Shelf of the Unread #2: Men and Women in the Church

Men and Women in the Church“How should men and women regard and treat each other if they are both truly faithful to the gospel of Christ and value truth more than personal power?” This is the question that Dr Sarah Sumner seeks to answer in her book Men and Women in the Church: building consensus on Christian leadership. I first came across this book when I heard Dr Sumner speak at a 2011 Writers Conference hosted by Bethel Church in Redding, California. (Thanks to Bethel Church and the Internet I was able to watch a recording of Dr Sumner’s session). A theologian and Dean of A. W. Tozer Theological Seminary in California, Dr Sumner talked about good writing, sharing some of her story as a writer, particularly in relation to writing Men and Women in the Church. I found her story so interesting that I wanted to read the book. I wasn’t disappointed. Men and Women in the Church is carefully researched and the theology explained clearly and logically. Sumner’s style is also engaging and highly readable, even when navigating some of the more challenging passages of scripture. This book is not for everyone, and for that reason I won’t go into specifics. However, if you have an interest in church leadership, and in particular the place of women in church leadership, then Dr Sumner’s book is definitely worth reading. This was the second book from my Shelf of the Unread list. I’m now reading Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens.

Book Review: Lioness Arising

The lioness is a powerful image; a metaphor used to good effect in Lisa Bevere’s latest book Lioness Arising, the first from my Shelf of the Unread. Lioness Arising is a non-fiction book on Christian living; specifically, it is a call for Christian women to wake up and rise in strength together to change our world.

Lisa combines scripture with an exploration of the characteristics of lionesses to reveal strength and courage in women. A lioness is strong, powerful, fierce, fearless and strategic as well as beautiful, graceful, gentle, tender and nurturing. In her own words, Lisa has “come to see the lioness as a picture of how every daughter of the Most High can embrace her strength, develop courage, and effect change in her world.”

It is worth noting that although Lisa shares some of her own experiences in making a difference in her spheres of influence (from bringing hope to trafficked sex workers in Mumbai to bringing change in her son’s required reading at school), this book is not a road map or a blue print. It is an invitation, a wake-up call, to rise up, see what God is doing, and bring all that he has created in us, and gifted to us, to join him.

So what were my impressions? I’ll say right up front that I really liked this book, and having now read it twice in one month, my copy is full of pencilled underlining (my apologies to the purists) and post-it notes wherever an insight, a story or a point particularly caught my attention. Many times it felt like Lisa was having a conversation with me personally, knowing my story, my journey. This book spoke to me, reminded me of who I am in Christ, encouraged me to strengthen my relationships with other Christian women, and to keep following the path God is laying out before me. It challenged me, as did Half the Sky (which is also quoted in this book), not to be a bystander. I recommend Lioness Arising as a book worth reading, for women and men.

I think it’s worth finishing off with the book’s dedication:

To all my lioness sisters who feel something wild, fierce, and beautiful stirring within them.

You are stunning.
You were born for this moment.
Don’t be afraid of your strength, questions or insights.
Awaken, rise up, and dare to realize all you were created to be.

Book Review: Half the Sky

Recently my sister lent me Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. The book is a compelling combination of commentary on global human rights issues such as sex trafficking and forced prostitution, gender-based violence and maternal mortality, and the personal stories of some remarkable women.

Half The Sky

This is one of the most confronting and challenging books that I’ve read in a long time (possibly ever). The statistics and the stories are gut-wrenching. In the 21st century, in my comfortable, middle-class home, it seems almost impossible to comprehend the poverty, discrimination, oppression and violence that so many women and girls are still experiencing around the world. This book opened my eyes to a reality about which I’d been blissfully and conveniently ignorant. It’s easier to believe that you don’t need to do anything, if you don’t know what the issues are.

But this isn’t just a book condemning the oppression of women, it’s also a book filled with hope. Srey Rath in Cambodia escaped from the brothel she had been sold into and now runs a retail business to support her family. With some fundraising help from two women in America, Edna Adan built a maternity hospital on an abandoned dump site in Somaliland. These are just two examples of women who refused to give up, despite incredibly difficult circumstances. There are possibilities for change and transformation, and opportunities for anyone who wants to become part of a solution. As George Clooney is quoted, “It’s impossible to stand by and do nothing after reading Half the Sky.”

Will this book make you feel uncomfortable? Probably. Is this book worth reading? Absolutely. Can you help to change the world? Yes. That’s the message and the invitation. As the authors write in their Introduction, “This is a story of transformation. It is change that is already taking place, and change that can accelerate if you’ll just open your heart and join in.”

As for me? I’ve already started investigating some of the suggested options for getting involved. If you’ve read the book, I’d be interested in hearing how it’s impacted you.