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As Christ Submits to the Church

A Biblical Understanding of Leadership and Mutual Submission

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"Padgett opens much sky over the heads of those engaged in the evangelical conversation on gender and authority. This book is well worth our time and attention."--Mimi Haddad, Christians for Biblical Equality
Does Christ submit to the church? Should Christians submit to each other? What about husbands and wives? In this volume, theologian Alan Padgett offers a fresh look at the ethics of submission, gender roles, and servant leadership in the New Testament. Through his careful interpretation of Paul's letters and broader New Testament teaching, the author shows how Christ's submission to the church models an appropriate understanding of gender roles and servant leadership. As Christ submits to the church, so all Christians must submit to, serve, and care for one another. Padgett articulates a creative approach to mutual submission and explores its practical outworking in the church today, providing biblical and ethical affirmation for equality in leadership. Professors and students in practical theology and gender courses, pastors, church leaders, and thoughtful lay readers will appreciate his new approach to a controversial topic.
1. Living Gospel: Evangelical Approaches to Gender Roles
2. Mutual Submission and Christian Leadership: The Bible and the Ethics of Roles
3. Mutual Submission or Male Dominion? Christ and Gender Roles in Ephesians and 1 Corinthians
4. Mission and Submission: 1 Peter and the Pastoral Epistles
5. Headship and Head-Coverings: 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 from the Bottom Up
6. Submission Today: Hunger and Thirst for Justice


"As Christ Submits to the Church is an insightful, compelling, and much-needed work, not only on the specific issue of women in leadership but also on the distinctive nature of Christian leadership in general. Combining theological and exegetical skills, Padgett has given us a scholarly yet broadly accessible book that moves us beyond some of the impasses that have bogged down the discussion on this hot topic. Regardless of one's stance on the women-and-leadership issue, As Christ Submits to the Church is a must-read for all who care about Christlike leadership."

Greg Boyd, coauthor, Across the Spectrum

"Exploring critical questions regarding biblical interpretation, As Christ Submits to the Church offers a thoroughly Christian understanding of submission and service within marriage and the church. Alan Padgett opens much sky over the heads of those engaged in the evangelical conversation on gender and authority. This book is well worth our time and attention."

Mimi Haddad, president, Christians for Biblical Equality,

The Author

  1. Alan G. Padgett

    Alan G. Padgett

    Alan G. Padgett (DPhil, University of Oxford) is professor of systematic theology at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, and the author or coauthor of several books, including Christianity and Western Thought (volumes 2 and 3), But Is It All...

    Continue reading about Alan G. Padgett


"Those who know the discussions about women in ministry as well as those about the relations of husbands and wives know the name Alan Padgett, and those who don't know the name need to do (and should have known it). Alan is one of the few theologians who has actually written on most of the debated passages in the Bible about women. And he has given us all a gift in taking all those writings, condensing and clarifying them into one very readable and important book. . . . I cannot speak enough to the alertness of this book to the history of interpretation, cultural context of each passage, and how to read such a text in the light of a gospel-centered (and he's on the side of the angels when it comes to 'gospel') approach to the Bible (historical, canonical, and Jesus-centered). . . . [An] exceptional book."

Scot McKnight,

Jesus Creed blog

"This book offers a truly distinctive contribution to the conversation on gender roles and leadership within church and family. Complementarians no doubt will take issue with various aspects of Padgett's treatment of the common sites of exegetical skirmish. But that is not where the real force of this book lies. Rather, it is the combination of a robust Christocentric hermeneutical method with the claim that Jesus explicitly lived out an ethic of mutual submission toward his disciples that presents a unique challenge to the complementarian perspective. And so, it is at the levels of hermeneutical method and christological ramification that this book should be appreciated and engaged."

Paul Rhodes Eddy,

Theological Studies

"[Padgett] has a laudable and long-established habit of encouraging [humility and mutual respect] in his writings. . . . Humility in theological discourse [does not] mean giving up one's stake in the truth of the gospel so much as it means acknowledging that others are in pursuit of this truth as well and that all may have something to learn from one another. It is mutual submission that Padgett champions, in his book's subject matter and in the manner of its undertaking. His text is instructive on both counts."

Katie M. Benjamin,

Lutheran Forum

"[This book] articulates a coherent biblical view of leadership, particularly in regard to gender roles. . . . Padgett clearly sides with the egalitarian view and provides sound biblical and theological reasoning for his position. . . . Padgett has made a valuable contribution to the conversation about biblical views of leadership and gender roles, one that takes seriously what it means to follow Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve. His book merits careful consideration by all who care about Christ-centered leadership and community life."

Elisabeth Ann Johnson,

Word & World

"[A] concise yet very helpful treatment of the ethics of submission. . . . Padgett's work is an important one. His central insight about the distinction between two types of submission is crucial for us in seeking to understand the fullness of NT teaching and ethics. His call to mutual submission among all Christians, following the teaching and example of Jesus, is stirring and needed. . . . Padgett's explanation and defense of this central theme is the greatest strength of this book. Also valuable is its relative brevity and nontechnical style, which makes this book accessible and helpful to lay Christians as well as to pastors and scholars. . . . [Padgett's] broad picture of the NT ethic of mutual submission is undeniable, and it is crucial for every Christian. And for this, I am very grateful."

Steven C. Roy,

Trinity Journal

"Padgett's attempt to persuade his conservative evangelical readership to reassess its discrimination against women in church, home, and community is to be admired. . . . The emphasis on submission as expressed in actions of serving the needs of others articulates a core value which he rightly shows is paramount, at least in the gospels and undisputed letters of Paul. . . . This is a book which I hope reaches a wide audience in its constituency. It is to be applauded both for its clarity and for its focus on the core values which can be the basis for undermining the sexist discrimination it addresses."

William Loader,

Theology & Sexuality