Can We Talk (Complementarian/Egalitarian Edition)?

One of the things I love about you, my online friends, is that (for the most part) we can have active and respectful dialogue, even (especially?) when we disagree.

I have said this before, but dialogue is one of the ways I process issues. I love to hear from people with different opinions than mine. It helps me to see where other people are coming from and how they arrived at their positions. It helps me clarify my own positions and respect others. The trouble, of course, is that we all think we’re right and we sometimes have a tendency to elevate the importance of our opinions, forgetting that they are just that: opinions. This is all the more difficult when we are passionate about a particular issue or we view it to be somehow controversial.

When I started blogging years ago, one of the things that attracted me to the format was the interactive nature. I always leave the comments section open. So, let’s try something completely dependent on your participation. If you don’t participate, this post is basically just a bunch of questions.

I know that people say that online comments are not the place to make insightful arguments but I have gleaned a great deal from many of you on this exact platform. You have challenged me to grow and I have (hopefully) learned to think more clearly as a result. So I’d like to try an experiment: let’s discuss some topics together.

Over the past couple of years, I have seen the idea of “orthodoxy” applied to issues I’m not sure it should have been. I have seen well-intentioned Christians say that other well-intentioned Christians are not in fact Christians because of their views on things like hell, gender roles and the like. So let’s explore some of these issues together. I’d like to propose a topic in the briefest way possible and let you help fill out the discussion. I’d like us all to listen and learn from one another. Maybe you’ll find your own position strengthened as a result, and maybe you’ll be persuaded to another view. Either way, it is a valuable exercise to to listen to one another.

Let’s start with “complimentarianism” and “egalitarianism”. For those not familiar with these terms, they have to do with the idea of gender roles, particularly in ministry (at least that’s what we’ll focus on for the sake of this conversation though the issue certainly applies to marriage and gender-relations as a whole so feel free to take the conversation there if you’d like). Most Christians would argue that men and women are created equal, that’s not the issue here. Instead, the question becomes gender role, particularly within a ministry context.

Complementarians argue that, because of unique gender roles found in Scripture, women are prohibited from leadership roles within the local church such as “elder” or “pastor” while Egalitarians argue that not only do no such Scriptural barriers exist, women are just as called and qualified to serve in such roles.

Of course this is an over-simplification of the issue but I’m just wanting to get the conversation started; it’s up to you to help fill it out further and help the rest of us understand how you arrived at your particular convictions. Let’s help others understand the issue better. From both sides.

So, some questions to get us started (feel free to add others):

  • Do you view this as an issue of “orthodoxy”? In other words, if someone holds a different position than you on gender-roles, do you believe them to still be a Christian?
  • If you do not view this as an issue of orthodoxy, how important is this issue to you? Where would you rank it on a scale of theological/cultural importance (top, bottom, middle, etc.)?
  • Do you hold to either position? Why? What Scriptures or outside books/authors helped you arrive at your position? How do you succinctly explain your position to others, especially those who might disagree? What pushed you in one direction or the other?
  • Why do you believe that this issue seems to cause such division? Why has it been so controversial to so many?
  • How can people on all sides of this issue come together without sacrificing their own convictions? Or can they?

 As always, please be respectful. I can’t wait to learn from you.

7 thoughts on “Can We Talk (Complementarian/Egalitarian Edition)?

  1. Hi! I found your site through Chris’ post, so I thought I’d leave a comment, too. You have a lot of big questions that come with some long answers. Complementarianism is an issue I’ve been studying for awhile and sometimes I have a lot to say, I tried to keep it as short as possible though.

    No, I don’t view this as an issue of orthodoxy. Paul wrote that what he received and passed on was a matter of first importance – that Jesus died for our sins and was resurrected according to the Scriptures. If we hold that in common – and only that, then we’re all Christians, whatever our various stripes and spots might be.

    I do believe that it is important, it has a lot of collateral damage and abuse going on in it’s darker corners that need to be brought to light and dealt with. I think too many people rank it too highly in theological importance because in their view our culture ranks it too lowly.

    I’m somewhere on the Egalitarian side of the scale; as a single believer, Complementarianism tends to send the message that I’m somebody’s “other half” and without my “other half” then my life is as incomplete as I am. Egalitarianism provides me with an avenue where I can use my gifts and talents even as a single believer. I am an individual, a whole person in and of myself and deserve to be treated with respect. I’ve done some reading all over the place, but I think it’s mostly experience that got me to where I am – watching the church cater to it’s marrieds by ignoring it’s singles showed me that something was wrong and gave me the desire to figure it out.

    I think there’s a lot of fear in modern Christianity, Complementarianism was developed in the mid to late 1980s; it’s basically a millennial in itself. It was responding to the changes the women’s liberation and feminist groups had managed to make and it dialed up the teachings even more-so in response to the LGBTQ community’s intrusion into the public consciousness and the passing of marriage equality bills. It’s a last-ditch effort to anchor themselves to cultural tradition masked in Biblical teachings in order to keep the control they used to have from slipping out of their fingers. They fear the slippery slope, if they weren’t the moral bastions of society, then from the horror of women teachers to LGBTQ families and their PDA comes society unraveling as they know it and they don’t know what’s coming down the road. At least with tradition they know what to expect based on what happened before will always be what’s going to happen – and that will be men making the shots and calling the plays on behalf of the women in church and in their families.

    It depends on how they see themselves; some complementarians don’t mind women teaching so long as they’re under the authority of their husband; they might happily get along in an egalitarian camp. And Egalitarians usually don’t have a problem with men teaching, it’s just the lack of women teaching that makes for unequal treatment between men and women that they oppose. There is a church in an egalitarian denomination in this area that refuses to hire women to teach because they think no one in this area would accept a woman teacher; I think they misunderstand their denomination on that point and they’d happily be complementarians. but surely some complementarian chruches do have women teach – just in the right context. Then of course, there are the opposite sides, the ones who will only have men teach who view women teaching as heresy – they won’t bend or brake that precept for anyone or anything and so they cannot come to a reasonable compromise.

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