I discovered recently that there are still rather powerful churches that believe women should not be pastors or leaders of churches. I was unknowingly attending one such church until recently and was quite shocked to find that even Tim Keller, a man whose writing on Christianity I have admired, takes this view. These churches call their position “complementarianism” and it is an insidious lie.
The idea is supposed to oppose the concept of “egalitarianism”, which would mean that men and women are equal and alike, able to take on any role in the church. Instead, complementarianism is supposed to convey that men and women are equal, but have different roles. This seems benign. But this is not really what is implemented.
The situation is not : women can do this, and men can do that. It is women can’t do this and men can do, well, everything. The system imposes neither equal (but different) restrictions nor provides equal (but different) freedoms for men and women. It merely restricts women. There is no equivalently important or powerful role reserved for women and women only.
Let us thus not fool ourselves. This system should not be called complementarianism. At best it is rebranded patriarchy or chauvinism, made to look benign, but with all the poison of male domination (i.e. sexism) lurking underneath. Men and women may be equal under God, but they certainly are not in these churches.
(Disclaimer: I certainly do not believe that (most of) these churches set out to dominate women or harm them. They are trying to interpret the scriptures in a meaningful way. As do all churches. I have respect for this and they certainly have the right to their interpretations. But as well-meaning as they may be, as much as they try to include the voices of their women in their church, the system itself will hamstring them, robbing women of representation and leadership opportunities.)
#1 by Thomas on 13/03/2014 - 11:04 am
Part of the problem is that we have a church system that makes it hard for lay people to contribute meaningfully anyway, no matter whether they’re men or women or whatever else. If we got to a situation where everyone is able to share from what they have (a word, a teaching, a prayer, a prophecy) we would find a very different context for placing the verses in the bible that talk about male/female roles, and I think it would make a lot more sense.
#2 by johandp on 13/03/2014 - 5:38 pm
There is so much in that comment. Yes, lay people have a really hard time (I have a really hard time) because working without an understanding of the source texts is really limiting. I wonder what you mean by that if everyone could share what they have we would have a different context. Do you mean we would get more varied and meaningful interpretations of the texts?