Shawna Atteberry

Writer, Teacher, Baker

You can work: As long as it's volunteer work

I’m very disturbed by some of the things I’ve been reading lately. It’s nothing that is in the news. I’m researching the opposing side for my book proposal, the complementarian side (I am not putting in links because I refuse to refer traffic to their sites. If you Google “complementarian,” you will find plenty of sites). This is a group who thinks that men and women were created equal as humans but that they have different roles due to their genders. They believe that woman was created to be a helper to her husband and must always submit to a man’s authority. They believe men were created to be leaders, protectors, and guardians. Women are to be helpers, nurturers, and mothers. A women’s place should be in the home, and she shouldn’t aspire to work outside of the home to keep herself free for ministry. When she doesn’t work then after she takes care of the kids and the house, her free time will be left for building God’s kingdom. Some of the voluntary suggestions for “ministry” are:

  • prison chaplain
  • ministries to the handicapped
  • ministries to the sick, including nursing and hospice work
  • being a teacher, including K-12 teacher

These are all full-time jobs, which take education and training to perform. Now they also suggest the truly voluntary ministries of music in the church, Sunday School teacher, PTA, and volunteering for organizations that work with the poor, abused, and addicitons. But several of these “voluntary” ministries are full-time positions and careers. So it’s okay for a woman to technically work full-time as long as she doesn’t get paid?

In her book Equal to Serve: Women and Men Working Together Revealing the Gospel, Gretchen Gaebelein Hull points out that once something that women did becomes something men do, then it’s worth charging for. How much did midwives make? Really? When men took over medicine then money came into play. Things that women do are normally seen as less valuable economically than what men do. Women having been cooking and feeding their families for years. But a small percentage of women are chefs who bring down big money.

When you consider the careers that women had in the Bible, I do not understand this “you can work as long as you volunteer” mentality. Deborah was a prophet and judge. The Proverbs 31 woman made and sold textiles and materials plus bought and sold land. She was a merchant. In the New Testament Lydia was also a merchant, and Priscilla worked with her husband Aquila to make tents. None of them volunteered their services. They worked, made money, and helped support their families economically.

I think Christians need to reclaim the word “vocation.” At one time Christians believed that you brought God with you on any job you had, whether you were a priest or a blacksmith. You did your work as unto God because God governed all of life. You built God’s kingdom in whatever career you had. It did not have to be a church position. We need to reclaim vocation, especially women. God calls women, as well as men, to work in the secular world in business, schools, government, and a myriad of other careers. We are called to bring God with us, and build God’s kingdom where we’re at. Just as the women in the Bible worked outside of the home, so can women today.

Related Posts:

Why Career Women of the Bible?
Does It Really Mean “Helpmate”?
The 12th Century B. C. E. Career Woman
Made in the Image of God: Female

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Career Women of the Bible Pitch

Here is the pitch I came up with for Career Women of the Bible:

The Bible says a woman should be a wife and mother. A woman’s place is in the home. But is this what the Bible says? Yes, women were wives and mother, but biblical women were also prophets, judges, merchants, and queens. These are the Career Women of the Bible.

What do you think? What would you change?

Updated Book Review: Saving Women from the Church

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.

Reviewing a Book

Last week I found out that my blog is getting noticed. I received a pre-publication copy of Susan McLeod-Harrison’s book Saving Women from the Church: How Jesus Amends a Divide from Barclay Press. This is Susan’s first book and will be released on Febuary 20. She looks at traditional myths about women such as women are inferior to men, women’s emotions disqualify them from ministry, and women cannot lead because they are to submit to men. I am very excited about this book. In a lot of ways Susan’s journey has mirrored my own (I’ll get more into that in my review).

This book also came at a very good time. I had just finished reading Carolyn Custis James’ Lost Women of the Bible: Finding Strength & Significance through Their Stories. I had been excited about this book too and that Carolyn showed how women were equal to and ministered beside men to build God’s Kingdom throughout the Bible. Her scholarship is excellent, and she is a great storyteller. Then I hit the last chapter. She made it very clear that she did not think this included leadership positions such as pastor. In a footnote, she says that Choe, Lydia, and Priscilla were “hostesses,” not leaders, of the churches that met in their homes. She also has two or three paragraphs about how women can be a support and help to their pastors. Pastors are always referred to as “he.” No talk of men supporting their female pastors or women coming alongside and helping their female pastors. I was so disaapointed. I need to write a review of it, but I just haven’t wanted to go back to it. It has been a long time since I was this disappointed in a book.

In the promotional material that came with Saving Women from the Church, they asked if I could read the book and put up a review on my blog, which I am now doing. I’m about halfway through the book. Susan’s publicist also wrote that if we wanted to do an interview to email her. I think I’m going to do that too. I’d love interview Susan and put that up on the site as well.

Career Women of the Bible: Introduction

Editor’s note: This post was updated on 9/30/2010.

One of the largest Southern Baptist seminaries, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS), in Louisville, Kentucky began a new core of programs for women in 2007, which included:

Seminary Wives Institute is an innovative program designed to prepare the wives of seminary students for their role in their husbands’ ministries.

Women’s Ministry Institute offers women the opportunity to improve their skills and ministry through a variety of classes geared toward women’s ministries in the local church.

Classes included housekeeping, budgeting, being your husband’s best friend, keeping an organized house, and sewing. There were Bible classes, but the descriptions sounded like the women taking these classes had never been to Sunday School. There were “leadership” classes, but the brochure and class descriptions made it clear that this was leadership for womens and children’s ministry. The counseling classes made it clear that women were to counsel only other women according to the Titus 2 model. In 2007, when this post was first written, my favorite class module was this one:

Redeeming the Time looks at setting goals and priorities but also tackles practical issues including day planners; handling paper, avoiding clutter; home management; housekeeping and kitchen organization. This course is aimed to challenge those who are already skilled in areas of organization as well as to motivate those who have room for vast improvement.

Rev. Anges Diffee pastored one of the largest Nazarene churches in the 1940s, Little Rock First Church of the Nazarene.In their 2010 class schedule, I noticed SBTS no longer offers this module, and for good reason. Most seminary students are at least 22, and I was 28 when I started seminary. I have friends who started seminary in their 30s and 40s. I’m thinking most seminary wives, along with most seminary husbands, have an idea of how to use a day planner and set goals. In 2007 SBTS module also made it clear that a woman’s role is to keep house, period. There was a core of courses on homemaking (link no longer available). Classes include homemaking, sewing, taking care of children, and cooking. Basically SBST’s courses of study for women are degrees in home economics. The classes they now offer in their certificates for Seminary Wives and Women’s Ministry still make it clear that women that a women’s place is in the home and leading only women and children at church, but they have dropped the home economics classes in their 2010-11 offerings.

This is why I am writing Career Women of the Bible. There is a disturbing trend in evangelicalism that takes the 1950s Leave It to Beaver family and elevates it to the biblical model of family. The “biblical” model of being a woman means staying at home, raising children, and taking care of the household. But does the Bible really say that?

This book began as my thesis in seminary. During my time at Nazarene Theological Seminary (NTS), I would be asked in churches if I was going to seminary to be a pastor’s wife. I wasn’t. I was called to be a pastor. This question asked in church foyers, potlucks, and Sunday School classes struck me as odd. It seemed odd because The Church of the Nazarene has been ordaining women for over 100 years. The first women in my denomination was ordained in 1903. In the 1930s 30% of Nazarene ordained elders were women. The largest Nazarene church, First Church of the Nazarene, in Little Rock, Arkansas was pastored by a woman in the 40s–Agnes Diffee. Little Rock First ran 3,000 then. Agnes also became the first female radio evangelist in the United States.

This question also made me a little angry. Why would anyone think I was pursuing a Masters degree to find a husband? With what it cost? And the time? It was insulting to me. It wasn’t until after I had graduated that I found out that in the 1970s NTS had a course for guess who? Yes–for pastors’ wives. In a denomination that had been ordaining women since the turn of the twentieth century, they had a pastor’s wives (not spouses) course.

“Are you going to seminary to be a pastor’s wife?” This question sparked my thesis: a Theology of Single Women in Ministry. I wanted to show that God called women in their own right to be prophets, judges, and leaders. Even women like Deborah and Huldah were not leaders because of their husbands. They were leaders because God called them and they obeyed. I have since thought more and more about women in the Bible–and not just the ones called to leadership positions. Even those who appear to be the typical mother and housewife on the surface belie these apparent roles. Women such as the matriarchs–Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah–helped define the covenant with God and literally birthed God’s chosen people. The Proverbs 31 woman, who is usually prooftexted into the domestic diva of her day, did not just keep an orderly house and raise kids. She was also a business woman: she spun and wove cloth and sold it. She also had her own property, which she bought and sold. Taking a closer look at the women in the Bible shows there is much more complexity to who they were and their roles than what a cursory glance gives.

But one thing I do not want to do is gloss over or demean the women who have chosen to stay home and raise their children. I believe being a mother is a full-time job and then some. That is why I have made sure to include mothers in this book. In the Bible mothers make covenant decisions regarding their children. Women’s decisions regarding their children have led to mighty movements of God’s Spirit. Think of Rebekah making sure Jacob receives Isaac’s blessing as God had told her years before. Think of Hannah giving Samuel into God’s service, and the revival that came to Israel due to Samuel’s leadership. Women’s fingerprints, mothers’ fingerprints, are all over the purposes and plans of God for God’s chosen people: both Israel and the Church.

I think by taking a closer look at the women in the Bible, we will see that they wore as many hats as women do today: wives, mothers, students, prophets, judges, evangelists, pastors, and apostles. There were also business women: Lydia and the Proverbs 31 woman; harvesters like Ruth, and a queen who saved her people, Esther. Women in the Bible lived many different roles as women today.

I hope this book will help you see that God has not limited what women can do. In fact, the biblical witness is just the opposite: we see God calling women to build God’s kingdom in both the sacred and secular realms as well as the home.


Rev. Agnes Diffee (1889–1970) who pastored Little Rock First Church of the Nazarene in the 1940s.

Rev. Santos Elizondo (1867–1941) who preached and led 100s to Christ in El Paso and Juarez. She was in charge of Nazarene work in Juarez for 35 years.

Rev. Emma Irck (1888–1984) pastored the largest Nazarene church in Houston, Texas. She was also a renowned evangelist who traveled thousands of miles to hold revivals.

Pictures and descriptions are from the Weselyan Holiness Women Clergy website. For more information on these women and other women leaders influential in the holiness movement visit WHWC Picture Gallery.

(Hat tip to Feminary and Church Gal for bringing this up on both of their blogs, and a very big thank you for giving me the thing I needed to spark off the introduction for this book.)

Related Links:
Updated: Potential “Career Women of the Bible” Outline
Viewpoint of a Female Minister

My Best Time to Write?

I was awake at two in the morning writing. Ideas and thoughts kept twirling through my head, so I finally got up and wrote, and wrote, and wrote. It was great. Here is some journaling I did on writing. I started writing at 2:55 a.m.

I have just written something that I know is good. It is good and it is right on. It feels so good. Especially after being sick for three days. It feels good to have it flow and just come. It kept twirling around and around in my head, so I finally got up and wrote it: the rough draft of my introduction to Career Women of the Bible! And it work–it just works! Yes, there will be editing, and I’m sure I’ll be adding to it, but it works. Writers don’t get these inspired highs much, or at least I don’t. May be I need to write more at 2:00 in the morning. It really is amazing. When ideas are swirling in my head after I go to bed, I can always get up, work on it, then sleep until 10:00 or 11:00 and get up and work in the afternoon. I remember writing my thesis: a lot of that happened between 10:00 p.m.–2:00 a.m. Then I had to be at work 7:30 a.m. Yes, I was a zombie during the day. My creative juices do flow in the wee hours, so may be I just need to go with it. Put in four to five hours in the afternoon and another two to three in the wee hours and see what happens.

Of course that’s going to royally screw me up on Sunday when I need to get up early for Sunday School and church. To be to Sunday School by 9:30, I have to leave home at 8:30. Why you ask? Because that’s the closest Church of the Nazarene. That’s one of the many reasons I want to plant a church in the area. Oh well, I’ll deal. There’s always Tylenol PM until I have a ministry going closer to home.

I really do like writing at this time. It’s quiet. There’s a misty, mysterious fog over the lake and the lamps have that otherworldly glow to them. Yes, this is my time. May be it’s time to accept that and go with it.

Not to mention it’s very cool to be working in bed next to my sleeping husband who is so cool with his quirky wife and my quirky hours. He woke up a few minutes ago: “You’re working?” “Oh yeah, babe the creative juices are flowing,” and I then proceeding to tell the poor man I had the introduction to my next book. Then he went back to sleep. I like glancing over and watching him sleep and feeling his foot up against mine, his hand reaching out to touch me. How’d I get so lucky? I married a man who supports me in both of my callings: writing and pastoring, and he’s fine with the weird hours I tend to keep due to insomnia. May be it’s not insomnia after all. May be I’m awake at this time because I’m supposed to be up writing and creating. For so long I’ve thought I need to keep “business” hours. But why? I am self-employed. And I should work when I am at my best. If that happens to be at two in the morning, so be it! I normally don’t get much done in the morning anyway: I might as well sleep late. I get much more done in the afternoon and late at night.

This gets me thinking about planting a ministry later on Sunday or Saturday night for people who can’t do the traditional Sunday church thing. There’s an idea. I may have to think and pray on that for awhile and see what happens. Even moving Sunday School after the service with the service starting at 11:00 a.m. would be better than Sunday School at 9:30 or 10:00 a.m. The other option would be having “Sunday” School/small groups and a worship service on Saturday. I’m definitely going to need to keep those options in mind.

I’m right where I’m supposed to be, doing what I’m supposed to do, and it’s a good feeling. Even if it is 3:11 in the morning! Now that this done and my creativity is starting to wind down, I will be able to sleep. And I did some good work tonight. That’s something to sleep too.

Related Links:
Career Women of the Bible: Introduction

Updated: Potential “Career Women of the Bible” Outline

Updated: Potential "Career Women of the Bible" Outline

Here is the very beginning of my potential outline for the Career Women of the Bible book proposal.

1. Introduction

2. In the Beginning
Does It Really Mean “Helpmate”?

The Fall and Women

2. Ministers
The 12th Century, B.C.E. Woman: Deborah

Standing Between Life and Death: Miriam

Standing Between Life and Death: Zipporah and Huldah

The Apostle to the Apostles: Mary Magdalene

Apostles and Prophets

Teachers, Elders, and Coworkers

3. Mothers and More
Rachel and Leah

4. Just a Housewife?
Standing Between God and the People: Jael

The Proverbs 31 Woman
Sisters in Service: Mary and Martha

The Samaritan Woman

5. Off to Work
Priscilla and Lydia

The women who don’t have links, I have not written on yet. I also realize the articles I have written need a lot of rewriting. For those who just found the site, Career Women of the Bible started out as my thesis in seminary. I’ve started to rewrite it, but it still is very scholary and has some ways to go before it has the narrative and story-like quality that I want the finished book to have.

This is just a start, but I think it is a good one. Any advice or opinions? Who did I leave out? Why do you think they should be included? Please let me know. Thanks.

Chicken-fried Ministry

Jesus was Samaria sitting by a well when a woman came to draw water. They talk about things: living water, her bad track record with men, the proper place to worship, and the Messiah. In fact, she is the first person Jesus directly says, “I am the Messiah.” The woman runs back to her village to tell the people about Jesus. While she is gone, the disciples tell Jesus to eat. The reason they left was to go buy food. But Jesus says that he has already eaten: that doing the will the one who sent him is his food and drink (see John 4). Here is a reflection that Bob Benson wrote on this passage:

The disciples spread the lunch and told Jesus it was time to eat. But He tells them He has already eaten. They looked around for a McDonald’s bag or some evidence of some lunch. Noth that I think He would throw trash on the ground.

“May be somebody else brought Him some foood,” they wondered.

“And He explained, “I had lunch with my Father.”

We call it work. He said it was meat and drink to Him.


We called it [enter church program of your choice], but He would have called it lunch. We sometimes called it [program], but He calls it dinner. We may call it Soul-winning, but He says it is fried chicken and green beans and sliced tomatoes and a tall glass of iced tea. Jesus came to do the work of the Father and He liked it as well as He did eating (Bob Benson, In Quest of the Shared Life).

We often think of ministry as work. Probably because we make it that way. As I read this I thought of where a lot of Jesus’ ministry took place: actually eating. Eating in someone’s house: Levi, Simon, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Jesus taught about God and God’s love much more often eating at someone’s house than at the synagogue. He didn’t teach seminars on How to Be the Best Jew in a World Going to Hell; he ate at people’s houses and told them about God, God’s love, and what God wanted them to do: love each other.

What if more of our ministry was like this? A natural part of our life than something else we tack onto our endless to-do list. Now doing God’s work is work. Anyone in ministry knows this. But does it have to be so much work? Do we really have to meet at the church for everything? What if we encouraged our people to invite their neighbors who don’t know God over for dinner? What if we encouraged our people to have friends with people who didn’t know God to begin with? Evangelicalism tends to create its own little culture, a bubble, where everyone we know goes to church with us or is another evangelical. “Evangelism” might now be such hard work or such a scary thing if we would build relationships with people who don’t know God, and invite them over to eat. Or say yes when they invite us over for a barbeque.

May be if we took this attitude more of our ministry would be like Jesus’ ministry: “fried chicken and green beans and sliced tomatoes and a tall glass of iced tea.”

An Update

Life has been busy. I heard back from the editor on my book proposal, Spiritual Direction 101, and she liked it. She has passed it onto the review board. If they okay it, I will be writing the book. I should know in a couple of weeks. I’m working on finishing the first draft of my novel right now. I have found that mornings are better for writing and moving on to other things in the afternoon. I wrote ten pages this morning at Cafe Mediterra.

I feel that God is calling me to plant a Nazarene church in the Downtown/Loop area. I’ve talked with the District Superintendent, and the district has plans to plant a church here in the next year or two. It will probably be closer to two years, so I will continue to attend Northside and more than likely go on staff there for the time being.

After I finish the first draft of the novel, I would also like to get Career Women of the Bible worked into a book proposal and start looking for an agent. I’ve thought about trying to continue to research freelance markets and write short pieces, but I just don’t want to. It’s so much work, for so little return. If I think of an idea that would work for a publication, I’ll pitch it, but I’d rather spend time on the books. And now it’s time to exercise then get dinner on. I hope everyone has a good week. What are you up to?

Career Women of the Bible: Church Overseers, Ministers, and Patrons

"The Breaking of Bread" in the Catacomb of St. Priscilla/Dorothy Irvin

In the last two articles we have been looking at women who ministered in leadership positions in the New Testament (Apostles and Prophets and Teachers, Elders, and Coworkers). We saw women minister as prophets, apostles, teachers, elders, and coworkers. Now we will look at the last three leadership roles: church overseer, minister, and patron.

Church Overseer

Church overseers were what we traditionally think of as a pastor, and they were normally the person or people who opened their homes for believers to meet for hearing God’s word and worship. Women who were overseers include Priscilla, Phoebe, Euodia, Syntyche, and possibly John Mark’s mother, Chloe, Lydia, and Nympha (Spencer, 108). The church overseer I would like to focus on is the “Elect Lady” of 2 John.