the movement both inside and outside of the Church. Here are just a few books that I would recommend for anyone on the journey to claiming gender equality.

bad feministGay is the new darling of feminist literature, and she’s earned it. Her personal essays and cultural critique are just. so. good. This collection of essays draws on pop culture, modern relationships, body image, racism and the perils of professional life. Be warned – it is sometimes graphic in nature, but her hilarious and real accounts of what it’s like being a the kind of feminist who watches The Bachelor is winsomely relatable.

A-Year-of-Biblical-Womanhood_Held Evans has become a household name among Evangelicals and faithful skeptics in the blogosphere. This book is her first-person account of a year following Old Testament rules for women, including her time spent living in her backyard during menstruation and the joys of wearing ankle length skirts. It’s funny and personal with reflections that challenge how the Church has interacted with women and gender through the years and into today.

girls to the frontYou don’t have to be a fan of rock music to thoroughly enjoy this account of feminist punk bands of the nineties. With interviews and years of personal research, Marcus weaves together the fascinating young feminist Riot Grrrl movement which challenged the violent, boys-only world of punk culture. Bands forged in this movement have a deep impact on musicians of today as well as grassroots feminists in general. In true punk fashion, the book contains some graphic content.

Jesus-Feminist-Cover-copyThis is a great read for people who are new to the concept of biblical feminism, or perhaps have reservations about feminism in general. If you’re uncomfortable with wearing the label of “feminist,” this book will challenge your hesitation. Bessey’s writing is approachable and heartfelt. She speaks candidly to women in all walks of life but especially to those who are wives or mothers.



SisterOutsiderLorde is an amalgam of wisdom, rebellion and fierce advocacy. Black, queer and female, she is one of the best sources on what it means to be marginalized in American society. Lorde is not a follower of Christ but she writes with truth and power that every person can learn from. Read this one if you want be challenged in your understanding of sexuality and social location. One of her greatest quotes: “the Master’s tools can never dismantle the master’s house.”



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Discovering What You Didn’t Know Was Missing

6 comments Written on April 13th, 2016     
Filed under: Book & Commentary, Testimonies and Stories

Nilwona Nowlin currently serves as the Administrative Specialist for Governance for the ECC and is a member of the Christian Community Development Association and the Redbud Writers Guild. In her “spare time,” she teaches workshops about living successfully as an introvert. Nilwona is a member of the Kingdom Covenant Church (Chicago) launch team and randomly blogs about random things at thedreamerspeaks.

I’ve been reading leadership books for years, but it was only recently that I realized something: none of the books I’d been reading were written by women. If I broadened my definition of a “leadership book,” it might allow for the inclusion of a small handful of female authors. (And I haven’t even bothered to raise the issue of ethnicity.) I am naturally quite observant, but sometimes – like in this case – it takes me a while to notice a pattern. In other cases, I miss the pattern altogether.

Last week, I participated in the ECC Sankofa Journey, and experienced quite an eye-opening surprise: both of our drivers were black women. It wasn’t until I saw them that I realized I had never seen a female coach bus driver, let alone one who was a black female. (To add to our amazement, they were also sisters.) In all my experiences riding on a coach bus, I had never stopped to wonder whether or not there were women in this business. In my moment of giddy elation, I said to a friend, “You don’t even realize what’s not there until you see it!” As I reflected on this moment, it helped me understand why I was so excited about a book I recently read.

Mentor for Life Book CoverMentor for Life: Finding Purpose through Intentional Discipleship explores the interrelated connection between mentoring and discipleship. The book’s perspective was intriguing, but what was more remarkable was that it was written by a woman of color, Natasha Sistrunk Robinson. Now, I don’t claim to be an expert in the areas of mentoring or discipleship, so I certainly haven’t read every book on either subject. But coming across Mentor for Life caused me to reflect on the books I’d read in recent years. In doing this, it dawned on me that I hadn’t seen discipleship books written by women – and certainly not women of color.

There are lots of articles, books and memes on leadership that suggest that individuals should regularly be in relationships as both a mentor and a mentee. Because I sometimes fall into the trap of believing that the source of my paycheck defines who I am, I often struggle with whether or not I have anything of value to share with a mentee. We often see mentoring as a “secular” thing, but Robinson describes it as an opportunity to “partner with God.” This reframing of mentoring as discipleship helps me rethink things. While mentoring seems like a good thing to do, discipleship is a non-negotiable for Christians. In addition, Robinson focuses on mentoring in a communal setting vs. the typical 1-on-1 style. (I do think that the group model has become more popular in recent years.)

Since I’ve only recently experienced Robinson’s book, I don’t have any testimonials about how this method has worked for me. However, I’m excited about the opportunity to put into practice what I’ve learned. I’m particularly excited about the fact that I don’t have to do a lot of contextualizing/translating, because Robinson has taken into consideration how issues of diversity (age, gender, ethnicity, culture, etc.) impact discipleship/mentoring efforts. If you’d like to know more about Robinson or Mentoring for Life, check out her website.



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Leaders on the Margins

4 comments Written on March 21st, 2016     
Filed under: Book & Commentary

Nilwona Nowlin currently serves as the Administrative Specialist for Governance for the ECC and is a member of the Christian Community Development Association and the Redbud Writers Guild. In her “spare time,” she teaches workshops about living successfully as an introvert. Nilwona is a member of the Kingdom Covenant Church (Chicago) launch team and randomly blogs about random things at thedreamerspeaks.

the_next_worship (2) (2)A few months ago, Covenant Pastor Gail Song Bantum posted about her 2015 experience of only reading works written by women of color and her 2016 commitment to expand that to only reading works written by women and men of color. Though it wasn’t an intentional move on my part, the majority of the books I have read, am reading or am planning to read for 2016 are authored by women of color. One of those books, “The Next Worship: Glorifying God in a Diverse World,” was written by a friend and colleague, Sandra Van Opstal. Sandra currently serves as the Executive Pastor at Grace and Peace Community and has served with the Covenant, but I met her when we were both selected for the CCDA’s Leadership Cohort #4. My life is definitely better because Sandra and I crossed paths; partly because of intentional moments when she poured into me and partly because of moments when I gleaned from her just being herself.

Some years ago, a few of my cohort colleagues, including Sandra, were having a conversation about how leaders of color are often identified versus what this practice looks like in the dominant white culture. The significant nugget that I gleaned from Sandra that day was this: In communities of color, individuals are often invited into leadership. Even if someone thinks that they’re gifted for leadership, they will wait until they are invited into leadership. (It is also often true for women of any ethnicity.) However, in white communities, individuals often self-identify as a leader and seek out leadership opportunities. As soon as Sandra shared this, I immediately began to reflect on other times in my life when I had stepped into leadership and saw the pattern. In fact, even in the present day, I am finally coming to the realization that this is one reason I have such a difficult time “selling” myself when it comes to pursuing leadership opportunities. It goes against my cultural upbringing.

So what does that mean for you? Two things. As you know by now, the Commission on Biblical Gender Equality’s “Develop a Deborah” initiative encourages Covenant congregations to actively identify and encourage women in their midst who are gifted for leadership.

Most times, when organizations or churches seek out candidates for leadership development, it’s communicated in a way that requires people to self-identify. While that may get you a handful of participants, I encourage you to play a more active role in the process. Don’t just throw an announcement in the church bulletin and wait for women to respond. Take time to have conversations with the Deborahs in your congregation, name their gifts and invite them into leadership (whether that’s training, active leadership or a combination of both).

Secondly, I encourage you to read Sandra’s book – not just as an individual but as a leadership team. Though the title suggests that it’s only for worship leaders, I can assure you that it’s not. While it is a discussion about worship practices, it is also very much a book about developing leaders. There are a number of practical tips on how to effectively develop leaders from various cultural contexts, and the book speaks to people from all ethnic backgrounds. I plan to implement some of Sandra’s lessons in my own context, and I hope that you will too.


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The Church in the Round: An Image of Biblical Equality

3 comments Written on July 14th, 2015     
Filed under: Book & Commentary


Jo Ann Deasy is an ordained Covenant pastor currently serving as the director of institutional initiatives and student research at the Association of Theological Schools in Pittsburgh, PA.

One of my favorite books on ecclesiology (that just means theology that focuses on the church) is Letty Russell’s The Church in the Round: Feminist Interpretation of the Church. Russell presents a single central image for her theology of church: the table. She draws on the biblical images of the eschatological banquet table, of Jesus dining with tax collectors and sinners, and of the last supper. This image of the church as a table, particularly as a round table, calls the church to be a place of equality, hospitality, and justice.

Russell draws on three specific table concepts to ground her work: a round table, a kitchen table, and a welcoming table. Perhaps central to these is the image of the round table. These images connect well with the Evangelical Covenant Church, a denomination that began with individuals gathered into small groups, perhaps around a table, to read and study the scriptures. It connects well with a denomination that emphasizes relationships and a sense of family, those who might be gathered in the kitchen for coffee and conversation. It connects well with a denomination that believes all who have faith in Jesus Christ should have a place at the table, an equal place regardless or race, gender, class, or age. Russell’s images evoke what is at the heart of the denomination and push us to consider the full implications of our commitment to the church as a fellowship of believers committed to the whole mission of God. Continue Reading »

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Do Women and Men Lead Differently?

1 Comment » Written on March 9th, 2015     
Filed under: Book & Commentary

Jo Ann Deasy is an ordained Covenant pastor currently serving as the director of institutional initiatives and student research at the Association of Theological Schools in Pittsburgh, PA

IMG_0041When a church considers hiring a woman associate pastor, they often do so because they believe a woman will provide balance to the pastoral team. There is the assumption that she will lead differently, reach different people, understand pastoral ministry from a uniquely feminine perspective. In 1993, sociologist Ed Lehman decided to find out if this was really true. He surveyed over 500 clergy, half male and half female, as well as the laity in their congregations, asking them about their approach to leadership and how it was perceived by their congregations. The results, published in the book Gender and Work: The Case of the Clergy (1993), have been debated ever since.

Lehman’s work found that differences in leadership between male and female clergy were often minimal. Lehman did find that female clergy were slightly more empowering than male clergy. He found that female clergy tended to lead with their congregations rather than over them. He also found, though, that male clergy also often led in ways that were culturally considered more feminine, empowering, and coming alongside. Continue Reading »

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Book Review – Women in the Church: A Biblical Theology of Women in Ministry

3 comments Written on September 9th, 2014     
Filed under: Book & Commentary

Submitted by:
Dru McLeland

I am currently following God’s call in the footsteps of my great grandmother, Drusilla, who was a traveling evangelist in the Methodist Episcopal Church, my father, Paul, and my Aunt Dorothy who were ordained ministers and my mother who was a Bible teacher and speaker, all in the Free Methodist Church.  Currently, I am a full-time student at Northern Theological Seminary in Lombard, IL pursuing a Master of Divinity degree with emphasis in worship and spirituality.  I spent an exciting summer completing my clinical pastoral education requirements in the ACPE program of the Adventist Midwest Health hospital system.

One of the things that drew me to the Evangelical Covenant Church is the affirmation of “both men and women as ordained ministers and at every level of leadership” informed by the word of God” (“Covenant Affirmations” found here.) There is a long history of women in pastoral ministry in my family and denomination of origin. I am surprised by God’s call to ministry on my own life, but not because I am a woman. However, as I experienced and witnessed gender-based resistance from others concerning God’s call, I realized my own need for better understanding of this call. In light of this, I look for books that might be helpful.

women in the church picI was excited to find a book written by Stanley J. Grenz, one of my favorite theologians, and Denise Muir Kjesbo called Women in the Church: A Biblical Theology of Women in Ministry (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1995, ISBN 0830818626). Grenz and Kjesbo engage the common evangelical debate over women in ministry from an affirming historical, scriptural and theological Christian evangelical perspective. Continue Reading »

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Under Construction – a book review

Post a Comment » Written on December 15th, 2013     
Filed under: Book & Commentary

Submitted by:
Jeff Ondrey, CBGE member

under const 2Under Construction: Reframing Men’s Spirituality written by Gareth Brandt is a book about the soul of a man.  It takes a very different view than much of what we have read about what it means to be a man. Different than books like Wild at Heart or Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche, Brandt looks into the scriptures for an example a true spiritual man. Joseph, son of Jacob is his selected model. He uses his own occasional poetry and relevant scriptural passages to illustrate what he has labeled the various metaphors for constructing a men’s spirituality, including: beloved, dreamer, wounded, journey, sexuality, gifts, builder, reflection, reconciliation and legacy. So what does this have to do with Biblical Gender Equality. Plenty. It provides a different model of spirituality and character for men than our culture, even our western Christian culture would dictate.  Continue Reading »

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And The Winner Is…

Post a Comment » Written on November 26th, 2013     
Filed under: Book & Commentary

Mackenzie M. is the winner selected randomly from those who commented on the book review about “Ties That Bind.” She wins the copy of the book so generously donated by the author, Marie Bostwick. Congratulations Mackenzie! Lisa Olson will be contacting you for an address for mailing the book. Thank you all for your comments and letting us know you are out there.

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Drawing For Book – Deadline is Saturday

Post a Comment » Written on November 19th, 2013     
Filed under: Book & Commentary

Saturday, November 23 at noon EST will be the random drawing for the winner of the book Ties That Bind from those submitting comments to the book review by Lisa Olsen below. At current count there is a one in 16 chance of being selected as the winner. Post a comment today for a chance to win.

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