Can you Please be Quiet About it?

Dear Complementarian Friends,

I know you are sincere in your belief that God has ordained different roles for men and women. I know you are trying to obey God's revelation through scripture. I commend you for that.

However, I think it would be wise if you kept a low profile on your views about the place of women. Please bear with me as I explain.

Alarmingly, some of you are claiming in public spaces that Complementarianism is THE Christian view. Some have even been saying Egalitarians are in error, unbiblical, and sinful.

You must surely be aware many Christian denominations... Pentecostals, Baptists, Churches of Christ, Salvation Army, most Anglican Dicoese in Australia, the Uniting Church and others… DO ordain women. Making comments about how Egalitarians are sinful, unfaithful, and unbiblical doesn't exactly help the cause of church unity. Do you really think it’s a salvation issue? Is it a question you ask at confirmation or Baptism? It’s one thing to have a strong view, it’s quite another to be arrogant about it.

Your attitudes and actions may be contributing to women leaving the church on an unprecedented scale. According to Dr Kristin Aune: "Young women tend to express egalitarian values and dislike the traditionalism and hierarchies they imagine are integral to the church.” Dr Aune believes that in the UK this has contributed to “more than a million women worshippers (leaving) churches since 1989. Over the past decade… women have been leaving churches at twice the rate of men.” Likewise the gender gap between men and women in the church in the US is shrinking as women are now leaving the church at a faster rate than men.

This loss is not only damaging in its own right, but is a looming catastrophe for the future of the church. When women stop attending church, they stop bringing their children with them. The days where parents dropped off unaccompanied children to Sunday School are pretty much gone.

I also believe Complementarian claims damage the reputation of the church and discredit its voice in the public square.

Equality is simply assumed in wider society. Our Prime Minister recently claimed equality between men and women is such an essential value it needs to be part of a citizenship test. Public statements that men should lead in marriage and in the church, and that women should submit are viewed with distaste. Companies are required by law to work toward gender equality. Those with expertise in domestic violence say unequal power is a key factor in abuse of all kinds: note the widely reproduced diagrams here.

I think your voice on this issue makes a dischordant sound.

No doubt you will claim this is most unfair; that the call for husbands to lead and for wives to submit is for everyone’s good. But if we are to be missionaries in this society, we would be wise to avoid giving offence to those we are called to reach. Your stance creates unnecessary barriers to faith. I’m not demanding you change your mind, but you can at least keep quiet about it.

I can hear you saying… Janet, even if you are right our view is causing women to leave the church, even if we are causing offence in society, and even if we are damaging church unity (and hence its witness), at least we are being true to the word of God.

But I say suggesting the Complementarian perspective is THE Christian, or THE biblical view is dishonest. Have you not heard of all the biblical scholars with an egalitarian viewpoint? Have you read of the implied meaning of the word translated as “authority” in I Timothy 2? Of the ambiguous nature of the word “head” in the New Testament? How “helper” in Genesis does not imply submission, and is frequently used in reference to God in the Hebrew bible? Perhaps you can read my previous posts on this blog to understand how other Christians reflect on this issue.

You’re allowed to disagree with me. But please don’t say I’m “not obeying God’s word”. I’ve probably studied the scriptures on this topic at least as much as you have. I give you the courtesy of accepting you as a fellow Christian doing your best to be faithful. Perhaps you could return the compliment.

We have Jesus in common, and I’m happy to have you as a brother or sister in Christ. But for all the reasons above, please think carefully before you publicly proclaim your beliefs about the roles of women.

Yours in Christian love and grace,

Janet

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