HOW I CHANGED MY MIND ABOUT WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP (Zondervan)

I am a strong advocate of women in ministry leadership (WML). I also take the Bible seriously. To many evangelicals, even many evangelical scholars, this is a contradiction. When I began seminary, I was also in this category – to believe that women could be pastors is to play fast and loose with the Bible, to follow society instead of the Triune God, to be “liberal” (in a bad way!).

I had a big change-of-mind in seminary where I came 180 degrees on this topic. Now, when I promote women in leadership (including my wife!), I face many obstacles. Aside from the Biblical exegesis and arguments, there is just that impression that (1) Evangelicals are historically complementarian and patriarchical and (2) to change one’s mind is a sign of weakness. I think great Biblical arguments in favor of WML are quite convincing, but these two other (ideological) issues are serious roadblocks that hinder profitable conversation.

Thus, at SBL when I saw the new Zondervan book How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership: Compelling Stories from Prominent Evangelicals (2010), I HAD to buy it. This book offers a number of personal stories and reflections on the journey to a view of affirmation of WML and the real power of this book is that these stories come from CONSERVATIVE EVANGELICAL men and women. Some of the contributors include:

 

Stuart and Jill Briscoe

Tony Campolo

Bill and Lynne Hybels

I. Howard Marshall

John and Nancy Ortberg

Cornelius Plantinga

Alan F. Johnson

Walter and Olive Liefeld

John Stackhouse

Ronald Sider

[and others]

It is not their logical arguments that make this book powerful (as even some of them are quite weak), but the diffusing of this “Supporters of WML are liberals” mentality.

Another important message of the book is that it is not a terrible thing to change your mind when you find that is appropriate according to Scripture, reason, tradition, and experience (with, of course, special weight given to the first of the four, but serious attention to ALL the others).

If I ever teach a course on WML, I would certainly use this as a textbook. Thank you to Alan F. John for editing this fine book. I agree with the endorsement of Lynn Cohick: “Simply put: I could not put this book down…”

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6 thoughts on “HOW I CHANGED MY MIND ABOUT WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP (Zondervan)

  1. Well, a scholar who sees it as a sign of weakness to change his/her mind is not really a scholar but an apologist. Learning new things and changing one’s mind is what scholarship and research is all about…

  2. Thanks for writing this review. I know what you mean, too. After I changed my mind some people thought I was “going liberal” too. Hopefully this book will help change that situation for others!

  3. Do you think you could, briefly, line out the Biblical position of women in ministry, and, perhaps in a subsequent post, counters to common objections to WML (with particular attention towards avoiding caricatures such as “no women in any ministry ever” etc.)? Thanks…

  4. John, you ought to check out “Two Views on Women in Ministry” (Counterpoints series, Zondervan) and “The Blue Parakeet” by Scot McKnight. They’re great books on the subject. I read the counterpoints volume when I was praying through this topic. (And as a Z employee I don’t mind shamelessly promoting them.) At that time I also read John Stackhouse’s “Finally Feminist” which is concise but well-argued. (That’s a Baker Academic title, I believe.) Stackhouse’s personal story is also in the book reviewed above.

    • I like the counterpoints series, in fact, I’m reading one as we speak. I’m using it in my seminar today, we’re discussing Revelation 20 (guess which one I’m reading). Thanks, I’ll give those books a try. My own position on WML has fallen somewhere along the lines of specific offices reserved for qualified leaders (being male only one of many qualifications) but almost complete freedom outside of the local church context (e.g. broader “kingdom” mission”), and those restrictions within the local church context being only for a very small subset of “leadership” – but I’ll follow the text wherever it leads me (at least I’ll try). Thanks again.

      • John,
        Thanks for sharing! I’m glad you like that series. We work hard to make sure all sides are fairly represented and hope that everyone can embrace that series as a valuable learning tool – no matter what their position is.

        I just checked out your blog (though I think I’ve read it some time before…) and I like your post on 1 John and GJohn. I just heard an Advent message this weekend out of 1 John 1:1-4. It was all about how the “babe in the manger” is also, “That which was from the beginning…” (1 John 1:1). It was really inspiring. To shamelessly promote Z books again, have you seen Kostenberger’s new “A Theology of John’s Gospel and Letters”? You’d probably dig it.

        Back to the WML topic, what eventually won me over was the break-down in the complementarian view. The biblical equality view (or egalitarian, or whatever…) made more logical sense within the narrative of Scripture (at least to me).

        Either way, God’s grace and his church are big enough for all of us. (Thankfully!)
        Andrew

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