Growing Women Leaders: Nurturing Women’s Leadership in the Church, by Rosie Ward. Reviewed by Alison Myers
Growing Women Leaders: Nurturing Women’s Leadership in the Church, by Rosie Ward. BRF, 2008, 232 pages, ISBN 978-1-84101-575-0. £8.99.
Reviewed by Alison Myers
I have for some time been of the view that writing and research specifically about women can sometimes have an unfortunate ‘ghettoising’ effect, when what is needed is to bring the views and experiences of women into the mainstream. So I picked up Rosie Ward’s book Growing Women Leaders with some trepidation.
I had some clear questions for the book. Having been frustrated in the past by that kind of dualism that enabled me to have a leadership position in my professional work life but not in church, I wanted to know whether it would take seriously scholarship outside the church about leadership. I wanted to know whether I would recognise myself as a woman leader. I wanted to know whether there was anything in here that would help me and other women leaders understand their own experiences better. In each case, the answer is positive.
In Part One, Rosie adeptly addresses the arguments around Biblical interpretation, and brings to our attention the stories of women leaders in the biblical narrative, in the early church and since.
Part Two considers the ways in which women lead. Though she draws heavily on the Arrow Leadership programme she also cites the leadership work of as varied a crew as Peter Senge, Margaret Wheatley and Marcus Buckingham among others, concluding with a discussion of the existence (or not) of significant biological difference.
In Part Three of her book, she explores those things which form particular challenges for women leading in the church, such as a culturally embedded sense of inferiority, a less intentional approach to development of gifts and talents, a different rhythm to life and career. With great accuracy she pin points key issues for women in her chapters on courage and confidence; and power and service.
This is a clear, well researched and well argued book: a great resource for those who want to understand the issues or get under the skin of the experience of a range of women in leadership. And yes, although the focus on the book is on women, despite my initial trepidation, it is evident throughout that the book is heading towards integration and enablement within the life of the whole church. But at the end, despite the hooks and ideas that Rosie includes, the answer to the question ‘so what do I do about it?’ seems somewhat thin. Perhaps that is evidence of the challenge and complexity of the position – culturally, psychologically, ecclesiologically – in which we in the churches find ourselves just now.
Alison Myers is an ordained Anglican priest and member of MODEM. She works as Assistant Minister at Cambourne Church in Cambridgeshire, and as a consultant and facilitator for clients considering issues of leadership, working relationships and transition.
This review first appeared in MODEM Matters Issue 7 in February 2009. The MODEM Matters newsletter keeps members up to date with newly published books in the fields of leadership, management and ministry: