On Marc Cortez’s blog he posted a poll asking whether or not people align with the complementarian (there are some gender specific roles for women in the church) or egalitarian (there are no gender specific roles for women in the church) views (see here). The great irony of the complementarian-egalitarian debate is this: Often it is a bunch of us men arguing with each other over whether or not women can do what they sense the Holy Spirit calling them to do. Interesting.
Egalitarian/ Complementarian, Gender Issues, Women in Ministry
Could it be that its mostly men arguing about it, because in many camps, women, have been effectively silenced? Not only that, in the camps where women are not, perhaps their not as vocal, because they are busy getting on with it, while the guys are just lazing around at the city gates. 🙂
Yep. Except for those few women that are hard core complementarians.
This could be a regional thing. I’m from the Southeast and most of the people I’ve known in my life who’ve been most intensely complementarian have been women.
I have noticed that when you attempt to defend your position as a woman – whether complementarian or egalitarian – men either ignore you if they don’t agree with you or you end up feeling that you have presented your views in an inappropriate way. If you are complementarian then you can be told you shouldn’t be expressing a view at all – but when you do feel compelled to say something you may not say it very well because you aren’t practised at these kind of conversations so you end up looking like an fluffy idiot. If you are egalitarian then you aren’t allowed to be assertive and confident – if you are then it is perceived as aggressive and unfeminine and then you end looking like a belligerent idiot. It’s very off putting and doesn’t encourage women to join in, and stay in, the discussion.
@David: As far as hard core complementarians often being women – I think some of these women fear that if they embrace egalitarianism they will have to face challenges they are daunted by. Much easier to stay in your comfort zone even if it’s a zone you aren’t happy in – I’m speaking from personal experience on this one!
This is a good insight. We could have women who are comfortable with the complementarian views because it fits their worldview so they have nothing to add and other women who have the opportunity to get going with it so they decide action is better than debate. Well said.
And they’re allowed to be complementarians. I think that many women who hold that position have yet to differentiate between being comfortable with relating to men that way and what is the general truth about how women should function in the church. I am a man who wants nothing to do with political office because I think it would ruin my life, but that doesn’t mean men shouldn’t run for political office.
It very well could be.
Very well said. I recently read a WSJ article on how women who speak boldly are often blacklisted for the very reasons you mentioned. The bias that a woman should be silent and meek while the men go about their business is a strong one and it is hard for women to gain a voice in that type of crowd.
It is extremely unfair and ugly in my opinion to ignore a women simply because she shows passion. My wife is a very passionate and intelligent woman. When she speaks I listen. This isn’t to say that I didn’t wrestle with this very bias at times, even subconsciously! But we men who have this bias should check ourselves.
I’m a woman, a scholar and I’ve been involved in this debate steadily for the last six or seven years. I’m currently working on a Masters, so my involvement these past years has been in small ways: research, papers, talking with those I know around me. Although I am lucky enough to get to present at a local conference on gender this coming month.
That said, it has also fascinated me that the debate seems to be largely held by men. I would say there is merit to Ali’s comment. One of the things that frustrates me is that I’ve found men are much more willing to joke about this issue… I guess I personally don’t find the subjection and objectification of women okay to joke about. I probably take it so seriously because it feels so personal.
One woman scholar you can look to is Mary Steward Van Leeuwen, if you’re not already aware of her. She has done great work in this field, well balanced, founded in Scripture, and a strong egalitarian.
For me, I’ve almost started moving beyond the categories, as I find them to be more of a hindrance than a help. I’m now focusing on gender identity in light of the (genderless, relational) Trinity. My masters thesis is hinging on that idea, and I’ve found much more peace discussing the issues when I get to the root of the problem rather than the external out-workings.
That sounds like a fascinating thesis! I imagine it would be very hard to engage this debate because it is personal. There is no ignoring that. For instance, I struggle keeping my cool when debating immigration because I married into a Latino family, I love Latinos, and as a native northern Californian they’ve always been part of my life. I respect people like you who enter into this debate knowing that part of the process includes the difficult first step of gaining a hearing.
Thank you for mentiniong Van Leeuwen. I am not familiar with her work but I’d love to read what she’s written. Is there a particular book you’d say is the best place to start with her?
Brian, I am so glad you asked! I’ve read several of her writings… Probably the most approachable for this issue is Gender and Grace: Love, Work and Parenting in a Changing World. I found it to be theologically founded, and incredibly relevant (even though I am a single gal). Her book delineates the whys and hows of interacting as men and women in a variety of capacities. Definitely give it a read. 🙂
Thank you! I will see if I can find a copy.
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