Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX—This Sunday, a woman somewhere in America will don the literal head covering of 1 Corinthians 11 and depart for church, where she will be expected to remain silent. In another church, a woman will stand before the congregation to deliver the sermon. Most of us will fall somewhere between these two extremes—no head covering required and free to teach children or other women or to accompany the church choir, as long as we remember that some spiritual gifts are off-limits to us. In this climate, many women are spiritually suffocating, unique giftings and God-given callings crushed by a male-dominated church culture determined to keep them in their place—regardless of what God is doing.
For author, ordained minister, and international speaker Ruth Conard, these feelings of rejection and confusion are all too familiar. “I have been in all kinds of churches, and it seems God is pretty consistent for men,” she says. “They don’t have to change their clothes, all offices are open to them, and they have been redeemed from everything. The truth is that for women, the verdict on these issues changes from church to church.” Despite the contradictions in opinion within the church, Conard believes that God is consistent in His love and His plan for women. In her new book, Designer Women: Made by God, Conard inspires women to rise up and embrace God’s unique design and purpose for them by examining the biblical accounts of women who were mightily used by Him.
“These women, as leaders and strong examples in varied facets of life, did not act because there were no good men, but rather because they were good women, created in God’s image, gifted by God, and working in obedience with their Maker,” Conard states. “These women of strength were pillars in home, society, and faith communities. And they are my foremothers and your foremothers with much to teach us.”
Designer Women was written for the average woman in the pew trying to make sense of her calling and function in God’s kingdom. As she shares some of her own past struggles in ministry, Conard offers special encouragement to those who have been told that who they are—the woman God designed them to be—is not acceptable. In the process, she takes on the foundation of the patriarchal society (a result of sin, not an expression of God’s perfect plan, she says), the misogynist writings of certain church fathers, and the “problem passages” in the Pauline letters. Grounded by well-researched theology, Designer Women challenges the domineering attitudes that have been passed down for generations. Conard also includes biblical examples of the negative female tendencies that women should avoid.
Conard’s own journey to spiritual freedom was over thirty years in the making. After serving on the mission field in
“You are a designer item, one of a kind,” Conard proclaims. “No one can tell you that the way you were made is wrong. That is an insult to the Designer.”
Designer Women by Ruth Tuttle Conard
ISBN: 978-1-934068-75-5/238 pages/softcover/$14.99
Q & A with Ruth Tuttle Conard
Author of Designer Women: Made by God
Q: Designer Women examines the lives of several women in the Bible, including some who are often overlooked. Why is it important for Christian women today to study these stories?
A: Throughout the Old Testament, God’s initial, redeeming plan continued to emerge through the lives of women who rose above the constraints of custom, the body-centered mania, and the fear of men. These women, as leaders and strong examples in varied facets of life, did not act because there were no good men, but rather because they were good women, created in God’s image, gifted by God, and working in obedience with their Maker. These women of strength were pillars in home, society, and faith communities. These are the foremothers of all the women we celebrate within the pages of the New Testament: Mary,
Q: What is the biggest question that Designer Women was written to answer?
A: The big question is this: Do we have a consistent God for women? I have been in all kinds of churches, and it seems God is pretty consistent for men. They don’t have to change their clothes, all offices are open to them, they have been redeemed from everything, etc. For women, the verdict on these issues changes from church to church. One issue I struggled with was the head covering of 1 Corinthians 11. In some churches, I had to wear it if I sang or played the piano. In others, no. In some places, I had to wear it if I spoke, even if speaking only to women. In some, I had to wear it even though I was expected to sit quietly, not permitted to say a word. In other churches, what was on a woman’s head had nothing to do with anything at all. Then there were the questions that always plagued me regarding spiritual gifts, as well as the part women could, would, and should play and had played in the church.
Q: How did your treatment as a woman affect your passion and enjoyment of your faith?
A: Over the years, I began to ask ministers and male church leaders these difficult questions. The answers I received, along with divergent church practices, became like huge bars on which I slipped and slid. Eventually, the struggles filled my mind with an enormous, resounding No! No! to the questions. No! to what I sensed were the gifts God had given me. No! to the exuberant joy I had felt in walking with Christ since childhood. And, oh so sad, No! to the missionary spirit God had sewn into my very being. Why, I reasoned, should I invite other intelligent, gifted women into the church only to have their fervent, creative, God-given hopes squelched?
Q: Who was Designer Women written to reach?
A: I wrote this book simply for the woman in the pew. I want her to get a little shaken up. I want her to look into these issues. I know only too well the pain, frustration, and loneliness that come when your God-given gifts are squished out of you simply because you are female. I want women to see that, yes, God is consistent in His love for women. We were designed exactly the way He wanted us to be—no matter what kind of treatment we have received from others in the church. I believe there is hope for us.
Q: Isn’t the Old Testament full of laws against women? With laws like these, doesn’t it seem like God prefers men over women?
A: We must continually remind ourselves that between the foyer of God’s original plan (Genesis 1-2) and the vast outlay of the Old Testament lies the narrow, dark hallway of Adam and Eve’s sin. Their choice taints all the rest of Scripture’s pages, as well as our own lives today. The results of their choice, described by God in Genesis 3, are carried out within the context of the patriarchal system that formed the parameters of their society. It’s true, the language used in the Old Testament law supposes a patriarchal society. The household belonged to the man. The man initiated a divorce. Property, family name, and children were all owned and given from the father to sons, not to daughters. However, the law does not depersonalize women. Women were held responsible for criminal actions. Mothers, as well as fathers, were supposed to receive honor. In fact, many of the Mosaic laws which may seem ridiculous to modern readers were actually for the protection and health of nomadic women and their families in the severe desert conditions. The main point to remember is that the law was not developed to make a statement about male-female relationships. The patriarchal system and male domination did not exist because God favored one sex over the other. The law was given so that the Israelites would be recognized as God’s people, no longer belonging to Pharaoh.
Q: What are your feelings regarding the ongoing debate about the roles of women in the church?
A: What is extremely fascinating to me is that this continual battle over women in the church does not seem to have caused any problem for God and how He has designed his daughters. The reading of church history shows that in every century since the beginning of time, and in every land where Jehovah God has been acknowledged and the gospel has reached, women have always carried the good news of salvation, have always served God with whatever gifts He has given (whether quieter gifts or more visible gifts), and, alongside their brothers, have died for the cause of Christ. It’s happening today, even as I was in the process of writing Designer Women. And God is still creating baby girls, all over this world, who grow, confess Jesus as Savior, and are given spiritual gifts from the complete list of gifts, as the Spirit wills, even while men and women continue to say that it just isn’t possible!
Q: Why did women choose to follow Jesus during His earthly ministry? What does that mean for us today?
A: Jesus was countercultural, especially in the area of gender. No off-color jokes, no demeaning attitudes, and no avoidance of women. He never abused them in action, word, or thought. When they raised questions, He never said “not goin’ there!” and then snickered with His male disciples. He respected them and their actions toward Him, even when others in His party scorned them. He listened to women, dialogued with them, and sought them out. He didn’t define the parameters of their lives. He was not afraid to touch them in public, accept their worship, commend their faith, and heal them. He talked straight to them about their sin and how to do right. Nor was He backward in treating them as full-blown, intelligent, competent adults. It’s no wonder women followed this man. This same Jesus walks beside you and me today!
My Review: This was a great book! I really liked the way that Ms. Conard laid out this book. It's very easy to read, and heartfelt. I found myself really drawn into this book and I'm not a non-fiction reader. I think this book would be a great personal devotional or even a woman's small group study. I give this book a lighthouse and shine a light on it for lighting a path to God!