When I was looking at the worship life of the American church, I noticed that lament, and something like the book of Lamentations, was absent in so much of our worship life…Why is it that in our typical American churches we don’t want to engage in a very important spiritual practice that we find throughout […]
It was November 2013. The conference had already started, and I was running late. I walked quickly along the sidewalk with my lunch crew, and we made our way inside. They went straight to their tables, but I wanted to put my coat and scarf away. I walked to the coatroom and grabbed a […]
When I was a pastor in the nondenominational world, most conversations around gender and church leadership revolved around whether women should preach from the pulpit, teach men, serve on an elder board, or hold the title of pastor. Complementarians claim these roles are reserved for men only, while egalitarians believe that women may lead in these ways. This is the conversation I lived in for many years, first as a complementarian pastor of a nondenominational church for 17 years, and then as an egalitarian, having shifted to an egalitarian view about ten years ago.
Since joining the Anglican Communion six years ago (a Christian community that is more sacramental in its theology), I have been introduced to a new set of conversations about gender and church leadership.
Sacramental Christians include Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Anglicans and Lutherans. These four groups alone represent more than 14 million Christians worldwide . In this context, conversations about gender are quite different than in evangelical settings. (This is not to say that sacramental Christians cannot also be evangelical – I certainly am both.) For example, many sacramental complementarians have no objection to women teaching men or serving on governing boards. It is not uncommon to find women in complementarian congregations instructing both men and women in matters of theology, Scripture and spiritual practices. These roles are usually not a matter of contention or debate.
What is a matter of debate is whether women may preside over the Sacraments (serving communion), which can only be administered by ordained clergy . Sacramental Complementarians insist that women should not preside over the Sacraments; thus, they should not be ordained as priests or bishops. Egalitarians in sacramental congregations insist that women should preside over the Sacraments; therefore, they support the ordination of women.
Complementarianism looks different in sacramental churches, and centers around keeping women from administering the sacraments.
There are three arguments for this restriction that I want to address:
At the beginning of March one of our readers wrote in and asked this question:
“I recently watched a video regarding The Gospel Coalition’s stance on their complementarian view. In it, John Piper begins to explain that we must be able to answer children’s questions as to what it means for a boy to grow up and be a man, or for a girl to grow up into God’s model for womanhood. He states that egalitarians have never been able to answer his question. I would love to hear your response.”
This video had been making the rounds on social media, so I was familiar with what she was talking about. You see, John Piper seems to have fallen into the cultural narrative that manhood must be earned. For Piper, manhood isn’t something you simply grow into with age according to your biology. Instead, it is something you work to achieve…
There are many articles written by Christians trying to pick apart why it is that so many women, both in and out of the church, are flocking to see 50 Shades of Grey, after buying 70 million copies of the book (sales divided equally among professing Christians and the American adult population ). Secular and religious experts are discussing the repercussions of rape culture, feminism, the innate need for love, and the search for the divine as explanations for the popularity of the books and movie.
As I look across American culture in general, and American Christian culture in particular, I am left wondering, “What else did we expect?” 50 Shades of Grey is simply a mirror to the experiences of women. Regardless of what side of the church walls they grew up on, women both in secular society and in Christian subculture are consuming the books and film because the underlying ideology of the story is what so many are familiar with, only it has been exaggerated and sexualized in form.
Time after time, I’ve read complementarian literature that seems to misunderstand what is meant by biblical equality for women and men. The heart of the misunderstanding appears to be a misperception of what is meant by the term “equality.” Very often, the complementarian literature I’m familiar with assumes that egalitarians are advocating for the “sameness” of men and women in the church, rather than for their equality. For example, in her book, “The Feminist Mistake,” Mary A. Kassian uses the terms “equality” and “sameness” interchangeably (p. 37). She also wrongly assumes that Christian egalitarians want women to be “just like men” (p. 38).
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.”
Owen Strachan, prominent complementarian leader and President of the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, once 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, so […]
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.]
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.