Author(s)Ros Clarke
Date 27 May 2021

This list is not intended to be comprehensive - it is a collection of accessible introductory resources, particularly aimed at those thinking this subject through for the first time, and for incumbents thinking through how to put complementarian ministry principles into practice in a local church setting. The listed writers hold a range of views along a complementarian spectrum, and the listed works do not represent a single Church Society ‘line’. It is assumed that church leaders will exercise their own judgment in deciding which resources to recommend in their particular context.


* indicates a resource that will be particularly useful for lay people for whom complementarianism is a new idea.



*Sharon James, God’s Design for Women: Biblical Womanhood for Today (2007)

A discussion of the feminist movement and its impact on women’s role in society, then looks at the biblical basis for God’s design for women in the family, the church, and at work, before contrasting this with egalitarian views.

*Carrie Sandom, Different by design: God’s blueprint for men and women (Christian Focus, 2012)

Accessible discussion of the biblical basis for different roles of men and women in marriage, the church, and the workplace as part of God’s good design for humanity. Places key texts in the context of a Bible overview of men and women within God’s salvation plan, from Genesis to Revelation. Plenty of examples and illustrations, which makes this a good book to give to congregation members thinking through this issue. Goes much broader than just the ‘should women be ordained/preach?’ issue to look at the implications of a complementarian viewpoint on the whole of life, in contrast to the influence of feminism on society.

*Claire Smith, God’s Good Design: What the Bible really says about men and women (Matthias Media, 2012)

Short, clear exposition of seven key Bible passages relevant to the debate about women’s roles in the church and family. Also deals with common objections, contemporary feminism, and includes a chapter on domestic abuse.

W. Grudem and J Piper (ed.). Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism (1991, latest edition 2012)

The classic ‘big fat book’ on the biblical basis for male headship (from the people who coined the phrase ‘complementarian’) – contains exegesis of relevant Bible passages and also chapters on its application and implications for the church, marriage and society. Also includes the Danvers Statement (1988) from the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood which summarises their position. Useful resource for leaders.

Ben Cooper, Positive Complementarianism: the Key Biblical Texts (Latimer Trust, 2014)

Careful but readable exegesis of the key passages, making a biblical case for a complementarian understanding of men and women in the church, aiming to avoid a negative and defensive tone and to demonstrate that a complementarian reading of Scripture is not just the result of cultural conservatism, and can fit within an Anglican understanding of Scripture (as per Article 20). Good for those with some understanding of the debate wanting to go deeper into the relevant Bible passages.

Mary Kassian, Women, Creation and the Fall (1990)

Old, but still good! Useful discussion of the key Bible passages and how they relate to the roles of men and women in marriage and in church order. Quite academic.

*Lis Goddard and Clare Hendry, The Gender Agenda: Discovering God’s Plan for Church Leadership (IVP, 2010)

A friendly and respectful debate between two ordained women, one complementarian and one egalitarian, based on a real email correspondence between them. Looks at relevant Scripture passages and identifies areas of disagreement and agreement in their application to the church. *Recommended by one incumbent who found it a useful way to engage with more sceptical congregation members who held an egalitarian position by default but wanted to consider ‘both sides of the argument’ from an evangelical viewpoint.

J.R. Beck and C.L. Blomberg (ed.),Two Views on Women in Ministry (Zondervan 2001; revised edition, 2005)

From Church Society Archives :

*Jessica Bowen, ‘A Biblical Perspective on Women’s Ministries’ (Crossway magazine, Spring 2006)

Accessible and brief introduction by a woman who changed her mind about the subject – useful starting-point for those unlikely to read a whole book.

Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood website, from same stable as Grudem and Piper’s big book, which contains many helpful articles on family life, marriage, complementarianism, gender and sexuality (although NB. strongly American cultural context at times).

*Includes useful resources for church family, e.g. helpful summary of the complementarian and egalitarian positions from Bible texts.

The Gospel Coalition website has a number of useful blog posts and links to articles and related blogs; search under ‘Complementarianism’.

*e.g. Mary Kassian, ‘Complementarianism for Dummies’

There are also many helpful resources, including book reviews and articles by women engaged in women’s ministry, on the website of the Sydney-based organisation, Equal But Different. They state: ‘Equal But Different exists to testify to the unchanging truth of God’s word—especially as it applies to the unity, equality and complementarity of male and female in God’s creation, in marriage, and in ministry. We provide resources to help people think biblically about gender issues.’


The Church, Women Bishops and Provision: the integrity of orthodox objections to the proposed legislation allowing women bishops, ed. P. Giddings et al. (Latimer Trust, 2011)

Originally produced in response to the lack of proper provision for those opposed to women bishops in discussions at General Synod in 2010, but this remains very useful. Aims to show there are good theological grounds for principled objections to women bishops, and that this approach is consonant with the historic formularies of the C of E. Aimed at those who already have some understanding of the contours of the debate and want to understand a complementarian viewpoint more clearly.

Covers Scriptural arguments for complementarian views of men and women in the church (including questions of Bible interpretation re. the Trinity, creation order, submission in marriage) and interacts with secular and feminist understandings of gender and ‘rights’. Also chapters on the nature of episcopal jurisdiction; and on ways to develop women’s ministry along complementarian lines.

Recent contributions from Church Society:

Lee Gatiss, ‘Principles of Flourishing?’ – an exposition of the Five Guiding Principles – Crossway (Spring 2015) – particularly useful for clergy and ordinands.

Andrea Ruddick, ‘Complementary Ministry’ (CS Conference 2015) – a brief introduction to ways that CS can promote a positive vision of complementarianism within the C of E, at a local and national level, and discussion of particular challenges faced by Anglican clergy who hold a complementarian view, e.g. inherited ministry patterns, when/how to introduce teaching on the topic, dealing with problems of perception.

See also Church Society archive for older material:

On the ordination of women priests – survey of key arguments and passages, links to Church Society’s responses in the 1980s-90s

On women bishops – links to Church Society responses 2002-2013, including various Churchman and Crossway articles

(Mostly useful for incumbents thinking about how to put complementarian ministry patterns into place, rather than items to give to congregation members).

*G. Furman and K. B. Nielson (eds.), Word-filled women’s ministry: loving and serving the church (Crossway, 2015).

Outlines a vision for the growth and support of pastor-led Word-based women’s ministry in local churches, training women in how to handle the Bible and teach it to other women. Produced out of the Gospel Coalition stable, with chapters contributed by women involved in women’s ministry from the US, UK (Carrie Sandom) and Australia (Claire Smith).

*Jane Tooher, ‘Overflowing with ministry opportunities’ - Crossway magazine (2014).

A really helpful article on how complementarianism, far from stifling women’s ministry roles, liberates women to play an essential role in the life of the church – looks at training, specific ministry areas, and how these provide a well-rounded and enriching vision of men and women working together in the church.

Karen Soole’s blog, Karen’s Desk, also contains helpful articles on the need to use women well in complementarian frameworks (particularly a series of 3 posts in November 2013) and Christian responses to feminism (series of 4 posts, May-June 2014).

Also a helpful chapter in Latimer Trust, The Church, Women Bishops and Provision (above) – chapter 5.

The Gospel Coalition: For ministers considering how to promote complementarian patterns of ministry, e.g.

Gavin Ortlund, ‘Four dangers for complementarians’

Jen Wilkin, ‘Pastors need women teachers (and vice versa)’

Gavin Ortlund, ‘Winsome Complementariansim’

See also K. Birkett in Evangelicals Now, November 2014, Review of Complementarian Spirituality, by Natalie Brand.


*Kirsten Birkett, The Essence of Feminism (Matthias Media)

A brief history of the feminist movement by an ‘ex-feminist’. Kirsten Birkett provides a readable critique of the ethical and philosophical inconsistencies behind the feminist movement, and its impact on society and on the lives of modern women. Useful for Christian readers beginning to question feminist assumptions.

Karen Soole -  a series of posts on her blog, Karen’s Desk in response to recent renewed interest in feminism in UK society and media (4 posts, May-June 2014).

*See also commentary in books by Sharon James, Claire Smith, and Carrie Sandom, above.


*Sarah Collins, Biblical Womanhood: ten studies for individuals or groups (new revised edition, Good Book Guides)

A set of Bible studies covering women’s issues: marriage, singleness, beauty, relationships, children etc.,  all within the context of God’s redemption of sinners through Jesus Christ.

Sharon James, God’s Design for Women DVD course (Clear Cut Media)

6-part DVD course and workbook, based on Sharon James’ book of the same title, for use in churches looking at God’s design for women in marriage, motherhood, singleness and in the church.