I had just finished teaching an adult Sunday School class on spiritual gifts when a friend ran up to me and asked, "Did you hear what pastor said today in his sermon—that women can't teach men—and he used you as an example?" In processing my pain and confusion from that day, I found resources from Christians for Biblical Equality that helped me heal, and led me to Jesus. Now, there's a new publication that offers similar hope and healing for women: Susan McLeodHarrison's Saving Women from the Church—How Jesus Mends a Divide.
Because of the book's small (8" x 5") size and readable format, Saving Women from the Church could be read devotionally or used as a group study. The book addresses a wide range of painful issues women have faced in the church—chapters titles include: "If you've ever felt alienated and judged in church," "If the church has been an unsafe place to share your woundedness," "If you've ever felt your kids aren't welcome," and "If the church has resisted your call to minister."
The book's format draws the reader in. Each chapter tells two stories—the first vividly describing one woman's struggle; the second illustrating Jesus' response to a woman suffering a similar injustice in the Bible. McLeod-Harrison's biblical expertise is evident in each chapter when she digs into the Bible's cultural background and connects it to the countercultural nature of Jesus' redemptive actions towards women. She also includes thoughtful reflection and discussion questions; meditative exercises at the end of each chapter lead readers to Jesus for personal healing.
I had a chance to talk recently with the author about her own spiritual journey. McLeod Harrison, a graduate student, wife, and mother, told me Saving Women from the Church came out of her healing after co-teaching a Sunday school class on Jesus and women in the mid-1990s. As she prepared and taught the class, she began to experience God's deep love for her as a human and a woman—and she was determined to share this experience with others. This book is the result.
McLeod-Harrison, who holds a Master of Divinity Degree from Regent College (Vancouver, BC), wrote Saving Women from the Church with a pastoral burden for women who have been "alienated by the church, who wanted to write the church off, and perhaps who haven't set foot in a church in years." In other words, the book is for women who "haven't been loved by the love Jesus showed women."
McLeod-Harrison's heart for healing (she is a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at George Fox University) permeates her book—from the book's introduction which addresses women's foundational questions, such as "Can I be myself with God?", and "Can I be myself in the church?", to the book's appendices which include keys for interpreting the Bible and looking at difficult passages through the law of love. In fact, Jesus' "law of love" (Matt. 22:34-40) is a central theme in Saving Women from the Church, and the key biblical hermeneutic for McLeodHarrison. She believes approaching the Bible in this way lends insight into the controversial passages, "leading people to love rather than to judge or alienate people."
McLeod-Harrison clearly has a heart for women from all ethnic backgrounds, as names and settings in Saving Women from the Church are multicultural. In addition, she shows sensitivity to justice issues; themes of abuse and domestic violence are included in the stories, and she refers readers to resources to help heal women's wounds.
Saving Women from the Church is a powerful book that will bring restoration and healing to women through the love of Jesus Christ. McLeod-Harrison told me of women who've cried their way through the book as they have, for the first time, understood their wounds, and realized they haven't had a place to heal. This is one reason the book is ideal for groups—as women bring their experiences in church to Jesus and to each other, with the Bible as anchor, they can heal without leaving the church or their faith.