Dr. Leona Running has lived an impressive life. She became a scholar of ancient languages and a highly respected professor at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at a time when that career path was, to put it mildly, quite unusual for a woman. Though I never met her during the years when I was attending Andrews University and she taught there at the Seminary, I became aware of Dr. Running and her legacy some years later when I was working on a historical novel about Queen Esther and I needed someone to read it over for historical accuracy. I sent it to Dr. Running and she gave me an incredibly thorough and detailed reading and critique, and corrected me on several historical inaccuracies and anachronisms. Now in her 90s, though no longer teaching classes, she remains actively engaged and involved in the world of Biblical studies in the Adventist church, most recently gaining attention by writing General Conference President Ted Wilson “An Open Letter from your Hebrew Teacher” on the subject of women’s ordination, a cause Dr. Running has supported for many years.
In My Journey Dr. Running tells her life story. It’s a very straightforward and not particularly literary telling, but will be of interest not because of style but because of content. Anyone interested in SDA church history, in Biblical studies, and especially in the life of a woman academic in the early- to mid-twentieth century, will benefit from reading this book. Certainly there were times when I was frustrated by the things Running chose to dwell on in detail (whom she visited and stayed with and often what and where they ate on her many journeys around the world, for example) while quickly skipping over topics in which I was more interested, such as a period when what she describes as a “witch-hunt atmosphere” prevailed at the SDA Theological Seminary and she and others felt their jobs were at risk. That gets only a paragraph, when I would have liked to know much more about those controversies!
She gives a little more time and space to the first moves towards ordaining women in ministry in the SDA church in the early 1970s. She relates the fact that in 1970 she was asked by the General Conference to write a paper on the role of women in the church. When a colleague mentioned that he thought the GC was concerned with the question of women’s ordination. Dr. Running, who had never given much thought to the issue before:
“…added a paragraph saying that if God calls a woman to that work, who is to stand in her was? (How naive I was!)”
Running continues with the interesting reflection that most of the scholars who originally proposed opening up the issue of women’s ordination thought it would be a fairly quick and non-controversial process. Forty years later we’re more deeply divided than ever on this issue; I’d like to have read more of Dr. Running’s thoughts on that process and the direction it took.
But these are merely quibbles: it’s her book, not mine, and obviously she recorded the things from a long and eventful life that she thought were worth recording. I’m glad to have this book in my library and particularly honoured to have an autographed copy (given to me by a mutual friend). Leona Glidden Running is an inspiration to me and should be to every Christian woman who refuses to be defined by narrow gender roles.