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Entries in Lee-Barnwell (2)


Neither Complementarian nor Egalitarian: Book thoughts

I finished Michelle Lee-Barnewall's book Neither Complementarian Nor Egalitarian last night. Someone asked me if I was going to review it, and I intended to, but then the books for my Augustine course arrived on Tuesday, and my concentration for this book is beginning to wane. It's time to focus on school. Here are a few quick thoughts.

Lee-Barnewall's book re-evaluates the terms complementarian and egalitarian. She doesn't do so in an attempt to provide solutions. In fact, at the end of the book, she comes right out and says she doesn't propose any solutions. What she does do, though, is ask the reader to re-consider those terms. At the heart of this book, she is asking readers to contemplate the reality that their presuppositions may colour how they perceive issues of male and female roles in the church. She does so by suggesting that instead of making the issue about rights and equality, we look at principles like unity, love, and the kingdom guidelines.

Lee-Barnewall proposes that equality and rights may not be the best way to think. Rather, the unity of the Body of Christ and the principles of kingdom living are more valuable. I appreciated this comment at the end:

A focus on rights and equality can easily lead to an individualistic pursuit of self-interest and result in a perspective that is preoccupied with autonomy and personal benefit over seeing the self in relationship with others. The insistence on rights can be harmful if it causes someone to overlook or make secondary concerns for the impact of one's actions on others. This self-focus contrasts Christ's overriding concern for others, and we must ask whether our striving for equality highlights individual gain rather than a willingness to suffer loss for someone else.

It was definitely something that has me thinking. And that is the reason why I would recommend this book: to make you think. Knowing why we believe something is important.

Lee-Barnewall has done her homework. Her inclusion of the historial development of attitudes toward women in evangelicalism was worth the price of the book alone (although it being focused entirely on America means I'm wondering if the experience in Canada was exactly the same). Her handling of Genesis 2-3 and Ephesians 5 is excellent. The back of the book says she is an associate professor of biblical and theological studies. I knew there was a good reason for women to attend seminary to study those things.


Women, evangelicalism, and the Great War

This is a quick, not well-processed post. My parents are in town visiting, and tomorrow is our family reunion. But I have been reading Neither Complementarian Nor Egalitarian this morning, and something occurred to me. And to clarify, in reading this book I am not coming out as an egalitarian. It's a book to inform and challenge my thinking.


The author, Michelle Lee-Barnwell, spends the first part examining the development of evangelical attitudes toward womanhood. The first chapter deals with the development of women in social reform such as missions and the Women's Christian Temperance Union. It's an informative chapter, and I can recognize the trends in the reading I have done about the WCTU here in Canada. 

The next chapter moves to the end of World War II to discuss the next phase of development. I was a little surprised that the author moves from the Victorian era to World War II. The years following the first World War seem to me to be ripe for evaluation with regard to changes in culture that would have affected women and evangelicalism. Lee-Barnwell has shown already the reality that the surrounding culture has a huge impact on the evangelical understanding of female roles and identity. So, why the big jump? 

Then it occurred to me: this is a book by an American about America. In Canada, our history, while always linked to our southerly neighbour, follows a different path because of our extended links to the motherland, Great Britain. World War I marked a huge change in Canada as our national identity began to assert itself, even as Britain's world influence began to wane. Our involvement in World War I was far more intimate than that of the United States. The changes to our culture would clearly be different. While this book is proving to be very thought provoking (and wonderfully researched), I do have to remember that while the influence on evangelicalism in Canada will be obvious, there will be differences. I have read extensively about Nellie McClung, who lived through World War I, and whose son fought in France. The war had a huge impact on her understanding of humanity, rights, duty, and womanhood.

Someone out there needs to write a history of how evangelicalism unfolded in Canada. I'm hopeful there is a Canadian in school somewhere who is getting ready for that. I'll buy the book.