Monday, January 30, 2012

Les Livres du Lundi

This week, in my readings, I finished Alan F. Johnson’s collection, entitled How I Changed My Mind About Women In Leadership. This book offers the personal testimonies of various evangelical leaders, specifically in reference to their patterns of thinking regarding an affirmation of women’s leadership among Christian ministries. When I first saw this book promoted by the “Christians for Biblical Equality” organization, I was intrigued by its premise. Rather than necessarily advancing theological arguments surrounding the issue (though the book certainly presents many), How I Changed My Mind provides personal narratives, accounts of individuals’ life experiences which motivated more egalitarian understandings.

In my opinion, the most moving story is that of Gilbert Bilizikian, a Professor Emeritus of Wheaton College. Bilizikian describes his childhood as a displaced Armenian Christian, his experiences living in France during WWII and serving with the French military, albeit reluctantly, in the Algerian War, and his exposure to Middle Eastern turmoil and the viewpoints of Palestinian refugees while teaching in Lebanon. He acknowledges that these life experiences have coalesced to make him “cautious about the easy acceptance of entitlements, responsibilities, and privilege that claim for justification the incidences of destiny such as birth, gender, class, color, or race” rather than the biblical expectations of “appropriate qualifications and spiritually derived abilities” (p. 85).

Other testimonies, such as those by Bonnie Zurhbacher, John G. Stackhouse, Jr., Ronald J. Sider, Stanley N. Gundry, and Bill and Lynne Hybels, provide considerable food for thought. Moreover, I appreciated the conclusion of John Ortberg:

I think many of us who are convinced of an egalitarian ideology still have a
ways to go in our thinking and behaving so that we’re actually living up to what
we say we believe. How often do I allow the “male prerogative,” which still so
often operates in churches and in culture in general, to cover up what is simply
laziness or selfishness on my part? How often do I claim to believe in equality,
but what I’m really angling for is my own advantage?
As a Christian who has grown up in a branch of the evangelical church that has shown sensitivity to issues of women’s leadership (however imperfectly) and who has come to believe in equality as a Biblical ideal, I also still see areas of my life and thinking that do not quite line up with my ideological claims. This book was a helpful encouragement and clarification of these issues. While I am aware that this matter can be divisive among Christians, I think that the personal testimonies in this volume offer a unique perspective that can benefit all evangelicals.

Jadon’s Pick of the Week is A Bargain for Frances by Russell Hoban. This delightful story, with its important lesson on friendship and unselfishness, is a true classic. A couple other favorites from the library this week were A Mink, a Fink, a Skating Rink: What is a Noun? by Brian P. Cleary and Our Stories, Our Songs: African Children Talk About AIDS by Deborah Ellis. Our older children have been especially intrigued by the latter, with its short and simple stories in the words of African children whose lives have been changed because of disease and poverty. I even noticed Andrew reading a bit for himself in between the action of the NHL All-Star Game this weekend.

Happy Reading!

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