Wineskins Archive

February 11, 2014

Book Review: “Trusting Women” (Nov-Dec 2002)

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By John York
Nov-Dec 2002

Review of Trusting Women: The Way of Women in Churches of Christ, Billie Silvey, editor (Orange, CA: New Leaf Books, 2002, 234 pp.), by John York, Nashville: Tennessee.
For too many of us, the closest we ever get to the contents of a book is the title. We read it, immediately make a series of assumptions, and move on. My fear with this marvelous collection of essays is that too few of the right people will read and hear what’s being offered in Trusting Women. Who are the “right people?” All of us (male and female) who need to be reminded of the spiritual depth and giftedness that God has provided through women in the religious heritage of Churches of Christ.

The women represented in this volume do not represent a full cross-section of women in Churches of Christ in America. Such a vast array wouldn’t be possible in any collection. What one does find here, however, are women from at least three generations who have genuinely wrestled with God’s calling in their lives to ministry. For some, that ministry has taken overt form: service as missionaries and trainers of missionaries; performance in the arts; passionate development of ministries to particular societal needs such as AIDS; long-term service in institutions of higher education; curriculum development and ministry to children; devoted love and care of spouses and children; in a couple of instances, the calling to preach. Some of the stories will sound comfortable and traditional; others will push the boundaries. All of these women, in one way or another, have “broken new ground.” They have never been afraid to ask questions or be satisfied with simple answers.

At the same time, there are no feminist agendas, no ulterior motives or power plays, no angry or cynical spirits. These women all share a common love of their church heritage, a deep appreciation for the role of males in churches and in their own lives, abiding commitments to the authority of Scripture and to their Lord. They all understand that the role of women in the church is not defined by the “up-front” assignments in the Sunday morning assembly. Their stories reflect great varieties of experience and service—and yes some of them perform those ministries within assembly contexts. The point of their stories is not to force–feed a new set of answers about the role of women or to get us to pick and choose those stories that are acceptable or unacceptable modes of behavior or understanding. These women just want us to listen, to overhear their heart convictions about what God is up to in their lives as women in our world. They want us to hear their questions and their heart longings as those questions and desires reach beyond them to the rest of the women in service to God.

Anyone who reads these essays will pick out their favorites and struggle with others. Any effort that combines the thoughts and writing styles of nineteen different authors will have some essays that more easily engage the reader than others. Some women may look at the contents of this book and be off-put by the high energy out-put of the authors and instantly feel themselves inferior. Some men will never read the book because it’s about women, or they’ve heard it advocates females in the pulpit. If you find yourself in either of those categories, please don’t cast this book aside. (By the way, don’t let the fact that these women are all in one church tradition scare you away either—their questions and their ministries reach beyond the single heritage of churches of Christ) Read the stories. Listen to their hearts. You don’t have to agree with everything or become like any of them. Just enjoy their experiences and ponder their questions with them. You will be blessed by the effort!

Leafwood Publishers (formerly New Leaf Books) Buy book or contact publisher

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John York is preaching minister at the Family of God at Woodmont Hills in Nashville, Tennessee.

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