Christian Egalitarian Leadership – ed. Aída Besançon Spencer and William David Spencer

Christian Egalitarian Leadership: Empowering the Whole Church according to the Scriptures by Aída Besançon Spencer, William David Spencer
Published by Wipf & Stock Publishers on October 30, 2020
Genres: Academic, Non-Fiction, Theology
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Much has been written on servant leadership, but it is not always tied to egalitarian leadership. Sometimes authority and power instead of God’s love are presented as the core of the Christian faith. The church at times derails, imitating worldly culture, emphasizing entitlement that relies on an innate or permanent human hierarchy of rank. Responding to today’s conflict over leadership, Christian Egalitarian Leadership calls us back to its biblical roots: what is Christian egalitarian leadership? Why is it biblical? How does it work? Thoughtful and devout Christian leaders carefully explain how sharing leadership follows God’s intentions and is crucial to implement today.

The theoretical and practical ramifications of these concepts are extended to many areas of the Christian life by numerous qualified individuals, women and men of different races and economic and social classes. Chapters overview New Testament teachings, biblical authority, Old Testament and contemporary examples, God’s intention at creation, pagan philosophy’s influence on Christian hierarchal leadership, multicultural and multi-ethnic leadership in the United States and Africa, marriage, rearing children, equipping youth and laity, church planting, retirement, and missions, from the cradle to the mission field.

Christian Egalitarian Leadership is the latest book in the House of Prisca and Aquila series, an eclectic series that focuses mainly on egalitarian issues in theology. The book’s editors are Aída Besançon Spencer, Senior Professor of New Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and William David Spencer, Distinguished Ranked Adjunct Professor of Theology and the Arts at the same. The individual chapters are written by an array of scholars and professionals, pastors and academics. Most, it seems, have some connection to the editors through Gordon-Conwell. This is a dense, academically robust work featuring that powerfully and convincingly makes the case for egalitarian leadership. More than that, the book moves into practical application, giving readers examples of ways in which the male hierarchy can be dismantled. It’s that bridge between theory and practice—between orthodoxy and orthopraxy—that really makes Christian Egalitarian Leadership shine.

To really do this book justice, one would have to review and summarize every single chapter. And, indeed, they are all worthy of such praise and scrutiny. However, this review shall have to content itself with a general overview and a few salient observations. The first third of the book is a discussion of theory. The editors begin with an overview of New Testament teaching on egalitarianism, setting the theological foundations for everything to follow. Interestingly, they place egalitarianism as a mandate of servanthood in contrast to hierarchical systems of leadership. For the Spencers, servant leadership requires equality.

My favorite chapter in this section is Grace Ying May’s “Women Discipling Men: A Biblical Pattern of Leadership.” May clearly shows that female leadership is biblical, not just in the theological or theoretical sense, but actually and practically. She writes of Phoebe, claiming that Paul calls her a mentor (Rom 16:2). While May’s argument isn’t entire compelling—as prostasis may carry the meaning of financial patron and not necessarily mean a spiritual leader—the rest of her argument is pretty indisputable: Phoebe is listed as a leader of the church. May also writes about Deborah, convincingly positioning her as a legitimate and true leader.

The last two-thirds of the book focus on practice and this is really the book’s highlight. Jeanne DeFazio writes about the multicultural aspects of egalitarianism. Francois Augustin looks at its effect on multiethnic aspects. Ben and Scarlet Tsao Fung write about marriage. Karen Sue Smith writes about children. The list goes on. The authors show how an egalitarian practice revolutionizes and revitalizes relationships, bringing the church together in greater and closer community. Every chapter has great value for bringing the church together and functioning as healthier and happier people.

Christian Egalitarian Leadership is not an easy read. It’s a chapter every few days kind of book. It’s one to wrestle with, think thoroughly about, and prayerfully seek application. While I wish it was a bit more “user-friendly,” this book offers several actionable change individuals can make in their ministries to better reflect mutuality and equality.