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: