Book Review- Unladylike: Resisting the Injustice of Inequality in the Church

Talking about gender issues in Church typically gets one of two responses: either it is declared a “secondary issue” that is a matter of personal opinion and interpretation, or the very idea of “women in ministry” is viewed as a threat to the underlying fabric of the Christian faith. Both of these responses are wrong. after reading Pam Hogeweide‘s first book, Unladylike: Resisting the Injustice of Inequality in the Church, I am convinced that the place women occupy in our churches is a deep issue of justice and not (primarily) a doctrinal issue. I appreciate that Pam shares her story with passion. It is the story of a journey from an egalitarianism to polite complementary and finally to a place of advocating for equality in word and deed. Through her story, Pam begins to discuss topics like women in church leadership, the way we view girls/women in the church, patriarchy, and over all our idea of what it means to be created as man and woman in the image of God.

Honestly, this book has given me much to think about… and I think that’s the point. Women do deserve to have a voice along side their brothers. If we are going to see that happen in our Churches today, we have to think, talk, and act deeply about these complex issues. While it may not be a quick fix or an easy “new fad”, it is a reformation that is happening in hearts and minds. Don’t read this as a feminist book; read it as a call to equality in Christ for everyone who shares the Imago Dei.

Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of Pam’s book for the purpose of review. The views expressed here are my own. I didn’t agree to slant my view one way or another. There is no check in the mail; that’s not how I roll.

  • Mike

    Thanks for this review. I’ve been wanting to read Pam’s book, and you’ve just propelled me over that edge. : )

    • YAY!  Mike, if you haven’t gotten a copy yet, message me. If you’re willing to review it, I’m willing to send you one!

  • Joelb

    Oh great! Now another I book I have to read. 🙂

  • Out of curiosity… what is the argument that it’s not just a secondary issue?  I’ve always been one who sees things as either gospel or secondary, and I can’t wrap my head around it being gospel.  But I was raised in one of those “Women preachers are destroying the church” kinda places (though I strongly disagree now with that train of thought).

    • Big question Seth. Good question, but big. Let me try and break it down a bit if I can

      Typically (as you said) in the realm of theology there are gospel/primary/orthodox/closed hand issues and secondary/dogma/open hand issues. Women in ministry tends to get put into the second category because people feel that it is akin to opinion in textual interpretation. This makes sense if we look at gender rolls in the church as a theological/doctrine issue.

      But it’s not. There are two underlying reasons for me saying this: one- it’s not just a hermeneutic (interpretation) issue. It is at it’s core an issue of justice and human rights. It’s important because what we believe and practice about gender in the church effects and reflects what we believe about humanity as a whole, therefore informing our understanding of what the good news (gospel) actually is and what it actually accomplishes and means for the world.

      I know that can seem like a grandiose statement, but let me phrase it this way: I believe that at it’s heart the gospel is God the Father reconciling all things to himself in the person of Jesus (God the Son), and making all things well through the work of God the Spirit.

      Now, if I believe that men have a different place than women in the hierarchy of the church, then I am creating a system of power and class within the kingdom. therefore, my understanding of what “all will be well” may in actuality promoting the oppression of women as the image of Christ. If I believe this is the way God intended it to be, my efforts at proclaiming the gospel here and now are going to begin to reflect that subtle belief that women are not at the same level as men.

      This changes my understanding of the Gospel. As this idea is passed down from generation to generation, we develop a church culture that willfully oppresses people born in the image of God simply because they are not the “correct” gender.

      Then the question arises: Is this how God intended his kingdom to be? 

      I know that is allot to take in. Ultimately though, because the Gospel is the core/primary/orthodox/closed hand issue in our belief structure, anything that changes that message cannot be dumped in the secondary importance slot and forgotten about. Issues of justice are not simple textual disagreements. They are battles to be fought because of the message of Jesus that one day in him all will be well.

    • Hi Seth, great question and it’s one I confront straight on in the book. For a long time I considered the issue of women secondary, or non-essential. It’s not a deal breaker, right?  But…and this is a really, really important but….Women are Not Non-Essential.  Women are made in the image of God and yet are held back by patriarchal considerations towards the female gender. The Bible does not hold women back. All of those texts that seem to keep women restricted from leadership roles are actually contextual rather than universal….and Paul himself did write in Gal 3:28 that all are one in Christ, male and female, slave and free, Greek and Jew…all are one in Christ. 

      I appreciate you chiming in on this pressing issue facing the body of Christ today. And I am so glad to hear that you do not accept the extreme perspective of your youth that women preachers are destroying the church. Wowzers…imagine what that kind of rhetoric does to a woman’s soul? I host women’s gatherings and have heard many, many stories of how women called by the Holy Spirit have had to contend with obstacles of all kinds. I refer to many of these stories in my  book…sorry, I don’t mean to sound like I’m pitching, yet it does contain a lot of useful information and considerations about gender equality in the church.

      Also, my friend Jim Henderson just came out with his own book about women called The Resignation of Eve. Both of our books are available on Amazon and many people are reporting a broadened perspective after reading them. 

  • Hm. Women and men are equal in ministry, to be sure, but men are tapped specifically for “church government”. I’ll let that one lie where it does, and if you have any questions, I will freely answer.

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