Book Notes: Women in the Mission of the Church
DR. GINA A. ZURLO
CO-DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF GLOBAL CHRISTIANITY
I read a wonderful book this week – Women in the Mission of the Church: Their Opportunities and Obstacles throughout Christian History (Baker Academic, 2021) by Leanne M. Dzubinski and Anneke H. Stasson. This power duo has written a first-rate text to complement the standard readings in Western church history. Dzubinski’s expertise in intercultural studies and mission combines with Stasson’s historical prowess to provide a well-researched and highly accessible book that centers the experiences, stories, and lives of Christian women in the past. Here are ten reasons why I think everyone should read it.
- Dzubinski and Stasson know what they’re talking about. They’re both experts in their fields and they accompany each other so well in their competencies. The narrative flows smoothly and it’s accessible to both lay and ordained, undergraduate and graduate alike.
- If you took church history in seminary, it was probably one-sided, and you didn’t learn about most of the women in this book. Most Western church histories omit women. This book helps to address that and gives you plenty of resources if you want to dig deeper.
- This book helps to answer the question, “Where are the women in church history?” If you’ve ever read a history book that claims to be about all people but only talks about men, then it’s not about all people. This book helps fill that gap.
- Women in the Mission of the Church is historically comprehensive in the sense that it includes examples of women from every major historical period: the early church, late antiquity and the Middle Ages, the Protestant Reformation, and then crosses the Atlantic to discuss the Western female missionary movement and includes the contributions of indigenous Christian women in China, India, South America, and sub-Saharan Africa. (My only gripe is that the book is mostly Western focused with just a few examples from the global South, but the authors acknowledge that you can’t do everything in a single book!)
- Dzubinski and Stasson argue that women made contributions to God’s mission in the world no matter their social class, background, celibate or married, barren or mothering, public or private, educated or not. The stories of nuns, martyrs, queens, and mystics are particularly compelling.
- The introduction is short (12 pages) but debunks major myths related to the omission of women from church history, and why that matters today.
- This book has a great thesis: Women in ministry is not a 20th century phenomenon, nor was it a reaction to the “women’s liberation” movement. Know your history!
- This book has a great secondary thesis: Women have faced both opportunities and obstacles in their ministry of the gospel message, but they have always spun those challenges into ways to further glorify God in sacrificial service.
- History bolsters the present. Both men and women will be encouraged to read the stories of pioneering women who bucked societal trends to provide for the needy and preach the gospel.
- Ladies, this one is for you. If you’ve faced obstacles being a Christian woman in your context, please read this book. It’ll remind you that you aren’t alone and there is hope! You are in a long line of impressive and strong Christian women whose stories are finally becoming more known to the world. Stand firm among them as you persevere in your calling.
Women in the Mission of the Church is not a book only for the “missions people” in the church, nor is it a book just for women. It’s a book for all people. This is a book for pastors, lay people, professors, students, and everyone in between.