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Updated Book Review: Saving Women from the Church – Shawna R. B. Atteberry
Feb 282008

I have upadated my book review after comments Susan left. Please make sure you read her comment. There’s somef good stuff there. Thank you Susan for stopping by!

Today is the release date of Susan McLeod-Harrison’s first book Saving Women from the Church: How Jesus Mends a Divide (Barclay Press, 2008). Upfront I have to say I’m not sure I can review this book objectively. Susan’s story is very close to my own. Reading this book, I wished it had been published about eight years earlier. That is when I was going through my own struggle on whether or not to remain in the Church. And I do mean Church with a big C. I wasn’t thinking of only leaving my denomination, I was thinking of leaving the Church period. I was in seminary and on the ordination track. I did not see a place for myself in Christian ministry. I was single; I was evangelical; and I was called to preach and pastor. I was also asked in various churches if I was going to seminary to be a pastor’s wife. I had come to the point where I wanted to leave. I wanted to walk away. I just did not see a future for myself in the Church.

Saving Women from the Church addresses several of the myths that woman hear in church. Some of the chapter titles are: “If you’ve felt alienated and judged in the church,” “If you believe women are inferior to men,” “If as a single woman, your gifts have been rejected or overlooked,” and “If you’ve been encouraged to deify motherhood.” In the Introduction, she starts with my favorite starting point on women in the church: creation. Both men and women are created in the image of God, and therefore, image God with their gifts and talents God has given them. In each chapter she starts with a fictional account of a woman who is experiencing and living one of the myths. She follows it with a imaginative portrayal of how Jesus treated women in a similar position in the New Testament. She follows the biblical story by explaining what Jesus was doing and with questions for discussion. Each chapter ends with a meditation meant for healing. Saving Women does a great job of translating theology into practical, everyday examples in language normal people use. The history and sociological work she does for each passage, explaining the culture of the people, at the time is also well done.

I think this book would make an excellent woman’s study or small group study. It addresses most of the myths women in the evangelical church have grown up with and still deal with. It would be a great conversation starter, and it is a valuable addition to other books on this subject. The language and tone of the book make it much more accessible and understandable to the typical lay person than most books in this genre. In the conclusion, Susan recommends women in abusive churches leave and gives a list of churches that are egalitarian and open to women in ministry. Saving Women does a good job of acknowledging and describing the myths, and encourages women to get out of these environments. The Recommended Reading at the end of the book also has books that would help in this regard.

Overall I am very pleased that this book is on the market. It starts with the premise that women are made in the image of God and called to build God’s kingdom. Then it deals chapter-by-chapter with the destructive myths that have prevailed in evangelical culture to keep women as second-class citizens and powerless in the pews. It is an excellent resource to begin busting these myths and helping women find their God-given ability to be equal partners in building God’s kingdom with their brothers.

Did you know there are only eight verses in the Bible that discourage women from speaking and holding leadership positions in the church? Did you know there are thousands of verses in the Bible that tell the stories of women who were leaders in their homes, towns, and religious circles? Meet the women in the Bible who were religious & civic leaders, business women, & women who challenged both Jesus and Moses in What You Didn’t Learn in Sunday School. What else didn’t you learn in Sunday School? Find out when you buy What You Didn’t Learn in Sunday School: Women Who Didn’t Shut Up & Sit Down from Wipf and Stock Publishers or Amazon.com today.

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  4 Responses to “Updated Book Review: Saving Women from the Church”

  1. Thanks for the honest and heartfelt review. It is these kinds of books that will begin to set the world straight again, allowing women to be equal partners as we move forward into the 21st century. This is just what we need.

  2. my copy has just arrived, and I’m looking forward to reading it 🙂

  3. Hi Shawna,

    Thank you for reading my book and reviewing it well. I’m so glad you related to it so personally. You are right…I wrote the book for YOU but the you that you were eight years ago! It would be so interesting to hear about how you processed your own decision-making about the church. Somehow Jesus saved you from (and for) the church. How?

    My own leanings about the social action women need to take is laid out in the Conclusion of the book, where I imply that a constructive course of action would be to leave hurtful churches and find healing, blessing ones. (This is the course of action I eventually chose, after trying to change things in the church I was attending). Egalitarian churches are out there, and I list a few denominations which have made public statements about this issue, as well as point readers to the Christians for Biblical Equality website which also lists specific churches state-by-state.

    Changes in other churches will happen, to some degree, by a more responsible understanding of how to read the Bible. This was how I tried to change the church I had been in–I co-taught an adult Sunday School class on Jesus and Women. But this was before seminary and so I didn’t know much myself about reading the Bible. Evangelical churches tend not to teach people how to read the Bible well. That’s why I include an appendix on hermeneutics and also appendices addressing specific Scriptures like I Timothy 2 and the submission verses. I grew up in the church and I had never even heard of the word hermeneutics, in the context of the Bible, until I was 28 years old, and I don’t think I’m unusual. (It’s not necessary to go to seminary to learn how to read the Bible well, but it helps those like me who don’t read books on hermeneutics on the weekends!).

    Others have said the book is for men, too, and that they are part of the social action equation in the church. I believe that is absolutely true.

    Thanks again for your personal and helpful review. I look forward to hearing the “rest of the story” about your journey of healing and finding your rightful place in Jesus’ church!


  4. Thank you for all your comments. And thank you Susan for taking the time to leave a comment. I’m very glad you wrote the book, and I am working on my story now. It’s coming slowly as I haven’t felt good, but hopefully my doctor and I will be figuring that out soon.

    Susan, as far as what you had in the Conclusion, apparently, my notes don’t include what you had in the conclusion. I need to stop thinking I can remember things and just write them down! Thank you for directing mine, and whoever reads the post, to the conclusion and your advice to women in abusive churches. Thank you.

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