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
Bill and Lynne Hybels
I. Howard Marshall
John and Nancy Ortberg
Alan F. Johnson
Walter and Olive Liefeld
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…”