As I browsed the books for sale at a conference recently I observed a conversation between two men. They seemed to have made their way intentionally to a specific area nearby. ‘This is it!’ one of the men exclaimed as he picked up a book. ‘It captivated me; I couldn’t put it down. The first few chapters had me close to tears, you really have to read it.’ Intrigued by the sense of feeling in his description I glanced over at the book in his hand. With a little surprise I discovered it to be a book about women in leadership. After that introduction I had to read it!
How I changed my mind about women in leadership is not more of the same. I have plenty of books on the subject, but Alan Johnson’s approach is unique and interesting as it appeals to both the heart and the mind. Instead of broaching the subject from an academic and theological perspective, this book invites the reader to join well-known evangelical leaders as they share their journeys from ‘a more or less restrictive view [of women in leadership] to an open, inclusive view, that recognises a full shared partnership of leadership in the home and in the church based on gifts, not gender.’
I read through this book with mixed emotions. Empathy flowed as I recognised feelings of confusion and guilt regarding the sense of call to leadership, and sadness surfaced as I caught a glimpse of the variety and depth of pain experienced by so many. However, any adverse or uncomfortable feelings evoked by the stories shared in this book are soon replaced with encouragement and triumph as the contributors’ personal stories replace abstract arguments regarding the issue of women in ministry, often from a strict traditional restrictive view, to that of a biblical egalitarian understanding in both thought and practice. As this book leans heavily on personal testimony, you may fear a significant lack of scriptural justification for the contributors’ change of mind. However, this fear is soon dispelled as each chapter includes the contributors’ exploration of key scriptures, in light of their historical, cultural and broader theological context. Scriptures that have been used to restrict and oppress women are closely examined and presented in an accurate, thorough, yet easy to understand style.
How I changed my mind about women in leadership is a must read for everyone who is keen to explore and discover God’s plan and purpose for women. The personal stories remind the reader that the issue is not just an academic argument to be won, but it involves the outpouring of God’s Spirit on both men and women, to live, love and serve in the way they have been created to, not for the sake of equality, but for the sake of the Kingdom! Buy it, read it and lend it out – and pray that God will encourage, challenge and inspire change through it.