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Men and Women in the Church: Building Consensus on Christian Leadership

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  246 ratings  ·  42 reviews
Evangelicals stand divided in their view of women in the church. On one side stand complementarians, arguing the full worth of women but assigning them to differing roles. On the other side stand egalitarians, arguing that the full worth of women demands their equal treatment and access to leadership roles. Is there a way to mend the breach and build consensus? Sarah Sumne ...more
Paperback, 332 pages
Published March 11th 2003 by IVP Books (first published March 2003)
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K.D. Winchester
Nov 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology
Sumner's book provides an excellent critique of evangelical's two main views of marriage (complentarianism and egalitarianism). She belongs to neither camp, which gives her the unique ability to poke holes in each view's arguments. Ultimately she wants each person to pursue becoming more Christ-like, doing what she or he feels called by God to do. I am not gong to summarize her arguments or views here, because that would be an impossible task. You should just read it. :)
As you head into it, be a
Jan 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An important read for all Christians regarding women. An academic and heady book originally stemming from her dissertation, it took me three years to digest the analyses in the tiny printed, meaty pages. Solely interpreting Scripture as a basis for addressing contemporary issues about women in their marriages and in church leadership, Sumner humbly and compassionately analyzes both sides of the conplementarian/egalitarian issue and seeks to build consensus among all.
Daniela Torrentera
May 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Daniela by: Kendra valdez
What a mind blowing book!!! Her research, resources, way of exposing the Scriptures are just outstanding. Her conclusion brought me hope!! No controversial attempts, just fact!! Hope you are blessed as I was. For me, a start for healing!!!
Joy Kaplan
Mar 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Beyond excellent book! I felt as if she took all of the ideas out of my own head and put them on paper! If you ever want to know what I think about the issues of women in the church - here you go!
Jun 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014, non-fiction
Excellent book. Very very balanced and well-written. I found it very freeing. A breath of fresh air.
Jul 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sexuality-issues
While I didn't agree with Sumner in the biggest points she was making in this book (she doesn't align with the theological confessions I hold to and I didn't find her arguments against those terribly compelling), she makes a well argued case for a quasi-egalitarian position for the most part and she did persuade me on a number of minor points as well. I really appreciated her approach to exegesis that is much more literary than simple proof-texting, and found that the approach often led to uniqu ...more
Nov 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As always, I don't agree with everything in this book. What I love: though the author is academic (PhD and a college professor), this book is written more in a personal narrative style describing her own journey on this issue. It grapples with the biblical issues, and the author is deeply committed to the Bible, but it also resonates practically and emotionally. There were important questions I thought she didn't address, and there were some points I wish she had been more clear, but ultimately ...more
May 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
So helpful in understanding some difficult topics and passages in the Bible. I appreciated her gracious way of discussing issues that can be very divisive and inflammatory. I think she does a good job of modeling how we can respect those with whom we disagree, while still holding firmly to our own convictions. My only complaint is that there wasn't more! I wanted to read her thoughts/analysis on more passages!
Jenny Wood
Jun 28, 2016 rated it liked it
“Christians don’t have to be feminists in order to believe in social justice. Feminism is not something that must be added to Christianity in order for the church to honor women. The gospel itself is pro-women.” So argues Sarah Sumner in her thoughtful, humble, and deeply personal book Men and Women in the Church. With gentle questions and painstaking logic, she explores the identity of women and men as biblically defined, refusing to adhere simplistically to either side of the “complementarian ...more
Natalee Chidimma
Aug 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Sometimes reads like an academic trying a little too hard to be accessible. Raises great questions, and doesn't answer them all, which I find frustrating, but which she readily admits up front. Still important conversation starters, and some really interesting exegesis.
Joy Matteson
Confession: within the first 4 chapters, I had come so close to throwing this book across the room. Although I am glad I finished it,I can't say I can recommend it. Dr. Sarah Sumner, professor of systematic theology, graduated from Trinity, felt that God was calling her to write about men and women in the church, advocating for a third way beyond complementarianism (I.e., the belief that men and women are separate but that women are to submit to men) and egalitarianism (I.e, the belief that men ...more
Adam Omelianchuk
Jun 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Sarah Sumner writes with passion and grace as she pleas for a middle road between complementarian and egalitarian gender ideas in the evangelical church. Interspersed with many personal anecdotes, Sumner thinks the likes of Wayne Grudem and Rebecca Merrill Groothuis have it all wrong, and that in a conversation where no one is listening to one another, a lot of the what the Bible is saying is being ignored.

While I am not sure what to think of her mysterion interpretation of "headship" or her re
THIS is the book I have been looking for! It feels like she is speaking directly to me, and it makes me want to cry. It's like "Lean In" for evangelical Christians. It is gentle, knowledgeable, personal, biblical, insightful, revelatory, etc. I just bought 3 more copies for friends, and I'm only half-way through. What a relief; now I don't have to write this book! ;) (not that I could have done it this well anyway)

Above was my review on first finding this book and reading about 1/2. I gradually
Joel Wentz
Jan 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
As of now, this is the absolute best book I have read on this topic. Somehow, Sumner manages to cut through the typical arguments on both sides of the debate, and deftly gets to the heart of what is at stake here. Her treatment of 'classic' texts (the "weaker vessel"; 1 Timothy 2, Ephesians 5 and headship) is refreshing and convincing, even as she operates within a fairly conservative paradigm of scriptural interpretation. Sumner is ruthlessly committed to first-rate scholarship and intellectual ...more
Andrew Childers
Jun 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Dr. Sumner somewhat objectively explained the 2 major different interpretations of biblical passages that pertain to men and women in the church (see Gen. 1-3, Eph. 5, 1 Cor. 11, 1 Tim. 2-3, among others). She also described how the church historically viewed women. Though I don't completely follow her conclusion that women have biblical allowance to hold pastoral roles (if called), Dr. Sumner does handle scripture humbly and with great care. I suggest this book for any seeking an extensive look ...more
Mar 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Life changing. Biblical. Easy to read.

Sarah does a great job address questions about both the Egalitarian and Complementarian views. She breaks each thought down for the reader step by step, so it is not confusion to follow at all. I felt refreshed and freed and thoughtful the entire time I read this book. I could hardly put it down!
Sep 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Christians
Dr. Sumner is a conservative, Christian theologian, head of department at a conservative Christian college(Azusa Pacific University) who happens to be a woman.

She addresses scriptures pertaining to Christian leadership and applies them to families and the church. Her common sense interpretation is clear, obvious, and never before addressed to my knowlege. If widely read, I believe this little book could set the church on its head (in a good way). Unfortunately, i fear, it will slip into obscurit
Mar 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is one of the two most thoughtful and persuasive books I've read (along with Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals by Webb) on the issues surrounding the role of women in ministry. Sumner is an ideal writer to speak to both sides of this debate. She is an egalatarian, but openly disagrees with some of the common interpretations and conclusions. Her exegesis is very thoughtful, and the autobiographical way in which she writes is very compelling. Especially noteworthy is her take on 1 Timothy 2, and ...more
Chauncey Lattimer
Aug 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
There is no better way to experience the struggle of a gifted female leader than to take this journey with Sarah Sumner. Thank you, Sarah, for calling us forward beyond the complementarian and egalitarian debates! Thank you for once again, reframing the questions to get beyond the 'presenting' situations and verses. I also found Dr. Sumner to be very accessible for personal questions, which was a delight. This is a must read for anybody searching to understand God's will in what has become a tro ...more
Tim Sheppard
Feb 24, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: theology-bible
My wife had me read this book after she read it. I would say she is an egalitarian. I am still a complementarian, but Sarah is a good writer and makes a good case. I am a male who grew up as a PK, so I have bias for sure, but I think there is something to the order of Male/Female. We are equal, but in order to show God's grand design and nature, we are to fulfill different roles in all of our lives. The jury is still out, but this is where I stand for now. My wife and I get along fine, by the wa ...more
Anna Josephine
Feb 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Literally the best book I have ever read on gender. I highly, highly recommend it. So well-reasoned and thoughtful and impassioned and balanced. The author manages to speak to all sides of the debate in a liberating and convicting way.

Some good questions I encountered in this book:

- how have I, a woman, been sexist towards other women and even to myself? How do I deal with that?
- is saying that men and women are equal "before God" a cop out? Does it free us from any obligation to work out and fi
Jun 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Every Christian ever.
I can't say enough about this book. I just can't. It's freaking amazing, biblically based, and isn't angry. Mrs. Sumner is speaking to both sides of this debate with respect and has something new to say for everyone. Read this book prayerfully, with an open heart and mind. Conservatives, DO NOT BE AFRAID OF THIS BOOK. It's not written by a "crazy liberal feminist" wanting to take over the world. Everyone in the church needs to read this book.
Tim Gunther
Jul 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing

Thought provoking rethinking of the roles assigned by the church and society over time. Refocuses the conversation on understanding the implicit thinking of the church. Brings fresh insights to how biblical text ought to be considered in light of clearer understanding of what God connection to mankind and our relationship to each other and Him
Oct 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
I wish this book were a tiny bit better edited, but overall I found it an incredibly beautiful work. I so appreciate that she approaches the topic from a genuine desire to see everyone serving God, as opposed to treating the issue like some kind of war. I would recommend this book to pretty much anyone.
Christina Moss
May 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
I would have given this book 3.5 stars, but since that's not an option four seems fairer than three. Sumner does a good job of fairly representing the views of complementarians (and, for the most part, egalitarians, although she has some animosity toward feminism and doesn't seem to realize that it's such a wide tent that she qualifies).
May 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-club
This book was really important to me. It gave me the theology to back up what I always suspected was true: there is nothing Christian about misogyny.

I have already bought two copies for other people. I strongly desire that everyone I have ever known and will ever know read this book.
Jun 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Best book I have read on the theology and relationship of women in leadership in the church. Handled with tremendous grace. Sumner is an excellent scholar and the first woman to graduate with a Ph.D. in theology from the conservative Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
Oct 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I read and talked through this book with my IVCF staff worker in college and found it extremely helpful in understanding the Biblical texts used to speak to women's roles in ministry. I think it's probably time for a reread to refresh my memory on this great book.
Mar 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Okay, seriously phenomenally challenging book. Any church leader worth their salt should read this book and discuss it with the other leaders in their context and other leaders in different contexts. I'm available for discussion, too!
Mar 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People who are genuinely exploring the issue of men and women in the Church.
Shelves: christian
This is the first book I read on this topic that seemed to be humbly exploring the issue of men and women in the church rather than simply spouting off one's views.
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