A Call to Complementarians

desertSome reflections for my complementarian brothers and sisters-

Are complementarians doing enough to provide space for underprivileged people to have equal value within the church? That is the question I’ve had running in my head the past few weeks, following lots of discussion on the complementarian and feminist perspectives.

If you’ve missed the discussions I started on where complementarianism fits within the conversation surrounding feminism, and then my reactions to the feedback from the initial question, please check those out. They’re helpful in understanding my background and perspective on these subjects. Based on the over 300 comments, it’s easy to see I hit a difficult subject, fraught with landmines.

One of the biggest values I carry as a pastor with complementarian views on families and churches, is this: different roles do not equal different value. This sentiment was called into question by many of our Christian feminist brothers and sisters. How can that be? I do not intend to go into how we see equality as possible despite separate roles, rather I would like us to consider how we can better champion the equal value of all despite different roles.

Complementarianism at its core believes that men and women were created to have complementary (read: “different roles and responsibilities within marriage, family life, religious leadership to enhance the qualities of the whole) roles. Many complementarians take this then to believe men were created to teach, lead, etc, while women were created to nurture, support, etc. The over-riding perspective as it comes to church leadership is that complementarians see male-headship as the prescriptive model based on Scripture.

Many complementarians would choose to just ignore other perspectives, declaring them unbiblical, possibly even heretical. However, many godly men and women have come to opposing viewpoints, it only harms the body of Christ when we choose to take uncharitable perspectives toward others within the body.

Common Ground

So where can common ground be found with those of other perspectives on gender? Let’s imagine feminists and egalitarians alike, were willing to converse with us, and that we found areas in which each of us could celebrate. In order for this to take place, something must change not only on their end, but also ours.

Let’s take up the spirit of the law instead of fighting for the letter of the law in all instances. Meaning, what?

Complementarians can fight for and give value to women in many roles outside of the traditional understanding of complementarianism, while still maintaining male headship. What this looks like will differ in each of your own contexts.

For me it looks like fighting for a woman to speak during our Sunday morning gatherings. Or asking a woman to lead a Bible study of both men and women. Or talking with women about what their vision for ministry is. If women have shown a capacity for the gifts needed to fill these roles well, it does not compromise God’s design to let them lead. In all these instances male headship does not need to be undermined within the life of a church body.

The Burden of Privilege

Recently I had a conversation with my wife where I apologized for ways I sensed I had done a poor job of leading her and our family. Privilege is a burden of considerable weight, and I bear it with the joy Christ has set before me. It is for this joy that I toil, knowing God has placed me in such a place to help people draw nearer to him. I hope we each feel the weight of the stewardship opportunities God has granted.

Friends, if the complementarian perspective is causing harm to people within the body we must consider how we can uphold to the spirit of the law, while giving new space that the letter of the law seems to disallow. I have heard far too many stories where the voices of many were shunned in order so a complementarian perspective can be left intact, to its full capacity. Headship is not a license to silence those we serve.

So I charge you, not to change your views, not to hold a weaker view of the teachings of the Bible, not to begin viewing all of life through a gender roles perspective, and certainly not to change how you govern within your church and families, instead I charge you to pray and meditate on what it means to value men, women, young, old, all races and ethnicities.

How can you better use your privilege to care for those without?

How can you raise up the voices around you that have experienced the pain of being silenced?

If we would give the Spirit the space to move in this way, our churches would more greatly welcome the previously downtrodden.

And in that, God will be greatly glorified.

I welcome your feedback on this.