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Gender theology of the church

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Carol Penner, ed. Waterloo, Ont.:
Herald Press, 1998. Paper, 152 pp. $14.25.

Carol Penner of Vineland, Ont., edits this work of 16 evangelical contributors (both male and female) who address the topic of how Christian men and women experience God. Women’s Concerns of Mennonite Central Committee sponsored the writing, with hopes of encouraging dialogue on issues such as living as God’s creations, using our gender-related gifts in the church, the historical perspectives in both the Old and New Testaments, choosing non-traditional gender roles in parenting, age issues, prejudice, and one’s marital status.

MCC Women’s Concerns sees the necessity of looking at gender theology of the church with its assumptions of gender roles. Our faith in God is largely influenced by our personal, cultural perceptions of the genders.

The most profound section was Adelia Neufeld Wiens’s chapter “Gender in the New Testament”. She says that for almost two millennia, Paul’s words have been used to condone the subordination of women (“The husband is the ‘head’ of his wife”). She explains that the Greek word for head, kephale, can be translated as “source”. Since woman was made from the rib of Adam, her source is man. Wiens says, “No subordination of woman to man is intended; it is simply an expression of the order of creative events.” Due to the historical perspective of women as lesser beings than men, Frances Hiebert says that it is no wonder that women “question who they are in relation to God and the church.”

The contributors are unified in requesting that the church body listen to one other, and give opportunity to share thoughts and feelings concerning individual roles of women and men in the church.

I recommend this book for individual reading, as well as for group discussions in Bible study settings for high school and older. The topic of cultural perceptions of genders is hit hard in this book. There is nothing wishy-washy about it, and that is why I respect the contributors for their work. This book is not for the faint-hearted.


—Jane Woelk is a part-time student at the University Of Winnipeg. She is a member of McIvor Ave. MB Church, Winnipeg.

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