It wasn’t until I started attending a private Christian school as a 12-year-old that I became aware of the spectrum of views regarding the roles of men and women in the church and in the home. In seventh-grade Bible class, I was taken aback to learn that some Christians believe that the roles of teaching and authority in the church, and the sole leadership role in the home are reserved for men only. A small number of my classmates and I were more interested in carrying on the lively discussion than others, so our teacher agreed to mediate a debate on the issue outside of class time.
With the Church of England’s recent vote to begin ordaining women as bishops, the issue of women’s ordination has once again been in the news.
Unsurprisingly, much of the rhetoric in the blogosphere and social media has been polarized between complementarians who condemn this decision and egalitarians who applaud it. One complementarian blogger characterized the decision as evidence that the Church of England is “spiraling down the burning sewer of apostasy.”
Unfortunately, many complementarians fail to recognize the fact that there are two distinct paths people may take to an egalitarian view of gender. Failure to understand these paths leads to all sorts of misunderstandings, accusations, and pronouncements of heresy. Although the boundary between these two paths can be blurry at times, distinguishing them from each other in broad brush terms can potentially help deescalate the rhetoric and contribute toward more virtue laden conversations.
The first I call “the path of rights.”
We believe authority is at the heart of much marriage misunderstanding and debate. Over the years traditional-hierarchical-complementarian marriage-view proponents have described their perceived authority to us in different ways.
VARIATIONS ON A THEME
Some husbands have told us that as the leader they have a 51 percent role in making decisions and the wife has 49 percent. As we listen to these men explain their marriage, we can’t help but wonder, “How is a 51/49 functional authority any different from a husband who has 99 percent authority and a wife who has 1 percent?” Either way, the husband has final authority to make decisions.
Headship can often become a divisive issue in marriage discussions—especially in religious circles. Various “infallible” headship interpretations and accompanying dialogue could fill a library. Our experience is that people will endlessly argue the original Greek and Hebrew, lexicons, grammar roots, verb tenses, hermeneutical and eschatological anthropomorphisms, and endless jots and tittles until Jesus Christ returns.
Last week Owen Strachan, prominent complementarian leader and President of the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, called Rachel Held Evans‘ teaching “heresy” because she used a female pronoun to describe God in one of her posts. Oh, and he did it over Twitter, so naturally a series of Twitter conversations ensued. I personally love Twitter, […]
Both egalitarians and complementarians try to grapple with Paul’s words in Galatians 3:28 in their own ways. However, sometimes we do not look closely enough to see how this verse fits into Paul’s logic in Galatians. In part, this is because the traditional interpretation of Galatians (at least among Protestants since the Reformation) has been that Paul is arguing against works in favor of grace.
“It says that your area of study is Women’s Literature and Feminist Theory. How is that compatible with teaching at a Christian university?” [Insert answer here.]
There are some distorted messages being taught about creation these days, in particular, that God designed men to be in authority and women to follow. Here are 5 related myths.
Some Christians believe that being a leader is a man’s role, and that it is unfeminine for women to be in leadership. These Christians dismiss female leaders mentioned in the Bible as rare exceptions and anomalies. Does the Bible teach that leadership is masculine? Or that leadership is unfeminine?
I never heard the words egalitarian or complementarian until last summer. At 50 (first of my true confessions) I’m a little late to the dance, but my 22 year old daughter has been my inspiration and encouraged me to write this.
“Governing,” according to this document, is exclusively a man’s role. This begs the question, if you are a complementarian man, why do you believe women need you to govern them? How is this a service?
Last week, I attended The Justice Conference that was held here in Los Angeles. I have to say up front that it was incredible. I truly appreciated The Justice Conference for presenting a great line up of speakers who, unlike those at many Christian conferences, didn’t all look exactly the same. The gender, race, and […]
The word “Complementarian” is a loaded word that immediately raises defenses. By way of explanation for those who are unfamiliar with the term, complementarianism suggests women are the complement of men.
Patriarchy is an oppressive cultural norm with a history that predates Christianity.
Fortunately, it is fading from our global community. Unfortunately, it persists in some corners of the institutional church today, where some Christian leaders still teach that it is the God-given right of men everywhere to exercise authority over women at church and at home. From my vantage point as a male social worker, psychotherapist, and former department head at a multi-denominational Bible college, I’ve had many opportunities to observe how patriarchy impacts people every day on a very practical level.
in Ephesians 5:24, Greek manuscripts of the New Testament frame male authority or the submission of wives to husbands not as command, but rather as a description.