As 2019 winds down, the staff at CBE International have been thinking back over the books that we’ve enjoyed and learned from this year, and we wanted to share those with you. This list comprises some CBE staff favorites and some picks from our bookstore that we wanted to highlight. All these books exemplify and elaborate on our convictions 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 2020 reading list, and you’ll be off to an empowered and inspired year!
Rediscovering Scripture’s Vision for Women: Fresh Perspectives on Disputed Texts by Lucy Peppiatt
I admit my endless admiration for the work of Lucy Peppiatt, a New Testament scholar and principal (“Brit speak” for president) of Westminster Theological Centre in the UK. A charismatic theologian with an interest in Christ, Paul, and women’s equality, Lucy continues to open sky over our heads as it concerns women and Scripture’s support of their voice, agency, gifting, and leadership. Here at CBE we’re very excited because Lucy will speak at our 2020 conference in London, July 30–August 1. I love this book because it addresses the everyday patriarchal assumptions we navigate in the church, marriage, and Scripture in grasping God’s message of mutuality for women and men. This is a book that changes the conversation and inspires the entire church. I hope you’ll love it as much as I do.
Priscilla: The Life of an Early Christian by Ben Witherington III
Combining narrative and biblical scholarship, Ben Witherington has written a novel about the life of Priscilla, a preacher and teacher who worked alongside the apostle Paul and her husband, Aquila. I’ve always been terribly interested in Prisca, or as she is affectionately known to the English-speaking church, Priscilla. I remember the day I realized that although complementarian leaders argue she taught men in her home with her husband supervising the conversation, the truth is in the first church in Ephesus, her own home, she instructed one of the greatest teachers in the New Testament. While her husband was with her, she is mentioned ahead of him in four of the six references to them in the NT. And, anthropologists observe that as Scripture elevates her leadership it represents the greatest moment of women’s equality in antiquity. Not only is Priscilla one of the great leaders in Scripture, Ben Witherington is one of the great historians of the New Testament. It’s a perfect match and a matchless book!
Coffee Cup Bible Studies by Sandra Glahn
Sandra Glahn, editor of Vindicating the Vixens, has written a Bible study series called Coffee Cup Bible Studies. I love everything about this series! The covers are beautiful, the titles are clever, the size and ring-bound format are convenient, and best of all, the content is rich. In this series, Glahn combines biblical content with modern-day experience, and provides theological and cultural context to guide the reader to think again about the people and books of the Bible. As one endorser put it, “Glahn sets theological content into a conversational style.” It is just the right balance of theological content and accessibility. I highly recommend them for personal and group study.
From Risk to Resilience by Jenny Rae Armstrong
Reading this book is like sitting down with Jenny over a cup of coffee. In frank and friendly language, she weaves together personal experiences from northern Wisconsin and several African countries, lessons from Bible women, and statistics showing the plight of women and girls around the world. The book covers “the ubiquitous devaluation of women and girls” that creates barriers to education and healthcare, child marriage, trafficking, and gender-based violence. Much of this discrimination results from misunderstanding the Bible: “While the Bible is the inspired Word of God, it is important to understand that it shows up dressed in humanity’s dirty laundry far more often than most of us would like.” From Risk to Resilience is also hopeful, offering helpful and practical advice for initiating change to empower girls and women.
Marginalized, Maligned, and Miraculous Women in Scripture by Deborah Spink Winters
Through this collection of essays, readers can explore the lives of women in the Bible and see what their stories show us about God and his people. I’m reading this book with my women’s study group, and it has sparked conversations that both surprised and amused us. Of the fifteen women featured in the book, several were simply unknown to my sisters and many are what are thought of as “bad examples.” The personal stories shared by each chapter’s author inspired me to exercise my “study muscles.” The result is a deeper understanding of God’s divine purpose in sharing these lesser-known women’s stories and finding a personal message for my own life through these same stories.
What Is a Girl Worth? My Story of Breaking the Silence and Exposing the Truth about Larry Nassar and USA Gymnastics by Rachael Denhollander
In her memoir, Rachael Denhollander guides the reader through her career in USA gymnastics as a young girl via her experience as first accuser of serial sexual abuser and USA Gymnastics doctor, Larry Nassar. Denhollander tells the story with crystal clarity, introducing the reader to people, places, and events with rich detail. She also takes the reader on the emotional journey of her abuse, the internal battle of realizing what happened was wrong, and how she found the courage to defend herself and all Nassar’s other victims. I couldn’t put this book down, and I admire Denhollander’s poise and ferocity for justice, even as people continued to question her allegations. Denhollander captures deftly the good and bad responses of Christians and church leaders that ought to function as a masterclass for the church in how we need to learn to respond to the needs of victims of sexual abuse.
CBE Bookstore Favorites
The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates
In this inspiring book, Melinda Gates describes her passion for and work with improving women’s lives around the world. She shares personal stories of her travels and the women she has encountered, while arguing persuasively for the importance of uplifting women in order to lift up whole communities. Gates also shares her journey toward mutuality in her marriage after growing up in a conservative Catholic family and working in the male-dominated tech industry.
Hermanas: Deepening Our Identity and Growing Our Influence by Natalia Kohn Rivera, Noemi Vega Quiñones, and Kristy Garza Robinson
In this book, the authors share their journeys as Latinas and as leaders, while also looking to twelve women in the Bible as mentors who have shared similar challenges. Be sure to also check out Gricel Medina’s review of Hermanas for CBE: “In Hermanas, the authors share their lives and the lives of characters in the Bible who were beautifully marked by a divine encounter with God. Their stories inspire readers to strongly push back against a patriarchal focus and unapologetically teach the benefits of a healthy missional collaboration between males and females.”
The Significance of Singleness: A Theological Vision for the Future of the Church by Christina S. Hitchcock
Christina Hitchcock provides a theological framework for embracing the gifts that singleness, and thus single people, offer the church. She argues against the prevalent and mistaken view among many evangelicals that singleness is a “problem” and that marriage is a sign of maturity and responsibility. Kate Netzler Burch had this to say in her review for CBE: “The Significance of Singleness will prompt you to think more deeply about a seriously under-examined theological topic and will inspire you to greater reflection on an issue that should be considered by every participant of a faith community.”
Women’s Voices and the Practice of Preaching by Nancy Lammers Gross
Through the biblical story of Miriam and the stories of herself and other women preachers, Nancy Lammers Gross makes an important connection between the use of one’s physical voice to preach and a woman’s self-understanding. This book builds both a theological argument for women using their voices to proclaim the gospel and provides practical exercises and techniques for developing one’s physical voice. LeeAnn Van Cleef-Trimmer endorsed this book for CBE: “Women’s Voices and the Practice of Preaching is a book I will gladly and readily share with women in ministry that I have opportunity to encourage and mentor as well as men in ministry to help them understand obstacles women face. It speaks to issues that are unique to women in ministry and challenges women to claim their voice and their place in proclaiming the gospel.”