Christian Books on Women

In honor of Women’s History Month, I thought it might be interesting to compile my reviews in recent years of Christian books on subjects related to women. I found everything from current issues to biblical studies. There are biographies and collections of writing by various Christian women in history. There is a discussion of a woman literary figure and one of women in literature. The books are ordered alphabetically by author. The list includes twenty-six reviews going back to January of 2018. This certainly doesn’t exhaust the good things that have been written (and there are reviews older than 2018 on this blog as well). If you are interested in reading some thoughtful books by and about women this offers some recent titles you might consider.

#ChurchToo: How Purity Culture Upholds Abuse and How to Find Healing, Emily Joy Allison. Minneapolis: Broadleaf Books, 2021. An argument connecting sexual abuse and other sexually dysfunctional teaching to the purity teaching upholding an ideal of abstinence until marriage between a man and a woman. Full review

Reason to ReturnEricka Andersen. Colorado Springs: NavPress. Forthcoming, 2023. A book directed to believing women who have left the church looking at the reasons why they have left and reasons why they should consider returning, both for what they may gain and what they may give. Review

The Making of Biblical WomanhoodBeth Allison Barr. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2021. A study of women in church history and the construction of the idea of “biblical womanhood which underwent a series of developments from the Reformation to the present. Review

A Week in the Life of a Greco-Roman Woman (A Week in the Life series), Holly Beers. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2019. A creative rendering of what life was like for a woman from the lower free classes in Ephesus during the period when Paul was preaching in the city. Review

The Gospel According to EveAmanda W. Benckhuysen. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2019. A history of women who have written on Genesis 1-3 since the fourth century, treating their worth, education, their roles as wives and mothers, whether they may teach and preach, and as advocates of social reforms. Review

A Subversive Gospel (Studies in Theology and the Arts), Michael Mears Bruner. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Academic, 2017. Proposes that the grotesque and violent character of Flannery O’Connor’s work reflects her understanding of the subversive character of the gospel and the challenge of awakening people in the Christ-haunted South to the beauty, goodness, and truth of the gospel. Review

That Way and No OtherAmy Carmichael (Introduction by Katelyn Beaty). Walden, NY: Plough Publishing, 2020. A curated collection of writings of Amy Carmichael, the missionary to India who became house mother to girls saved from sex trafficking. Review

The Reckless Way of LoveDorothy Day, edited by Carolyn Kurtz, Introduction by D. L. Mayfield. Walden, NY: Plough Publishing, 2017. A collection of Dorothy Day’s writings on following Jesus in the ways of faith, love, prayer, life, and communityReview

Together in MinistryRob Dixon (Foreword by Ruth Haley Barton). Downers Grove: IVP Academic/Missio Alliance, 2021. A field research-based approach to mixed-gender ministry collaboration identifying ten attributes for healthy partnerships. Review

The #MeToo ReckoningRuth Everhart. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2020. A discussion of sexual harassment and assault in the church, the impact on victims and the response of many churches more focused on institutional reputation than protecting victims and justice for the perpetrators. Review

Resisting the Marriage Plot (Studies in Theology and the Arts), Dalene Joy Fisher. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. Contrary to prevailing ideas of Christianity being an oppressive force in women’s lives in Victorian literature, looks at four instances in this literature where women resist cultural expectations around marriage due to the liberating and empowering quality of their faith. Review

Blessed Are The NonesStina Kielsmeier-Cook. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2020. A memoir of a Christian woman coming to terms, with the help of some Catholic nuns, with her husband’s de-conversion. Review

Redeeming Power: Understanding Authority and Abuse in the ChurchDiane Langberg. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2020. A psychologist looks at the dynamics of power behind various forms of abuse and trauma in which church figures are either perpetrators or complicit. Review

Women in God’s MissionMary T. Lederleitner. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2018.  An account of research into the many ways women are leading in God’s mission around the world, the distinctive traits in their service and leadership, the challenges they experience around gender discrimination, and the conditions under which they do their best work. Review

Mother of Modern Evangelicalism: The Life and Legacy of Henrietta MearsArlin C. Migliazzo, Foreword by Kristen Kobes Du Mez. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2020. The first comprehensive biography on Henrietta Mears that focuses on her early life, her Christian Education ministry at Hollywood Presbyterian Church, and her national impact on a nascent evangelical network of leaders, on Christian publishing and retreat ministry. Review

Discovering Biblical Equality: Biblical, Theological, Cultural & Practical Perspectives (Third Edition), Editors: Ronald W. Pierce and Cynthia Long Westfall, Associate editor: Christa L. McKirland. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. A compendium of scholarly essays addressing gender differences in marriage and the church supporting an egalitarian perspective. Review

The Samaritan Woman’s StoryCaryn A. Reeder. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2022. Challenges the view of the Samaritan woman as a sexual sinner, considering how this has been read in the church, and the realities of the life of women and marriage that points to a very different reading. Review

The Gospel in Dorothy L. SayersDorothy L. Sayers with an Appreciation by C. S. Lewis, edited by Carole Vanderhoof. Walden, NY: Plough Publishing, 2018. An anthology of Sayers’ work organized by theological topics, drawing on her detective fiction, plays, and essays. Review

Husband, Wife, Father, Child, Master, Slave, Kurt C Schaefer. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2018. In contrast to many biblical scholars who argue that the “household codes” of scripture do indeed, for various reasons, affirm cultural role expectations, this work argues that Peter’s version is actually a subtle satire that opposes the cultural norms of Greco-Roman culture. Review

Partners in Christ, John G. Stackhouse, Jr. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2015. A case by a convert to egalitarianism for why both complementarians and egalitarians find scriptural foundations for their views with a proposal for what can make the best sense of the diverse testimony of scripture. (Review)

Women RisingMeghan Tschanz, Foreword by Carolyn Custis James. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021. A global mission trip awakens the author both to the injustices women face throughout the world and the patterns of subjection she learned in childhood that held her back and which she learned to name and use her voice to speak against. Review

The Way of Julian Norwich: A Prayer Journey Through LentSheila Upjohn. London: SPCK, 2020. Six meditations on the writings of Julian of Norwich that redirect our focus from sin and judgement to the greatness of God’s love revealed in Christ’s incarnation and death. Review

Sex and the City of God, Carolyn Weber. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2020. I wrote about this book: “This skillfully written narrative, punctuated with poetry and Augustine, invites us into the the aching wonder of human love shaped by the growing pursuit of the City of God. We are left wondering if God has something better on offer, even when it comes to human sexuality.” Review

With Fresh Eyes, Karen Wingate. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2021. Sixty reflections of a woman born legally blind, who gains significant sight in one eye, seeing not only the world, but also the world’s Creator with new eyes. Review

Priscilla, Ben Witherington III. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2019. An imaginative rendering of the story of Priscilla, a companion of Paul, as a dictated narrative recorded by her adopted daughter Julia, as she faces possible trial before a Roman tribunal. Review

Power WomenEdited by Nancy Wang Yuen and Deshonna Collier-Goubil, Foreword by Shirley Hoogstra. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2021. Fourteen women who are both mothers and academics write about how they navigate these callings as women of faith. Review

For other titles reviewed here on the blog, you can use “The Month in Reviews” and skim titles from 2017 and earlier or if you are looking for a particular title, enter it into the search box on this blog, which works very well with titles or topic searches.

Review: Reason to Return

Reason to Return, Ericka Andersen. Colorado Springs: NavPress. Forthcoming (January 17) 2023.

Summary: A book directed to believing women who have left the church looking at the reasons why they have left and reasons why they should consider returning, both for what they may gain and what they may give.

Ericka Andersen states in the introduction to this book that over the last decade that 26 million women left the church. In this work, Andersen explores the reasons behind that departure, especially given the benefits of church participation, particularly lower rates of depression. She then offers reasons for believing women to consider returning and that this is a call worth pursuing

She discusses the various reasons women have left: the desire for more, not enough time, not needing the church to relate to God, ways one has been hurt, the mess of one’s life, and politics among them. I was particularly interested with how she would deal with times when the church has hurt or abused, which would be one of the most difficult of instances under which to consider returning. She tells a story of a woman who struggled with how she was treated over her divorce but is on a slow journey back. She quotes Rachel Denhollander who says “I don’t trust the Church, I trust Jesus….Jesus is worth fighting for, so His Bride is worth fighting for.” Andersen discusses how Jesus knows one’s hurt, having also been hurt by the religious–murdered no less. She recognizes both the struggle, and that struggling against the abuses is worth it. She suggests we are detoxing, and the key is to find churches doing it well.

She then turns to reasons to reconsider. While we can have a personal relationship with Christ, the church offers the supportive structures to sustain our spirituality. When we have questions, even if we’ve been dismissed by some churches there are others who will walk with us as we search. Churches call us out of our comfort zones and good ones stick with us when it gets messy. They address our loneliness crisis and contribute to our mental well-being. The church becomes a place where we belong–and that cares for our kids.

The third part of the book focuses on why the call to return is worth pursuing–and really, why the Bride is worth fighting for. The church is mean to be a place of authenticity, not for the righteous but for sinners. She argues for searching for the right space and place, including examples of alternative communities like biker churches and microchurches. She contends that church people overall are more generous–that those who give to the church are more generous toward secular causes as well and benefit the wider society. The rituals and liturgies give us images and language for our faith. We should also not be dismayed if the church seems in decline in some parts of the West because of its vibrant global growth

She concludes with what I think is her foundational argument: “The church of your past isn’t the church of your future.” She summarizes her case with five reasons:

  1. It is incomplete without you.
  2. Your personal growth matters beyond you.
  3. Your encouragement is important.
  4. The local church needs your help to “make disciples.”
  5. You are the only one with your perspective.

We do not simply need the church but it needs us. We find our healing and wholeness as we use what we’ve been given to seek that in others.

One thing I appreciate in Andersen is balance. Balance between facing what is wrong with the church and what may just be wrong with us. Balance between facing the world’s criticism of the church and not acceding to the world’s lack of hope for the church. Balance between recognizing how a church community may play an important role in our growth and how we have an important role in fighting for the purity and wholeness of Christ’s bride.

One thing that might have been helpful in her appeal to look for good churches would be to talk about the signs of toxic churches and the signs of healthy ones. For those who have only known the toxic, they may not be able to recognize the healthy, or believe that such exists. Some of this is implicit in what she writes–it might have been helpful to make it more explicit rather than just encourage people that good churches are out there.

This is a book written toward women but addresses many concerns, other than how men have abused women either emotionally or physically, shared by men and women alike. The loss of so many women from our congregations ought concern both men and women, especially among those leading congregations. It is worth using this book as a mirror to observe what we see of ourselves and what may be done to see our churches become places to which women will feel both drawn to and safe in. Will they find in us reason to return?


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher.

Review: Women Rising

Women Rising, Meghan Tschanz, Foreword by Carolyn Custis James. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021.

Summary: A global mission trip awakens the author both to the injustices women face throughout the world and the patterns of subjection she learned in childhood that held her back and which she learned to name and use her voice to speak against.

Meghan Tschanz grew up in a good conservative church and participated in a good Christian ministry in college. But she also absorbed teaching that caused her a lot of harm. It all had to do with being a woman and not a man. She was taught about purity, something to be protected, like a lollipop kept in its wrapper. She was taught about modesty, and how she didn’t want to be the cause of men sinning, with the subliminal message that her body, or at least some parts of it were bad and to be ashamed of. She was taught that women lived for men’s needs and wants. Then there were the passes men made, the remarks bosses and customers made that reduced her to an object, eye candy for their pleasure.

All of that was in her history, but below the surface until a year spent on a mission trip around the world. She confronted the male dominance of the mission. She is traumatized when a man pleasures himself while looking at her while she plays tennis. And she entered into the heartbreaking ways women were abused around the world. Beaten and raped by husbands. Subject to female genital mutilation. Deceived and trafficked. One of the women she reached out to was murdered by a client.

Meanwhile, she became involved in a relationship with a young man also associated with the mission. She’s attracted but also increasingly uneasy with the ways she feels controlled and has to “stuff” parts of herself. Those around her see the difference, how she stifles her voice to be with him. All this culminates as she reflects on her experiences, both with the women, and with the people and structures that have shaped her life. After trying so hard to cope and help women cope, she realized that things would not change without men being held accountable. Women endured all sorts of abuse, while men rarely were held to account, or not at all. She recognized the structures of patriarchy both in society and in the church that sought to control and use women, but not to permit them to be equal partners in society or ministry. It was believed that if women stepped up, then men would step back. She exposes the structures and strategy used to keep women “in their place” and the deep pain women experienced, that she experienced.

This is an honest book–about everything from sexuality and bodies to the times she fell apart under the weight of what she saw, and how prayer and friends helped. It’s a book meant to encourage women to raise their voice, to speak into the injustice of patriarchal church structures and societal structures that constrain women but never expect men to change or be held responsible. This is also a book men need to read. We need to understand the pain we as men have inflicted. We need to understand how our own irresponsible lack of control of our desires have caused women to be ashamed of their bodies when we are the ones who should be ashamed. We need to face why power and control are so important to us. What do we fear? There is mystery in the relations between genders and many of us would rather control the mystery than extend the respect that we want by listening, learning, and understanding. Fear is the prelude to wonder in the knowledge of God. The sad tragedy of patriarchy is not only are we robbed of half the gifts of the church, but we settle for the illusion of power and control when we could have wonder.

All this is to say, men, read this book. Some of it will (or should) break your heart. And it will help us support our sisters who are rising, reclaiming their voices, and bringing their whole selves into the lives of our communities.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Mary Wells Lawrence

By Wells Rich Greene – From my own personal collection called Braniff Flying Colors Collection., CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

“Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz,”

“Quality is Job One”

“I Love New York.”

Many of us will readily recognize those ad campaigns for Alka-Seltzer, Ford, and New York City. What we may not know is that the woman who was responsible for some of the most successful ads in advertising history grew up in Youngstown. She was the woman behind the end of plain planes in her Braniff airlines campaign that included the “Braniff Strip” Superbowl ads. Her team recommended painting the planes in colorful pastels. She was the first woman CEO of a major advertising agency traded on the Big Board of the New York Stock Exchange. In 2020. she was awarded the Cannes Lion Lifetime Achievement, the Lion of St. Mark–the pinnacle of advertising awards. All from a beginning in Youngstown.

This is Women’s History Month, and so it seemed fitting to recognize a famous woman from Youngstown. Mary Wells Lawrence was born Mary Georgene Berg on May 25, 1928. She grew up in Poland. Her father was a furniture maker. From an early age, her mother enrolled her in elocution, music, dance, and drama lessons leading to a lifelong love of theatre, a key element in her advertising work. After a year in New York at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater in New York at 17, she went on to Carnegie Institute of Technology to study merchandising. There, she met her first husband, Burt Wells, an industrial design student. They married and moved to Youngstown, Mary taking a job as a copywriter, the text part of advertising, for McKelvey’s.

A year later, she was the fashion advertising manager for Macy’s in New York. That year, she divorced Burt, who she remarried in 1954. In 1953, she joined an established firm, McCann-Erickson as copywriter and head of the copy group. In 1957, she moved to a more innovative firm, Doyle, Dane, Bernbach as a Vice President after a brief stint with Lennan and Newell. The late 50’s represented a period of prosperity and the explosion of television as a media, and her career took off with it. Then in 1964 Jack Tinker, who she had worked with at McCann-Erickson formed a new firm with Richard Rich and Stuart Greene, and recruited Mary. Their first client was Alka-Seltzer, and Mary and her team came up with the “No Matter What Shape Your Stomach’s In” campaign, which was hugely successful.

The mid-60’s represented a time of major change in her life. She and Burt were divorced for a second time in 1965. Her firm landed the Braniff account mentioned earlier and she landed Harding Lawrence, Braniff’s CEO as her second husband, marrying him in 1967. They were married until his death in 2002. Jack Tinker and Partners made a major blunder in offering her the job of president with a significant pay increase, but without the title, believing having a woman would undermine confidence in the firm. She left to start her own agency, along with Rich and Greene, forming Wells Rich Greene with her as CEO. After she married Lawrence, they had to shed the Braniff account, but there other accounts included TWA, Benson & Hedges, Proctor and Gamble, Bic (“Flick your Bic), Miles Laboratories, Purina, and Midas (“Trust the Midas Touch”). By 1969, she was the highest paid advertising executive. In 1976, the firm had billings of $187 million.

She retired in 1990, selling the firm to a French firm, BDDP. Sadly, that firm ceased operations in 1998. They lacked Mary’s genius. In 2008, she joined Joni Evans, Lesley Stahl, Liz Smith, and Peggy Noonan in forming, a website for women, refocused as, aimed at younger women in 2010. In 2020, Mansion Global reported the listing of her Park Avenue mansion for $27.95 million. She is living at the time of this writing. All in all, not bad for a woman who got her start in Youngstown.

To read other posts in the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown series, just click “On Youngstown.” Enjoy!

Review: When Women Played Hardball

When Women Played Hardball, Susan E. Johnson. Seattle: Seal Press, 1994.

Summary: The story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, a professional league of women playing hardball from 1943 to 1954 told through a game-by-game summary of the 1950 championship, stories about the league, and player narratives.

Women playing hardball at a professional level? Unheard of today, but a reality during the post-war years of the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. You may remember hearing about this when the movie A League of Their Own came out back in 1992. The movie was a fictionalized account based on the league.

The league was the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which operated for twelve seasons from 1943 to 1954. The league began as a fast pitch softball league for the first few years, then transitioned to a hardball game, pitched overhand and with field dimensions closer to the men’s game. The league was the brainchild of Philip K. Wrigley, of the Chicago Cubs to fill the gap that World War 2 created as men entered the service. At its peak, the league consisted of eight teams in medium sized Midwestern cities. Originally, players were recruited in pools, then assigned to teams to create parity, making for a more competitive league. After 1950, management shifted from league management to team management, a move that contributed to the decline of the league. Altogether, roughly 600 women played on these teams.

One of the teams was the Rockford Peaches, who won a number of championships in the league’s early years under Manager Bill Allington. The author, Susan E. Johnson was ten years old in 1950 and idolized the players, avidly following that year’s championship series. In 1994 she turned those memories, accounts of that series, interviews of the players in later life, and discussion of various aspects of the experience of the women who played in this league.

The book is structured around the seven games of the series against the Fort Wayne Daisies. The Peaches had home field advantage. Each chapter has a game account, a player narrative, and discussion of some aspect of league life.

I would say that the game descriptions actually were the least interesting part of the book, although the series went to seven games. The stories of the players and discussions of league life elaborated a theme of a league where the players “looked like girls and played like men.” In the early years, new players went through charm school, wore skirts in public, could not cut their hair short, and sported uniforms that were one-piece tunic dresses with a skirt above the knees and shorts underneath, which could result in painful “strawberries” on the thighs from sliding into bases. Many of the women grew up as tomboys, playing with brothers and other boys, and in some places, in organized fast-pitch softball leagues. Woman after woman talked about plays they’d pulled off offensively or defensively, plays that reflect a high level of play. Not all were so fortunate, but those who played for Allington and several others, played for managers who really were dedicated to teaching the finer points of the game.

We also learn about life off the field. Chaperones both maintained discipline and were friends to the women. Some of the women were still in their teens when they started playing, and maintaining trust with parents was an important issue. Wrigley made to league worth it to the women. Earnings were between $45 and $85 a week for players, far more than they could earn in most jobs.

When the league ended in 1954 many of the women continued to find ways to compete. A touring team by Allington lasted a few years. Surprisingly, less than half married, unusual at a time when over 90 percent of women married. Some lived singly, some were in lesbian partnerships. Friends kept up with each other, and a newsletter and reunions and exhibition games began in the 1980’s. In 1988 the National Baseball Hall of Fame established an exhibit remembering women in baseball, including a ceremony many of the players attended, and described as one of their proudest moments–a recognition of the high level of competitive play their league had achieved. Then, the 1992 movie made them celebrities, something not altogether welcome for some.

I wish I could have seen these women play. They proved what women were capable of. Some baseball pros said that some could have played with the men and a few had invitations to do so. Sadly, there is no such league today, although this league helped make the case for women in sports. Baseball is a game that can be enjoyed no matter who is playing it. The physics of a curve ball is the same. A good drag bunt is the same no matter who is holding the bat. What it takes to execute a good double play or hit and run play does not vary by gender. In many sports, the level of team play is higher among women than in male leagues where individual superstars may dominate. That is what made this book a delight to read. It not only told the stories of some of the amazing women who made up this league, it celebrated the game–the joy of playing it well, and the joy of or reading of well-played games, no matter the gender of the players. And these women came to play!

[You can read more about The All-American Professional Baseball League at their website, including player search, league and team history, statistics, articles, and reunions]

Review: A Week in the Life of a Greco-Roman Woman

a week

A Week in the Life of a Greco-Roman Woman (A Week in the Life series), Holly Beers. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2019.

Summary: A creative rendering of what life was like for a woman from the lower free classes in Ephesus during the period when Paul was preaching in the city.

This book grabs your attention from the very first pages as the main fictional character, a woman from the poorer laboring classes of Ephesus, Anthia, assists her friend Dorema in the perilous experience of childbirth. Something goes badly wrong, and Dorema, her best friend cannot deliver her child despite potions and prayers and the ministrations of her midwife. Dorema exhales her final breath looking blankly past Anthia.

Like other books in this series, we go through a week, in this case with Anthia. She is also pregnant with her second child. She lives a demanding routine of caring for an aging father who soils himself, lives in a crowded one room dwelling with her family (imagine intimacy!), tries to please a husband who doesn’t hesitate to physically abuse her at any threat to his honor, hauls water, cooks what food there is on a coal brazier, and works in the market selling whatever fish her husband catches. The book describes emptying chamber pots and using public latrines open to both sexes. Amid all this she begins bleeding, her baby stops kicking and her pleas to the gods seem of little avail.

Then she hears of this person called Paul who is preaching. And healing. Healing comes close when a handkerchief from Paul heals the deadly fever of her neighbors son. Eventually she joins a gathering of the Way, as they call themselves, for a dinner and time of worship–a dinner where those of higher classes, lower classes, and slaves eat and worship together without distinctions–where slaves are even served by their betters. They even pray for her.

The portrayal helps us understand the confrontation between the worshipers of Artemis, the goddess of Ephesus, and the followers of Jesus, whom Paul proclaims. How will those like the silversmiths who fashion idols respond? How will Anthia’s husband respond? And how will this nascent community meet the challenges?

As with other books in the series, there are images and sidebars on cultural backgrounds for things like marriage, food, pregnancy and labor, Artemis, housing, sanitation, cosmetics, honor and shame and other topics that come up in the narrative. We come to understand what embodied life at its most elemental was like in a city like Ephesus.

We also grasp what it was like for the first Christians to engage this culture with its social strata, its relations between men and women, its ideas of honor and shame, and its gods. Holly Beers helps us understand how powerful, how radically different both the message and the new community of the Way appeared to the culture, and also how strangely attractive it was in the ways it broke down barriers between classes, and men and women. Read this book to enrich your reading of Acts, Ephesians and Paul’s letters to Timothy–or just to read a good story.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Review: Women in God’s Mission

Women in Gods Mission

Women in God’s MissionMary T. Lederleitner. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2018.

Summary: An account of research into the many ways women are leading in God’s mission around the world, the distinctive traits in their service and leadership, the challenges they experience around gender discrimination, and the conditions under which they do their best work.

No matter what you believe about women in leadership, women are serving and leading in ways that are advancing God’s global mission. Mary Lederleitner researched their stories, giving an account of their leadership, the distinctive traits that mark their work, the challenges they face because of their gender and how they cope engage these, and what conditions foster the opportunity for them to serve and lead with excellence. In introducing her study, Lederleitner writes:

“My desire is to share stories of faithful and trusted women, so other agendas or issues do not derail the conversation about women in God’s mission. Other people can write books that argue points of view. The purpose for my book is to bring the voices of respected women from approximately thirty nations to the dialogue about leadership in general, and to dialogue about service and leadership in God’s mission specifically.”

This story approach runs through the book, beginning with “Appreciating Their Stories” in Part One. She documents the incredible variety of ways women are leading in networks, new missions, health organizations, in executive roles and in their families, and much more, with a deep sense of the privilege of being able to advance God’s mission in all these ways. Yet they often have faced challenges because of their gender and creatively responded. Many had a deep sense early in life of their leadership calling and struggled between faithfulness to God’s calling and cultural expectations and limitations.

Lederleitner teased out seven distinctive traits in these women, which she summarizes as “The Faithful Connected Servant.”

  1. Leadership is not about them but God
  2. A deep commitment to prayer.
  3. A preference for collaborative leadership.
  4. A holistic view of mission.
  5. Perseverance despite difficulties and injustices.
  6. Intense care for mission impact.
  7. A commitment to excellence and continuing personal growth.

Part Two elaborates these seven qualities, illustrating them with a variety of leadership stories. As a man who has worked with women leaders, I’ve witnessed all of these traits, and found that they have stretched my own leadership. I appreciated seeing these named.

Part Three explores the reality of gender discrimination, from the abuses women endure in society to ways they are discriminated against in the workplace in terms of promotion compensation, invisibility, and having to prove themselves in ways not expected of men. She explores both the ways women sometimes accommodate established patterns of discrimination, and what women do when, out of a sense of call, they cannot accommodate.

Part Four is especially important for men to read, because we can play a vital role in unleashing the gifts of excellence women bring to the church. It begins with husbands who are not threatened by their wives but delight in their gifts and accomplishments and sacrifice so they have the opportunity to excel. It means changing our metaphor in the workplace from a fear of women as temptress (usually the man’s problem that he needs to take responsibility for) to one of seeing each other as “sacred siblings.” It means men opening opportunities for women to step forward. She concludes this section by identifying remaining issues ranging from health and family issues to equity in the workplace.

What I most appreciate with Lederleitner’s story-telling approach is that she is not perpetuating a theological polemic but rather describing present and possible realities for women, the admirable work they are doing in serving and leading, even when limited by structures or theological positions. She shows the barriers the church erects, apart from the theological discussion, in which we hurt those who seek to serve and advance God’s mission.

This is a book men need to read! We need to understand both the internal struggle, and external conditions that make it hard for women to say “yes” to God’s invitations to serve and lead, and how we often make it harder. Men in leadership of ministries and agencies need to understand the potential for the mission of our organizations to be more effectively advanced when the women among us are fully able to lead well. Empowering women doesn’t come at the expense of dis-empowering men, but rather multiplies the power of all of us to fulfill God’s mission. Given the challenges facing the Christian mission in the modern world, that seems a good thing.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.


Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Women Workers During World War 2

rosie the riveter

J. Howard Miller, Public Domain

The woman who was the inspiration for the iconic “We Can Do It!” poster, often nicknamed as “Rosie the Riveter,” died this week at the age of 96. Naomi Parker Fraley was the subject of a photograph that inspired Westinghouse artist J. Howard Miller’s inspirational poster, originally designed to boost morale in Westinghouse plants during World War 2. There was actually some controversy about the identity of “Rosie” and this Time article summarizes how they figured out who the real “Rosie” was. The poster went viral, and has come to be an icon for the empowerment of women in the workplace.

Youngstown was one of the “arsenals of democracy” supporting the war effort during World War 2 and there were a number of “Rosies” who contributed to that effort. My mother-in-law was one of them. She often spoke of her work during the war as an inspector with one of the aircraft part suppliers in Youngstown. She wasn’t a riveter, but rather inspected the riveting work of other workers, many of them women. She talked of getting people angry when she’d send an assembly back because of improper rivets. Her attitude was that the boys “over there” depended on them getting it right.

From what I’ve been able to learn, two of the places where aircraft parts were manufactured were General Fireproofing and Steel Door. At Steel Door, they manufactured fuel tanks for the aircraft. I also found this Mashable site with a color photo spread of real life “Rosies” in aircraft manufacturing during World War 2. Unfortunately, there were none from Youngstown.

Women filled the spaces in the workforce opened up by men who went away to serve. The steel mills in Youngstown ran three shifts and prospered during this time and there were a number of positions filled by women. Women filled between 8 and 16 percent of the production positions, particularly in rolling mills, fabrication, finishing, and shop maintenance.

Helena Auguston was one of the contributors to Youngstown State’s Oral History Program. During World War 2 she worked for a year at the Ravenna Arsenal making detonator caps for artillery shells. Then she worked for the remainder of the war at Republic and Copperweld, mostly as a crane operator. Here is a portion of her interview with William M. Kish of her experience:

OH1236 pdf

Screen capture from Helena Auguston interview with William M. Kish

Some, like Helena, returned to homemaking after the war. But many did not. They joined unions and advocated for women’s rights in the workplace. It clearly changed perceptions of what women were capable of doing and began to break down the divisions of work into “men’s work” and “women’s work.” This also began to change relations between husbands and wives as women no longer depended on a male wage earner, and how children were raised.

These women are some of the “unsung heroes” of World War 2. Youngstown played a huge role in the war effort, and women played a significant part in that effort, one that it seems appropriate to remember with the passing of the original “Rosie the Riveter.”

I’d love to hear some of your stories of women in your family who worked in Youngstown area factories during World War 2.

Review: Rescuing Jesus


Rescuing Jesus: How People of Color, Women & Queer Christians Are Reclaiming EvangelicalismDeborah Jian Lee. Boston: Beacon Press, 2016.

Summary: An account of how three marginalized groups within American evangelicalism are finding increasing acceptance, and the struggles they have faced along the way.

Deborah Jian Lee writes as a journalist who has been on the inside of much of what she is covering. Raised in an Asian American family, she came to an evangelical Christian faith as a teenager, became involved as a participant and leader of a collegiate fellowship during her college years, experiencing painful encounters around issues of race, the role of women, and LGBTQ issues, which led to her distancing herself and becoming one of an increasing number of religious “nones”, still spiritual, but no longer identifying with a particular faith community.

In this book, she recounts the efforts of three marginalized groups to gain a place of their own at the evangelical table. She does this by focusing on the stories of several representative figures. Lisa Sharon Harper, an activist working with Sojourrners, represents the struggle of ethnic minorities to be accepted on their own terms rather than assimilating into white Christianity. Jennifer Crumpton represents the awakening of many evangelical women from being subordinated to men in church, marriage, and public life to discover her own identity and exercise her own gifts in ministry as a woman. Tasha, Will, and Jason were core leaders of the Biola Queer Underground and represent the many youth coming from evangelical homes who struggle to authentically acknowledge and live out their sexual orientations and gender identities and yet find acceptance within the evangelical community.

The book is divided into three parts, describing a journey from conformity to evangelical norms, to skepticism and questioning, and finally to what would seem a “radical” but honest expression of what it means to be an ethnic minority, a feminist, or an LGBTQ person yet an evangelical. The narrative of these central figures journeys is interspersed with a historical account of evangelicalism around issues of race, feminism, and engagement with LGBTQ or “queer” persons, the self-identifier most often used in the book. At various point, Deborah Jian Lee interjects her own narrative as well as her personal interactions with the central characters as well as other evangelical leaders including Soong-chan Rah, Letha Scanzoni and Nancy Hardesty, Justin Lee of the Gay Christian Network, as well as senior figures like Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo and Richard Cizik whose views on the place and inclusion of these marginalized groups changed over the course of their lives.

This was a hard, and yet illumining book for me to read. I am a white male, straight, boomer generation person working in the collegiate ministry world that is the scene of both Deborah Jian Lee’s personal narrative, and significant in the wider narrative. Reading surfaced memories of stereotypes, and incidents where I grieved individuals in each of the marginalized groups she describes, and my own continuing journey of repentance. Recent years and interactions have shown me how much I don’t know, and how much I need to listen and learn from people in each of these groups. The book also chronicles how hard and complicated this journey can be.

There are some other things I wrestled with as well. One is that this was one of about ten examples of recent books with the idea of “rescuing Jesus” in the title. I’m pretty sure that it is not Jesus who needs rescuing, but rather his followers who wander into various captivities. The second is with the word “reclaim” in the subtitle. I think it is more accurate to say that each of these marginalized groups and their allies are attempting to “reframe” evangelicalism in a way that includes and affirms them for who they are.

This leads to a third, and to my mind, far more significant question. Particularly around questions of gender roles and sexual identity and acceptable practice, there are significant differences around how the Bible is to be read, or if the Bible should even be relevant to the practice of the Christian community. Biblical authority, or, what I think a more negative term, biblicism, has been considered one of the defining marks of the evangelical movement. There are some who would be just as happy to see this go, but the question is whether what is left is still definably evangelical. Lee is conscious of these tensions within evangelicalism, but evidences a desire that it would move toward a type of progressive inclusiveness that may not be so far from her own status as a spiritual “none.” This is in no way to denigrate her own beliefs or journey. But I do think it will lead others, for example Wesley Hill, who she only mentions in passing, to conclude this too great a price to pay and choose the challenging road that seeks to hold together loving the marginalized and biblical faithfulness.

At the same time, Reclaiming Jesus is a good indicator of what is happening in the Christian movement of a Millenial generation in which people of color are becoming a majority, where women are finding their voice, and LGBTQ persons have won significant battles for civil equality. The majority of white evangelicals may have played a key role in electing the next president, but are hemorrhaging members among Millenials. This book can help them understand why, and what they must address while there is still time.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher via LibraryThing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

On Fathers

I’ve been thinking today of what it is we honor in remembering fathers on Fathers Day. What it strikes me what we do not honor is simply the ability to become a father. There are lots of males who have impregnated women who never step up to the plate and act as a father. And there are the real men who sometimes cannot fulfill this biological function who so live and act that they are truly worthy of being honored as fathers. So what are we honoring on this day?

Dad and Me on a ride in Mill Creek Park, Fall 2011

Dad and Me on a ride in Mill Creek Park, Fall 2011

We honor those who fully share responsibility with a woman in making a home, in providing for the livelihood of that household, and caring for the children of that union. They not only help provide for children, they help with the vital work of being present with children, from those first diaper changes, through nights awake with a sick child, through school projects, through family outings and vacations, through the changes of adolescence, driving lessons, and going off to college. They continue as trusted mentors through adult life. I don’t think of any of these as particularly “male” tasks and many single parents manage these well. But the fathers we particularly honor are those who are “all in” in sharing the work, and the joys of being present to their sons and daughters in this way.

We honor men on this day who model respect for every woman in their lives–their spouses, mothers, daughters, friends, and colleagues. Their maleness is never an excuse for verbal or physical violence against a woman. Their sexuality is never a license to force sex on a woman (even one’s wife) without her consent or a child ever. I would go so far as to say that the honoring of women extends to how we look at women, either in the real or virtual worlds. Women are not an assemblage of body parts–they are persons. Perhaps the test is to ask, would you ever want someone else looking at your wife, or mother, or sister,or girlfriend, or daughter in that way? Those people are real persons in our lives. Do we extend that to seeing all women as real persons? And these men teach their sons to define real manhood in this way by saying, “do as I do.”

We honor men on this day who keep their commitments to love and cherish, for better or worse, in sickness and health as long as the two live. My father incarnated this. He was holding my mother’s hand when she took her last breath. He kept faith with her and loved her through nearly 69 years of marriage.  He was a one woman man. It wasn’t all a walk in the park. There were times of separation because of war and employment. There were tough financial times, illness, aging parents and more. But he didn’t walk away. He kept showing up.

We honor men who do all they can to teach their children all they have learned about life–from how to love God to how to fix a toilet. Perhaps most crucially, we teach our children how to live wisely–to act with integrity, to learn to work hard and finish a job, to use money wisely without inordinately loving it, to be considerate of and empathize with others.

These are some of the things I believe we honor with this holiday called Fathers Day. These are the things I remember about my own father and have aspired to in my life. I hope these things are what I’ve passed along to my son and those of his generation. Thank you, dad for all that you taught me, and all that you were in my life!