Carolyn Custis James delivered a lecture on her book “Half the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Women” Wednesday evening in a discussion on problems confronting women in today’s world.
Karen Jobes, professor of New Testament Greek and exegesis, introduced James by acknowledging her recognition in a recent “Christianity Today” article entitled “50 Women You Should Know” and calling her an evangelical thinker and leader with the courage to confront gender issues in a complex world.
James presented her lecture as a series of inquiries, elaborating on her journey to write the book as she asked progressively broader questions and evoked chuckles and sounds of agreement from the audience throughout.
James said that the 21st-century landscape for women is a world of extremes. There are helpless women throughout the world as well as women in positions of great power whose voices are heard. James’ journey to understand this contradictory concept focused on the Bible. Is its message “robust enough to stand up under the weight of evil in the world?” James asked. Her goal was to find the vision encompassing the whole issue of gender relations around the world.
James listed three “pivotal questions” produced from her life experiences that served as the foundation for the writing of her book. The first arose after her graduation from college when she found there was no one she wanted to marry. James had been raised to find fulfillment in marriage and family life. With this lacking, James began to look at other women’s lives and ask bigger questions about her biblical calling.
The second question came to James in the wake of 9/11. How does the Bible relate to women in other cultures? This further expanded the scope of her book.
The third question came after James read the book “Half the Sky” that details the plight of women around the world trapped in circumstances such as human trafficking.
“Does God’s vision for women reach that far?” James asked. How do you talk about purity to a woman who has been trafficked?
To answer these questions, James began with Genesis 1, resolving to find God’s vision for men and women and not to trivialize the matter by falling into stereotypical jokes.
First, she explained that men and women are God’s image bearers. This should shatter the idea that women or anyone else should ever be devalued.
Second, God created the woman as a suitable helper. There was nothing wrong with man, but God brought man and woman together to be partners in a global mandate.
Third, God blessed man and woman and gave them this global mission to be accomplished through the “blessed alliance” of man and woman. This is God’s vision for the world of harmonious gender relations, James said.
James offered practical applications of her message.
“We need to get away from gender battle,” James said. “(We) are not called to be on an assault against (men).”
This could be facilitated by having more conversations between men and women to address the complications in gender relationships.
It will be “messy and in fits and starts,” James said. Even so, she explained, the global mandate given by God can be more fully accomplished when men and women are working together, and this calling from God is what is most important.
Photo Credit: Chloe Cucinotta
Printed in the October 26, 2012, issue of The Wheaton Record. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.