Justice + Unity: Toward the Healing of a Fractured Church

Part 3: Women in the Kingdom

Conversations between women and men in the church often focus on theological positions about leadership and authority, and once conclusions are drawn, we tend to move on. However, there is more at stake than exegetical and theological positions. Those discussions are important, but we need to explore some larger questions about the practical day-to-day life of the church.

As we conclude our Justice + Unity series, we are inviting the people of God to reflect on the experience of women in the church—how they are flourishing and how they are marginalized—and to consider how the body of Christ can recognize their giftings and encourage them in their callings. We know that we are one body, and that as we invite Christ into these critical conversations, we can grow in unity as brothers and sisters. Click here for more background on the series.

Planning for the Conversation

The key question driving this event is drawn from Carolyn Custis James' work in her book "Half the Church": Is our vision for women robust enough to enlist and empower all women to bring all their gifts to the body of Christ? If not, at what cost?

We invite pastors, leaders and individuals to join the conversation. As we prepare for this event, we want to remember that it will not be a debate, asking attendees to choose "sides." That approach can be polarizing and lead to division. Rather, we will ask attendees to reflect on their understanding of Scripture, to listen to the experience of women and to consider, "How does God use women in the kingdom?" and "How does He call women and men to partner together for the gospel?"

Here are some other questions we will explore together:

  • What vision do women and men in the church have for the contribution of women in God's kingdom?
  • Is this vision biblical and inclusive enough to recognize and encourage women in any circumstance (e.g., single or married, with or without children, stay-at-home or in the workplace) to use their gifts?
  • How has God historically used women in the kingdom, especially in the early years of the Christian church?
  • What support and encouragement can the church provide to disciple, mentor and encourage women with leadership gifts or circumstances that require them to work in professional fields?
  • How can churches be prepared to respond faithfully when women share stories of sexual abuse, assault or harassment? In our current cultural moment, we want to help church leaders respond with justice and mercy.

Conference Details and Registration

Registration includes attendance and lunch. Click here for a detailed schedule.

  • Date: Tuesday, April 16, 2019
  • Time: 9 a.m. - 3:45 p.m.
  • Location: Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, Matthews Performing Arts Center
  • Cost:
    • Regular Rate: $40
    • Student Rate: $25
    • CU Personnel (faculty/staff): $25

Register Now

Speakers and Panelists

Carolyn Custis James

Headshot of Carolyn Curtis JamesCarolyn is a member of Evangelicals for Justice and blogs at carolyncustisjames.com, Huffington Post/Religion and as a Leading Voice at Missio Alliance.

Her work focuses on the intersection between Christianity and 21st-century cultural issues facing women and men globally and has earned her recognition by Christianity Today as one of "50 Evangelical Women to Watch."

Lynn Cohick

Headshot of Lynn CohickLynn H. Cohick (Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania) is provost/dean and professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary. Previously, Lynn taught for three years at Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology in Nairobi, Kenya, and at Wheaton College (Ill.). She serves as president of the Institute for Biblical Research and on the U.S. board of Langham Partnership International.

Lynn's publications include "Christian Women in the Patristic World: Their Influence, Authority, and Legacy in the Second through the Fifth Centuries" (co-authored with Amy Brown Hughes, Baker Academic, Summer 2017); "Philippians in the Story of God Commentary" (Zondervan, 2013); "Ephesians in New Covenant Commentary" (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2010); and "Women in the World of the Earliest Christians" (Baker Academic, 2009).

Elizabeth Conde-Frazier

Headshot of Elizabeth Conde-FrazierRev. Dr. Elizabeth Conde-Frazier is a practical theologian. She is an ordained pastor of the American Baptist Churches with over 10 years of pastoral experience. She was founder of the Orlando E. Costas Hispanic and Latin American Ministries Program at Andover Newton Theological School and served as a tenured professor of religious education at the Claremont School of theology and as academic dean and vice president of education at Esperanza College of Eastern University.

Currently, Elizabeth is the coordinator of relations for theological entities at the Association of Hispanic Theological Education. Some of her publications are "Latina Evangelicas: A Theological Survey from the Margins," "A Many Colored Kingdom," "Hispanic Bible Institutes," "Listen to the Children" and numerous chapters on practical theology and religious education.

Dr. Conde-Frazier holds a Ph.D. from Boston College, a M.Div. from Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary and a B.A. From Brooklyn College, City University of New York.

Christina Edmondson

Headshot of Christina EdmondsonDr. Christina Edmondson serves as the dean for intercultural student development at Calvin College. She holds a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology and a M.S. in Family Therapy and is a Qualified Assessor for the Intercultural Development Inventory, Certified Cultural Intelligence facilitator, public speaker and mental health therapist.

Christina has a track record of bringing diverse people together to promote personal and team flourishing and is often contacted by churches and organizations to consult about both diversity and inclusion and mental health issues. Her writing has been seen and referenced in a variety of outlets including Essence.com, The Witness: A Black Christian Collective (formerly, Reformed African American Network, RAAN), The Twelve/Perspectives Journal and Gospel Today magazine.

With conviction, boldness and emotional intelligence, Christina speaks about anti-racism, cultural differences, team dynamics and servant leadership. She is also a co-host of Truth's Table, a podcast that centers the Black female experience and provides insight on church, culture, race, politics, gender, current events and pop culture all filtered through a Christian faith.

Christina is a native of Baltimore, Md., but resides in Grand Rapids with her family. She is married to Pastor Mika Edmondson of New City Fellowship Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., and she is the mother of two wonderful little girls.

Kenneth and Chardonnay Henderson

Kenneth and Chardonnay Henderson standing outsideKenneth and Chardonnay Henderson are worship leaders at Madison Square in Grand Rapids Mich. They have both been featured on various recording projects, lending background and lead vocals. It is their desire to draw people closer to God through the gift of music.

They are the parents of two beautiful daughters. 

Justin Holcomb

Headshot of Justin HolcombDr. Justin Holcomb is an Episcopal priest (serving as the Canon for Vocations in the Diocese of Central Florida) and teaches theology and apologetics at Gordon-Conwell-Theological Seminary and Reformed Theological Seminary. He previously taught at the University of Virginia and Emory University. He holds two master's degrees from Reformed Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from Emory University.

Justin serves on the boards of GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in Christian Environments), Leaders Collective and REST (Real Escape from the Sex Trade), co-founded by his wife Lindsey Holcomb. Justin and Lindsey serve and counsel victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse and have written several books together on the topic: "Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault," "Is It My Fault? Hope and Healing for Those Suffering Domestic Violence" and "God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies." Justin and Lindsey live in Orlando, Fla., with their two daughters.

Marcus Little

Headshot of Marcus LittleMarcus Little has been the Senior Pastor at Berean Baptist Church in Grand Rapids since 2014.  He received an M.A. in Theology from Talbot Theological Seminary in his native Southern California where he met Kelsey, the gifted partner he has had the privilege of being married to for 12 years.  She sharpens him daily as they together engage in the ministries to which God has called them.  Chief among those is the training of their three children (Calvin, age 10, Eva, age 8 and Zoe, age 8) to be passionate followers of Christ who extend the shalom of the Spirit to their world.

As a pastor, Marcus' central passion is to see the body of Christ united.  In a fractured world he believes that a church united in nothing other than a shared identity in Christ is the most compelling apologetic for the reality of the gospel.  He has been involved in efforts in his ministry to bring believers together across denominational and racial divides.  In his church he is leading a conversation about empowering women to exercise the fullness of the giftings and callings God has given them.  He continues to ask God to reveal where we fall short and to soften his heart to his own failings to seek God's best for all of the he is called to serve.