The Seismic Implications of #MeToo

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“This is a larger cultural change away from patriarchy . . . an epic cultural change.”       —David Zurawik

The Baltimore Sun’s media critic David Zurawik’s astute observation came on the heels of the precipitous downfalls of three powerful men who once seemed invincible: Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, and Harvey Weinstein. All three were accused of sexual harassment and assault by women in their organizations.

Sexual harassment and assault are crimes of power, which men—especially men in positions of power and prominence—have recklessly committed. They do so with the arrogant but all-too-often accurate assumption that they will never face a day of reckoning.

When caught (and most are not) their first defense is a barrage of denials and verbal attacks to shame, discredit, and silence their accusers. If that fails, they often rely on cronyism and the urgency of protecting lucrative business careers or the company’s reputation to save them.

Compared to what victims suffer, the worst consequences these perpetrators face is a fine or costly settlement, followed by resuming business as usual. Not so for their traumatized victims. According to one sexual assault survivor, “My pain is everyday.”

But now, that day of reckoning has come.

Women are Speaking Out

What breached the “good old boy” system that up to now protected men from facing repercussions for their sexual offences is the fact that women are speaking out. What started as a few brave women pressing charges has escalated into a deafening chorus of female voices insisting they will be heard.

The first major collective protest was the Women’s March on January 21, 2017 when millions of pink-hatted women spilled into post-inauguration America’s city streets to demand the end of the sexual mistreatment of women. If their message didn’t sink in, the current #MeToo Twitter storm magnified their protest with scores of women bravely telling personal stories of sexual harassment and assault and plenty of women recalling memories they’d like to forget.

An indicator of just how difficult and painful it is for women talk about what was done to them are the tweets that simply say #MeToo. That alone takes a lot of courage. Filling in the details or identifying the perpetrator is simply asking too much.

Suddenly men who once assumed they could get away with anything are finding they can no longer buy or bluff or bully their way out of a jam. Even the current Oval Office occupant hasn’t heard the last from his accusers or about his own self-incriminating boasts.

#MeToo won’t be the last of it either. Former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson, whose sexual harassment allegations brought down her boss Roger Ailes, has become a lightening rod for women’s stories. Her new book, Be Fierce: Stop Harassment and Take your Power Back, retells those stories to raise awareness, bring an end to sexual harassment of women and girls, and help them find their voices and the courage to resist.

Suddenly no man is too big to suffer consequences for his sexual misconduct, even though some are still denying and insisting they’re the real victims. The day of reckoning has come, and it is long overdue.

But the cost for men when they are caught—embarrassing allegations, lawsuits, expensive settlements, and falls from grace—goes well beyond what these men fear. The damage they are inflicting on themselves is far worse than any consequence an accuser or even a court of law can bring.

When Men Sabotage Themselves

Tucked inside my copy of Charles Williams’ novel, Descent Into Hell, that I read in college was an article titled “Heaven and Hell Under Every Bush.” The article, written by English Professor Thomas Howard, analyzes Williams’ thought and retains enormous relevance in today’s #MeToo world.

The small nuances of our day-to-day attitudes, acts, and words brought to their final fruition, turn out to be the stuff that heaven and hell are made of. . . . Every attitude, act, and word of ours partakes, alas, of either charity or egoism. Nothing is quite neutral. (We cannot read the prophets or the Sermon on the Mount without becoming alarmed over this.) Charity is what heaven is made of, and egoism is what hell is made of. One way or another, I am becoming more and more at home in one or the other. . . . The whole conflict of heaven and hell crops up at our elbow a thousand times a day. Everything in our experience seems to carry an enormous weight or significance.

When a man succumbs to his own narcissistic projections and sexually exploits or harasses a woman for his own self-gratification, he is degrading his own humanity and violating himself as a man. It is a man’s undoing to inflict harm on any of God’s image bearers, which only by the grace of God will he be brought to see.

Even more serious, the predatory attitudes, actions and words of God’s image bearers are making false statements about God’s character—reflecting lies about him. Selfishness is destructive. Selflessness is gospel. We become our best selves as human beings and more truly like our Creator when we love our neighbor as ourselves and put the interests of others ahead of ourselves.

Instead of a threat, this kind of man is truly good news for women.

Adversaries or Allies?

The seismic cultural shift that Zurawik identified was well underway long before the Women’s March or the bold #MeToo tweets. The seeds of that shift were planted in the Garden at the beginning of time. That’s when God defined how he wants his world to work when he created his male and female image bearers and commissioned them to do his work in the world together.

Patriarchy was waiting for humanity outside the Garden after the fall. In the hinterlands of Eden human rule over creation was distorted as men assumed power over women and men began to exert power over other men. Patriarchy was never God’s intention. It is proving its destructive powers against women and also against men as the #MeToo tweets continue.

Yes, Zurawik is right. Something bigger is going on. The epic cultural shift away from patriarchy that we are witnessing takes on new meaning and gains new power when Jesus’ gospel drives it. As Christians, we are called to embody and advance this great reversal.

For more about this hope-filled endeavor, see Malestrom: Manhood Swept into the Currents of a Changing World

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Give Yourself a Day-Late Reformation 500 Treat!

9780310257431Trust me, this is no trick. This deal is totally sweet!

Church History Volume 2 (Kindle version) is now on sale. This normally expensive book (hardcover $36.88 on Amazon) and heavy (a couple of inches thick) is currently available on Kindle for $8.99!

My favorite church historian, Frank A. James III, wrote the Reformation and the Modern Church sections. If you’ve ever read anything he’s written, you’ll know what I mean when I say these chapters are gripping and shockingly honest.

Frank isn’t into hagiography. He’s a truth teller–even about his favorite theologians. Those who know him have heard him say, “God works through sinners to accomplish his good purposes.”

That should gives hope to all of us.

I read every word he wrote and, to be honest, just reading his chapters is worth purchasing the hard copy. But for the moment, you can have this book instantly at your fingertips for a steal of a price.

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The Pigtails that Sparked a Revolution

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Martin Luther, the confirmed celibate priest, had no intentions of marrying. He had theology on his mind. As it turned out, no one was more surprised than Luther to find himself at the marriage altar. Instead, as he later recalled, “Suddenly and when my mind was on other matters, the Lord snared me with the yoke of matrimony.”

What Luther discovered to his own surprise was that good theology has a way of touching down in places none of us expect. The impact of his theology of marriage would ultimately blindside him and totally change his life…for the better.

The forces of holy matrimony began closing in on an unsuspecting Luther when a wagonload of shipping barrels were deposited on his doorstep. Those barrels, originally packed with a cartload of herring that was unloaded at a convent, now contained surprising cargo: twelve renegade nuns who had defected from Catholicism to Protestantism and had appealed to Luther for help.

Matchmaker Luther

Luther was tasked with the responsibility of finding proper homes for the former nuns. Three were safely returned to their families. But families of the remaining nine refused to take their daughters back. So it fell to Luther to find husbands for them. He began systematically arranging marriages for the remaining nine.

He successfully found husbands for eight out of the nine. That left Katherine von Bora, who was proving hard to please. Luther came up with a couple of different options. None of them would do.

In 1953, the Lutheran Church produced a biographical film about Luther which portrayed a stymied Luther fruitlessly proposing candidates for Katie, when he saw a look in her eye that left him squirming nervously. The next scene was their wedding—a marriage of convenience for her and of inconvenience for him, or so he thought.

No one would have suspected the ultimate outcome of their relationship when a doleful Luther remarked, “I feel neither passionate love nor burning for her.”

Luther would discover, much to his surprise, that along with the theological and religious changes the Reformation was advancing, his marriage to the strong, smart, capable Kate would spark a social revolution as impactful as the Reformation of doctrine.

The Reformation of Marriage

Obviously the freedom for clergy to marry was yet another significant Protestant break with Roman Catholic doctrine (then and now). In his pre-Katie von Bora days, Luther had argued from his study of scripture that the requirement of celibacy for the priesthood was unbiblical. Within the Catholic Church, that should have been obvious, given the fact that the Apostle Peter—regarded as the first pope—had a mother-in-law. Justification (pun intended) for Luther’s marriage to Kate was theological and pragmatic. Over time, due to his relationship with Kate, his understanding of the value of marriage would deepen and a Blessed Alliance between them would take shape.

Beyond their marriage, Luther’s revolutionary views of celibacy and marriage created a seismic cultural shift. It violated established negative views of women and marriage that were embedded in the church and still have a lingering effect.

I’m married to a church historian and Reformation scholar who on frequent occasions has pointed out the misogyny that permeates the works of the Early Church Fathers. These are the men who shaped much of today’s orthodox Christian theology and doctrinal creeds. But when it came to their theology of marriage and women, these men were entrenched in their culture and they missed the truth by a mile. Statements from them that we have on record seem to have more in common with some of today’s demeaning “locker room talk” regarding women than the Bible’s view of God’s daughters.

Only think of the devastating impact when men of theological stature and acumen assert that celibacy is godly and marriage is not (Jerome) or that women are “not the image of God” (St. Augustine). Origin described women as “worse than animals,” and Tertullian added his two bits when he accused women of being “the devil’s gateway”—fueling the enduring notion of women as temptresses.

Aristotle believed that a woman is a “botched male.” According to Albert the Great, the fairer sex has a “defective nature,” and is “a poisonous snake” and “a horned devil.” Odo of Cluny employed scatological language, portraying women as “a sack of manure.”

We may roll our eyes at such outrageous language, but those Church Father’s words have done lasting damage in diminishing women to an unspoken but no less real second-class status vis-à-vis men in the wider culture and also in the church.

So when Luther revoked the celibacy requirement for the clergy, he was undermining long-held cultural and religious assumptions about both women and marriage. When he stood at the marriage altar to become Kate’s lawfully wedded husband, he was living out his theology.

But what is most remarkable with Luther and Kate is that, in their case, marriage didn’t simply mean companionship, the house swept clean, dinner served on time, and little ones underfoot. Over time, their relationship took a radical turn that changed everything for both of them.

Luther and Katie Cracked the Code

Much to his surprise, Martin Luther fell deeply in love with his wife. He quickly grew to treasure, admire, and respect his German bride. Although he remained a man of his time in many respects, he found her strengths were assets on which he could safely rely. Katie brought strength to their relationship and was a capable manager of their home and of their farm. Best of all, she was a spiritual ally and a source of courage in the ongoing battles he fought with opposition, death threats, and bouts of depression.

Luther became utterly devoted to her.

On his last journey, he penned letters to her in which he playfully addressed her as “Housewife of the Heart” and “Madam Pig-Marketer,” affectionately signing his letters as “your old love-bird” and “the willing servant of your Holiness.”

At his death, Luther broke with cultural protocol, naming Katie (instead of a male relative) as the executor of his will. He wrote, “I appoint you, Katie, as universal heiress. You bore the children and gave them your breast. You will not manage their affairs to their disadvantage. I am hostile to guardians, who seldom do things correctly.”

Their Blessed Alliance was fortified by their shared commitment to their Protestant faith and an ever deepening love for each other. They were in the battle together—no matter what God put in their path—ministering to their sick and dying neighbors during the Black Plague (instead of fleeing as other did) or staying strong together in the adversity the Reformation brought their way. Their confidence and trust in God and in each other was profound. We are the beneficiaries of their Blessed Alliance.

Pigtails on His Pillow

We should thank God that Martin Luther faced the shock of Katie’s pigtails on his pillow. It was the beginning of a good man’s great awakening to God’s wisdom in creating his male and female image bearers to join forces and do his work together. The church rightly credits Luther for breaking theological ground with respect to celibacy, marriage, and women. But we do him and Katie a great disservice if we stop there and fail to recognize the bigger implications of their marriage.

Their relationship went well beyond establishing the equality of women and men or simply getting along. Together, Martin and Katie point us to the power unleashed when God’s sons and daughters join forces to strengthen each other and advance God’s kingdom together. Their Blessed Alliance is a worthy study and corrective for the church in reassessing the state of relationships between brothers and sisters in Christ and reminding us that we all have more ground to gain in forging that Blessed Alliance.


Originally published at MissioAlliance.org

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Harbinger of Moody’s Ezer-Warrior Video

I love Moody Bible Institute’s powerful H.E.R. video released at their 2017 Missions Conference in Chicago earlier this month. Having said that, I can’t resist mentioning another powerful video that broke new ground for women on the global stage back in 2010.

The setting was the 2010 Lausanne in Cape Town, South Africa where I represented the Synergy Women’s Network. Lausanne was a gathering of several thousand representatives from nations around the world. The focus was evangelism. The conference theme was “The Whole World, Taking the Whole Gospel, To the Whole World.

Nathan Clarke of FourthLineFilms.com produced the video on behalf of Synergy women. I wrote the script, applying Lausanne’s theme to women.

The video debuted during a Lausanne plenary session, while a team of international translators communicated the words into different languages.

These videos are powerful vehicles to convey a strong message for and about women! Who will produce #3?

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Moody Takes the Lead Again!

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It was a week to remember. What happened that week was enough to create a serious case of cultural vertigo. It was a dizzying clash of perspectives on women.

The worst of it came when movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment scandal broke. The best by far was Moody Bible Institute’s 2017 Missions Conference in Chicago. The contrast between the two events couldn’t have been more stark.

While dozens of women were coming forward to accuse Weinstein for decades of sexual harassment and assault, something vastly different was happening in Chicago. In the most emphatic way Moody Bible Institute (MBI) was honoring and celebrating the legacy and promise of Moody women—past, present, and future.

The week was loaded with exclamation points.

Moody’s Feminine Legacy

At its founding, MBI was at the forefront of biblical and theological education for women. The mission of God was paramount, and the door for training wide open to anyone who sensed God’s call to ministry.

MBI produced some extraordinary women. My early childhood impressions of Moody were of MBI’s female graduates who were teachers, authors, missionaries, and leaders who influenced my mother when she was a young girl and also as an adult.

Even the founding of the school bears the influence of a woman. That fact was highlighted during the conference and honored with the announcement of the Emma Dryer Legacy Award to be awarded annually to a MBI alumna with five to fifteen years in urban ministry.

Maybe it was because other educational institutions have been catching up. Maybe it was because the pendulum at Moody regarding women took a swing in another  direction. But this year, things changed. MBI stepped up again to take the lead.

H.E.R.

I’ve been to plenty of conferences that strongly affirmed the gifts and callings of women—both Christian and secular. This conference topped them all.

First, there was the conference theme: H.E.R. an acronym for Honor, Empower, and Release intended to honor women in ministry, with a T-shirt to go with it. (I’ll let you guess who’s wearing the T-shirt.)

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Second, came the powerful poster that represented women as the ezer-warrior. The combined effect of the theme and the image gave rise to a short-lived controversy. “Are women supposed to be gladiators?” “Is this a women’s only conference?”

The stated intention of the image was “to convey a simple yet elegant image of a strong woman, a warrior and woman of valor.” With support from Moody’s administration and all of the missions organizations participating (not to mention backing from the Apostle Paul who instructs both men and women to “put on the whole armor of God”) the conference committee stood firm. The ezer-warrior image survived, and she appeared in all her glory in the conference opening session.

Third, the conference reached back into the past to acknowledge the strong legacy of Moody women through poignant student monologues and spoken word. The often forgotten Emma Dryer headed the list (see “Behind Every Great Man is a Great Woman”).

According to Moody Missions Conference Director Clive Craigen, “As important as D.L. Moody was to the founding of [this institution], equally without Emma Dryer there is no Moody Bible Institute.”

MBI student actors represented four courageous female missionaries—either as the women themselves or as the woman’s husband or nephew. The dramatizations included Eleanor Chestnut, M.D., a medical missionary in China who was martyred.

Fourth, the entire conference opened and closed with the earthshaking video below. I say “earthshaking” because both times they showed it, the whole place rocked with the roar of the students. I can still hear them!

See if it doesn’t make your heart pound as it did mine.

The building physically did shake during Thursday evening’s Ethnefest. The whole evening is a celebration of cultures and languages through worship, spoken word (poetry), and dance.

That evening I had a near-mosh-pit experience. That’s what I get for sitting too close to the front. (Those who know me will understand how awkward that could have been.)

The Blessed Alliance Comes to MBI

As for my part, I was invited to be what I later learned was the “first female headlining speaker” for a MBI missions conference. In addition to two Q&A sessions (with faculty and students respectively) and Dr. Pamela MacRae’s class on “Theology and Philosophy of Women in Ministry,” I spoke for the three morning sessions. At their request, I based my messages on three of my books: Lost Women of the Bible, Half the Church, and The Gospel of Ruth (with a bit of Malestrom thrown in).

My focus was the Blessed Alliance. I gave them Eve at creation and followed with three narratives that display the blessed male/female alliance in action: Esther and Mordecai, Mary and Joseph, and (of course) Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz.

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A Win-Win for God’s Daughters and Sons

Conversations that followed with students and faculty were high points for me. Although I love to hear it, I’m no longer surprised when women tell me the image bearer/ezer-warrior/Blessed Alliance message struck a chord with them. Deep down inside we know God calls us to this. That message honors, empowers, and releases women and girls to embrace God’s calling on our lives.

What may come as a surprise to some is that the same message honors, empowers, and releases men and boys too. That’s what the men at Moody told me. At the end of the conference, one male student said it directly: “Your messages were really empowering.”

It is a marvel and a mystery—that when God raises up his daughters to love and serve him with their whole lives, men don’t pay a price. They benefit, for God created his sons and daughters to serve him together.

Like I said, it’s hard to imagine a sharper contrast or greater dissonance between what I was witnessing at Moody and the appalling evidence of sexual abuse and assaults that was turning up in the media. The #MeToo tweets reveal that all too often, instead of experiencing honor, empowerment, and release, far too many women and girls are objectified, degraded, and abused. It’s encouraging that women are finding their voices and speaking out.

Not only does this once again open the door for the church to take a prominent role in opposing abuse no matter who does it or what form it takes. It is also (and we can take our cues from MBI) to be known for proclaiming a far better message for women and girls–to be known for honoring, empowering, and releasing them to embrace all that God calls them to be and to do.

Craigen “urged the Moody community to not forget that women were the first ones to see the resurrected Christ, and during Jesus’ life, his speech with women at the time was culturally scandalous.”

In the wake of discomfort with the warrior imagery of H.E.R. and with the urgency that comes from seeing women mistreated, he went on to add,

“Perhaps, through a little ‘intentional dissonance,’ by allying with the committee, the administration, and the missions organizations to graciously encourage women to speak, the student body will do well to become a little more ‘culturally scandalous.'”

Once again Moody is taking the lead. Let’s pray many others will follow their example.

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God Bless the Girl Child!

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Hyderabad, India (2011

On December 19, 2011, the United Nations General Assembly declared October 11 the official International Day of the Girl Child. In today’s world, there are 1.1 billion of her, and she is reason both for celebration and for concern.

Girls are curious, creative, and courageous in surprising ways. They are insatiable learners, inventive, and born leaders. It’s in their DNA.

The girls in these photos are also thriving. They are loved and nurtured. Their thirst for knowledge is being fed. Those who love them also believe in them and in the gifts God has entrusted to them. Their futures are bright, and I find it joyfully energizing to be around them.

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But not every little ezer born in the world is so blessed.

Patriarchy tilts the world in favor of boys, with appalling consequence for girls everywhere. Girls are often devalued, deprived of educated, marginalized, and even discarded. In many places, being born female amounts to a capital offense. Millions of girls have been aborted, abandoned, their little lives snuffed out for no other reason than they are girls. Girls can be considered liabilities instead of assets. In developing nations, child marriage rates are epidemic, with one in three girls married off before the age of eighteen. For her family—one less mouth to feed. But early marriage means formal education comes to a halt for these child brides.

In creating an official International Day of the Girl Child the UN “focuses attention on the need to address the challenges girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.”

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On this year’s International Day of the Girl Child, the United Nations is highlighting girls in crisis regions. Wars, famines, dislocation, and terrorism escalate the already high risks girls already face.

Every 10 minutes, somewhere in the world, an adolescent girl dies as a result of violence. In humanitarian emergencies, gender-based violence often increases, subjecting girls to sexual and physical violence, child marriage, exploitation and trafficking. Adolescent girls in conflict zones are 90 per cent more likely to be out of school when compared to girls in conflict-free countries, compromising their future prospects for work and financial independence as adults.

When the United Nations becomes a collective voice of advocacy for the girl child, it also raises the question, what is the church doing for girls? Does the church see girls as assets—not simply as future wives and mothers—but for the gifts God has entrusted to them? Do we have a vision for girls that will inspire them to reach for all God calls them to be and do? Do we value them as indispensable to the work God calls us all to do—as problem solvers, innovators, strategic thinkers, light bearers, gospel ministers now, not just as adults?

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According to the Creator, every girl child born bears his image and is an ezer-warrior from birth. When creating the female, he was emphatic that “It is not good” for her brothers to be without her. This is not because brothers need their sisters for menial tasks they can easily do for themselves. The Creator wasn’t demeaning men and boys. To the contrary, he was underscoring the enormous scope of their joint mission, the daunting challenges and fierce resistance they would face together, and the fact that the work he entrusts to humanity requires all hands on deck.

Seems the Creator was well ahead of the UN in affirming and empowering the girl child. Shouldn’t we as Christians be leading the charge when it comes to valuing and empowering the girl child in our midst and beyond?

At least one pastor thinks so. My friend Ashley Schnarr Easter was profoundly moved by that pastor’s prayer during the baptism/dedication of a baby girl–a little ezer she described as “an adorable little thing with a good set of lungs on her.”

As the pastor prayed over her, he prayed that she would always use that strong voice, that she would become a great spiritual leader and lead all of us watching, that she would do daring things so bold that others will be amazed by her courage. He prayed that she would always feel loved and welcomed by the Church and that no one would ever give her reason to feel unsafe there.

This is what the church should wish for all little girls (and boys).

Amen to that!


The Called and Courageous Girls book series is a great resource to get started with little girls ages 3-7.  A Brave Big Sister: A Bible Story About Miriam is shipping now!

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To read about a courageous girl in crisis: “Construction of the Glass Ceiling Starts Early”

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Behind Every Great Man is a Great Woman

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The old adage, “Behind every great man is a great woman,” certainly rings true at Moody Bible Institute (MBI). The story of the founding of this well-known Christian institution provides a classic example of a strong alliance between a man and a woman. It also demonstrates what all too often happens: that history does a better job of remembering great men than the great women in their stories.

In American evangelical history, the 19th century revivalist, Dwight L. Moody (1836-1899) stands tall as MBI’s founder. Less known is Emma Dryer (1835-1925), the woman and experienced educator he met in 1870.

Dryer was the original visionary, inspiration, and impetus for the school.

Also noteworthy is that fact that from its founding, MBI was ahead of the curve in their commitment to train women for vocational ministry. Long before Christian colleges and seminaries were admitting women and decades before women gained the right to vote, MBI was training women.

Moody and Dryer shared the conviction that training women for ministry was strategic for the spread of the gospel in America. Together they were intentional about acting on that commitment. Initially their educational efforts focused on women’s significant potential as evangelists to reach other women and children.

But their alliance created a new and broader vision as Moody recognized Dryer’s giftedness as an educator, Bible teacher, and evangelist. As the story goes,

“Moody asked Dryer to oversee a ministry specifically to train women for evangelistic outreach and missionary work. Under Dryer’s leadership, the training program grew rapidly, and so did her desire for this ministry to reach men as well as women. She continued to pray that the Lord would place the idea for such a school on Moody’s heart.”

After founding two schools in Massachusetts (one for girls and a second for boys), Moody ultimately came to share her vision for a school in Chicago. In 1886, he launched the Chicago Evangelization Society that ultimately became the Moody Bible Institute.

MBI is mindful and proud of their feminine heritage and the accomplishments of their female graduates. Their 2017 Missions Conference will highlight the legacy of their feminine side and pay tribute to a constellation of female leaders that Moody trained.

So this Monday, October 9, I’m heading for Chicago where I’ll be speaking on the Blessed Alliance at MBI’s 2017 Missions Conference. This is one place where men and women serving God together comes with a long history.

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