My ten favorite books on the topic of women in the church

Over the years, I’ve read many books that have helped me to understand the role of women in the body of Christ.

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In my early days as a Christian in the UK, the stream of churches we were part of held the traditional view of women–they could lead prayer meetings, children’s and women’s ministry and make the coffee. They were not allowed to have any kind of strategic leadership role.

This viewpoint was ingrained in me for many years. (I disliked it intensely, but if this was what God had for me as a woman, then I would submit to it–although I have to admit to doing more than my fair share of grumbling and complaining! I might be sitting down on the outside, but inside I was definitely standing up.)

Aside from my own study of the Scriptures, books by various authors played a large part in setting me free. I’ve read fairly extensively around this topic. Here are ten of my favorites:

Why Not Women : A Biblical Study of Women in Missions, Ministry, and Leadership by Loren Cunningham and David Hamilton. This is one of the first books I read that answered a lot of questions and is still one of  my all-time favorites on this subject with a good blend of justice and theology.

What’s With Paul and Women? by Jon Zens takes a practical and theological look at the challenging passages for women in Paul’s writing in ways that the ordinary person can understand.

Ten Lies The Church Tells Women: How the Bible has been misused to keep women in spiritual bondage by Lee Grady covers the big questions concerning women in ministry.

For Such a Time as This by British theologian, Martin Scott. It has a hand grenade on the front cover–need I say more?

Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’s Letters by Philip Payne–my new favorite theological textbook on this topic. Well worth the read for anyone who is looking for a book that goes deeper into this subject.

Unladylike: Resisting the Injustice of Inequality in the Church by Pam Hogeweide also looks at complementarian/egalitarian issues (not a topic we’ll be covering in the book I’m co-writing). Well worth the read.

The Fall of Patriarchy: Its Broken Legacy Judged by Jesus & the Apostolic House Church Communities by Del Birkey–a deep and weighty theological book with a lot of good information.

Powerful and Free: Confronting the Glass Ceiling for Women in the Church by Danny Silk is a recognition of the stained glass ceiling for women and an appeal for equality in the church.

Beyond Sex Roles: What the Bible Says about a Woman’s Place in Church and Family by Gilbert Bilezikian–an oldie but a goodie, looking at the key texts of Scripture regarding women in a format that encourages independent conclusions.

How I Changed My Mind about Women in Leadership: Compelling Stories from Prominent Evangelicals by Alan Johnson. A number of prominent evangelicals describe why they changed their opinion about women. The story by Bill and Lynne Hybels in this book is outstanding.

Add to this a Kindle-only book, Junia Is Not Alone by Scot McKnight that tells the story of how people tried to make the apostle Junia into a man down the centuries.

And here is a very good position paper by David Gschwend

I’d love to hear what other books you’ve found helpful on this subject

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • http://withthekids.wordpress.com/ April Karli

    Men & Women in the Church by Sarah Sumner is one of the best I’ve ever read. It’s not
    argumentative which makes it especially helpful. It was the first I read on the subject and it really opened my eyes and mind to being willing to accept myself as a leader despite what I’d been taught.

    Half the Church by Carolyn Custis James. It’s not academic and just so encouraging. Also has a global perspective which I find helpful here. I find anything by Carolyn Custis James so encouraging in my own development as a leader in the church. Her other books and her blog are equally good.

    For us younger women, A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans, was another encouraging book. Again, it’s not an academic treatise on why women should not be leaders. Rather, it’s Rachel’s story of coming to terms with her evangelical upbringing vs. her calling as a leader in the church. I laughed, I cried, and it led me to pray about the ways I’d sold myself short in ministry because I’m a woman.

    Scot McKnight’s ebook, Junia is not Alone, is a quick easy read. Also wonderful and encouraging.

    • felicitydale

      April, thank you for these suggestions. I’ve added Scot McKnight’s book to the post. I read it a few months ago and as you say, it’s a great read. I’ve just recently come across Carolyn Custis James–she has a great way of putting things on her blog. I’ll have to try and get hold of her book.

  • http://twitter.com/MariaIECruz Maria Cruz

    Thank’s for the tip. Looking forward to read your book when it’s finished!

  • Joseph

    Guardians of the Great Commission is my favorite. It is out of print and hard to find. :(

  • DonaldByronJohnson

    I like “Familiar “Leadership” Heresies Uncovered” by Bruce Fleming. It has a pretty strange title, but a lot of good insight, some I have not found in other books.

  • MIE

    Interestingly the AG (Assemblies of God), ordain women to serve as Pastors and other ministerial positions. They have a position of women in ministry and they recognize that it is cultural. It is very interesting to see how they present their position recognizing women as able to perform any of the ministerial/leadership roles. However, their churches are autonomous, therefore each pastor establishes the doctrine in that matter.

    • MIE

      They have their position paper in their website. :)

    • felicitydale

      Yes, that is interesting. There are a few denominations who are very open to women in leadership–I praise God for them.

  • http://newlife.id.au/ Marg Mowczko

    I like “The Lost Apostle” by Rena Pederson. The book was written by a journalist with no theology training (and not much Bible knowledge); but she knows how to research. and has gone to great lengths, and to many excellent resources, to research about women in the early church. Rena doesn’t just write about Junia, she writes about early Christian women in general and several women in particular. Rena’s writing style makes “The Lost Apostle” an easy and engaging book to read.

  • felicitydale

    Thank you to everyone for these suggestions. Some of the titles I’ve heard of, but I’ll have to take a look at the others.

  • zisca v

    I’m reading the book: “not less than everything” – the courageous women who carried the Christian Gospel to China. from Valerie Griffits

    It’s a great book about women serving as pioneers in China’s church and missions.

    It’s a book where one can see what obstacles and bareres the thinking about women and ministry in mission can build. And how brave men (in empowering) and brave women in obeying what they were sure to hearing from God… can walk on new paths.

    • felicitydale

      Thanks for sharing this. There are some wonderful stories of women on the mission field–I think of Gladys Aylwood, Amy Carmichael and others.