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“Your Daughters Shall Prophesy”—A Book Review

Your Daughters Shall Prophesy Cover

Your Daughters Shall Prophesy is less a book defending the ordination of women in the church and more a guide on how to fully implement women’s ordination and enable women to actually share true equality in leadership. Dr. Todd Korpi is currently serving as the Church Planting Commission Coordinator for OneHope and Lead Researcher of the Digital Mission Consortia at the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center. He is Assistant Professor of Christian Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary and Adjunct Professor in theology and mission at Ascent College. Both Todd Korpi and his wife Tara have been pastors in Pentecostal churches that were considered to be egalitarian. Despite this, in practice they discovered that women still faced clear barriers to full participation in ministry. After a particularly difficult experience pastoring together in the same church, where Tara experienced gender discrimination from a co-pastor, Todd discovered that many women in egalitarian settings experienced similar things. Much of the material in this book is the result of years of investigation and conversations with women in ministry.

Although from the beginning Dr. Korpi says the book was not written to prove the Bible supports full equality for men and women in leadership, he still takes some space to deconstruct the main arguments against women’s ordination and shows how the Bible, especially the New Testament, supports women’s equality in ministry. Central to his arguments is the “redemption arc” argument, where Scripture can be viewed as a gradual redeeming of male-female relations leading to the restoration of the full equality established before the Fall. Dr. Korpi sees this arc especially evident in the New Testament writings of Paul where Paul refers to numerous women at all levels of church ministry as co-workers with him.

Before tackling some of the very real conflicts and barriers to equal participation for females, Dr. Korpi spends a chapter reviewing the diversity of female calling. He does this by using specific women in the Bible who had unique ministries, such as Deborah, Phoebe, Martha, Lydia, and Priscilla as exemplars. Some of these, like Deborah, who was a Judge in Israel, were called to be top level leaders, analogous to being a senior pastor or even a denomination president, whereas others, like Martha might feel called to lower-level roles working behind the scenes.

Regardless, women can be called by God to lead at all levels, from President down to deacons or children’s Sunday or Sabbath School teachers. There should be no imposed barriers, and Dr. Korpi includes a series of admonitions to male leaders of the church not to impose or assume what a woman’s calling is, but to listen and advocate for her to identify what God is calling her to do and then to support her in developing that call. This includes men being willing to make space for female leaders, even if it means fewer men in leadership.

A central issue keeping women from their full potential in church leadership is how power is viewed and distributed. Dr. Korpi lays out two different types of power dynamics in the church, what he calls Babel power and Passover power. In a system driven by Babel power (think Tower of Babel), the available power in the system is viewed as limited and there is a continual struggle to consolidate it at the top which is usually fully inhabited by men, who view the sharing of any power with women as a loss to their own hold on power. In contrast, systems based on Passover power do not see any limit on power and it does not need to be carefully built up and guarded. A Passover system is a more service-based approach, best exemplified by Jesus’ willingness to wash His disciples’ feet during their Passover celebration. Dr. Korpi’s vision is what is sometimes called servant leadership, and in such systems sharing power with women represents no threat. One indication about what kind of power system a church has can be revealed like this, according to Dr. Korpi:

Do you Want to uncover some secret misogyny in your church or business? Begin to empower women. Those in power who take issue with it will begin to cut those women out of key meetings or attempt to give them a position that possesses a fanciful title yet is void of influence or decision making capability. They will make subtle decisions that work against the moves to empower women. And they’ll unquestionably need to be corrected or they'll likely need to leave. If you are a senior leader in an organization, and you can't seem to figure out when women don’t feel empowered, your issue likely resides among those in the circles of authority closest around you.[1]

Much of the remainder of the book focuses on how to change church culture so that it runs on Passover power, rather than Babel power. By way of stories, illustrations, and practical advice, Dr. Korpi outlines numerous ways women can be empowered, and he identifies the many ways that both men and women can sabotage the process. Examples include “the smoking hot wife effect,” where women are praised more for their looks or distinctly feminine skills, rather than for their intelligencer and leadership abilities. A related problem can be narcissistic praise, where the praise for a woman in leadership may highlight her accomplishments as a leader, but in such a way that it draws more attention to the person giving the praise (often a senior leader) than the woman herself. Women can also see their potential capped because the male leaders downplay their skills, which can play out in ways such as allowing women pastors to only preach on female oriented worship days such as Mother’s Day, and very rarely at other times, or putting a woman pastor in a subservient administrative role with less visibility and less opportunity to lead publicly on the platform. Other women who may have reached the role of senior pastor may be what Dr. Korpi calls the “queen puppet.” She appears to be in charge, but the male church staff are ultimately the ones running the show, allowing her to be in her role only as long as she cooperates appropriately and carries out their demands.

An often-overlooked piece of the puzzle for women’s equality in church ministry is what happens in the home. Consequently, Dr. Korpi spends two chapters discussing egalitarianism in the home. Surprisingly, even in egalitarian churches, some still adhere to male headship in the home, which Dr. Korpi says needs to stop. At a practical level this can be very difficult to fully accomplish, as our Western marriage model prescribes certain roles in the home based on gender. Thus, there are many areas of potential conflict in trying to live out an egalitarian marriage. For example, is it the female’s role to always prepare the meals, care for the children, and clean the home, or should these duties be shared more equally? Clearly spouses should perform duties in the home most appropriate to their personal skills, but in an egalitarian marriage these duties should not be distributed solely on the basis of traditional gender roles. This includes making major decisions as a couple. Traditionally, when there is a difference of opinion on some issue, the male is given the last word, but in an egalitarian marriage both partners have equal say, and when a decision needs to be made it should always be based on consensus; neither partner has the right to dictate the final decision.

In a chapter entitled “Sex Begins in the Garden” Dr. Korpi digs even deeper than most books on this topic and explores the role that sexuality in marriage can play in women’s equality more broadly. He deconstructs the popular idea of “sex begins in the kitchen” by exposing that kind of thinking as grounded in a patriarchal system where the wife’s role is to perform household duties, and when the man “volunteers” to take on some of these duties, his reward comes in the form of sexual receptivity from his wife. What he means by “sex begins in the garden” is that it represents a successful egalitarian marriage, where home duties are shared as equally as possible, each partner helping to cultivate the home “garden.” Dr. Korpi rightly says that egalitarianism must extend even into the bedroom. Neither partner’s needs or desires should trump those of the other, and healthy sexuality in marriage goes beyond the physical act, penetrating deeply into the heart, with sex being an outgrowth of all the other aspects of intimacy. He also takes a portion of the chapter to discuss the frequent concern about modest dress for women, which he considers misguided, as it is not women’s responsibility to prevent men from lusting. He places the responsibility squarely on men for controlling their sexual urges, where he believes the Bible clearly places it.

Lest men be seen as the only barrier preventing women from reaching their leadership potential, Dr. Korpi also takes space to identify the potential obstacles women can place in the way of their female peers. This can range from the problem of women who are complicit with the patriarchal systems in place to situations where women who have attained important leadership positions who then prevent other women from reaching their level of success. He focuses on this problem with the following colorful illustration:

Among Christian women, I've often observed a crab-in-a-bucket mentality. And in speaking with numerous women who are in leadership in egalitarian spaces, it is often other women, not just men, who they cite as their biggest hurdles for advancement. As with power, which I talked about previously, opportunity can be perceived as a limited resource. There are only so many spots at the top of the mountain after all, right? And if men only grant women access to a few of those spots, which women get the spot becomes a point of contention.[2]

Dr. Korpi finishes out the book with his vision for the church, a place where both men and women can live out and embody their full, God-given potentials. This is only possible, he contends, when the leaders of the church recognize that each woman’s role in the church is defined by God, and that God does not limit women. The authority of women is fully equal to that of men, and if women are to truly share in the ministry of the church, men must consistently and passionately advocate for women. Likewise, women must stand up for each other, doing all they can to elevate those women God has called to serve. Dr. Korpi sees a bright future for the church if it can fully utilize the gifts of both men and women to witness God’s message to the world. As long as half the members of the church are treated as somehow less worthy to serve and are not allowed to exercise their authority to help the church flourish, the church will founder. It is only as women achieve complete equality that the church can reach its full potential.

Notes & References:

[1] Korpi, Todd. 2023. Your Daughters Shall Prophesy: Amplifying the Voice and Place of Christian Women (Wipf & Stock Publishers), 48.

[2] Ibid. 105-106.

Bryan Ness has BS and MS degrees in biology from Walla Walla University and a PhD in botany (plant mo­lecular genetics) from Washington State University. He is a Professor of Biology at Pacific Union Col­lege (PUC), where he has been teaching for over 30 years.

Title image: Your Daughters Shall Prophesy: Amplifying the Voice and Place of Christian Women (Wipf & Stock, 2023).

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