Review of “How I changed my mind about women in ministry”

Review by Thomas Mayne
Tom is on the committee of CBE-Sydney.

This is a book that will both challenge and surprise readers. Most would assume, for example, that Tony Campolo, an acknowledged social progressive, would have always been an egalitarian – one who believes that because the New Testament shows women taking on leadership roles in the Church, the same practice should prevail today.

The fact is, this was not always Campolo’s view.

Campolo is grateful for his mother introducing him to Christ, and while she was a gifted Bible teacher, she was prevented from teaching in her own Church. Campolo went along with this until he commenced teaching sociology at a prestigious Ivy League University and was challenged by his students. How was it, they argued, that he claimed to follow Christ, the great liberator of women, yet belonged to a Church that barred women from leadership.

Campolo writes,

“I had met with some missionaries from Japan who were beside themselves because Japanese women whom they had won to Christ and who had been faithfully pastoring churches in Japan were now being ‘defrocked’”.  

In the book, Campolo examines scriptural passages that have led others to adopt a subordinate ‘Complimentarian’ position. Currently, Tony Campolo is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Eastern University in St Davids Pennsylvania. He is a Baptist pastor, married to Peggy and they have  two adult children and four grandchildren.

But there’s more in this book.

Campolo is not alone . Altogether there are 21 essays in this book by respected Christian leaders including Bill and Lynne Hybels, Stuart and Jill Briscoe, I Howard Marshall, John and Nancy Ortberg and Cornelius Plantinga. All have a story (some painful) to tell about how they grew up in Churches that prohibited women from teaching men the Bible or assuming leadership roles and how they were compelled to change their minds after carefully studying the scriptures.

John Armstrong’s experience was similar to Campolo’s having been nurtured in the Christian faith by a godly mother. At one stage she was given the task of reviving a women’s class in the Church. The class grew rapidly under her leadership and the women began bringing their husbands until the pastor stepped in and put a stop to it. Although John began to have doubts about what his fellow pastors assured him was “a slippery slope” leading to a denial of Biblical authority, he now admits that he reluctantly stayed with the subordinate position for fear of falling out with his colleagues and possibly losing his job. Gradually he realised that Biblical authority was not the issue, but rather proper Biblical interpretation.

Armstrong writes,

My vision now can be rather simply stated. I long to see all Christian men wholeheartedly giving up their own agendas and following Christ in humble, complete collaboration with their Christian sisters… For me this is so basic that I wonder why it took me so long to see it.

John Armstrong is president of ACT 3 (www.act3online.com), a ministry for ‘equipping leaders for unity in Christ’s mission. He has a D Min from Luther Rice Seminary and is married to Anita.

© Thomas Mayne

2 comments on “Review of “How I changed my mind about women in ministry””

  1. MB Reply

    But did these men also change their minds about equality in marriage? The couples in this book always put the man’s name before the woman and the husband is ALWAYS the moneymaker.

    • Marg Mowczko Reply

      Hi MB,

      Not all the couples are listed with the husband’s name first. On page 8, Carol and James Plueddemann are mentioned with Carol’s name first. Whether the man or the woman’s name is first does not necessarily imply that there is a gender hierarchy. It may have more to do with social convention. Or it may be an indication of which person in the couple is more well known.

      Also, I don’t know how we can be sure that the husband is always the moneymaker. I’m sure some if not all the women also make money. Some may even make more money than their husband.

      Equality in Christian marriage and ministry is not about who makes more money or whose name is first. It’s about allowing people to use their God-given gifts regardless of gender.

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