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Archives for 167 – Women’s Roles in Churches of Christ

There is a plethora of resources on this topic. I am going to give a list of resources that cover all sides of this issue. The only agenda I am interested in is what God’s will is on this topic and how scripture informs us on this.

First, let’s define some terms:

Egalitarian – a position where there are no differences between what men and women can do in service to the kingdom, corporate worship, home life, etc. Equal rights and opportunities for men and women.

Complementarian – God designed men and women with differences that impact their roles and functions in the kingdom, assembly, and home. This is usually associated to some degree with male headship. The roles of men and women are different and compliment each other

It is important we study works we agree with and works we disagree with on this topic to allow our conclusions to be challenged and well founded.


If you are new to the discussion I would suggest you start with “Two Views on Women in Ministry” – they give two chapters to the Complementarian perspective and two chapters to the Egalitarian perspective. Four authors, two topics, and the other three authors give feedback on each other. This is a very helpful book that will give you the lay of the land.

Ancient historical/cultural perspective on women
Women in the World of the Earliest Christians By Lynn Cohick (a sociological/historical view)
A Woman’s Place: House Churches in Earliest Christianity by Carolyn Osiek and Margaret Macdonald
Women and the Genesis of Christianity by Ben Witherington
Women in the Ministry of Jesus By Ben Witherington
Women in the Earliest Churches by Ben Witherington
Gospel Women by Richard Bauckham
Daughters of the Church: Women and ministry from New Testament times to the present by Ruth A Tucker and Walter Liefeld
Roman Wives, Roman Widows by Bruce Winter (historical/technical)
Women in Early Christianity by Miller

Next, I am going to categorize some works by their leaning. I may not get this exactly right but it will be close. The complementarian works will be complementarian. The egalitarian works may contain a few that aren’t 100% equal (which would technically be complimentarian but would push beyond much of what Churches of Christ’s historical positions would be).

Complementarian resources
God’s Design for Man and Woman: A Biblical-theological survey by Kostenberger
Women in the Church: An Analysis of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 by Kostenberger, Schreiner, and Baldwin
Women and Men in Ministry: A Complementary Perspective by Saucy and Tenelshof (a bit less technical)
Women in the Church by Stanley Grenz and Kjesbo

Egalitarian resources
Paul, Women and Wives By Keener (very thorough exegesis of the relevant passages with egalitarian conclusions)
I Suffer Not a Woman: Rethinking 1 Timothy 2:11-15 in light of ancient evidence by Kroeger and Kroeger
Ben Witherington’s books above are egalitarian

Hermeneutics/Interpretation considerations
Slaves, Women & Homosexuals by Webb
Women in the Church’s Ministry: A Test case for Biblical Hermeneutics by R.T. France (very brief exegesis of the main passage in a discussion of the ordination of women)

Resources by those affiliated with Churches of Christ
God’s Woman by Nichol (fascinating book from the 1930s)
Women in the Church by Everett Ferguson
Women in the Church: Reclaiming the Ideal by Carroll Osburn
Essays on Women in Earliest Christianity (2 vols) by Carroll Osburn
Trusting Women: The way of women in Churches of Christ – Billie Silvey, editor

Please share your “go to” resources in the comments.

One of the most important discussions we are having in Churches of Christ is what are the biblical roles of women in the life and assembly of our churches. This cannot be a discussion about what men allow women to do in our churches. It must be a discussion about how God views women and what the Bible has to say about what women were and were not doing in the early church and how that maps over on our churches today.

Of all the topics we have put on the table for 2019, this is the one our writers have signed up for the least. I have not asked them why but I can understand why. What one says publicly on this issue can have an impact on their local ministry and the perceptions of them by people in our fellowship. We are quick to brand people, label people, often in unkind and less than generous ways. There is an illness that underlies how we view those who differ from us that also needs to be addressed.

My hope and prayer is that we can have an open discussion that doesn’t involve demonization for those we disagree with or those who disagree with us. I pray that we enter the conversation with generosity and goodwill toward each other and that we exhibit the fruit of the Spirit. It has always puzzled me how people can try to expound biblical truths without exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit. If you are right on an issue and wrong in your approach you stand in the wrong. I also pray that the way we discuss this, this month will be an example of how to have a difficult conversation in a Christ-like manner. We should know no other way to operate than that.

So let us seek grace and truth. Let us approach each other with goodwill and assume the best. Let us not rush to conclude that those who disagree with our position are automatically dismissive of the scriptures. And let us listen well as we discuss this “issue” (which is far more than an issue – it is about real people).

If you want to study this issue more in depth,
here is a list of books to consider.

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