Women, Leadership and Scripture: A Brief Bibliography

I just penned a piece on women and head coverings, and mentioned that this was part of a much larger debate over the role of women in leadership positions. I mentioned that I had not yet written any direct articles on this topic because it is such a big and complex debate.

One or two articles can hardly do the topic justice, since we are dealing with so many things here: biblical issues, theology, exegesis, hermeneutics, culture, history, sociology, and so on. Simply cherry-picking a few passages or tossing around a few proof texts will hardly suffice here.

women church 2Indeed, this is an area in which a very large volume of literature has arisen of late. This is because of the complexity and depth of the issue, but also in part because of the rise of the women’s movement over the past half century in the West. Something which was not discussed or debated very much a century ago is now all the rage, and heated and lengthy clashes over this now regularly occur.

Also there are two separate but related issues here: the role of women in the home, and role of women in the churches. Evangelical Christians can be found on various sides of the debate, ranging from the hierarchical to the egalitarian, with various shades of difference along the spectrum.

There are plenty of books out there on these contentious topics. Only some of the better theological, exegetical, pastoral and scholarly volumes representing the various positions are included here. And I have tried to break them down roughly into the two major camps. In the interests of fairness, I have 22 volumes in each!

Traditional (hierarchical, complementarian)
Clark, Stephen, Man and Woman in Christ. Servant, 1980.
Doriani, Dan, Women and Ministry: What the Bible Teaches. Crossway Books, 2003.
Foh, Susan, Women and the Word of God: A Response to Biblical Feminism. Presbyterian and Reformed, 1979.
Grudem, Wayne, Countering the Claims of Evangelical Feminism. Multnomah, 2006.
Grudem, Wayne, Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth. Multnomah, 2004.
Grudem, Wayne, Evangelical Feminism: A New Path to Liberalism? Crossway, 2006.
Grudem, Wayne, ed., Biblical Foundations for Manhood and Womanhood. Crossway, 2002.
Grudem, Wayne and Dennis Rainey, eds., Pastoral Leadership for Manhood and Womanhood. Crossway, 2002.
House, H. Wayne, The Role of Women in Ministry Today. Thomas Nelson, 1990.
Hove, Richard, Equality in Christ?: Galatians 3:28 and the Gender Dispute. Crossway Books, 1999.
Hurley, James, Man and Woman in Biblical Perspective: A Study in Role Relationships and Authority. Zondervan, 1981.
Kassian, Mary, The Feminist Gospel. Crossway Books, 1992.
Keller, Kathy, Jesus, Justice, and Gender Roles: A Case for Gender Roles in Ministry. Zondervan, 2014.
Knight, George, The Role Relationship of Men and Women. Moody, 1985.
Kostenberger, Andreas, Thomas Schreiner and H. Scott Baldwin, eds., Women in the Church: A Fresh Analysis of 1 Timothy 2:9-15. Baker, 1995.
Kostenberger, Margaret, Jesus and the Feminists. Crossway, 2008.
Piper, John, What’s the Difference? Manhood and Womanhood Defined According to the Bible. Crossway, 2008.
Piper, John and Wayne Grudem, 50 Crucial Questions: An Overview of Central Concerns about Manhood and Womanhood. Crossway, 2016.
Piper, John and Wayne Grudem, eds., Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Crossway Books, 1991.
Reaoch, Benjamin, Women, Slaves and the Gender Debate. P&R, 2012.
Saucy, Robert and Judith Tenelshof, Women and Men in Ministry: A Complementary Perspective. Moody, 2001.
Strauch, Alexander, Men and Women, Equal Yet Different: A Brief Study of the Biblical Passages on Gender. Lewis & Roth, 1999.

Liberationist (feminist, egalitarian)
Barton, Ruth Haley, Equal to the Task. IVP, 1998.
Belleville, Linda, Women Leaders in the Church: Three Crucial Questions. Baker, 2000.
Bilezikian, Gilbert, Beyond Sex Roles. Baker, 1985.
Bird, Michael, Bourgeois Babes, Bossy Wives, and Bobby Haircuts: A Case for Gender Equality in Ministry. Zondervan, 2014.
Cunningham, Loren and David Hamilton. Why Not Women? YWAM, 2000.
Dickson, John, Hearing Her Voice: A Case for Women Giving Sermons. Zondervan, 2014.
Evans, Mary, Women in the Bible. IVP, 1983.
Grady, F. Lee, 25 Tough Questions About Women and the Church: Answers from God’s Word That Will Set Women Free. Charisma House, 2003.
Johnson, Alan, ed., How I Changed My Mind about Women in Leadership: Compelling Stories from Prominent Evangelicals. Zondervan, 2010
Kroeger, Richard Clark and Catherine Clark Kroeger, I Suffer Not a Woman: Rethinking I Timothy 2:11–15 in Light of Ancient Evidence. Baker, 1998.
Giles, Kevin, The Trinity & Subordinationism: The Doctrine of God and the Contemporary Gender Debate. IVP, 2002.
Grenz, Stanley and Denise Kjesbo, Women in the Church: A Biblical Theology of Women in Ministry. IVP, 1995.
Groothuis, Rebecca Merrill, Good News for Women: A Biblical Picture of Gender Equality. Baker, 1997.
Gundry, Patricia, Women be Free! Zondervan, 1988.
Jewett, Paul, Man as Male and Female. Eerdmans, 1975.
Keener, Craig, Paul, Women and Wives: Marriage and Women’s Ministry in the Letters of Paul. Hendrickson, 1992.
Mickelsen, Alvera, ed., Women, Authority and the Bible. IVP, 1986.
Pierce, Ronald and Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, eds., Discovering Biblical Equality. IVP, 2004.
Spencer, Aida Besancon, Beyond the Curse: Women Called to Ministry. Thomas Nelson, 1985.
Sumner, Sarah, Men and Women in the Church. IVP, 2003.
Tidball, Derek and Dianne Tidball, The Message of Women: Creation, Grace and Gender. IVP, 2013.
Tucker, Ruth, Women in the Maze. IVP, 1992.

Both views
Lee-Barnewall, Michelle, Neither Complementarian nor Egalitarian: A Kingdom Corrective to the Evangelical Gender Debate. Baker, 2016

Both positions debated
Beck, James and Craig Blomberg, eds., Two Views on Women in Ministry. Zondervan, 2001.
Blankenhorn, David, et. al., eds., Does Christianity Teach Male Headship? Eerdmans, 2004.
Clouse, Bonnidell and Robert Clouse, eds., Women in Ministry: Four Views. IVP, 1989.
Lees, Shirley, ed., The Role of Women. IVP, 1984.

In addition, see the commentaries on the relevant passages (e.g., 1 Corinthians 11:3-16; 14:33-35; Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 5:21-33; Colossians 3:18-19; and 1 Timothy 2:9-15).

For those who want to know where I stand, I tend to be a bit more on the conservative side of things, so I would tend to lean to the complementarian position. But I do not wish here to enter into a full scale debate (or war) over all this. Those champing at the bits will just have to wait until I do write some lengthy articles on this, introducing the issues, weighing up the various pros and cons, etc.

Happy reading.

[1047 words]

22 Replies to “Women, Leadership and Scripture: A Brief Bibliography”

  1. Obviously I miscounted, but I quickly looked at the authors and with the Traditional (hierarchical, complementarian) books I counted 18 male to 4 women authors and in the Liberationist (feminist, egalitarian) it was equal at 10 male and 10 female (seems missed a couple but that doesn’t worry me as figures would have been different if I’d only counted each author once).

    I did this as I like numbers. How the books are titled can be interesting too.

    How I see relevance here is because in today’s message the preacher, speaking on the b’day of our 80 years old church co-founder, spoke of how she (as a Christian of 70 years) has learnt to live out of her spirit, not out of her soul. Unfortunately this is one of the areas where the soul can come to the fore.

  2. Hi Bill, I got a lot out of reading the different contibutions to your last article on 1 Cor. 11:2-16. Values & opinions are changing so fast within society at the moment, that it has become a real challenge to avoid becoming bogged down in arguments over gender issues within the church. Bill I only have one request when it comes to the lengthier articles that you’ve promised. Could you flag those sections that you would personally consider as being valuable as literary tools for sharing the Gospel. Our society as we know it is disintergrating rapidly. Jesus wants all of us to fulfil The Great Commision. It is getting harder and harder, so the more “contemporary tools” we have at our disposal the better. Bill I’ll be praying for you knowing that these articles you’re preparing will be balanced and informative. Blessings, Kel.

  3. You are certainly opening a hornets nest here, Bill, but it is a very worthwhile and required discussion.

    Based on the cited Scriptures, I have the following general view. Women should not be pastors, deacons or elders. Women should not be presidents or chairmen of congregations.

    At the same time, deaconesses are very important in women’s ministry, and it is noted in Scripture in a few instances that women have been placed into leadership by God when the men refused to step forward. (Here is where the debate gets salty.)

    In my 40+ years of church involvement, both as a layman and as a pastor, women in pastoral ministry have led to weakness in the church – denomination by denomination, including my own.

    I don’t think I will be reading the nearly 50 books you have referenced any time soon, but have done much reading in the past, adding to my living experience. I look forward to your essays on the subject, because they are usually well balanced, thought out, and presented.

  4. Yes you can find books agreeing with your opinions, or you can check it with The Scripture. I have not been shown by anyone where they can warrant having female elders/pastors by Scripture, christian feminists can only resort to feelings, emotions, and of course, opinion. Then I ask them to look at the fruit of their stance, sort of puts everything up for greyness doesn’t it.

  5. Bill, thanks for doing the research and taking the time to share the lists of books on each side of this issue. I’ve read some on each side. On the complementarian side. if someone is looking for a book which focuses on a clear, extensive explanation of the Biblical evidence at every level (Bible themes, passages, verses, and word studies) I feel that Grudem’s Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth is excellent. If someone wants a very short (3 pages, including 4 graphics) summary of the Biblical case for the complementarian view, I just did my best to produce on this past week. You may find it here: http://parresiazomai.blogspot.com/2017/04/what-does-bible-say-about-women-pastors.html

  6. Yes, Thanks Bill, and for the previous article as well.
    Much discussion to be had.

    Adrian; The very first thing I did was note the gender of the authors, and then I see that you had already done it. In addition there was only one shared gender authorship in the first group but five in the second group. The numbers are certainly illustrative, either of men set in their ways, or of women wanting the “fresh air”, or both.

    Marc; I have noted the same thing as you, and it has worried me for a long time. Many women have stepped up because the men haven’t. Now I will grossly generalize: Women, it seems, have a pastoral/caring gift more than men. Men, it seems, have much more of a teaching gift. Both types of giftings have their advantages and disadvantages. Both types of giftings need each other.

    Ps 89:14
    “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne;
    Mercy and truth go before Your face.”
    The New King James Version. 1996, c1982 (Ps 89:14). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

    This scripture Is illustrative of a principle here.
    We are taught that God is love, and so He is; but that love is anchored firstly in truth.
    We cannot have true love without first having truth.
    The truth, (“righteousness and justice”) are foundational in the Kingdom of God.
    We may/should/probably meet God’s love first, for it goes before Him.
    His love woos us and wins us.
    We then find out just how much He loves us; He loves us (Rom 5:8-10) while we were enemies.
    Enemies need to be transformed into loving loyal subjects and servants.
    That cannot be done without an encounter with righteousness and justice.

    Much of the modern western church has not made the second step into what is true love.

  7. Master of culture war watch, Bill, and handled diplomatically and delicately so far.
    I looked over your article on head coverings. It drew my attention because I remember an incident when I was attending a brethren church at the age of 18 while staying with a family in the US. I was gently told to wear the head covering that ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do’, to which I replied, ‘if I must wear the head covering while praying and the Bible says to pray without ceasing then I must wear all the time then’- I didn’t wear it out of coercion and I didn’t know an in depth reason for some of the scriptures but I did know that many years of church, I saw the best and the worst of people. I still attend church to this day and I’ll defend the churches despite their frailties. And I also now know many more things and some of them are: 1. The Apostle Paul was a mighty man of God who undoubtedly was key in assisting the spread of the message of Christ BUT although mostly free from but stemmed from Pharisaical mindset, was also a single unmarried man who lived in a culture that oppressed women. No doubt Paul was an imperfect human spreading the perfect gospel. Just an observation.
    2. Scripture like the one that says ‘women should remain silent’ has been preached on more than ‘Jesus appeared to women first after resurrection’ in all the dozens and dozens of churches I have ever attended. A noticeable imbalance.
    3. The Romans 12 redemptive gifts championed by Arthur Burke,(see You tube videos Arthur Burke redemptive gifts) sees no stipulation of gender. In fact Eve was Prophet gift and Adam Mercy gift and they were co-regent originally. And also Women can have the Ruler gift!!
    4. We know we’re in a spiritual war and the enemy’s age old weapon had been to drive a wedge between the sexes. We should stand and pray against it. We’re much stronger together than apart. One universal truth I’ve learned is: We cannot govern effectively without each other. I believe that how God wanted it. Yes we have jurisdictions and authorities and I’ll save that for another day. That’s just a few. One day, I’ll write more.

  8. Hi Bill, it’s been interesting reading the “tone” of the responses to your article so far. I have also been watching the deteriorating situation with North Korea and also the latest antics of “the Donald”. I am very concerned that World events may overtake this debate before it becomes polarised and possibly acrimonious! Jesus is coming back, and in the meantime He wants his plans and purposes fulfilled. If anyone of his servants desires to put their hand and declare; “I want to serve” Jesus will say “great, welcome aboard”. At this stage in our World History, Jesus is looking for servants to fulfill His Plans & Purposes, I don’t think He is too fussed wether they be men or woman who put their hand up !! Bill, this sure is becoming interesting, regards, Kel.

  9. Discussion?? Who needs a discussion when even a babe in Christ after one reading of Scripture knows the answer is settled! Unless of course someone has a problem with the Apostle Paul & therein lies the problem, everyone today has an opinion, even on something so black & white in scripture! Maybe if we all tried harder to obey rather than discuss, we might see the blessing of God once again on our churches & on our land! The new way has clearly failed. Excuse my rant Bill & thank you, as always, for your faithful ministry.

  10. Thanks guys. But I see that my closing remarks about not wishing for this piece to result in yet another war over such hot potato issues has largely fallen on deaf ears! Hmm, why did I suspect that would be the case! As I said, I will not enter into these particular debates very much here until I first lay out the bigger picture discussion, including pros and cons, scriptural and theological arguments, and so on.

    But let me say one thing here: a few comments above I did find to be rather worrying in terms of how the doctrines of inspiration and the authority of Scripture are to be understood. Some of those remarks seemed to me to be quite problematic indeed. But instead of dealing with all that here in a short comment, those who are interested can look at this article which deals with it in much more detail: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2017/05/01/scripture-authority-inspiration-culture/

  11. Hi Bill, thank you so much for those comments you’ve just posted. I’m looking forward to your forthcoming articles on these issues, because I want to learn and also broaden my own theology. It would be a great pity if some of your contributors want to hurl entrenched theological positions at you instead of offering constructive debate. As I wrote before, Bill you have my prayerful support as you assemble your material. Blessings, Kel.

  12. Thanks for this list, Bill. Saved for future reference to read up on all sides of the issue.

  13. I see debates as either productive or unproductive. We witness what is happening around the western world, the ideads of victimhood and grievance, easily offended by words or actions. Unfortunately the church has not been spared, with growing discontent within it. At the end of the day, it is not whether we are right or wrong, but what will bring glory to the Saviours name. Whom do we serve, our own interested or his. Hubris in the church is so destructive, it will bring destruction if not checked with humility and humble submission to Jesus. This debate has grown since feminism raised its ugly head, as women started to believe they are victims in society, and to some degree in the church, men in control, women must fight for their rights. The whole issue in the church is to follow the biblical model laid out, men and women, children in the family. We must return to biblical truth, no matter how many may see themselves as victims, feel aggrieved by the truth. Get back to the core principles, the gospel, the discipleship of new converts, holding fast to the traditions passed down from the apostles, not causing hurt through issues that divide and render the tent split. Love God, love the word, trust the Holy Spirit to teach us truth from his infallible word. Love one another in Christ.

  14. Thanks for that Bill, a very helpful list. Generally, I will scan an exposition or book (and the author’s background) primarily to ascertain what particular ideology they are “pushing”. It can takes some time to find the ones with a balanced and “whole of bible” approach to a topic. Your book suggestion can simplify that process greatly.

    I’ve always considered myself a fast reader, but I don’t know how you, and others like you, get through so many books, not to mention the articles. Bill, if I had a hat to take off, I’d take it off to you.

  15. Some of the above mentioned books are available for the Kindle device or app.








  16. When I finished that I worked out I could get the link text smaller as I’ll do this time.

    My church e-mail sig says “Convince me from the Bible; stop trying to play with my emotions”, the result of people pulling in all sorts of “stuff” to justify why they’re saying what they are.

    Reading things when you disagree with what the person is saying is a challenge but a must. But they also must be read fully.

    A book I read recently on this topic is “A Letter to the Church About Paul and the Topic of Women In Authority” by Jordan M. Packham (https://www.amazon.com.au/gp/product/B01N9SFI8K).

    Jordan was putting together some pretty good arguments (which was hard to take) but I’m glad I did read it fully because he blew it at the end by saying:

    It is worth noting that the early Church sharply disputed and scripturally struggled through the issue of ‘neither Jew nor Greek.’ The Church then for a thousand years sharply disputed and scripturally struggled through the issue of ‘neither slave nor free.’ Today we are sharply disputed and scripturally struggled through the issue of ‘neither male nor female’ in the debate around women in authority (things were going OK till then …adg) and same-sex marriage.

    Maybe I misunderstood him, but those last four words just, in my mind, destroyed anything he’d previously said.

  17. Hi Bill

    I’m all for headship in marriage and public office. With the cancer of gender fluidity and the direct assault on marriage in our culture I’m wondering if you have noticed that churches that ordain women also become big on affirming homosexuality/ same sex marriage? I just compared lists on Wikipedia this morning and there is a huge correlation.

    It’s as if ordination of women has a twin who arrives hot on her heels. Meaning homosexuality is accepted and not regarded as sin. I firmly believe women in leadership over men weakens the church. We need strong masculine leadership in marriage and public office of the church.

    Appreciate greatly your web-site Bill. God Bless you.

  18. Hi Bill, For nearly two thousand years the Christian Church taught and practiced the principle of male leadership. Everyone was happy with this arrangement, both men and women, until the advent of feminism.
    Feminism has permeated every strata of society including the Christian Church. Overnight the Bible which had up until then been clearly understood since the time of Christ and the Apostles to affirm male leadership, was now said to be in favour of the ordination of women! “New light” had “broken forth! Many Protestant Churches have forsaken the faith once delivered to the saints and ordained women. However, male headship is still a Biblical teaching and is still upheld by the Orthodox and Catholic traditions.

    However, women in positions of religious leadership is not a new phenomenon. Female ministers/priestesses abounded in biblical times- but not among God’s people!

    When the people of Israel inherited the Promised Land, Yahweh instructed them not to embrace the philosophies and religious practices of the people around them. They were forbidden to serve Canaanite and Philistine gods and goddesses with their priestesses and fertility rites. God chose from among His people one tribe only to serve Him in the tabernacle and to lead the people in worship: the tribe of Levi, and only adult males were called to perform this function. Not that men – or women – from the other tribes were not capable – they were. But the calling to serve rests not on one’s abilities, but solely on God’s call. Thus, for Israel to have a male-only ministry was distinctive and clearly separated the people of God from the surrounding paganism of their time, and therefore was not a reflection of the times, but rather a departure from it.

    In New Testament times, the dominant world religion was the Greek/Roman pantheon of gods and goddesses with their attendant male and female functionaries. Again, the New Testament writers call on the people of God to resist the world’s thinking and ‘not conform any longer to this world’, which includes feminism with its demands for equality for women.
    The issue of the ordination of women has only been a major issue in the Church since the rise of the women’s (or feminist) movement in the past forty odd years. Feminism sprang from Marxism, and it too aims to build a society that is classless and genderless. It rejects the Biblical model of man being the head and woman being the heart of the home. Unfortunately many Churches have now adopted the feminist view and rejected the Biblical pattern for the sexes.

    The ordination of women therefore: (1) Is not authorised in Scripture, (2) Represents a reversion to God-dishonouring pagan religious practices, (3) Undermines the doctrine of the Trinity, and (4) Seriously questions the integrity and timelessness of God’s Word. (Is Gospel truth to be made subject to the latest (secular) social reform movements?)

    C. S. Lewis summed up the matter well when he wrote: “Suppose finally that the mystical marriage were reversed, that the Church were the Bridegroom and Christ the Bride. All this as it seems to me, is involved in the claim that a woman can represent God as a priest does….To say that it does not matter is to say either all the masculine imagery is not inspired, it is quite arbitrary and unessential. And this is surely intolerable: or, if tolerable, it is an argument not in favour of Christian priestesses but against Christianity. It is also surely based on a shallow view of imagery.”

  19. I don’t mean to necro post after many months, but going along the lines of Alan and other folks, I have also gotten engaged in the complementarian v egalitarian issue a while back. Now I’m no top notch exegete, but I sometimes wonder if the complementarians are working way too hard on exegesis. If they are so convinced complementarianism is so universal across all cultures, including the cultures in the biblical world, then we should expect it to be demonstrated in other fields. I would argue that the fields of biology and psychology have given tremendous results and show that complementarianism is much closer to reality than egalitarians are willing to let in. For instance, this doctoral dissertation by Marta Weinberg explains intense sex differences in behavior and biology in 6 months infants: https://scholarworks.umass.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=4243&context=dissertations_1

    Then this article from _Psychology Today_ similarly confirms these differences among male and female adults: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hope-relationships/201402/brain-differences-between-genders

    This paper reviews the evidence that men and woman have different emotional responses to both environmental and social changes: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/221747306_A_review_on_sex_differences_in_processing_emotions

    This is a summarized list of observations but you can find the cited works at the end: http://bravetheworld.com/2016/08/09/50-real-differences-men-women/

    Although they have many evolutionary overtones, these findings are more the works of experimental and observational science that a creation biologist can repeat and observe the same effects. Given the abundant literature of how men and women are very different and express themselves differently, these inevitably have implications to social niches and even to gender roles. The fact is that these findings allow sociobiologists and psychologists to construct models that can predict certain behaviors and social outcomes on a statistical basis and it seems the sociocultural fears of certain feminist philosophers are no nightmare but reality: women statistically choose to be housewives far more than men choosing to be househusbands even if you give women high career opportunities. It seems these differences are indeed.. complementary. So if this is the natural world, should the spiritual or mental world reflect this as well? Well, if you are a parallelist dualist than you’d answer no, but the bible teaches at least a holistic form of dualism [substance dualism or better yet, dual aspect Idealism], so both the natural and mental world correlate consistently. We already know complementarianism reflects all the way even to the Trinity through the undisputed passages of the Son’s subbordination to The Father, why stop at the relationship between men and women simply because a dominant culture pressures you to reconsider against “the worst”? In any case, there is inevitably valuable discussions from an exegetical ground, but all the same, complementarianism has the last word. The farthest the Bible can be to egalitarianism is the famous Galatians passage quoted by the egalitarians themselves, and us being made in God’s Image along with its moral implications including human rights, but beyond that; complementarianism all the way.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *