A Tedious Slog through More Soft Feminism

A Tedious Slog through More Soft Feminism: A Review of the PCA’s Alongside Care, (Lawrenceville, Georgia: PCA Committee on Discipleship Ministries, 2024, $14.99), Ann Hall        

Early in my marriage about 45 years ago, my husband and I were in a large liberalizing church where one of his responsibilities was to teach the Bible moderators—the Bible teachers for the many women’s circles which that church had. As often happens, bad teaching seems to seep in through materials marketed for women. As the PCUS wandered further from Scripture, their women’s studies were leading the way in liberalism. Having grown up in the Catholic church, I’d seen that shift but didn’t quite understand it in light of Presbyterianism. My husband gave me a great task of going through the denomination’s women’s studies with a fine-toothed comb and more importantly, with Scripture opened to each and every passage. This long-ago skill came in handy with Alongside Care. To riff on Abigail Shrier’s new title, there is much bad therapy here.

The recent PCA book, Alongside Care, is yet another subtle attempt to show why God probably wasn’t having his best day ever when he gave us the blueprint for how his church is to be governed and nurtured. Alongside Care pays lip service, almost as if AI-generated, to the idea that, yes, God placed ordained men to be elders and to lead his church—it’s just that they aren’t constituted to do it very well. Page after page follows with underminings of God’s order, advocating a handy replacement division of elite women who will handle the really vital things for the Session, since elders are so busy traveling and working and commuting and having families and basically becoming a hindrance to the church.

      Further, along with its degrading of elders, Alongside Care suffers from its dueling tendencies to both try to infantilize some women and simultaneously turn the influencers, the leaders, into the female Illuminati they think the church needs.

      The qualifications for elders are quite clear and seldom, if ever, referenced in this book. They are to be: above reproach, husband of one wife, sober minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, gentle, a good manager of his own family, and a lover of good. An elder is not to be a drunkard, or violent, or quarrelsome, or a lover of money, or quick-tempered.

      Listen, first, to how qualified ordained elders are described in Alongside Care and how I hear those with my emphases, comments, and questions added at points.

  • “The burden of oversight can be heavy, and many ordained leaders feel inadequate to address some issues involving women. . . . For some, the nuanced emotional issues seem overwhelming. For others, the ability to communicate carefully amidst unequal power dynamics is particularly difficult.” (p. 45)        

Yes, oversight of the flock of God is demanding work for sure. Question: Is that not exactly the work that elders are called to do?


  • “Elders are God’s ordained shepherds to care for his people. Part of their task is to recognize how God provides “necessary allies” among the women of the congregation to help them in their shepherding responsibilities.” (p. 48)    

Question: When was this task assigned to elders? Don’t most of the elders have wives to help them? Shouldn’t all women be allies in their churches?


  • “Wise elders recognize the relational acumen of women and seek help to present biblical instruction in a way that nurtures relational connection and trust.” (p. 49)             

Titus 1:9 says the elder must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught so that he may give instruction in sound doctrine and rebuke those who contradict it.  Question: Why do elders now need female Illuminati to show them how they are allowed to teach or nurture? Why do they suddenly need help instructing? That is their actual calling.


  • “The elder can work with a female caregiver to tailor a biblical message that accurately addresses the need.” (p. 50)                     

Hmmm, question: Why is that God’s word needs to be “tailored” for women? Do we have a different gospel for different genders? And if an elder needs a female caregiver, shouldn’t she be his wife? (See recent scandals where pastors and female caregivers have been arrested for, ahem, park passion).  


  • In many congregations the ordained leadership is comprised of “men who struggle to fulfill the responsibilities of businessman, father, and elder.” “Frequent travel and even more frequent meetings hinder an elder from cultivating deep relationships with members of the congregation.” (p. 50) 

Isn’t it presupposed that one qualified to be an elder has a family and a job? Actually, elders do have deep relationships. In a recent ten-day period in our church, here are things—without even consulting this manual—that I saw elders do: worked in nursery, helped in the kitchen, taught the youth group, drove that same youth group to the airport at 5:30 AM, celebrated at graduation parties, taught in childrens’ ministry, hosted dinners in their homes, visited the hospital, taught Sunday School, met visitors, attended prayer meetings, took meals to families in need, washed dishes after a funeral, and had lunch for their shepherding groups after church—and there’s more that I don’t even see. Hardly, the insensitive, non-relational elders caricatured in this book.


  • “Limited opportunities for significant conversation affect the quality of pastoral care and oversight.” (p. 50) 

Do women have unlimited opportunities for significant conversations, and can I be in that group? How do fewer words, if true, restrict pastoral care?


  • “When ordained leaders make a decision, they often prefer to focus more on proclaiming than persuading.” (p. 51)           

Question: Do people not understand decisions or do they not like them? There’s a difference.


  • “Rather than get the word out and solve problems when they arise, elders should consult with [ed., Wait for it] tried and trusted leaders who can help shape communication.” (p. 51)         

Question: Why aren’t elders considered tried and trusted leaders? Where in Scripture or creed are elders told to run everything by women consultants?



Now listen to how ordinary, unordained women just like me are described. Spoiler alert: we are totally amazing, some might say superior!!


  • Women are “especially equipped” to help other women live out their callings as women. “We know what it is like to be a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister. We understand the unique challenges, longings, and heart issues women bear.” “The caregiver listens to the woman’s heart.” (p. 16)

First, you don’t have to understand someone’s inner thoughts to love them. Understanding is never a prerequisite for loving any person. If it were, babies would be abandoned at birth; toddlers would spend their lives watching Bluey; there would be no marriages nor friendships. Even the Apostle Paul admits that he doesn’t understand why he acts as he does (Rom. 7). Jeremiah 17:9 says “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it?” I guess the Illuminati Care givers can, if the book is to be believed. Where are normal friendships?


  • Alongside Care is designed “to serve the Session, helping them in their calling to shepherd God’s people.” “No man understands experientially how it feels to be a wife, to have a menstrual cycle, to have a baby, or to go through menopause.” (p. 17)  

What a ridiculous sentence! Women actually discuss menstrual cycles and menopause very little. Could anything be less fascinating? Well, watching paint dry, maybe. Now, the hidden feminism of these ideas is showing itself. Since no man knows “experientially” about menstrual cycles, childbirth, or menopause, clearly, we incredible ladies probably cannot even be shepherded by men. Should we lesbianize the church to be better understood?


  • Alongside Care is a “resource to the ordained elders in the church.” (p. 19)

            Why didn’t God himself even hint about this fabulous resource?


  • Alongside Care is not biblical counseling.” (p. 18) “A caregiver provides biblical counseling.” (p. 21)

Choose one, either one, which is it?!


  •  “If the woman feels she is in crisis, she is.” (p. 23)             

Honestly, has there been a more laughable sentence? Does this mean: If a girl feels she is a boy, she is? If a toddler feels she is a unicorn, she is? If a wife feels she needs a side-hustle boyfriend, she does? For the record, most women would not fall for the line “If the woman feels she is in crisis, she is.” Discernment is a quite useful gift. Alongside Care would surely have benefitted from some.


  • “Women are culture keepers both in the home and in the church.”   (p. 24)            

Not true. Does anyone else think that home decor and deciding how to celebrate birthdays seem pretty different from overseeing a church? How are we culture keepers in the church? Is it by saying, “but this is how mama set up the covered dish line in 1963?” If there are “culture keepers” in the church, 2 Timothy 2:2 tells us they are men. “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” That is the culture the church must keep.


  • The help of gifted and trained female leaders is a “necessary resource” for the elders of the congregation. (p. 49)     

All qualified elders are surrounded by gifted women. Our churches are filled with gifted women. Where has God declared this a necessity? Or more stunning, what about this bizarre claim: “In the helper role, women possess a divine power and ability to enable elders to accomplish the mission God has given” (p. 57)?


  • “Women form relational connections more quickly and naturally than men.” (p, 48) “Women develop meaningful relationships with other in the congregation. They know the stories of joy and hardship, celebration and grief.” (p. 49)

How sexist and superior can we be? I do not know an elder in my church who does not know the stories of joy and hardship, celebration and grief in our congregation. Would that they did not have to know them all. But they do, and they minister to us beautifully.


  • “Congregation communication occurs primarily through the women.” (p. 49)           

Is there a word for this? Does it rhyme with bossip?


  • Alongside Care can provide a valuable “and necessary voice” for the women of the congregation. (p. 50)   

We have been told repeatedly that women are great communicators. Why, now, is it assumed that women are voiceless?


  • Alongside Care helps elders think beyond the bounds of deliberation to consider how the broader congregation will receive information. Specifically, how will women in the congregation hear and interpret the words used to communicate the decision.” (p. 51)

Question: Will the communication be presented in Greek or Hebrew? Can the communication be comprehended without a Mediatrix? If it is delivered in English, women will actually follow along and understand. It’s in our skill set; many women today can both read and write. We can understand without an interpreter.


  • Alongside Care ministry leaders will be equipped and positioned to address concerns because they have a deeper understanding of the issues and debate that went into the decision.” (p. 51)

The female Illuminati have secret knowledge! Wow! But, how will they have a deeper understanding of the issues and debate than the elders in the meeting have?


  • “Female leaders help elders consider circumstances and responses from a women’s perspective. In some cases, a woman seeking pastoral care may use words or phrases that an elder does not readily understand, due to differences in age or life-experience.” (p. 51)     

Question: Perhaps, somewhere, anywhere, is there a pastor or elder who has a wife? A daughter? A mom? Please, please, tell me if this is so. In our church, besides wives, our elders have 28 daughters between them. (They also have 31 sons, but men are barely necessary according to this soft feminism) Are we to believe that these elders do not understand the words or phrases coming from female lips? Are you kidding me?


In short, this work demeans ordinary elders who do have wives (that is a normal expectation of 1 Tim. 3 and Titus 1) and who do actually love, nurture, comfort them, and care for the flock of God. And—don’t be fooled—it holds up as superior a “necessary” (some have said “divine”-p. 57) female class of elite leaders and allies. And if allies, just who is the enemy?

Where are elders treated with respect or given appreciation for their labors of love?

Where are their supportive wives considered the tiniest bit helpful as elders shepherd the flock? Where are all women encouraged to organically form basic and deep friendships with other believing women of all ages? How does it unite women in the church to pull out the leader girls and award them domination over the Session? Could it perhaps be that the Lord made us ordinary women so beautifully relational, communicative, hormonal (I’d not have said that, but the book points this out), and this is part of why we are not the leaders of God’s church? He certainly could have set up an oversight committee for the socially awkward elders, but he didn’t.

Please, spare the church the weak case that unordained women can do better than ordained men, and the creation of an elite class of scolding malcontents acting as room monitors for their Sessions.

While the latter half of the book adds layers of bureaucracy and, of course, will require more Illuminati on the payroll, it also adds little or nothing that is not common sense, unless one tallies the layer upon layer of busy-work advised. Why are we mystifying things that are simple? In recent years, I’ve been privileged to watch youth, college believers, and young adults move seamlessly into caring roles at church with no appointment to leadership and no training. They were able to recognize the heartbreak of a devastating illness and to respond with love, kindness, much laughter, extraordinary care and devotion. This is what the church of Christ has historically done; this is what the church of Christ does today. No program or training for these normal relationships is needed. God has given us all that is necessary for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3).

      After reading the PCA’s latest curricula for women, I still have some valid questions—and please tell us that this is not the latest cottage industry, complete with trainers and paid seminars.

  • Why do some influencers of the PCA speak so much about shepherdesses? Exactly how often is a woman called a ‘shepherdess’ in Scripture, unless she is literally herding sheep? Certainly, there are no instances of a shepherdess herding other women or herding elders.
  • Why does the PCA work so hard to fill its women with discontent and dissatisfaction with rule by elders? Here’s my pro-tip: Just as when a man talks about how manly he is and brags about how he is the head of his home, most women laugh inwardly, realizing that he is, indeed, a very weak man. Similarly, in PCA-speak when you hear “complementarianism,” what likely follows is feminism.
  • Why is this PCA workbook so intent on devaluing normal friendships and erecting a caste system for its women? Here we have the leading women who will guide their useless elders into illumination, and here we have the other women who seem to need lots of special attention, don’t appear to have any access to worship services, bible studies, Sunday School classes, or maybe even a Bible in their homes. No wonder, they don’t understand what elders are.


Relational, Caring, Nuanced Conclusion: Elders are being squeezed out of our churches when we bring in something like Alongside Care. I certainly know that not all elders are qualified or godly. Vote out bad, unqualified elders. After reading this book and its sexist claims against godly elders, re-read the qualifications for elders and see if any of those are reflected in the disdain elders are treated with in Alongside Care. What is the denomination thinking? Are we wiser than God? More loving than he is? Do we love women better than God does? This book seems to think so.

Perhaps a reminder from 1 Timothy would be useful: “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor.”


Picture a widow watching the torturous death of her firstborn son. Her heart must be broken into a million pieces. She doesn’t understand what it is that God is doing. She remembers that she is his handmaiden. She is surrounded by other godly and brave women. Her son, who loves her so much, turns to look at her for the last time. He sees other precious women with her and loves each of them enough to die for them. He sees John, the disciple whom he loved, standing nearby.

The Alongside Care fiction might expect him to say to her, “Woman, behold your alongside caregivers. Thrive as they share your heart and your special woman-ness. You will be heard by them. You will be seen; how could men relate to your life? Your alongside caregivers will explain the meaning of my death to you as they teach my apostles how to preach the gospel in a non-threatening way using female-friendly language.”

No, in fact, the Son said to his mother, “Woman, behold your son.” Then to the disciple, he said, “Behold your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

Think Alongside Care can improve on that?


Ann Hall is a pastor’s wife, former elementary school teacher, and grandmother of nine. For the past 40 years, she has lived and served as a happy volunteer in two local churches.