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Fall 1999 · Vol. 28 No. 2 · pp. 265–66 

Book Review

Women and Men: Gender in the Church

ed. Carol Penner. Scottdale, PA and Waterloo, ON: Herald, 1998. 151 pages.

Reviewed by Nadine Friesen

Women and Men is a compilation of chapters and ideas dealing with gender issues that are of importance in our life together as Christ-followers, coworkers, families, and human beings. Sixteen authors have contributed thought-provoking ideas and experiences from their own lives. Topics include gender as addressed in Scripture, differences and similarities between women and men, balancing homemaking and careers, understanding and relating to our physical bodies, the realities of race, age, and singleness in dealing with gender issues, male and female roles and expectations as they relate to mothering and fathering, and the influence the church has on perceptions of gender and its significance.

While the book asks some provocative questions, it does not offer easy or pat answers to the issues. Each author approaches the topic of their chapter from their own perspectives and research, yet they all seem {266} to agree on several things: the issues are complex, it will take time to transform practices and ideas that have been held by some for many years, and the discussion of such issues can be highly sensitive. While the processing of questions related to maleness and femaleness may be challenging, all would agree it is essential that we address such issues, particularly within the community of Christ-followers.

This work will stand in contrast to other books that deal with gender issues in that it assumes the questions are being addressed within the church community. Because of its emphasis on including both male and female perspectives, the book provides a unique dialogue for dealing with issues in the context of a community which is committed to unity.

While several writers acknowledge that there has been some progress in the views and practices of the church within recent years, they also call for continued and increased openness and concern. If we are to be the kingdom Christ calls us to be, we need to address our understandings of both our female/male concept of ourselves as well as of God.

The book can be used as a practical tool for church study groups and discussions. The thirteen chapters lend themselves to a Sunday school quarter. The addition of practical questions at the end of each chapter can assist in discussion. And, while the overall theme of gender issues carries throughout the book, each chapter can also stand on its own in terms of study and discussion. Many of the chapters include practical suggestions for ways in which the church can clarify, broaden, and educate its members regarding the issues.

Nadine Friesen
Pastoral Staff, Hillsboro MB Church
Hillsboro, Kansas

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