Suzanne Burden is ready to engage in conversations that may be difficult, dead end, or humbling. She’s ready to face them because she knows where she stands in Christ and his kingdom.
Burden and her coauthors Carla Sunberg and Jamie Wright have studied the place of women in God’s world, blending academic scholarship and real-world understanding to create the book “Reclaiming Eve: The Identity & Calling of Women in the Kingdom of God” (Beacon Hill Press, $14.99).
Burden was raised in Michigan and lived in Grand Rapids for 17 years, attended Cornerstone University—graduating in 1994—and returns to Grand Rapids regularly from her Fort Wayne, Ind., home to visit family. On March 13, she’ll be in town to talk about and sign copies of “Reclaiming Eve.”
“I want women to understand their standing and calling in God’s kingdom,” said Burden. “Each woman is clearly commissioned and empowered to do God’s work.”
She and her coauthors have dug deep into what the Bible says about a woman’s core identity in Christ. They take a comprehensive look into the creation story that is so often overshadowed by Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden.
“Mostly, with some notable exceptions, we have painted Eve with a brush that says she is dangerous to men, weak, and not able to be rational like a man is,” said Burden. “But we are shortening our creator. God didn’t create women with inferior intellect and to be easily deceived, but God created women as an image bearer to come alongside a man.”
Burden, who holds an M.A. in theological studies from Grace Theological Seminary, believes that she and her coauthors will get some criticism for their stance. “I anticipate the message will be threatening to some people,” she said. “This isn’t a book that we wanted to write; we were compelled to do so.”
The conversation, she said, isn’t happening in churches where women are clearly on the margins and whose voices aren’t being heard. At issue is what the Gospel makes possible for women.
“No matter who you are, you have to answer the question of what the Gospel makes possible for women. We need to look at what happened to Eve and what’s happening now and ask if what Jesus did restores relationships with each other and restores women to serve as God called them to serve.”
Jesus’ record of interactions with women is clear in the Bible, said Burden. In each case, Jesus raised women much higher that her culture did.
“Jesus brought a new way of doing things. Living under the effects of sin isn’t his plan for the Kingdom. He’s about lifting people up to serve. Jesus gave us a beautiful model of how to do this in the New Testament,” said Burden. “When you look at the Bible as a whole, which many people don’t, there is a redemptive arc of setting women free.”
Burden met her coauthors about four years ago when they all attended the same church in Fort Wayne. Sunberg’s husband was the pastor and encouraged the trio to write a Bible study based on the core concepts of the book. About 40 women attended and responded positively. The Bible study grew into “Reclaiming Eve.”
Wright is pursuing an M.A. in clinical counseling, and Sunberg was recently named president of the Nazarene Theological Seminary. The three also have a DVD accompaniment to the book releasing in May. The DVD offers eight 10-minute discussion segments that connect with each chapter, and a downloadable Bible study for individual or group use.
“The DVD discussion is a good example of why it’s stronger to have women of different generations talk about this topic. We contribute different things and come to the table with different perspectives and educational backgrounds,” said Burden. “The project is much stronger because of the three of us coming together.”
She predicts “moving and shaking” in response to the book, and is praying for humility and grace in their responses.
“The way that we hold our theology in our churches is directly related to the way that we hold our power,” said Burden. “We aren’t going to see changes in the church until men stand up and say that women are going to be more involved and that men and women will work together.
“Our bigger goal is to see men and women joining together in God’s kingdom. God put men and women together in the beginning for a reason,” she said. “We’re stronger working together than apart.”
Meet the Author
Suzanne Burden, coauthor of “Reclaiming Eve: The Identity & Calling of Women in the Kingdom of God”
What: Author talk, Q&A, book signing
When: 7-9 p.m. Thursday, March 13
Where: Baker Book House, 2768 East Paris Ave., Grand Rapids