Some women want to have an active role in the Evangelical church, some have fled to other churches where their voices and contributions can be appreciated. Some have resigned themselves to fit into the mold of a church where women are not a dominant voice. The central part of this book are the interviews discussing the lives, traditional and nontraditional viewpoints, and experiences of many different women concerning the woman's role in the church and home life. What is a woman's influence in the different available church positions and are they being utilized with what they are capable of contributing?
What an eyeopener this book was to me. Not giving much thought before to a woman's role in the success/failure of a church, I now have a good understanding of the whys and viewpoints that make up some of the women in the churches population today. Also beneficial to me was what bloggers wrote at the end of each interview/chapter. They added greatly to the conversation and brought a whole new perspective to the material that was being presented. I did not know what to expect when I first started reading The Resignation of Eve and was surprised at how much I really enjoyed this book. I would recommend this book to others especially to those who feel their voice is surpressed when it comes to voicing concerns in the church.
When I picked up this book, I thought the premise would be that men need to step up in the Church. However, the author proceeds to show that we should encourage and promote women being leaders and pastors and teachers in our churches. This flies in the face of all that I read and understand in Scripture and I did not enjoy the book. Granted, it was written in a way that I still finished the whole book, hoping to find a representative of those with my belief system, those who take God's Word literally and trust Him when He says that man is the head of the woman just as Christ is the head of the Church. And also, I'm not sure why women would want to take these roles of leadership away from men, as we're told in Scripture that "Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly." (James 3:1)
I really didn't enjoy the liberal bent of the book, but if you're in that camp, maybe you will...
The Resignation of Eve is a provocative and critical analysis of the treatment of women in today's evangelical church. Directed primarily toward male pastors of evangelical churches, Jim Henderson rebukes leaders for failing to recognize and appreciate the contributions women make within the body of Christ. More philosophical than theological, Henderson's narrative centers on personal interviews with women he places into three categories: those who are resigned to their church's position on women; those who have resigned from the church because of the church's position on women and those Henderson describes as "re-signed" or "re-engaged in their churches _ leading and influencing despite opposition."
While the book is a conversational, easy read, Henderson's biases are obvious. For example, he tends to denigrate the women he interviewed who hold more conservative positions, in one case explaining away a woman's beliefs by concluding her childhood experience in a broken home led to her need for "structure" within her family and within the church. At the same time, he seems more accepting of those who have walked away from the church, laying blame for their decisions at the feet of evangelical leaders while assigning no responsibility to the women for their attitude and actions.
A potential strength of the book is the random survey of women by the George Barna group. Unfortunately, the survey results play a lesser role in the narrative than the qualitative interviews. As a result, the research fails to add the dimension of objectivity required to offset Henderson's biases.
On the other hand, Henderson's description of Pastor David Cho's work at Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea, strengthens the book. Recounting Cho's conversion to Christianity and the growth of Cho's church to the largest congregation in the world, Henderson shares a particularly compelling quote from a conversation between Cho and Pastor Rick Warren on the role that women played in the development of Cho's church in a traditionally patriarchal society. Cho said,
"In 1964, when I was almost total (sic) infected (with tuberculosis), I had the choice of one of two steps - to delegate my ministry to lay Christians or keep up the ministry. But when I tried to delegate my ministry to the men, they would all make excuses saying that they were too busy, or not trained, or "You receive a salary not me." So I had to use women.
In Korean society - for long periods of time -- women had no power or voice in the church, and I began to use women. This was a big risk - but I had no choice - it was a step out in faith, and I had no alternative. Then the women made a tremendous contribution to church growth! Now all the Korean churches - even Catholic -- have accepted women. When I come to Europe and America encouraging pastors to use women, I always receive a lot of opposition - especially in Europe." http://tinyurl.com/davidcho
(Please note that the reviewer's attempt to find the original source of the quote at pastors.com was unsuccessful).
Finally, Henderson's book addresses an important and divisive issue. The Resignation of Eve raises the issue of women's roles in a way that could lead to reasonable discussion among men and women within the evangelical community. Unfortunately, the lack of objectivity, theological argument and balance between qualitative and quantitative research prevent the book from becoming the authoritative commentary it could be.
I received an electronic copy of the book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.
The overall focus of the book centered on the topic of whether women should be lead pastors or not. Jim stays mostly away from letting this book be about a biblical study or theological debate on the issue of the role of women in ministry. He goes about it by simply sharing story after story after story of women talking about what this issue has done for them in regards to them being in the ministry, if at all (the book is 282 pages with results from a Barna Group Survey on "Woman and the Church").
What I enjoyed about this book was the wide spectrum of stories shared by women with differing views. There were cases of women who left the church and wanted nothing to do with it, and there were cases of women who were upset about the church, but were not willing to let that stop them from being an influential part in advancing the Kingdom of God through the local church.
Although I enjoyed reading these stories, it became somewhat monotonous of hearing how these woman had hurtful experiences of men or were inspired by women while growing up. While I'm not minimizing their awful experiences or taking light of their influences (as my mother showed faithfulness to me), it would be cautious for all of us to understand that the Bible, not our pasts, must guide our beliefs. This is not an easy thing to do. Even men hurt by women of their past could be living out of those hurts while being pastors. The church should not be driven merely out of empiricism or pragmatism. Jim calls attention to these things as well.
"I've no doubt that Rose's passionate commitment to a more traditional interpretation of submission is authentic. At the same time, none of us escape the influence of our past. When you consider her confusing childhood_it's easy to understand why Rose is grateful for the structure and security submission has provided for her" (p. 35)
"My mom, my sister, and my wife are all leaders, and even my first pastor was a woman. So compared to many men, I'm decidedly pro-women" (p. 177).
"I found it appealing largely because I love anything subversive- especially when it's done in the name of God" (p. 130).
It also became monotonous about how most of these women wanted to be preachers on the stage, but because of church policy, they were denied the privilege; and therefore leaving them shortened on using the gift God gave them. It makes it as though men are the sole problem that they can't teach, encourage, serve, give to the needy, lead, or cheerfully show mercy (Romans 12). It also makes it as though men are driven by their love of power, than them living out a sincere desire to obey God in how they have interpreted the Scriptures. Or maybe Jim is calling out both men and women in their love for power? It's certainly been a struggle between man and woman since the entrance of sin and judgment in Genesis 3.
"Perhaps we can start by trying to understand some of the underlying forces- specifically our [men and women] views of sin and power- that have a more profound impact on our beliefs than we generally realize" (p. 257).
In one sense, it marks another category of people who are leaving the church as we know it. We know men left the church long ago. We've learned that young people have left the church in the last decade. And we've learned that America is far from a Christian nation it once was thought to be. Seeing that the "median age of women who attend, volunteer in, and give money to churches is somewhere between fifty-six and fifty-nine years old" (p. 248), we wonder if there is hope for the future of the church.
These stories are meant to help open the eyes of pastors, leaders, and women about what women are feeling and perceiving about the church. Hopefully, pastors, leaders, and women can also see that there is hope to continue this dialogue and partnership. Prayerfully, we can continue to explore this issue biblical and sensitively together for the sake of the church and the souls of the world. No matter where, how, or if you draw the line for woman in the ministry, it's evident that we can't do it without each other.
I have to agree with some of the other reviewers that the book fails to take into account other trends affecting church attendance. While increases in women's education are a factor, I think it's mainly a factor in women's postponing marriage and just generally feeling out of place at church due to being single.
Singles are far more excluded in the church than women are overall (singles of both genders). Since over 50% of Americans are single, and nearly 50% of all American women over 35 have not had children (yet), it stands to reason that churches that cater to very traditional families and traditional early marriage patterns would see a significant drop in female attendance.
I was raised Methodist, so there weren't many obstacles to women holding positions of leadership in my church. My grandmother's church also had a female senior minister, back in the 1980s and 1990s, so it wasn't an issue, and certainly not the reason I stopped attending church myself around 1995-ish. I had finished college, and if you aren't married by the time you finish college, it seems like the church has no place for you. My church was fairly large, and they had very active youth and college groups, but the singles group was sort of weak, and men in the group tended to be a little creepy (a case of the odds being good, but the goods being very odd! LOL). I was uncomfortable attending the singles Sunday school class because I was always on my guard lest one of the creepies latch onto me and give everyone the impression we were "together". For some reason, that was never a problem in college, but once you graduate to the singles group, look out. There wasn't an alternative to the singles group. I think churches need to deal with that. Also, around that time my church also started some sort of ministry to homosexuals, to I guess help them become straight (if that's even possible!), so I was leery of attending the singles group because I didn't want to be 'fixed up' with a gay man who was in denial about his sexuality. The singles group met in a room in the basement, away from the other adult Sunday school classes, which felt a little degrading, although I'm sure it wasn't meant to be, it felt that way. It got to the point where I just felt so uncomfortable even sitting alone through church services, that I just gave up and quit.
So, I wouldn't say that leadership obstacles are keeping women away from the church so much as the church hasn't, structurally, kept up with women's changing roles in society at large. We don't get married right out of high school or college any more. That gap is a very big gap, and it's not being serviced very well by even the most mainline liberal protestant churches like mine.