…or so I’m told.
I am as familiar as most with both sides of the complementarian/egalitarian coin. I could list the 26 different scriptures that are typically raised about this issue and give you the interpretation from both sides of the debate.
I also know that if you are entrenched in the complementarian view that hearing an alternative view will not persuade you. If defending the tradition of hierarchy is important to you, you will not listen to anything else.
This is one area of doctrine that I cannot and will not say is simply a legitimate difference of opinion. The results of the patriarchal, traditional, complementarian view are too fundamentally damaging to the intended nature of relationships among believers to be an acceptable alternative point of view.
Why does it matter?
It matters that we not limit the complete work of redemption. The elimination of division of every kind is a part of God’s reconciliation and restoration.
It matters that we understand the nature of mutual love and all of the mutuality that entails. Hierarchy will never allow us to realize the fullness of mutual submission, mutual sacrifice, mutual giving, and mutual honor.
It matters that we give place for the full expression of every person’s unique gifts within the body of Christ. Power structures limit the potential of so many people, but particularly women.
It matters that individuals live free of the religious bondage of artificial limits, and it matters that marriages are free of the false expectations of artificial roles.
I love seeing people express their giftedness.
It is such a joy…
to see a gifted musician perform
to read a gifted writer’s book, article, or blog
to watch my funny friend entertain a crowd of people
to watch my friend gifted in hospitality make people feel welcome in her home
to listen to the words of a dynamic speaker
to watch a child try out different talents and interests.
I love my girlfriend that can bake like a grandma and my girlfriend that decorates like Martha Stewart. I also love my friends that would rather discuss the latest book they’ve read while the dishes pile up in the sink.
So today, I want to celebrate the unique and individual giftedness of every member of the body of Christ, and I want to celebrate the understanding of Scripture that acknowledges the redemptive work of the cross in reconciling all division and inequality.
26 thoughts on “I Don’t Have the Balls to Be a Leader”
Its been my great privilege in life to have remarkably wonderful feminine role models such as:
1. Mother — who had 3 kids not the least of which was know it all me
2. A relative who was the first woman professor at the U. of Chicago Oriental Institute and published in the 1930’s and 1940’s
3. An aunt who was a member of the Canadian Parliament for 6 years;
4. Many judges who encouraged me as I went to law school because they had become lawyers when it was more difficult for women to practice;
5. The women who are pastors and who serve in my church;
6. Too many others to name.
Given the above, the complementarian point of view never made sense. When I studied the “problem passages” the complementarian interpretations didn’t make sense in any kind of contextual sense or even a historical sense.
I also haven’t been able to find any biblical basis for the proposition that God makes women with the same gifts as men and then limits their scope and application. Duh?
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28
“I also know that if you are entrenched in the complementarian view that hearing an alternative view will not persuade you. If defending the tradition of hierarchy is important to you, you will not listen to anything else.”
I’m not sure that’s entirely fair. For quite a few years, I wanted to hold an egalitarian view, but could only find a complimentarian one in the bible. Not thinking it something to get unduly hung up on, I joined a church which drew no distinction between men’s and women’s ministry. I declined to join its leadership because I couldn’t in good conscience defend that approach.
Now? Enough reading of emerging writers has persuaded me to stop worrying entirely. I think I can say that I genuinely don’t understand the bible’s teaching on this matter – at least, the teaching as it should apply to my society, in the 21st century. And I have peace about that (and joined the mixed leadership team at the second time of asking).
And I wholeheartedly agree with everything else in the blog post you wrote.
fantastic. thanks for this.
i am a complementarian when it comes to the whole of creation. we all fit perfectly into this most grand of universes, even as we shift and move and change and blast through space at such an unfathomable speed.. it’s a messy complementing, which fits perfectly with an unpredictable, shit-disturbing God.
Thank you for sharing those wonderful examples.
That verse seems pretty clear, yet I know there are those who don’t see it as a lens through which we view other less-clear passages.
I agree that people can change their views, so perhaps the keyword is entrenched. I am certain that blog debates on this issue do little to change opinions from either position.
However, people can and do change their views based on circumstances in their life and the work of the spirit in their understanding and interpretation of scripture.
The complementarian view is not a neutral position. It has a damaging impact on the body of Christ. I am aware that is a dogmatic statement, yet I don’t see anyway around the reality of its effect.
Thank you for sharing your experience and for clarifying the point that developing one’s doctrine on this issue is a process most people.
I agree with you in that I am complementarian in my view that we all have a unique role to play in our lives, marriages, relationships, church, and the universe. I just don’t see that role as limited according to gender.
Great thoughts Grace! I think that complementarianism does go back to the idea of patriarchy. If we don’t confront patriarchy then we will always be able to see complementarianism as just an alternate point of view instead of a logical extension of Old Testament patriarchy. As someone quoted earlier the New Testament perspective is found in Galatians 3 :28.. the playing field is a level one without regard to gender.
i’m absolutely with you there.
grace, I guess I’m still confused, and I would also agree it’s not just an issue that can be left to the side, and also one that has definitely caused damage, and God’s church not to live up to its full potential. If we can’t agree on the interpretation of scripture (which 2000 years of debating this has shown us), how do we know what’s “right”? Not sure I would concur though on that all divisions are going – what about sheep and goats?
Testy, testis, testy. Sorry. Couldn’t resist.
Grace…on a slightly lighter note…my very best friend sent me two large steel balls in a velvet box, bestowing upon me his coveted “Balls of Steel” award when I left a well-paying job in industry and returned to finish my college degree. Hehehe….
* * * * *
I have just decided that I can’t care any more about being heard by those who are unwilling to listen to what the Spirit might have to say through me. I no longer fear man in this; I obey God. I will no longer waste time and energy and gray hairs beating this dead horse. I will do what the Lord puts in my path and be faithful to love God by following Jesus and loving others.
You can’t make people love you, you can’t make people listen to you, you can’t make people respect you, you can’t make people follow you. Even if you are a loving person, or easy to listen to, or honored and respected by others or a godly leader following the leading of the Spirit.
It’s not fair. But life is not fair. So we do the best we can in our circumstances and leave it to those who can make a difference to make things more fair when an opportunity arises.
Those opportunities may arise for some who haven’t been waiting long or suffering all that much during the wait. They may never arise for others who are deserving. May we be found faithful, regardless of our circumstances, loving God and loving others — doing what we can in the Kingdom society we are building around us.
i blogged about it and quoted ya.
complementarianism is insidious and i think it sucks.
Yes, exactly. Good.
I think understand your perspective on this and I agree that it is an insidious denial of the divine gifts given to 51% of the world’s population.
But honestly, I don’t understand why this is an issue. I just don’t get it. On a purely practical basis it doesn’t make sense. It’s been my observation that in most churches if all the men stayed home the place would probably get along just great, maybe even better. Women would teach and lead and minister just fine. Yet if all the women stayed home most churches would fall completely apart. You’d have to be in a serious state of denial not to see that the majority of ministry in most churches is done by women. Realizing that as a man and hearing other men cling to complementarian perspectives is just embarassing.
Great post, Grace. We have faced some tough criticism for taking so firm a stand on this issue (i.e. it was a deal breaker in our church planting partnership, which thankfully wasn’t an issue). It desperately needs to change.
That said, having grown up in a complimentarian context, I am at least encouraged that God’s grace extends beyond such issues, working through the lives of Christians with all kinds of flaw theology and practice (myself included). This is not to excuse it, but remind me to be humble, gracious and patient with others, as I know others (and God) must be with me.
Good thoughts about patriarchy. This also affects the church beyond just women in the form of hierarchy.
I think we have to live according to what we know is right. However there is a tension in taking a solid stand that we don’t create unnecessary division with those who don’t agree with us on this issue.
I also laughed while your name was listed with the post title under recent comments on the sidebar.
Very wise words. I have come to the place where I cannot say this is a neutral difference of opinion. Fortunately I do not have to deal with it on a confrontational level very often. I pray that I will be faithful to all that I am called to, including speaking up when necessary.
Thanks Pam, I’ve got you linked.
Thanks Tom, I hope the discussion on this topic moves beyond the housework and into the deeper issues like mutuality. However, even in that, the conversation is at a deadlock because the comp’s have taken the position that there is not full mutuality in the trinity.
Very true, and many complementarians are functionally egalitarian in the home also. There is something about dropping the concept of male headship that is very threatening to both men and women complementarians.
I am not comfortable with my dogmatic feelings about this issue. It looks so black and white when put in writing. Yet I am also uncomfortable with dismissing the underlying conviction and feel it is important to take a clear stand for what I believe and why.
Hopefully I am gracious in practice regarding this topic. I don’t believe in unnecessary division and typically avoid engaging in debate.
I come at this with a couple of my own pet issues. One is that the church has always defined itself Christologically, with leadership essentially the visible representation of Christ. The Reformation didn’t really change this at all. Pastors replaced priests, preaching replaced eucharist, but the male leadership was still the symbol of Jesus, and thus a man. Then a lot of feminist theology came along in the mainlines and approached leadership from the same direction but that made the issue one about the identity of the incarnated Jesus.
This is all wrong, in my estimation. We need to look at the church as pneumatological, as being filled with the Spirit, not as representational of Jesus. Only thing is we have the Spirit almost entirely focused on showmanship, not organization, that this is rarely done.
The second is kind of related, assuming that the leadership structure itself is valid, with a main leader who is preacher, teacher, prophet, king, all rolled into one. The NT shows a whole lot of different roles, and none of them it seems being particularly entirely like what we would call a lead pastor of today.
All this to say is that I think the battles are a struggle because we’re trying to force the changes into outdated and wrongly conceived imagery.
Good points, bro. Grace has discussed this several months ago from much the same perspective, or so it seems to my faulty memory.
I especially agree with this;
I’ve witnessed the absurd extreme of that forced structural Procrustean-ism. First, create a “leadership position” that has absolutely no basis in the NT (such as “Worship Leader”), then limit those who can function in that created position to males–only. Then, defend that decision to the bitter end despite the fact that those who may be best equipted/gifted to function in that “leadership position” do not meet the genitalial requirements. The ensueing fight brings out the worst in both sides. The final result is that the power holders drive off the most gifted and dedicated.
Patrick and Tom,
Exactly! That is the problem I always have with this topic. I don’t necessarily believe in the position that some would disqualify me from. Yet the same mistaken theology that leads to wrong structures is the same theology that attempts to limit the participation of women.
I agree that the church should be a pneumatological representation and that our relationships should imitate the mutuality of the trinity. Our incarnation of Christ is via the Spirit and reflective of the will of the Father.
I just noticed a comment within an article at Christianity Today. I think this relates to what you said…”This is one area of doctrine that I cannot and will not say is simply a legitimate difference of opinion.”
Thankfully, you don’t need “the balls” to be a leader. You just need the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. He supplies all you need. You can reject the patriarchy that masquerades as “complementarian” because of the very life of God Himself inside you as a Christian. The Bible says that Jesus has been made wisdom for us, so why should we need some worldly patriarchal system to tell women how we may serve the Lord? I do not mean to be unfair to all patriarchs, but The Word also says in I Corinthians 13 that Love is not rude, never pushy, always longsuffering, etc. Patriarchy is the very opposite of that. The fruit of patriarchy is oppression and injustice, therefully it is fully opposed to God Who is Love.