Thursday, 24 March 2011

We will speak out

Violence against women and girls: it's still a shocking problem.

I've long been passionate that the church should lead the way in trying to change our culture and address this issue, rather than lagging behind others or ignoring it altogether.

I was pleased to hear today about a new Anglican initiative to 'speak out'. Not sure why I heard in an email from a Canadian friend, but maybe that says something about the level of awareness (or lack of it) in the UK!

The Archbishop of Canterbury recently welcomed senior church leaders and international development agencies to Lambeth Palace to pledge that the church will play a part in ending sexual violence, and to launch a Tearfund report, 'Silent No More' (see photo).

Read more about this here, and you can download the 'Silent no more' report and pledge your commitment to it here.

While at theological college I helped out on a domestic violence helpline, and chose to do some research on Christian responses to domestic violence for a theological college essay. That was eventually published as a Grove booklet for Home is Where the Hurt is. The booklet is out of print, but the text is still available, for download: click here (scroll to the bottom of the lists of articles).

In whatever way, we will, we must, 'speak out', to see an end to the sexual violence which blights the lives of so many women and girls all over the world.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

100 Most Inspiring Women

Today is International Women's Day!

It's a day to celebrate the achievements of women, and one of my colleagues handed me a copy of today's Guardian supplement: 100 most inspiring women.

The list of women has been drawn up from a list of more than 3,000 suggestions from readers. I wonder if there were any leaders from the churches in that original list, because there aren't any in the remaining 100.

But there are some women who have inspired me: Aung San Suu Kyi, Ellen MacArthur, Germaine Greer, Tanni Grey-Thompson. And there are plenty of women I've never heard of, whose stories I've been reading and whom I want to find out more about.

There's no doubt about it: the stories of other women can inspire us. And as I think I have written before in a blog, research suggests that for women, role models are particularly important. Inspiring Women, by Ruth Perrin, explores this and highlights some women in the Bible who might be models.

But this list of 100 women has got me thinking: who are my top 10 Inspiring Women? If I'm allowed to include biblical women, I'd say Mary Magdalene, Priscilla and Junia; then from church history I'd pick some more: there were some remarkable women who went to preach the gospel in America, and from the nineteenth century one of my favourites is Geraldine Hooper, a remarkable evangelist from Bath whom no-one has ever heard of! And from those alive today: the Ranger Guide leader whose Christian faith shone out when I was a teenager; Valerie Griffiths (former OMF missionary, and energetic advocate for women's equality) Jessica Jackley (co-founder of Kiva), Kate Coleman (Baptist minister), and others who are pioneering in various ways in the church...

Wouldn't it be great is the next list like this had some women who were noted for their Christian faith?

Who is in your top 10?

Friday, 4 March 2011

The New NIV

I baulked when my devotional reading a couple of days ago invited me to pray: 'let me be a "man of peace".'

OK, so she (it is a woman!) used inverted commas, but one of her texts is Psalm 37:37: 'Consider the blameless, observe the upright; there is a future for the man of peace'' Has she never realised that there are more inclusive Bible versions?

Back in the bad old days I often used to challenge speakers or write to publishers to lament their lack of inclusion, with a variety of responses. A well-known evangelist went straight to the college book room to buy a new Bible; others were uncomprehending. But I may not have to get so exasperated for much longer. The new NIV has arrived!

Revising the NIV has been a difficult business. I can remember a meeting at Hodders back in the 1990s, which resulted in the 'NIVI' (1996) - the 'I' standing for 'inclusive' . It was intended as a revision, but became an addition to the 1984 NIV, because a conservative N American lobby was strongly opposed to it. Then in 2002/2005 we got the TNIV, again meant to be a revision, but becoming yet another addition to the 'original' NIV, which held its place in the popularity stakes and pew version.

Now, the 2011 NIV is the NIV! It's published this month, but is already available at

It's reassuring to read that the Committee on Bible Translation worked with Collins Dictionaries to look at changes in gender language. As a result, many of the gender language changes introduced in the TNIV were verified and retained, some revert back to the 1984 edition, and some have been handled differently.

To give some clues, plural is used to avoid use of 'he' or 'him'; 'mankind' is used, not 'humankind'; 'God and man' as a pair appears, but human beings collectively are 'people' , not 'men'; Junia is female and an apostle, and Phoebe a deacon.

So now scholars are eagerly assessing whether the new NIV is a success - and that will depend on one's starting point!

In a recent post for CBE, John Kohlenberger reckoned this is a major improvement to the 1978/1984 NIV. A review in Priscilla Papers is pleased too, though slightly worried that it could have been better. I think that in the current climate, the Committee have done well, and that we will be well served by this new edition of what has become such a popular translation in evangelical circles.

To look at test case passages try: Psalm 68:11; Romans 16:1-2; Romans 16:7; 1 Corinthians 11:2-12; 1 Timothy 2:5; 1 Timothy 2:11-12; 1 Timothy 3:11.

For more technical info go to BibleGateway for a link to the note from the Committee with more examples; or Robert Slowley has a site with full texts of the 1984 NIV, 2005 TNIV and 2011 NIV book by book and verse by verse.