CBE International’s Favorite Books of 2020

by CBE International | December 30, 2020

As 2020 winds down, the staff at CBE have been thinking back over the books we’ve enjoyed and learned from this year, and we wanted to share those with you. This list comprises CBE staff favorites and some picks from our bookstore that we wanted to highlight. All these books exemplify and elaborate on our conviction that women and men together ought to be free to exercise their God-given gifts to serve God and others. Add these books to your 2021 reading list, and you’ll be off to an empowered and inspired year! (The linked books are now on sale in CBE’s bookstore!)

Staff Favorites

Mimi

Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership by Ruth Haley Barton
Earlier this year, I reviewed this wonderful book that I recommend: “While I’ve read many books on leadership, too few delve deeply or wisely into the spiritual realities and possibilities leaders navigate, especially women who routinely face unequal and unreasonable expectations as pioneers in any field. Haley Barton does not address gender bias directly, though I wished she did. However, her book implicitly assumes that women are leaders and this posture is of significant value to women like me. We see this play out through history. . . . And, this is where the book is crucial. The author not only suggests we spend more time with Jesus (whereas most books on leadership do not!), Haley Barton also is intentional to lead readers into deeper spiritual paths toward needed strength for women. Drawing from many wise counselors, traditions, and genres (including poetry), Haley Barton opens new and powerful options in attending to and hearing from God.”

Mary Lou

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Both heartbreaking and inspiring, The Invention of Wings is a fictionalized account of Sarah Grimké, who along with her sister Angelina, was an early leader in the abolition and suffrage movements. Weaving together fact and fiction in the life of Sarah and Hetty “Handful” Grimké, a slave girl “given” to Sarah on her eleventh birthday, the book presents both sides of intimate relationships distorted by slavery. It’s a powerful story that is often hard to read, painfully detailing atrocities perpetrated on Black people, while also reflecting on the tight limits placed on white women. Yet there is bittersweet victory as Sarah finds courage to step out of Southern Belle restrictions and into her calling to help free both slaves and women.

Liz

The Making of Biblical Womanhood by Beth Allison Barr
(Editor’s Note: This book will be released in April 2021 and will be available in CBE bookstsore.)
This is one of the best books I have read this year. Barr, Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor of History at Baylor University, examines the history of women’s subordination in the church. Using a combination of her own story and current events in the conservative evangelical church, she presents historical evidence to show that women’s subjection in the Christian church is due more to its secular historical context than to the Bible. Barr shows that despite having great freedom to answer God’s call at certain points in the church’s history, “Women, throughout history, live within the confines of patriarchy. . . Regardless of how much freedom women have, they always have less than men.” And this waxing and waning of women’s agency is greatly influenced by historical events.

Ellen

Jesus and John Wayne by Kristin Kobes Du Mez
In this highly detailed historical account, Du Mez argues persuasively that a “militant masculinity” has defined white evangelicalism from the late nineteenth century to the present day. She draws a clear line from evangelical patriarchy to the political tensions that have been building for the past 60 years, creating the cultural divides we are experiencing now. But what might be most interesting to our CBE community is how Du Mez traces the “militant masculinity” of evangelical patriarchy along complementarian lines. This book shows how strict gender roles and complementarian Bible interpretations undergird the evangelical movement to the detriment of both the church and American culture. Du Mez’s research confirms what egalitarians have been demonstrating all along: theological patriarchy leads to abuse of power and a breakdown of morality in the church and in greater society.

CBE Bookstore Favorites

Parable of the Brown Girl by Khristi Lauren Adams
Jeanne Porter King reviewed this book in the fall issue of Mutuality. She said, “I highly recommend that any person working in ministries or agencies that provide services to girls of color read Parable of the Brown Girl. This book is also a must-read for anyone advocating for gender equality because it provides insight into the complexity of the struggles many women and girls face, specifically those of color. It will remind every person who aims to dismantle gender-based hierarchies that patriarchy affects girls and women of color differently than it affects white women and girls. Our work against patriarchy is one dimensional unless we truly aim to represent all women and girls and not only white women and girls.

“The book will challenge you to ask, ‘how can we have a movement to advance the equality of women and girls if we don’t know the stories or understand the plight of the very girls who constitute the group on whose behalf we say we advocate?’ Indeed, we can never fully advocate for women's equality if we don’t know the diverse stories of women and girls who are hampered by the threats of sexism, racism, classism, colorism, and more.”

Defiant: What the Women of Exodus Teach Us About Freedom by Kelley Nikondeha
The CBE community read this book together last summer, and Mary Lou Wiley reviewed it for us, saying, “Kelley Nikondeha serves up powerful insights from the stories of the women of Exodus, the stories of women who resisted historical and modern injustices, and her own experiences as an adopted Latina American woman married to a Burundian man and mother to Burundian-born, American-raised children. She describes how women across time have found unique and creative ways to counter inequity and lays out a model for how women today can work to advance justice.

“Nikondeha also shows how women living in patriarchal and racist cultures outmaneuvered the strict roles dictated by their gender, ethnicity, and social status. They defied a traditional understanding of biblical womanhood to step into their God-ordained roles and overturn an empire. The result is a compelling and hopeful call to action; a call for women to partner with God, sometimes in subversive ways, to set God’s people free in our churches and neighborhoods.”

The #MeToo Reckoning by Ruth Everhart
Liz Beyer reviewed this book for us and recommended it strongly: “Despite the book’s painful and difficult subject, The #MeToo Reckoning is well-written, positive, gracious, and engaging. I found myself resonating with every story, and I marked and underlined much of the book, intending to return to sections to think more about them. I especially appreciated the way the author juxtaposed current stories of abuse and the church’s response with biblical stories showing God’s heart toward the vulnerable. Everhart makes it clear that God is deeply grieved by sexual abuse and holds those with power accountable for the abuse of ‘the least of these.’

“I highly recommend this book to anyone—lay people, church leaders, and parachurch leaders alike—who wants to better understand the #MeToo movement and how to make their church or ministry a safer place. I am grateful to Ruth Everhart for being a prophetic truth teller, and I commend IVP for being courageous in publishing this book. I suspect we will never know how many lives will be saved and restored as a result of this book.”


Other Books Recommended by CBE:
CBE International’s Favorite Books of 2019
15 Books for Seekers and New Egalitarians