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Kristina LaCelle-Peterson: Liberating Tradition


Kristina LaCelle-Peterson, Liberating Tradition: Women’s Identity and Vocation in Christian Perspective (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2008), 253 pages, ISBN 9780801031793.

Kristina LaCelle-Peterson proposed that the church can be faithful to scripture, to Christ-centered faith, and embracing of biblical feminism with an egalitarian perspective. The stated purpose of the book is “about listening to each other” (12). She presented her research in a multifaceted format, exegetically drawing forth the women from scripture, expounding on the role of women from American culture and history, comparing her own experience from marriage, and offering historical mooring from every century of church history. In each chapter she has provided an excellent foundation of resources by drawing the reader into current research and historical documents—her endnotes are as valuable as the body of her book.

Kristina LaCelle-Peterson is associate professor of religion at Houghton College and an ordained elder in the Free Methodist Church.

Only one chapter of the book seems out of place and it is the opinion of the reviewer that it could be eliminated without changing her contribution to the conversation on feminism. Chapter six seems to belong to a different book as it detours the reader into a marriage counseling motif. This is not to say that what is written here is wrong, it simply seems out of place, within the context of the book as a whole. A second critique notices the academic distraction of overstatements, which seem to point to the enthusiasm for the subject at hand. Several statements hang unsubstantiated. We offer two examples: first, “Many churches perpetuate the idea that male predatory behavior is somewhat inevitable…” (86); second, “many people believe that preserving gender roles will protect people’s sexuality…” (127). These statements would be strengthened by citation.

LaCelle-Peterson’s contribution to the church is not diminished by the above criticism, for her book encourages the voice of the silenced. The book is applauded for its steady description of female ministers, deacons, preachers, bishops, and apostles—throughout the centuries of church history. The book makes apt use of the example of the Houghton College community, comparing and contrasting the counter-culture of its Amish neighbors. Additionally, the reviewer mused at the steady change of the Houghton community, from the standards of the 19th century holiness codes, to some sort of 21st century postmodern motif.

Reviewed by John R. Miller


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Category: In Depth, Spring 2009

About the Author: John R. Miller is an ordained minister with Elim Fellowship of Lima, NY and serves as Pastor of Education with Living Word Temple of Restoration, Rochester, NY. He has a degree from Elim Bible Institute, a B.Div. (Trinity Theological Seminary), C.P.E. (University of Rochester), M.Div. (Northeastern Seminary), and Ph.D. (Regent University). He teaches at Regent University and Elim Bible Institute & College.

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