• Book Review of Sacred Friendships by Ian F. Jones

    Posted on October 8th, 2009 admin No comments

    Review of Sacred Friendship by Robert W. Kellemen and Susan M. Ellis

    By Ian F. Jones


    Mark these names and remember them: Vibia Perpetua (181-203), Macrina the Elder (270-340), Gorgonia (325-375), Marcella (325-410), Dhuoda (803-843), Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), Julian of Norwich (1342-1416), Catherine of Siena (1347-1380), Amelia Wilhelmina Siereking (1794-1858), Laura Smith Haviland (1808-1898), and Betsie ten Boom (1885-1944). These are ten members of an assemblage of over fifty women, formerly unknown to most of us, but now revealed in a remarkable book by Robert Kellemen and Susan Ellis.


    Sacred Friendships (BMH Books, 2009) reveals an area of church history that has been overlooked for too long—the important role that women have played in nurturing and preserving the faith and in teaching us today how to minister one another based upon their legacy.


    The subtitle of the book, Celebrating the Legacy of Women Heroes of the Faith, captures the essence of the authors’ purpose. Kellemen and Ellis introduce us to each of these women by telling their stories in ways that are, at once, profound and moving. We read of Perpetua, who consoles and comforts her family and her fellow prisoners facing trial and martyrdom, and in her own dying shows us how to live.


    Macrina, the grandmother of Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa, demonstrates spiritual nurturing, particularly of her daughter Emmelia, and reveals to us the important influence that women have had over the centuries upon the Church Fathers, whose names hold greater familiarity.


    Gorgonia, mother to two bishops, is eulogized by her brother, Gregory of Nazianzus, as a woman of godly character offering wise counsel based on the Word of God.


    Marcella chooses a life of biblical meditation and spiritual mentoring that influences her tutor Jerome. Hildegard of Bingen reveals one of the greatest intellectual minds in her spiritual letters of truth, love, confrontation, and comfort.


    Julian of Norwich builds bridges of reconciliation in human relations, and Catherine of Siena provides spiritual consolation and compassion as she comforts people facing execution and death.


    In the nineteenth century, Laura Smith Haviland opened schools for indigent and African American children and participated in the Underground Railroad. In the twentieth century, Betsie ten Boom provided a model of Christlike hospitality, trust in God, comfort, inspiration, and forgiveness to her more well-known sister Corrie, up to the time of her death in a Nazi concentration camp.


    Kellemen and Ellis uncover a vast storehouse of wisdom, spiritual counsel, and practical direction in the lives of these women. In so doing, they provide a refreshing antidote to an empty feminism void of biblical content and to an equally unbiblical blind dismissal of the value of women. The stories, drawn from five continents and covering nearly two millennia, offer practical wisdom, biblical insight, and inspiration for current approaches to counseling and soul care. 


    There is no claim that these women are perfect; however, their stories and their lives resonate with a desire to know God and His Word. This is not a book to be consigned to the dusty corner of a library shelf, suitable only for reference in some esoteric research project on church history. Rather, it is a book to be read, studied, and applied in our daily walk of faith and ministry.


    To that end, the authors end each chapter with a discussion guide comprised of a series of questions designed to engage the reader in personal and/or group assessment and application drawn from the truths learned from these women.


    Read the book and you will be humbled by the spiritual strength, power, wisdom, and influence of these women.  Gone, but now no longer forgotten, these women teach us how to live godly lives and give spiritual counsel to others, as Kellemen and Ellis draw back the curtain of church history and tell us their stories.


    To learn more about Sacred Friendships and to order your copy, you can visit: http://bit.ly/MG1l5




  • The Best of Books on Women in Church History

    Posted on August 24th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    Kellemen’s Christian The Best Of Guide

    The Best of Books on Women in Church History


    Kellemen’s Christian The Best of Guide: Making your life easier by finding, summarizing, evaluating, and posting the best resources on a wide variety of topics from a Christian perspective.


    Giving Voice to the Voiceless!


    When we think of church history, unfortunately, it is often “the history of a bunch of dead white guys!” We talk about the “church fathers,” but we omit the “church mothers”—many of whom discipled the church fathers! It is well past time to give “voice to the voiceless.”


    Having studied the legacy of women heroes of the faith in my book, Sacred Friendships (http://bit.ly/YmaM1), I’ve collated a lengthy bibliography of relevant books. But what I’m posting below is just the tip of the iceberg—the best of the best. If you want to hear the voices of godly Christian women, the following books give the big picture. They survey either all of church history, or large segments of church history. Enjoy!


    The Best of Books on Women in Church History


    Bainton, Roland. Women of the Reformation in France and England. Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1973.


    Bainton, Roland. Women of the Reformation in Germany and Italy. Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1971.


    Bainton, Roland. Women of the Reformation from Spain to Scandinavia. Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1977.


    Chittister, Joan. The Friendship of Women: A Spiritual Tradition. Franklin, WI: Sheed and Ward, 2000.


    Clark, Elizabeth. Women in the Early Church. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1990.


    Clark, Elizabeth, and Herbert Richardson, eds. Women and Religion: The Original Sourcebook   of Women in Christian Thought. Revised and expanded edition. San Francisco: Harper, 1996.


    Forbes, Cheryl. Women of Devotion through the Centuries. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2001.


    Grant, Myrna. Sacred Legacy: Ancient Writings from Nine Women of Strength and Honor. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003.


    Gryson, Roger. The Ministry of Women in the Early Church. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1976.


    Kellemen, Robert, and Karole Edwards. Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2007.


    Kellemen, Robert, and Susan Ellis. Sacred Friendships: Celebrating the Legacy of Women Heroes of the Faith. Winona Lake, IN: BMH Books, 2009.


    Kraemer, Ross, ed. Maenads, Martyrs, Matrons, Monastics: A Sourcebook on Women’s Religions in the Greco-Roman World. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988.


    MacHaffie, Barbara. Her Story: Women in Christian Tradition. Second edition. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 2006.


    Oden, Amy, ed. In Her Words: Women’s Writings in the History of Christian Thought. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994.


    Peterson, William. 25 Surprising Marriages: Faith-Building Stories from the Lives of Famous Christians. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997.


    Ranft, Patricia. A Woman’s Way: The Forgotten History of Women Spiritual Directors. New York: Palgrave, 2000.


    Sawyer, Deborah. Women and Religion in the First Christian Centuries. London: Routledge, 1996.


    Stewart, Dorothy, ed. Women of Prayer: An Anthology of Everyday Prayers from Women around the World. Chicago: Loyola Press, 1999.


    Swan, Laura. The Forgotten Desert Mothers: Sayings, Lives, and Stories of Early Christian Women. New York: Paulist Press, 2001.


    Thiebauz, Marcelle. The Writings of Medieval Women: An Anthology. Second edition. New York: Garland Publishing, 1994.


    Tucker, Ruth. Private Lives of Pastor’s Wives. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988.


    Tucker, Ruth, and Walter Liefeld. Daughters of the Church: Women and Ministry from New Testament Times to the Present. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987.


    Wilson, Katherine, ed. Medieval Women Writers. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1984.


    Wilson, Katherine, ed. Women Writers of the Renaissance and Reformation. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1987.


    Wilson-Kastner, Patricia, Ronald Kastner, Ann Millin, Rosemary Rader, and Jeremiah

    Reedy, eds. A Lost Tradition: Women Writers of the Early Church. Washington,

    DC: University Press of America, 1981.


    Important Stuff


    *Your Guide: Bob Kellemen, Ph.D., LCPC, is the Founder and CEO of RPM Ministries (www.rpmministries.org) through which he writes, speaks, and consults to equip God’s people to change lives with Christ’s changeless truth. He blogs daily at http://rpmministries.blogspot.com.


    *My Necessary Disclaimer: Of course, I don’t endorse everything in every article, book, or link that you’ll find in Kellemen’s Christian The Best of Guide. I report, you decide.


    *Your Suggestions Are Welcomed: Feel free to post comments and/or send emails (rpm.ministries@gmail.com) about resources that you think deserve attention in various categories covered in Kellemen’s Christian The Best of Guide.



  • The Road to Hope

    Posted on August 11th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    The Road to Hope: Vibia Perpetua, Part II


    Note: For Part I, read Sunday’s blog post at http://bit.ly/10gzOt.


    Read More/Grow Stronger: Read Perpetua’s life story and the story of over fifty amazing women in Sacred Friendships: Celebrating the Legacy of Women Heroes of the Faith: http://bit.ly/YmaM1


    “As If” Empathy


    On the day of Perpetua’s final hearing before being martyred for her faith in 203 AD, the guards rushed Perpetua to the prisoners’ platform. Her father appeared with her infant son, guilting her and imploring her to “have pity on your son!” He caused such an uproar, that Governor Hilarion ordered him thrown out, and he was beaten with a rod.


    Perpetua writes of this horrible incident. “My father’s injury hurt me as much as if I myself had been beaten. And I grieved because of his pathetic old age.”[i]


    Perpetua provides a classic portrait of biblical empathy. Her as if experience of her father’s pain is the essence of sustaining soul care—making the agony of others our very own.


    Summoning Christ’s Strength


    Perpetua not only finds in Christ the strength to empathize with her father, she also summons Christ’s power to console and encourage her family and her fellow martyrs. 


    “In my anxiety for the infant I spoke to my mother about him, tried to console my brother and asked that they care for my son. I suffered intensely because I sensed their agony on my account. These were the trials I had to endure for many days.”[ii]


    Incredibly, Perpetua’s greatest pain was her ache for others who hurt for her!


    A few days passed after the hearing and before the battle in the arena commenced. During this interval, Perpetua witnessed to her persecutors and ministered to other detainees.


    “Pudens, the official in charge of the prison (the official who had gradually come to admire us for our persistence), admitted many prisoners to our cell so that we might mutually encourage each other.”[iii]


    Facing death, Perpetua shared words of life with all who would listen.


    The Road to Hope: Maintaining Perpetual Persistence


    Felicitas (Perpetua’s friend and fellow prisoner) was in her eighth month of pregnancy. As the day of the contest approached, she became very distressed that her martyrdom might be delayed, since the law forbade the execution of a pregnant woman. An eyewitness to their eventual death shares his account of their journey together.


    “Her friends in martyrdom were equally sad at the thought of abandoning such a good friend to travel alone on the same road to hope. And so, two days before the contest, united in grief they prayed to the Lord.”[iv] Immediately after their prayers, her labor pains began and Felicitas gave birth to a girl whom one of her sisters reared as her own.


    This eyewitness records their witness for Christ to the very end. “On the day before the public games, as they were eating the last meal commonly called the free meal, they tried as much as possible to make it instead an agape. In the same spirit they were exhorting the people, warning them to remember the judgment of God, asking them to be witnesses of the prisoners’ joy in suffering, and ridiculing the curiosity of the crowd. . . . Then they all left the prison amazed, and many of them began to believe.”[v]


    To the very end, Perpetua maintains her perpetual persistence. “The day of their victory dawned, and with joyful countenances they marched from the prison to the arena as though on their way to heaven. If there was any trembling, it was from joy, not fear. Perpetua followed with a quick step as a true spouse of Christ, the darling of God, her brightly flashing eyes quelling the gaze of the crowd.”[vi]


    Stubbornly Resisting to the End


    As they were led through the gates, they were ordered to put on different clothes; the men, those of the priests of Saturn, the women, those of the priestesses of Ceres. “But that noble woman stubbornly resisted even to the end. She said, ‘We’ve come this far voluntarily in order to protect our rights, and we’ve pledged our lives not to recapitulate on any such matter as this. We made this agreement with you.’ Injustice bowed to justice and the guard conceded that they could enter the arena in their ordinary dress. Perpetua was singing victory psalms as if already crushing the head of the Egyptian.”[vii]


    Here we witness not only Perpetua’s courageous example of persistence, but also her model of biblical confrontation. She provides riveting testimony to Christ’s power at work in the inner life of a Christian woman whose spirit could never be overpowered.


    Read More/Grow Stronger: Read Perpetua’s life story and the story of over fifty amazing women in Sacred Friendships: Celebrating the Legacy of Women Heroes of the Faith: http://bit.ly/YmaM1



    [i]Ibid., emphasis added.

    [ii]Ibid., 20.

    [iii]Ibid., 23.

    [iv]Ibid., 26-27, emphasis added.

    [v]Ibid., 27.

    [vi]Ibid., 28.

    [vii]Ibid., emphasis added.

  • From Victim to Victor

    Posted on August 9th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    From Victim to Victor: Vibia Perpetua, Part I


    Note: Taken from Sacred Friendships: Celebrating the Legacy of Women Heroes of the Faith: http://bit.ly/YmaM1


    Giving Voice to the Voiceless


    When we think of the early church, our minds focus on the Church Fathers. Sadly, we normally fail even to consider the Church Mothers. Yet, these godly women heroically waged spiritual warfare against the world, the flesh, and the devil. Their loses and their victories, their pain and their joy, their walk with Christ and their journey with one another are all an inheritance from which each of us are eligible to draw. There is a mighty company of gallant women believers from whom we can learn.


    Vibia Perpetua (181-203) heads that company. The early Church preserved her manuscript, The Martyrdom of Perpetua, as a martyr’s relic because it is one of the oldest and most descriptive accounts of death for Christ. It is also the earliest known document written by a Christian woman.


    Anyone who has ever suffered for the faith or has been oppressed by the powerful can carry on a conversation and feel a bond with Perpetua. In fact, in the introduction to her story, we read that it was “written expressly for God’s honor and humans’ encouragement” to testify to the grace of God and to edify God’s grace-bought people.[i]


    Of course, even reading the word “martyr” likely causes us to imagine that Perpetua was a spiritual “super woman” whose life and ministry we could not possibly emulate. The story of her life, however, demonstrates just the opposite.


    The Story of Her Life


    Perpetua lived in Carthage in North Africa during the persecution of Christians under Septimius Severus. At the time of her arrest in 202 AD, she was a twenty-one-year-old mother of an infant son. Born into a wealthy, prominent, but unbelieving family, she was a recent convert with a father who continually attempted to weaken her faith and a husband who was, for reasons unknown to us, out of the picture. Nothing in Perpetua’s situation or background prepared her for the titanic spiritual struggle God called her to face.


    Perpetua, her brother, her servant (Felicitas), and two other new converts were discipled by Saturus. We learn from Perpetua of the arrest of all these faithful followers of Christ. “At this time we were baptized and the Spirit instructed me not to request anything from the baptismal waters except endurance of physical suffering. A few days later we were imprisoned.”[ii]


    A Light in the Darkness: Experiencing the Pain of Others


    Perpetua candidly faces her fears and expresses her internal and external suffering. “I was terrified because never before had I experienced such darkness. What a terrible day! Because of crowded conditions and rough treatment by the soldiers the heat was unbearable. My condition was aggravated by my anxiety for my baby.”[iii]


    This very human woman exudes superhuman strength. In the midst of her agony, she empathizes with and consoles others. Her father, completely exhausted from his anxiety, came from the city to beg Perpetua to recant and offer sacrifice to the emperor. “I was very upset because of my father’s condition. He was the only member of my family who would find no reason for joy in my suffering. I tried to comfort him saying, ‘Whatever God wants at this tribunal will happen, for remember that our power comes not from ourselves but from God.’ But utterly dejected, my father left me.”[iv]


    Note: Read part two of Perpetua’s life in tomorrow’s blog post. Read her whole life story and the story of over fifty additional amazing women in Sacred Friendships: Celebrating the Legacy of Women Heroes of the Faith: http://bit.ly/YmaM1

    [i]“The Martyrdom of Perpetua,” in Wilson-Kastner, A Lost Tradition, 19.

    [ii]Ibid., 20.


    [iv]Ibid., 22.