A Prejudicial Treatment of the Issues -- By: Todd L. Miles
JBMW 16:2 (Fall 2011) p. 38
A Prejudicial Treatment of the Issues
A Review of Carolyn Custis James, Half the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Women. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2009.
Associate Professor of Theology and Hermeneutics
Half the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Women by Carolyn Custis James is a book written by a woman for women, calling them to bless the church and ultimately the world through the exercise of their gifts. First, a summary of the contents: The book is driven by two issues that are of chief concern to James. First, she “grieves” the loss to the church and to men when half the church effectively disappears through “anorexic spiritual diet” or stymied roles (19). Second, James is dismayed over the plight of women in other countries and is outraged that the church is not the loudest voice decrying the atrocities committed against women around the world (21). These two issues lead to three significant questions whose answers comprise the rest of the book. She wants to know what message the church has for women of the twenty-first century. What will the church do about the rampant suffering of the world, and what messages are we sending to the world in the way that we mobilize and treat our own daughters (41)? It is her desire to write a book that takes seriously the plight of women who live in states of horrific oppression, while simultaneously calling women of the evangelical church to kingdom action. In so doing, she urges women to participate in the “full-orbed gospel”—that is, both gospel proclamation and mercy/social justice (25).
Much of the book is given to alerting the reader to atrocities committed against women around the world, such as abuse, sex-trafficing, torture, and various kinds of murder (e.g., female infanticide and so-called honor killings). But James is concerned that the evangelical church is sending the wrong message to the watching world and to those women who are suffering. Though the time is right for
believers to embody a gospel culture where both halves of the church are thriving because following Jesus produces a climate of honor, value, and love, and we are serving God together as he intended from the beginning.... Yet instead of casting a powerful gospel vision that both validates and mobilizes women, the church’s message for women is mixed at best—guarded, negative, and small at worst. Everywhere we go, a line has been drawn establishing parameters for how much or how little we are permitted to do within the church (48).
To remedy this, James correctly turns to the Bible. First, from Genesis 1, ...
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