Book Brief – Women in the Service of Christ

Women in the Service of Christ by Norman Shepherd. Published by the Reformed Fellowship, Inc., 36 pages, $2.00 plus postage. Reviewed by Harlan Vanden Einde.

The question of the propriety of allowing women to occupy all of the ordained offices in the church has been the object of discussion and debate for the past couple of decades in Reformed circles. And though in some denominations the issue has been formally decided, there is little doubt that in others, it will continue to be debated.

A considerable amount of material has appeared in print relative to this issue during the past two decades, both pro and con. But of all the articles and booklets I have seen on this subject, none is as thorough as the treatment given to it in this booklet by Rev. Norman Shepherd, Pastor Emeritus of the Christian Reformed Church. While it is rather difficult for any of us to avoid approaching an issue without our own biases, Rev. Shepherd has not yielded to that temptation. His approach is to appeal to the Scriptures as the inspired and infallible Word of God, and let it speak to us on this issue. As he says in his Introduction: “The question whether women ought to serve in the special offices of minister, elder and deacon is to be answered by discerning the will of Christ for his church as he has revealed it in Holy Scripture”.

In that process, he first examines the Biblical givens for the offices of minister, elder and deacon. With Paul’s words to Timothy in I Timothy 2:12 as a key verse, he presents convincing arguments for the time-tested, historic position relative to who should serve in the special offices in the church. He then goes on to talk about the role of women in redemptive history, being careful not to avoid what might be referred to by some as the difficult examples of female leadership in the Old Testament. With fairness and dignity, he goes on to treat the New Testament examples of the work of women in the spread of the gospel. And then he handles with great thoroughness the exegesis of Galatians 3:28, one of the primary verses of Scripture referred to by those who would reverse the historic position of the church regarding the ordination of women.

If you are looking for a fair and honest treatment of this issue, and if you are more interested in hearing what the Bible says than in popular opinion then, you owe it to yourself and to your church to do a careful study, with Bible in hand, of this book. As male and female, under the Lordship of Jesus, our responsibility is to work together to serve our Lord, and do that to the best of our ability as we follow the directions of His Word.

The tone of this entire booklet is summarized in its very last paragraph: “The gospel does not make men and women competitors but co-workers in the kingdom. This is what we must strive to be in ‘the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace’ (Ephesians 4;3). Every man, woman and child is needed in the struggle against the kingdom of darkness, and they are effective in the roles assigned to them by Jesus Christ, the king and head of the church.”

Rev. Harlan Vanden Einde is pastor of the Borculo Christian Reformed Church.