Byrd, Aimee. Recovering From Biblical Manhood & Womanhood: How the Church Needs to Rediscover Her Purpose. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2020. 240 pp. $18.99.
Aimee Byrd is known to many as the housewife theologian, a nickname earned from one of her earlier books. Until this book was published, she was a co-host on the popular podcast, Mortification of Spin. You can find more of Aimee’s writings at her blog, Aimee Byrd. To better understand what Aimee has endured because of this book, you can read her post that summarizes why she ultimately left her denomination.
Divided into three parts, Byrd dives headfirst into a generational conversation dealing with gender issues in the church. In Part One, she argues that Christians, particularly those who hold to a complementarian view of gender roles, of which she does, need to recover the way in which they read Scripture. She states that men and women do not read different Bibles because God gave one Bible for all of mankind to read. She then looks at the book of Ruth to explain how the Bible is not the patriarchal work that so many claim it to be. Rather, the book is often “gynocentric” in its narration of historic events.
In the second part, she calls the church to recover her mission. She states that biblical manhood and womanhood is not the aim of the church. Rather, the aim is to make disciples of Jesus. Due to an overemphasis on the differences of manhood and womanhood, many women are leaving the church as an unintentional consequence, but a consequence nonetheless.
The final part offers a solution to the recovery of every believer’s responsibility. At the very least, this is Byrd’s attempt to offer a biblically-reasoned response to the overemphasis of gender roles in the church in recent years. It is her passion throughout the book to reclaim the necessity of making disciples of God’s redeemed people.
I received this book over a year ago when it was first published. I was intrigued by it due to the title, but also because of the great respect with which I hold Aimee Byrd after listening to her for years on the Mortification of Spin. While being of the same Reformed tribe as Aimee, with the exception of baptism and church governance, and having been shaped by much of the teaching of the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, I had some predisposed notions of what I would find. As I read Aimee’s book a year after much of the brouhaha died down, I expected her to jump the complementarian ship and proclaim herself an egalitarian who has renounced her Reformed roots. That never came. Instead, I found the writings of a theologically astute woman who has read and studied her Bible and has the courage to speak up in a culture that needs to hear what she is saying.
So what was all the uproar about over this book? She quoted all the right people. She quoted the proper Scripture passages. Her “sin” was to call out a parachurch organization that has, for better or worse, had an outsized influence in conservative theological circles. But do not let this “misdemeanor” make the reader miss the message. Aimee Byrd urges everyone to take a step back and reconsider the framework for which the ministry is striving. She asks that the church would endeavor to disciple women as intentionally and as deeply as they do men. Furthermore, she appeals for women to be allowed to disciple men as they did in the time of the New Testament.
And there is the rub.
Somehow, in our complementarian circles the role of disciple-making has become synonymous with the office of the pastor. This is not biblical. And Aimee wants everyone to hear that. I applaud Aimee for the courage (and yes, I mean courage in every proper sense of the word) to write this book. Nowhere in this book does she call for women to be pastors. Nowhere does she call for a rejection of complementarianism and an embracing of egalitarianism. Rather, she is calling for us to make disciples. The very thing Jesus calls us all to do!
I read this book as critically as I could. Knowing the backlash it and its author have received, I fully expected to read a work that embraced not just liberal leaning theological categories, but outright heresy. What I found was a woman crying out to the church to fulfill her biblical mandate to make disciples of all and to allow all to make disciples. For that reason, I highly recommend this book to you. I pray it will cause you to think more deeply about your disciple-making process in your local church context.