How I Changed My Mind about Women in Leadership

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

I recently worked through what strikes me as the best book yet on an issue that still is alive in some parts of North American evangelicalism.

My sense is that in our circles the challenge is not so much our grasp of the scriptural vision, but rather how to actually better live out it out. As several of the contributors to this volume admit, even those of us who have a settled sense about women and ministry still struggle with cultural “freight” that holds us back in our homes and workplaces and churches.

Nonetheless, some people do come to our churches with strong formation in another way of viewing the Bible’s teaching about women and ministry, and ask for help in understanding how we came to our stance (or challenge us to show how our position is actually biblical).

The book is:

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

It stimulated my mind, but its greatest impact on me was at other levels. I heartily commend it to you as an exceptional collection of Christian testimonies.

IMPORTANT THINGS ABOUT THIS BOOK AND ITS STORIES

-again and again we hear of both change of MIND and change of HEART. Let me give you my bottom line first: People working through this book will, I predict, find themselves nudged toward:
-more grace toward Christians who see the Bible differently than we do,
-more clarity on terms we use,
-more clarity on the meaning of the classic passages which seem to restrict women in ministry,
-more clarity on the directions the whole of Scipture is going,
-more Christ-like marriages,
-more vibrant congregations.

-It is primarily narrative, stories of journey and transformation – which include data about scripture interpretation, etc.

-The importance of getting this issue right for the sake of God’s mission in our world comes up again and again and again. The marginalization of half the people to whom the Spirit of God has given gifts and power for the divine mission is acknowledged as tragic.

-There is gripping material on the “power” issue as Gilbert Bilezikian shares autobiographical details not shared in his books on sex roles and on biblical community. He shares vivid experiences of communal mis-use of power he personally witnessed in Algeria and in Lebanon.

-Most of the contributors are careful with terms which mean different things to different people. For example, “complementarian,” “egalitarian,” “equality,” and “feminism” all carry significantly different freight depending on who is using them.

-These writers model great respect for those with whom we strongly disagree. There is a real depth of spiritual maturity in the way these women and men tell their stories and make their cases. Grace wins out over combativeness and harshness with those with whom these authors disagree strongly.

-The book is full of clear evidence of the fallacy of the “SlipperySlope” argument which attempts to scare us into thinking that after “giving in” on the three passages which seem to limit the leadership of women, the inevitable outcome will be slippage in Biblical authority and worse unfaithfulness to God’s will. That argument clearly does not hold for these writers! There is no hint of reservation about the authority of the Bible for all of life.

-There is the awareness (e.g. in Stackhouse) that in settings where women are still limited by churches, we most need to pray (rather than argue or campaign). These writers are all respectful when speaking of churches which limit women. Some simply urge women in such contexts to do all they can – within their boundaries.

-There is great transparency about personal journey. For example, Lynne (and Bill) Hybels share about the pain of many years when she did not use her gifts and callings, but stayed in the background behind Bill (when that was not God’s call nor gifting for her). John Stackhouse shares his struggle to live out what he long has believed intellectually.

-The are multiple healthy examples of how Christian marriage works – by women and men who do not claim perfection, but positive change in their lives. There are several healthy “nuances.”

OTHER THINGS YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN

-The editor recognizes early on (p. 9) that people in our tradition have long had a more balanced biblical view on this issue. On page 9 he mentions that he had been fortunate to be in significant contact with Wesleyan and Holiness tendencies where women were in leadership roles – quite “officially.” If you grew up in our circles, the “women and leadership” issue may not be a big one for you.

-Tony Campolo connects the way we have treated women to the larger issues of structural evil and to what Paul calls “principalities and powers.” His explanation constitutes a good brief introduction to those matters.

-Walt Liefeld, who has been on several Bible translation committees, shares with some restraint how the gender wars were brought to bear on the Bible translation efforts (e.g. NIV, to TNIV, to Revised NIV).

-Gilbert Bilezikian points to two other issues of Biblical interpretation where serious harm has resulted from mis-reading the sweep of Scripture as a whole. After giving a good brief summary of the two main contemporary Christian views about the land of Israel in today’s world, he argues that many conservative Christians have badly misread the Bible in comparible ways on three issues:
○ Israel and the land in the new covenant,
○ is it permissible to have slaves, and
○ may women exercise leadership in the church?
In all three cases, terrible abuse has resulted from appealing to divinely granted entitlements in order to secure exceptional privileges.

-John and Nancy Ortbery include this paragraph from Dorothy Sayers:
Perhaps it is no wonder that women were first at the cradle and last at the cross. They had never known a man like this man—there had never been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, who never flattered or coaxed or patronized; who never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; Who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; Who took them as he found them and was completely unselfconscious.

Let’s let her have the last word!


HERE IS THE TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR ALAN JOHNSTON’S COMPILATION OF VIEWPOINTS ON THIS TOPIC:

Alan F. Johnson, ed., How I Changed My Mind about Women in Leadership: Compelling Stories from Prominent Evangelicals (Zondervan, 2010)
Foreword 9

Acknowledgments 12

Introduction 13

Brief Glossary of Terms 18

1. Lessons My Mother Taught Me Without Trying 21
JOHN H. ARMSTRONG

2. How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership 35
RUTH HALEY BARTON

3. Renouncing the Love of Power for the Power of Love 49
GILBERT BILEZEKIAN

4. Buried Talents 61
STUART AND JILL BRISCOE

5. Is Evangelicalism Sexist? 67
TONY CAMPOLO

6. Joy in Partnership 81
ROBERT AND ALICE FRYLING

7. From Bobbed Hair, Bossy Wives, and Women Preachers
to Woman Be Free: My Story 93
STANLEY N. GUNDRY

8. Evangelicals and Gender Equality 107
BILL AND LYNNE HYBELS

9. My Journey from “Male Only Leadership”
to “Biblical Gender Equality” 121

ALAN F. JOHNSON
10. A Difficult Journey 131

WALTER AND OLIVE LIEFELD
11. The Gospel Does Not Change but Our Perception of It May
Need Revision 143
I. HOWARD MARSHALL

12. How I Changed My Mind about Women in Leadership 155
ALICE MATTHEWS

13. How the Bible Changed My Mind about Women in Leadership 165
ROGER NICOLE

14. Beyond Gender Stereotypes 173
JOHN AND NANCEY ORTBERG

15. How I Changed My Mind about Women in Church Leadership 185
CORNELIUS (NEAL) PLANTINGA

16. How I Changed My Mind about Women in Church Leadership:
Transforming Moments in Our Pilgrimage 197
CAROL AND JAMES PLUEDDEMANN

17. How I Came to My Understanding concerning Women in Leadership 209
MINETTE DRUMWRIGHT

18. From Soft Patriarchy to Mutual Submission 223
RONALD J. SIDER

19. How to Produce an Egalitarian Man 235
JOHN G. STACKHOUSE JR.

20. A View from the Church of England: An Evangelical Bishop
Tells His Story 245
JOHN BERNARD TAYLOR

21. Women in Leadership: A High Calling Indeed 257
BONNIE WURZBACHER

Appendixes
A. Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) Statement of Faith 266

B. Bibliographic Primer 267

Notes 268

 

ajax-loader