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Equal by Katia Adams | A book review by Ali Hull

Equal by Katia Adams | A book review by Ali Hull

This book has the subtitle of What the Bible Says about Women, Men and Authority and that is what Katia Adams sets out to do. However, because she is a woman, many will dismiss her conclusions, and believe that she chose what to see and not see, or twisted what she found in order to make it fit. That really is the crux of the problem for anyone reading this book – unless you are prepared to set aside your own views, momentarily, then you won’t be able to take on board what she writes.

Not that she is writing about the position of women in leadership in the Church just to prove a point. She believes strongly that God created men and women to be equal (as it says in Genesis 1) and charged them, equally, to work for the good of His creation. But the current situation, in which so many women are not able to use the gifts God has given them in leadership means, she believes, that the Church is failing to do what God created it to do, and the results are, she says, ‘catastrophic’. In fact, she believes the enemy has undermined the role of women in order to incapacitate the Body of Christ, and that everyone suffers as a result – men, women, the Church and the world.

Following a brief introduction, and before she tackles the ‘difficult passages’ of Paul’s letters, Adams looks at the example of Jesus and His treatment of women – something that the Church has failed to do consistently. Having stressed the position of women in Jewish society at that time, she shows just how revolutionary the way Jesus treated women was – that His behaviour towards them reflected the value He put on them. Many of those who were the ‘first’ to see something about Jesus were women – including Mary, who bore Him, and the Mary who saw Him resurrected; at a time when a woman’s word was worthless as a witness in a court of law. Moving on to the letters and the practice of Paul, she admits that there are verses that forbid women to teach, and I invite you to read the book to see her conclusions on this. But she also looks at Paul’s letters; his commendations of women in leadership – Phoebe, a deacon; Priscilla, a teacher; Junia, described in Romans 16 as an apostle. These chapters are scholarly and authoritative – they are not, however, easy reading, and although I have studied NT Greek, and written on these issues, I found them a bit dry. But they are essential for anyone who bases their arguments against women in leadership on these verses.

Katia Adams writes with passion, but also with grace. She takes on the theologians who disagree with her, the complementarians who believe women should have different roles to men, and debunks many of their favourite arguments – for instance, if being created first gives Adam a superior position, surely the animals were created before he was? She is not an aggressive feminist – in fact, she is not a feminist at all, as she states towards the end of the book.

The one question I was left with was to what extent these arguments are raging in the UK Church. We have women leaders throughout the main Protestant denominations – the Church of England, the Baptist Church, the Methodist, URC, The Salvation Army (who have had women leaders since their very creation)… I felt the book was more relevant in her homeland of South Africa possibly in Australia and definitely in the United States. There are, church streams in the UK who don’t have women in leadership, and there are events that don’t have women speakers, or only a very few. Whether those who lead these organisations will read this book is another question.

Having made her arguments for what the Bible says about equality, Adams moves on to pointing out that giving women permission to teach and lead is not enough; there needs to be an active policy of pursuing women with gifts and helping them to develop them. Churches also need to look at their own culture, and ensure that it is one in which women will be able to lead without being dismissed or undermined. For instance, she says, women who state their case forcibly can be viewed as domineering or bossy, yet a man speaking in the same way will not evoke the same reaction. I would have liked to see this more developed – maybe that should be her next book.   

Ali Hull is the Deputy Editor of Sorted magazine, and a freelance commissioning editor. She has worked for Lion Hudson and Authentic Media.

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Katia Adams
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