Mar 17, 2009

Women in ministry: Egalitarians and Complementarians, friends or foes?

A friend recently posted a blog regarding women in ministry and asked for feedback. Read it here. 30+ comments later, and I had to do more research for myself. As a side note, sometimes I feel strange because I "look it up" when I don't know enough about it. It really feels like many people, when approached with a topic they know nothing about, just shrug their shoulders and walk away.

The research I did regarding women in ministry led me to two terms, which I will define. The first is egalitarianism: Belief that there are no biblically mandated timeless distinctions between men and women in the church. They stress an equality of men and women, not merely for salvation or in essential personhood, but in opportunities to hold every office and play every role that exists in church life.

The second is complementarianism = Belief that there are certain timeless restrictions on women’s roles in the church. They want to stress that persons in positions of authority can function in loving, supportive ways that do not lead to the abuse of those in subordinate positions. Certain roles are altogether prohibited for women, specifically those that put women "in authority" over a man.

(http://seminary.cbs.edu/content/events/nlc/2004/papers/7-BURGGRAFF.pdf this link is where I found the definitions and a biblical explanation of both concepts.)

I have been described at times as "liberal", though those who do describe me this way do not understand WHY I hold many of the political/ideological beliefs that I do. Ultimately I try to allow the Bible to be the ultimate authority in my life, so when I have a question, it is there I go first. If I have a Christian brother or sister exhort me regarding my views, I look at the Bible to answer them. I will use quite a bit of scripture to explain all of this and where I stand.

So, to the topic at hand. Women in ministry has been an issue I've been interested in for about 14 years. I have been a longtime fan of Elizabeth Elliot, and of course she has some definite ideas about this concept. When I heard God call me into ministry, before I could commit myself and my life to what He had for me (like I had a choice) I had to have some questions answered; namely, what a woman's role is in the church.

I grew up going to a fairly conservative evangelical United Methodist church. I was, however, raised by post modern parents who both were big fans of the woman's lib movement. I was raised to believe that I could do anything I set my mind to. My big sister is also in a male dominated field, engineering, and I'm sure that two daughters in male dominated fields doesn't happen by accident.

My understanding of the main concept in this argument is that it comes down to authority. Both sides seem to value women, both seem to value men, however, both cannot be biblically accurate, can they?

A funny term I read (which is also the name of a blog) is Complegalitarian. I probably fall in this category too, because I was raised by the church to view women a certain way, which some might look at as internalized oppression. However, as a woman in ministry I cannot help but see the inequality that is all around me. When I was a full time youth pastor, I was appalled by the sense of a "good ole boys club" that the ministry networks in my town seem to have.

Some scripture I looked at: First I looked at those that are obvious to me, as a married woman and member of the church. I notice that the scriptures draws comparisons of the relationship between a husband and wife and the relationships within the church.

Ephesians a5:21-25 CEV "21Honor Christ and put others first. 22A wife should put her husband first, as she does the Lord. 23A husband is the head of his wife, as Christ is the head and the Savior of the church, which is his own body. 24Wives should always put their husbands first, as the church puts Christ first. 25A husband should love his wife as much as Christ loved the church and gave his life for it. "

1 Peter 3:1,5-6 CEV "1If you are a wife, you must put your husband first. Even if he opposes our message, you will win him over by what you do. No one else will have to say anything to him,...5Long ago those women who worshiped God and put their hope in him made themselves beautiful by putting their husbands first. 6For example, Sarah obeyed Abraham and called him her master..."

Colossians 3:18-19 CEV " 18A wife must put her husband first. This is her duty as a follower of the Lord. 19A husband must love his wife and not abuse her."

Secondly, I looked at some scripture that I gleaned from the paper (the above link) I read.

Romans 16:1 "I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon a]">[a] of the church in Cenchreae." female deacon

Romans 16:7 "Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was." female apostle


In the end I guess I would say that I believe more that though it is clear that the Bible makes distinctions between men and women in the Bible, I am convinced that God doesn't specify roles/ responsibilities in the church. I believe He calls individuals, who He has gifted, and I don't believe that men have the monopoly on giftedness in preaching, teaching, praying or leading.

I'd be interested in hearing more from others on this topic.


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