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A Call to Complementarians

Some 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 and 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 overriding 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.