Books on gender and ministry from an evangelical perspective

I’ve been asked by several people in recent months to recommend books on this subject. I can’t claim to have read everything on the topic, and I probably have a bias to British authors, but here are a few suggestions – not necessarily all the best books, but a selection that, taken together, will open up most of the standard arguments well. I’d welcome other suggestions in the comments.

Lis Goddard & Clare Hendry, The Gender Agenda (IVP, 2010): Lis and Clare are both Anglican ministers, but take different sides on this debate; the book is a series of emails they exchanged exploring many of the standard issues and arguments. It is accessible to the general reader, without being simplistic, and offers sympathetic presentations of two different positions. This would be the first book I’d give to most people – fair, generous, and informative.

Gundry & Beck (eds), Two Views on Women in Leadership (Counterpoints) (Zondervan, 2001, rev. 2005) (chapters by Linda Belleville, Craig Blomberg, Craig Keener, and Tom Schreiner, with responses by each). A bit more technical; again, a sympathetic and non-controversial presentation of different viewpoints; the format means the arguments are more connected than Goddard & Hendry.)

Pierce & Groothuis (eds), Discovering Biblical Equality: Complimentarity without Hierarchy (IVP/Apollos, 2004, rev. 2o05). A heavy and technical presentation of various aspects of a case for women in preaching and leadership positions, including serious treatments of all the crucial passages by respected evangelical Biblical scholars (Fee, Marshall, …)

Wayne Grudem, Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth (IVP/Apollos, 2004). A large and comprehensive presentation of every aspect of the case for ‘complementarianism’. (This isn’t a great book, really, but I know of nothing that does the same work better – does anyone else?)

Millard Erickson, Who’s Tampering with the Trinity? (Kregel, 2009) Explains and explores a curious contemporary argument that gender subordinationism somehow reflects the Trinity; I confess that the argument seems to me to rely on a simple, albeit rather common, misunderstanding of ecumenical doctrine, but some people seem to find it convincing, and Erickson does a good job of explaining what’s going on.

Scott McKnight, The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking how you read the Bible (Zondervan, 2008) and William Webb, Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis (IVP, 2001) both address the question of hermeneutics – how we should find meaning in the Biblical texts – and how that applies to gender relations and roles.

On specific texts, the best places to go are the commentaries. Any good evangelical commentary will summarise various points in the debate, before offering a reason for the author’s preference for one side or another. At a basic level, try the relevant volumes in Tom Wright’s NT for Everyone, or the Bible Speaks Today; for more in-depth discussion, try, for example, Fee on both 1 Cor. and 1 Tim., or Thistleton on 1 Cor.


  1. Lucy Peppiatt
    Jan 18, 2012

    Hi Steve, have you read ‘How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership’ by Alan F. Johnson? I haven’t got round to reading it yet, but it looks interesting.

    • Steve H
      Jan 20, 2012

      I haven’t – I know Alan, of course, from Spring Harvest; I imagine it is good sense.

    • Tamara
      Apr 18, 2013

      Lucy, ‘How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership’ is an excellent read. I highly recommend it!

  2. Jon Coutts
    Jan 18, 2012

    John Stackhouse Jr.’s “Finally Feminist” is a highly accessible little book that takes what William Webb was on about and puts it pastorally and clearly for a wide audience. It deserves a wide readership.

    • Steve H
      Jan 20, 2012

      Absolutely! Can’t think why I forgot it. Thanks, Jon.

    • Steve H
      Jan 20, 2012

      Yes, thanks Travis.

  3. Mike
    Jan 27, 2012

    One other title missing here is the volume edited by Piper and Grudem, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism (Crossway, 2006 reprint). Whatever one thinks of the book and its arguments, it was/is a seminal statement by complementarians, to which Pierce and Groothius’ volume was an obvious reply.

    • Steve H
      Jan 27, 2012

      Hi Mike, welcome to the blog.

      You’re right to note that RBMW was seminal; I just think it’s a really bad book – at times actively misleading. So whilst it’s required reading to understand the history of the debate, I’m not sure it helpfully belongs on an introductory list.

  4. lynn
    Jan 31, 2012

    heh heh, I was waiting on someone to mention THAT last book 🙂

    I also recommend David Hamilton and Loren Cunningham’s book “Why Not Women?” and years and years ago a chap called Martin Scott wrote an excellent biblical guide called “The Role of Women and Ministry” in the Pioneer Perspectives series – I reckon in response to the NF movement’s statement on biblical manhood and womenhood.

    • Tamara
      Apr 18, 2013

      ‘Why Not Women?’ is an excellent book.

  5. Annelise
    Feb 11, 2012

    I know this post is really old now (in internet time!), but I just discovered your blog tonight (from a link on a comment at John Stackhouse’s) and have been highly enjoying reading some of your articles!

    This post particularly caught my eye as I’m always on the look out for good books on this topic. Another one I really enjoyed was Men and Women in the Church by Sarah Sumner.

    • Steve H
      Feb 12, 2012

      Welcome, Annelise, & thanks for your kind words.
      Don’t know that book – I’ll keep an eye out for it.

  6. Brian Davison
    Mar 10, 2012

    and after all that there is my NT dissertation from years back. I set out not knowing which direction it was going to go in, which makes it genuinly balanced. It wasn’t until I was writing the chapter on 1 Cor 11 that the penny dropped. then i was genuinly shocked by the biased verse divisions in the then NIV rendering of 1 cor 14. the more I understood Paul, his methods, and the primacy of the gospel the more it all made sense.
    Should have published it but ******** was the consulting editor on the Kingsway series at the time and we were not on the best of terms.

  7. Bev Murrill
    Apr 17, 2013

    I agree re Allen Johnson’s ‘How I changed my mind about women in leadership’; it’s great. Martin Scott also wrote ‘For Such a Time as This’ and Elaine Storkey ‘Contributions to Christian Feminism.’


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