Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Best Books on Women in Ministry

People often ask me for book recommendations on the topic of women in ministry. Here are some of the books that I loan out most often, organized roughly from the most accessible to the most academic.

Image result for kristen padilla now that i'm calledKristen Padilla, Now That I'm Called: A Guide for Women Discerning a Call to Ministry (Zondervan, 2018)

Kristen writes for women who sense a call to ministry but are not sure how to carry it out in their context. Her book is sensitive to long-standing gender roles and dynamics in complementarian congregations and does not presume that readers are egalitarian. She warmly affirms the giftedness of women and encourages them in their quest to be faithful to God's call.

Alan F. Johnson, ed., How I Changed My Mind about Women in Leadership: Compelling Stories from Prominent Evangelicals (Zondervan, 2010)

Image result for half the church carolyn custis jamesThis book is a treasure of stories about men and women who have shifted toward a more egalitarian outlook. A collection of testimonies rather than a systematic argument, this book shows the struggles of Christian leaders to be faithful to Scripture, their "aha!" moments, and the humility it took to admit that they had been wrong.

Carolyn Custis James, Half the Church: Recapturing God's Global Vision for Women (Zondervan)

Carolyn's book urges women to step up and participate in kingdom work. We can't sit back and expect the men to do everything! God created us to work as a team, side-by-side ruling over creation. Carolyn addresses some of the most common arguments for male-only leadership that are rooted in the creation story and in the letters of Paul, showing the problems with those interpretations and inviting readers to consider the urgency of God's design for partnership. This book is one that the entire church, not just women, need to read.

Image result for alice mathews gender roles
Alice Mathews, Gender Roles and the People of God: Rethinking What We Were Taught about Men and Women in the Church (Zondervan, 2017)
This is an accessible introduction to the key biblical text that so often figure in the debates over women in ministry. Dr. Mathews has been teaching a course at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary on this topic for many years, and this book is the best of her classroom content, now available to everyone.

Related imageLucy Peppiatt, Rediscovering Scripture's Vision for Women: Fresh Perspectives on Disputed Texts (IVP, 2019)

Lucy's book is a brand new release from InterVarsity Press. As she reexamines the relevant biblical texts, Peppiat "finds a story of God releasing women alongside men into all forms of ministry, leadership, work, and service on the basis of character and gifting, rather than biological sex. Those who see the overturning of male-dominated hierarchy in the Scriptures, she argues, are truly rediscovering an ancient message―a message distorted by those who assumed that a patriarchal world, which they sometimes saw reflected in the Bible, was the one God had ordained." (from publisher's book description)

Craig S. Keener, Paul, Women, and Wives: Marriage and Women's Ministry in the Letters of Paul (Baker, 1992)

Dr. Keener's book landed on my desk on an interesting day. An invitation to preach had just been retracted on account of my gender (the pastor got complaints when people found out I was coming). Dr. Keener examines the cultural and historical context that motivated Paul's statements, offering a new perspective on how to read them responsibly.

Image result for cindy westfall paul and genderCynthia Long Westfall, Paul and Gender: Reclaiming the Apostle's Vision for Men and Women in Christ (Baker, 2016)

Dr. Westfall explores the broader question of gender according to Paul, revisiting the most controversial texts to offer a fresh perspective. She is historically grounded and moves the debate forward in helpful ways based on the latest research.

You'll notice that the subtitles of several of these books share a similar tone: recapturing, rediscovering, rethinking, reclaiming. These authors all agree that something is missing in Evangelical churches today. In our efforts to obey the Bible, our churches have implemented practices that inadvertently prevent gospel ministry and silence the Spirit's work. These authors -- all of them Evangelicals -- call us back to the Scriptures to take another look. Things are not as simple as many have assumed ("women, be silent"), and our faithful reading and practice of Scripture depends upon a careful reassessment. If Scripture is to remain our authority for faith and practice, we cannot afford to get this wrong.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

N. T. Wright and a Book for Both Bedside Tables

What books are sitting on your bedside table?

About 10 years ago I had an opportunity to meet New Testament scholar and Anglican bishop the Right Rev. Dr. N. T. Wright. We shook hands. Although it was spontaneous, I knew instantly what I wanted to say to him. It went something like this:

N. T. Wright is known for his ability to bridge the gap
between the academy and the church (Photo: C Imes)
"It's an honor to meet you, Dr. Wright. My husband and I would like to thank you. You are nearly the only writer who has the distinction of appearing on both of our bedside tables."

I was in seminary at the time. I spent my days reading books like his Jesus and the Victory of God. My husband, on the other hand, did not gravitate towards non-fiction, and certainly not academic books. But he picked up a copy of Wright's Simply Christian and loved it. What a gift to have found a respected scholar who also had the ability to connect with wider audiences, beyond the academy! Wright gave us things to talk about as a couple that connected our worlds. That was just what we needed.

Academic and Accessible books by C. J. H. Wright and
Sandra L. Richter (Photo: C Imes)
I can think of two other biblical scholars whose books my husband and I have both read and enjoyed: Sandra L. Richter and Christopher J. H. Wright. Scholars like Wright, Wright, and Richter are my models. They know their stuff academically, but they also take the time to communicate in an accessible way for the church at large.

That's what makes me so excited about my new book release. I've done the scholarly research, defended the dissertation, and published it as well as other articles on related subjects. But this new book is totally down-to-earth. Our 17-year-old daughter read the entire manuscript of Bearing God's Name before we sent it off to the publisher so that we could get rid of all the words she didn't know.

This one's for the church. It's for men and women and teens and grandparents who struggle to know what to do with the Old Testament. It's for people who want to obey Scripture but aren't sure where to start. It's for new Christians as well as Christians who've been around the block a few times and still feel like they're missing something. It's for Earl, who hasn't read a book since high school other than a welding manual. It's for Marilyn, who kindly tried to read my dissertation and just got frustrated. It's for my parents, who have cheered me on for decades and now can finally benefit from all the hard work. It's for my former students, who can re-experience Torah class and share it with their families.

Bearing God's Name doesn't officially release until December 10th, but I'm already getting messages from readers almost every day who say that it's making a difference in their lives.

Not sure which book to choose for your bedside table? Here's a comparison:

If you're married and anything like my husband and me, you might need to pick up one of each.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Book Review: Elias Chacour's 'Blood Brothers'

Image result for elias chacour blood brothers

I'm leading a trip to Israel with Prairie College in 2020, so as part of my preparation I'm trying to get a handle on the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The first book on my list was Elias Chacour's Blood Brothers, which has been recommended to me several times. It was a fascinating read!

Chacour is a Palestinian Christian leader who came of age in the midst of great turmoil in the Middle East. He tells of his peaceful childhood in a Christian village in Galilee where his family had owned and tended the land for generations. They understood themselves to have been grafted in to the "olive tree" of Abraham through faith in Jesus. Chacour's father regularly did business with Jewish villages nearby, treating them as brothers. Like the rest of the watching world, his family sympathized with the plight of European Jews. Chacour's village was ready to welcome new Jewish settlers fleeing Europe to live among them and farm the land. But they were never given this chance.

The peace of their community was shattered when Zionist soldiers arrived after WWII, kicking Palestinian residents off of their own land and confiscating their property. The violence of the war seems to have infected the "peacekeeping" troops, who were funded by a variety of nations with special interest groups. Unlike their Jewish neighbors, these troops were violent and their aim was conquest. It was the beginning of a decades-long conflict that is still unresolved today.

Chacour has devoted his life to working for peace between Arabs and Jews. A Nobel Peace Prize nominee, he has watched communities transformed by hope and brotherhood. So although this story is a brutal one, the undercurrent is hope -- hope for a peace made possible by restoring the dignity of every human being.

Given the almost unqualified support for the state of Israel extended by many American Christians, this story is vitally important for us to hear. Chacour does not call upon Westerners to reverse history and force Jews out of Palestine, but rather to withhold judgment on who is terrorizing whom when we lack the proximity to make such judgments. He laments, "How terribly sad that men could ignore God's plan for peace between divided brothers, even supporting one group as it wielded its might to force out the other" (142). We must learn to listen and heed the teaching of the prophet Isaiah, "Practice justice and righteousness, and then you will have peace" (227). If we want to walk in the way of peace, Chacour will be an able guide.