Tribute to Stuart Love, A Scholar for Gender Equality

May 1, 2021

Both Churches of Christ and the larger world of biblical scholarship lost a powerful voice for gender equality with the passing of Stuart Love on March 15, 2021. Stuart taught in Pepperdine’s Religion Division from 1981 until 2014 when he retired, and for all those years he focused his scholarly energies on two themes: the role of women in the world of the New Testament and the ways in which Jesus elevated women to places of equity and justice. Along with D’Esta, his spouse, Stuart founded and co-edited from 1995 to 2017 a journal for ministry for churches of the Restoration heritage—Leaven Journal—that also focused, though not exclusively, on themes of justice and social ethics

Stuart’s work has impacted the lives of countless Christians, especially women who have found in Stuart both an ally and an advocate. Upon hearing of Stuart’s death, Cheryl Russell, pastor of New Heritage Fellowship in McKinney, Texas, recalled how, that very week, she had “prepared for my Easter sermon using Stuart’s book, Jesus and Marginal Women: The Gospel of Matthew in Social-Scientific Perspective. . . . As I read his words this week in preparation for Easter, I could see clearly why he was such a fierce advocate for his sisters in Christ. He simply could not unsee what he had seen God do through women in the Gospels, and what he had seen God do through his beloved D’Esta, and other sisters of Christ. “

Other women echoed Russell’s sentiment. Kathy Pulley, Missouri State University, recalled his “fierce passion and commitment for doing the right thing, which included full gender inclusion in the Churches of Christ. . . . Along with his wife and partner in this endeavor, D’Esta, they preached, taught, guided studies, and facilitated discussions spanning several decades. Their work continues to influence numerous churches and to encourage countless women, of which I am one.” And Kindy DeLong, Pepperdine University, recalled how, through his classes and his published scholarship, Stuart “opened pathways for women and men to join together as equals in Christian service, a mutuality that he and D’Esta modeled superbly. I am deeply grateful for his influence on my life as a teacher, mentor, and friend.”