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REVIEW: Reese tackles women’s roles with straightforward style

The subject of women’s roles in church can be a lightning-rod issue, perhaps the most hotly debated topic of our day.
In the foreword to “Bound & Determined: Christian Men and Women in Partnership,” Jeanene Reese asserts that we’ve fallen short when addressing women’s leadership roles since men have done most all of the talking in church.
Adding her distinctive voice to this vital discussion, Reese writes from a lifetime of experience.
For example, before entering into academia, she partnered on staff with her husband, Jack, for five years in ministry with a local church. She now is a Bible professor at Abilene Christian University.
Reese makes her contribution to the subject of women’s roles by weaving in stories from her years of mothering, marriage and teaching with a variety of biblical passages. Writing with a comprehensible, homespun approach and a confessional-memoir style, she readily shares her faults, shortcomings and her rather painful upbringing.
Reese wisely avoids a narrow-minded, proof-text tactic. Instead, she aims for a holistic moral, ethical and biblical-based view of how both sexes should view each other. Her easily understood approach lines up well with the perspective of another ACU professor, Carroll Osburn, who wrote, “The question is larger than what women can do in worship. The question is what view of women shall we have?” (See Osburn’s book, “Women in the Church.”)
Reese’s thesis simply is this: Women and men are created equally in God’s image. As a result, we are meant to experience the blessings of mutual partnership and harmony.
Reese refrains from outlining exactly what that partnership entails. Generating a list of point-by-point responsibilities for both genders is not her main concern.
She draws her thesis from the creation account in Genesis, the Hebrew narrative of the Old Testament and her view of the “new order” in the New Testament.
Though Reese doesn’t define the boundaries of the partnership with detailed specifics, what she clearly recognizes in the Bible is an equality of the sexes. Here’s a sample of what she sees in the New Testament:
“Women are named in virtually every ministry (the exception is overseer/elder, but men were not identified specifically by name in those roles either), something unparalleled in the ancient world. Women served as teachers, apostles, deaconesses, patronesses, prophets, evangelists, worship leaders and ministering widows.”
This quote represents well Reese’s simple, straightforward style, as well as her stance on the role of women.
Reese’s major illustration, employed throughout the book, revolves around an eight-year-long classroom project she conducted with two male professors. The project sought to draw the students into a deeper appreciation of the gifts both genders share and seek to find ways to apply these.
Sprinkled throughout this book are 18 stand-alone testimonies from anonymous male and female students titled, “Thoughts on working together.” These brief paragraphs are the shared reflections of Reese’s students on their experience of purposefully cooperating with genders.
The students’ reflections show the diversity and the ability to grow within the students themselves, which is perhaps a sign that there’s potential for each of us to mature in our thinking, too.
The book contains a few glitches. For example, Reese has Moses alongside Aaron and Miriam, acting within the book of Genesis twice, when she meant to write Exodus. She also mistakenly has Paul, in Acts 9, raising Tabatha from the dead, when instead it’s Peter.
In short, after reading “Bound & Determined” I have an even deeper respect for Reese.
I’m thankful for her irenic tone as she tenderly encourages men and women to find mutual repentance and submission on our path to partnership.
I expected this book to highlight a few simple innovations for churches to apply, and to open the door for more active visible roles for women.
Spelling out actions, such as allowing women to read the announcements in our assemblies, would have been simple. Reese tackles a tougher subject — the heart.
This book doesn’t discuss what we need to do differently as a church. Instead, it focuses on what we need to think about and become.
I appreciate Leafwood Publishing for taking a risk on this potentially volatile subject, as well as the publishers’ willingness to contribute to furthering our collective thinking.
This book may not be seen as revolutionary by all who read it, but it holds great potential to open the door, and help start some much-needed conversations.
CRAIG COTTONGIM preaches for the Northeast Church of Christ in Kingsport, Tenn.

  • Feedback
    I do not belittle women by no means, however God’s word is what it is. When ever the created attempt to over rule or speak other than 1 Peter 4:11, we then are challenging God’s soveregnty through man’s wisdom. if the Bible is silent on the subject we should also. God does not need us it is us that need him. remember the golden rule: He that has the gold makes the rules.
    William Weaver
    West Adams church of Christ
    Los Angeles, CA
    May, 10 2011

    Assumptions (like the sample from her text) that are not supported in Scripture and yet are put forth much like our politcal parties are doing with their views…say it enough and maybe it will be true, or at least more will believe it. That does not contribute to spiritual growth, and is not proper scholarship.
    george hankins
    Forest Hill Church of Christ
    Cleveland, oh
    April, 22 2011

    Regarding 1st century directions for women, it seems to me that scripture has always been written and addressed to the culture of the day, and understood in that context. How each statement is considered authoritatively for us today needs to be evaluated in light of our culture today. What was condemned as “shameful” (RSV) or “not allowed”(NIV) in Corinthian churches (1 Cor 14:35), for example, is not considered such in our society today and most reasonable Christians would not consider this authoritative for all time, or else only pay lip service to it. There are many such examples of this if we look for them.
    Clarence Richmond
    Downtown Church of Christ
    Searcy, AR 72143
    April, 22 2011

    I’ve not read the book, but am not afraid of it, either. I’ve restudied this issue several times, continuing to come down on the more traditional side of the question. There can be no argument that men and women serving in complementary roles is eminently scriptural, for that is exactly how the Bible presents the matter. I do have one concern: if the publisher allowed glaring errors such as the two cited by the reviewer, the book may well reflect an even greater need of editorial attention. At best, such errors are disappointing, not only in the lack of care by the author (perhaps even lack of Bible knowledge), but also in the failure of the publisher to exercise due diligence and insure errors are caught before publication.
    Royce Bell
    Mountain View Church of Christ
    San Bernardino, CA
    April, 21 2011

    I haven’t read the book. The church does have room for repentance for underusing and not utilizing the talents of women in the church. It also must be understood that faithfulness requires different roles for women in the church.
    There is a sermon on the subject at the link below.
    Douglas Graham
    Cyril Church of Christ
    Cyril, OK
    United States
    April, 20 2011

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