Resources for Revisiting the Question of Women in Public Ministry

For more than a decade, I’ve taught a course on gender in the church. And especially since #MeToo and #ChurchToo combined with Christian leaders saying women have to endure abuse to be biblical and also that women shouldn’t teach in seminaries, I’m seeing a shift in attitudes. Some of the more moderate folks are saying, “Stop already. That misrepresents us.” I’m hearing pastors get up and say, “I was wrong” in slut-shaming Bathsheba. I’ve been told by radio hosts, “If I had talked with you a year ago about this, I would not have heard you, but now. . . .” Something has changed. I’ve been inundated by requests from churches and parachurch organizations wanting guidance on how to revisit the very nature of womanhood along with its ramifications for women’s public ministry. . . especially those verses in the Bible about women’s silence.

Having finally seen that misogyny has indeed crept into many of our churches, many boards are taking a fresh look with less idealism about the past. And they’re seeing how inconsistent it is to have formulated policy about women without, well, consistently applying their commitment to “God made men and women different by design, so that means we need to partner with them in having dominion.”

Additionally, many are realizing for the first time that the biggest debates are taking place  within the complementarian camp. Indeed, within that camp, a lot of folks are moving away from traditionalist views of women and their role in ministry. There is a growing willingness to state outright that violence in a marriage is what severed the marriage bond, not the departure of the person seeking safety. And there’s also a recognition that if a sign of the Spirit in Acts 2 includes old and young women prophesying, it cannot somehow violate a grounded-in-creation mandate if a man listens to and learns something True from a woman.

Are you and/or your team wanting to revisit gender in the church?

While there is no one book I can hand anyone about which I can say “this,” I can recommend some sources:

Winston, George and Dora. Recovering Biblical Ministry by Women. Longwood, Florida: Xulon Press, 2003. 551 pages. Textual considerations. I require the first half of this book, and it’s a game changer for my students in moving them from traditionalist views of women to a more biblical stance. George was president of Belgium Bible Institute before retiring; Dora was a missionary in Europe for years. Significantly, they are not rooted in the American south in their thinking about masculinity and femininity/manhood and womanhood. And they provide important considerations for framing the debate.

James, Carolyn Custis. When Life and Beliefs Collide: How Knowing God Makes a Difference. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 2001. 265 pages. James’s explanation of what “helper” means in Genesis is worth the price of the book. Spoiler alert: It’s not like Hamburger Helper.

Pierce, Ronald W.; Groothuis, Rebecca Merrill; Fee, Gordon. Discovering Biblical Equality. Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004. 512 pages. If you’re gonna let both ends of the spectrum on the debate speak for themselves, check out this scholarly work by a collection of egalitarians committed to a high view of scripture. (Bonus: The chapter by a Christian feminist on abortion is the best argument I’ve ever heard for valuing human life in the womb.)

Best book on backgrounds relating to women: Women in the World of the Earliest Christians. Anything more than 10 years old re: backgrounds is badly outdated. If you think the women with shaved heads referenced in 1 Cor. 11 were prostitutes, you’re overdue for an update. The Internet and Google Translate have scholars across the world instantly collaborating, and the NT-backgrounds people have seriously benifited. Lynn Cohick knows her stuff.

Sumner, Sarah. Men and Women in the Church: Building Consensus on Christian Leadership. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2003. 288 pages. Sumner’s chapter on what “head” means in Ephesians 5 is outstanding. It’s a metaphor. Efforts to substitute the metaphor have given us either “authority” or “source” as literal equivalents. And in doing so, we’ve destroyed the metaphor and missed the point.

For 1 Timothy 2, I give my students my two articles on Artemis. I did my dissertation on that one. Links below to summary posts of the content. (If you want the seriously scholarly versions, you can Google my name and “Artemis” if you have access to an academic library.)

History is essential—many have been taught that everybody was happy for 1,950 years till US feminism came along and wrecked everything. This version of history is downright laughable and ignores the long history in the church of women in public ministry. (And its so-called feminism is distinctly white. I have yet to meet anyone in the developing world who thinks the Bible teaches women can’t earn an income to help their families.) This article for many is full of historical surprises.

A book I recommend that looks at a lot of the more recent textual work is Paul and Gender. I disagree with what the author thinks is happening with head coverings. But there’s a lot of other stuff she presents that’s excellent—especially her look at women and the kingdom.

Meanwhile, for the past ten years, I’ve been writing on these issues right here. So I’m including below an index with links to all the relevant blog posts I could find.


Church History: What Do We Learn from Women in Public Ministry?

Foundations: What is biblical womanhood?

Biblical womanhood: Part 2

Do males image God more than females?

Is God more male than female?

Male and Female in God’s Design

What Does It Mean that Woman is “Helper” (Ezer)?

Women rule (have dominion)

Are women worth less than men?

Is it unfeminine to be strong?

Nine steps to biblical manhood/womanhood

God as Male and Female: Metaphor and Simile

Acsah: A Lesser-Known Woman of the Bible

Vindicating Vixens: What about Michel, Wife of David?

What’s a man card got to do with it?

Was Abigail right to go behind Nabal’s back?

“Act like men”: What does Paul mean?

Manhood vs. grandma

Seven views on the role of women w/in the inerrancy camp

Complementarians on women in ministry: diverse images

What’s the main difference between complementarian and egalitarian?


Interview w/ Eugene Peterson women in church

On the ESV’s “contrary wives”

The Bible: Women Are More Present Than You Might Think

What the presence of women prophets in the Bible tells us

Can Women Speak for God in Mixed-Sex Groups?

“She was a pretty good prophet…for a woman”

Proverbs 31: The Most Hated Woman in the Bible 

Can a woman be a pastor?

Can a woman be a seminary professor?

Women and submission in the workplace

Staying home with kids vs. marketplace work

Shepherd Like a Girl

Jesus vs. sexism

1 Cor. 11 – Who were the women with shaved heads?

Heads and coverings: Part 1

Heads and coverings: Part 2

1 Cor 11 and “veils” 

1 Corinthians 14: Are Women Really Supposed to be Silent in Church?

Does Paul really think women are gossips and busybodies?

Ephesians 5: Paul and His Subversive Passage on the Family

1 Peter 3: Weak and weaker vessels

Why Peter today would not want a wife to call her husband “lord”

More on 1 Peter 3 and wives

Is Peter insulting women? Part 1

Is Peter insulting women?Part 2

Is my husband my priest?

“Not with braided hair or pearls”

Gender: Lose the boxes

Gender in Bible translation

What does “workers at home” really mean?

Are the Women in 1 Timothy Leaders, Needers, or Both?

1 Timothy 2: Who Was Artemis & Why Does It Matter, Part 1

 1 Timothy 2: Who Was Artemis & Why Does it Matter Part 2

 Can Men and Women Be Friends?

Women and Theological Education: Capitulating to Culture or Historically Rooted?

Evangelicals and Sexism

Four Books to Put on Your Reading List re. Gender and Ministry

Sandra Glahn, who holds a Master of Theology degree from Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) and a PhD in The Humanities—Aesthetic Studies from the University of Texas/Dallas, is a professor at DTS. This creator of the Coffee Cup Bible Series (AMG) based on the NET Bible is the author or coauthor of more than twenty books. She's the wife of one husband, mother of one daughter, and owner of two cats. Chocolate and travel make her smile. You can follow her on Twitter @sandraglahn ; on FB /Aspire2 ; and find her at her web site: aspire2.com.

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