Written by Natalie Collins
I don’t really do heroes. Generally I appreciate the contributions that people have made to society, to my life and to the lives of others, but heroes always seem a bit close to worshipping people. However, the person who sits closest to hero (well really shero) status in my heart is a woman called Catherine Clark Kroeger.
Cathy was an amazing woman. Born in 1925, she was a pioneer of egalitarian theology, alongside being a well-respected New Testament scholar focussed on various issues including Africans in the Bible and the early church. In 1987, she worked with a group of women and men to set up Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) out of concern for the ways women were being restricted by the church. A few years later she set up PASCH (Peace and Safety in the Christian Home). It was the first international Christian organisation working to address domestic abuse. Many many women have found freedom, liberation and support through CBE, PASCH and Cathy’s various books,
At 24 years old, I began the journey of walking into the work God was calling me to, ending male violence against women within and without the church. I had no idea what I was doing, holding only my story and a desire to be obedient to God. I ended up in email contact with Cathy who was almost 50 years older than me. She welcomed me as an equal and was willing to come to the UK to speak at a conference I was organising with Restored.
Cathy travelled to the UK for that conference and I had the privilege of meeting Cathy less than a year before she died. She was a whirlwind. At 82 she insisted on pushing her own luggage trolley through the airport. She was kind, generous, filled with energy and had the biggest brain of anyone I’ve ever met. I jokingly told her about an offhanded comment Rob Bell had made about the book of Hebrews being written by a woman and although she didn’t know who Rob Bell was, she immediately told me of the various evidence to support that theory. I’ve referred to the writer of Hebrews as a woman ever since.
She told my fascinated children Bible stories in a historically accurate manner, after sharing complex theology from a platform, she brought a load of her own books to give away free of charge and preached at my tiny local church, telling the story of Hagar and explaining the parallels to women abused by their husbands. Her love of Jesus and the Bible shone through all she did, as did her passion for and commitment to oppressed people.
At 24, I found people rarely took me seriously. I was passed over and ignored by many in the church, yet Cathy was supportive and respectful. She was one of the people who inspired me to have confidence in God’s call over my life. Her commitment to the Bible, her pioneering spirit and her willingness to continue to fight the good fight, no matter how slow the progress has always encouraged me to persevere in this work. If someone with as big a brain as Cathy didn’t give up, then neither shall I!
When I received the email to let me know Cathy had died, I wept. I think I cried more then, than when some of my own relatives died. It was a deeply sad day to know her massive brain and deep passion would no longer be with us. Around the world there are thousands of people who have been and still are being impacted by the legacy of Catherine Clark Kroeger. Although PASCH is no longer in existence, many organisations were borne and individuals healed through the PASCH network and CBE is still going strong, equipping and inspiring Christians to know that men and women are equal. She was one of my foremothers and still is an inspiration for those of us still doing the work she pioneered over fifty years ago.
Natalie writes and talks about abuse, exploitation and gender. You can find out more here.