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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

"The Resignation of Eve" (Jim Henderson)

TITLE: The Resignation of Eve: What If Adam's Rib Is No Longer Willing to Be the Church's Backbone?
AUTHOR: Jim Henderson
PUBLISHER: Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2012, (320 pages).

Calling himself a 'spiritual anthropologist,' Jim Henderson writes this book to take on the tasks of probing the church at large about how they have been treating the women folks. He begins with a recognition of the roles of women as follows:

  • that women are very much the backbone of the church
  • that women during the Early Church bring spiritual vitality to the church even as the apostles are mainly men
  • that Jesus himself chooses women as witnesses of the kingdom
  • that it is foolish for any church leadership to take women for granted.
Henderson tells of 3 kinds of resignations, of which the first two are negative. Women can be resigned themselves to their positions, to resign from their roles in church, or to re-sign themselves back into active service. The author feels that he 'had to write this book' because of his strong sense of injustice being meted out at women at different quarters of the Church at large. If Jesus has empowered women, why are we not doing the same? 

Henderson relates the story of Rose Claxton whose very identity has become embedded within her husband's under the guise of submission. Not only that, Rose has been utterly passionate about the 'traditional role' of women at home and in church. Leigh Gray is a gifted Bible teacher and speaker whose influence has been curtailed due to fears that it may 'demean a man.' Nancy Murphy's story caps off the many women stories of how women feels 'resigned to their positions' in society, at home, and in the church.

The second face of resignation comes from the stories of four women. Two of them left the church while the other two left the faith totally.

Thankfully, the third face of resignation is more optimistic. Many of the women in the book feel a sense of need to be engaged and to refuses to take no for an answer. They will not back down, like Kelly Bean, who essentiall 'earned the right to lead' through her love and perseverance (184). Then there is Sadell Bradley who is able to overcome both sexual and racial discrimination through the acceptance by the church leaders, who give her a chance, pay her a salary, and allowed her to lead. Denie Tackett who feels a call to minister to the homeless, struggles against all odds, and false accusations, overcomes with love and perseverance the lack of equality for women to serve in a leadership position in Christian ministries. Tackett's case is not merely a gender issue but highlights something more: a 'power issue.'

There is an interesting chapter called the 'Blue Dot Bloggers' which hides the identity of some women in order to share intimate details of their lives. They do not feel safe enough to reveal their true identities. Many are willing to talk but not willing to be revealed for fear of repercussions in their various communities. There are stories of how women feels downplayed by the insistence of men and women having specific roles. There is the tendency for people to treat women merely as 'coffee-makers.' There is the frequent reference to hierarchy in the church that is unwittingly imposed on the womenfolk.

Finally, Henderson concludes by saying that the equality of men and women is the pre-Fall situation at the Garden of Evil. After the Fall, 'Eve reports to Adam,' and the world has become like this ever since. Henderson provides an interesting list of evangelical sins:

  1. Level 1 (catholics call mortal sins)- murder, rape, abortion, premarital sex, homosexuality, adultery
  2. Level 2 (catholics call venial sins) - divorce, anger, lust, pornography, gossip, viewing R-rated movies, voting democrat
  3. Level 3 (not-such-a-big-deal type) - rudeness, gluttony, consumerism, large church buildings
  4. Systemic sins - sexism, racism, disregard environment, greed, politicization of Christianity

Of course, Henderson is pointing to systemic sin as he deals with the inequality of women in the church, something in which people take for granted. He suggest 4 things as practical applications to streamline and to give integrity back to the women.

  1. "Level the playing field" to choose the best based on giftings
  2. "Look for opportunities to champion women" to counter any male chauvinism in society
  3. "Systemic changes are more important than symbolic gestures" to make sure that our words about equality mean something
  4. "Amerigo Vespucci, the Bible, and Mental Maps" to be used to guide how we think, instead of depending on subjective interpretations.

Closing Thoughts

Despite his use of statistics, thanks to Barna, Henderson makes the following statement.

"The myth of objectivity means we view ourselves as objective and those who disagree with us as subjective. The harsh reality is this: when it comes to humans, there is no such thing as objectivity - only observations and opinions." (xxi)

This is a book that reminds the Church again not to limit the creativity and the gifts of women in the Church. While there is a time to be passionate about complementary roles, one needs to see women not as the world sees, but how Christ sees them. It will take time for the Church at large to enable the vision of both men and women serving together in leadership in the Church. Perhaps, the more important issue is not gender but how godly are we becoming in the eyes of God. We cannot be sidetracked into making gender matters the chief concern. The mark of a great church is to learn to magnify God, to send people out into the world as effective salt and light, regardless of the boundaries of the systems we are in. The bigger danger for the Church is not the resignation of Eve. It is the resignation of both Adam AND Eve. The Holy Spirit unites, not divide. The Holy Spirit empowers. God will help the Church to grow to a better stage. The timing is not ours  but God's.

Personally, I do not like the title of the book for 3 reasons. Firstly, it instills an unhealthy fear in which we see the Church being vacated by women simply because of them feeling discriminated against. The Church is not about resignations of men or women. It is about existing for the sake of magnifying Christ in all of our ways. Perhaps, the title is more provocative rather than prescriptive in nature. That said, it can mislead readers to draw erroneous conclusions that are beyond the author's intention. Secondly, the book appears a little lopsided toward the perspective of women. Even though the author has written this book based on many female inputs, it will be beneficial for the author to perhaps have a co-author, to supplement his convictions. After all, didn't Henderson himself said that there are only 'observations and opinions' which in this case is his own observations and opinions being written into the book? Finally, like a family, we do not simply resign or quit from our own families. The title of the book may have been designed for maximum impact or shock effect. Unfortunately, as I ponder about it, I feel that it may have given a wrong impression for those who may never read the book in the first place.

Apart from that, I believe that the book is a useful reminder for churches not to undermine the status of women in any way. The four applications are worth the price of the book.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Tyndale House Publishers and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. All views offered are freely mine.


  1. Conrade

    I plan to use your summary of my book whenever people ask me why I wrote Resignation of Eve. It is thorough, thoughtful and fair. You kept your opinions limited to the closing section and provided an overview that provides enough information to let someone decide if it might be of interest to them. Thank you . Your analysis of the title was correct - more provocative than prescriptive. Titling decisions are tricky since a book only has about 3 seconds to make an impression. Nevertheless your opinion about that was helpful as well. Great Job

  2. Hi Jim,
    Thanks for your comments. Feel free to use the summary. Thanks too for writing the book. It is an important reminder that we are to treat both men and women as equally treasured in the eyes of God.


  3. I appreciated your summary which was amazing! I read the book and you reflected the main ideas, though ignored the heart, the pain, the emotion expressed.

    And while to some degree, of course, I agree that this issue cannot be "the main thing" in the church, there must be this caveat. It is easy for you to say, being a man who has no limitations put on you, beyond your own call from God, experiences, intelligence and talents, to what you are encouraged to accomplish in the church. This is not the case for many women.


    1. Hi Melody,

      Thank you for your honesty. I believe I have indicated in my past paragraph about the need not to undermine the status of women. For that matter, the imperfect church can also discriminate (at different degrees) against other groups, using differences like ethnicity, age, connections, etc.

      Let me assure you, that even as a guy, there are limitations too, albeit in a different way. Thanks for your comments.