Who’s Winning the Gender “War?” Two Perspectives (Rachel Held Evans & John Piper)

Rachel Gerber | Former Teaching Pastor at First Mennonite in Denver

Gender “war” might sound excessive.  Perhaps if we frame this within the broader “evangelical culture war,” then the word-choice probably makes sense.  If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you know that I believe that the worldwide church should “Liberate Women for Ministry.”  Honestly, the complementarian system holds back the potential for a more beautiful kingdom, filled with 21st century Junia’s and Deborah’s to lead the church forward in her mission.  And yes, I say this as a man, called to a pastoral life myself.  I think that many of the traditionalist folks who desire “revival” to happen in our day, need to ask: How does our stifling of the gifts of women hold back the potential for revival in our day?

On this issue, I find myself optimistic and yet still concerned.  I believe that many people in the broader church now recognize that the egalitarian perspective is most faithful to the Scriptures.  A friend of mine, Rachel Held Evans (author of Evolving in Monkey Town and the forthcoming Year of Biblical Womanhood), recently said this on her blog:

I probably don’t say this enough, but I am extremely hopeful about the future of women in the Church. Sure, there are some extra-loud voices calling for women to conform themselves to narrowly defined roles that have more to do with an idealized conception of pre-feminist America than with actual “biblical womanhood,” but I believe these cries represent the last desperate throes of a dying movement. I sincerely believe that, if I have daughters, they will be welcomed as equals in most evangelical churches, and that egalitarian marriages like my own—in which my husband and I work together as a team of equal partners—will become the norm within Christendom.

I really hope this is the case, but on the other side of this discussion we have pastors like Mark Driscoll and John Piper, who fail to read the Bible in its historical context.  They want to cling to this power-over view of gender, that limits the roles of women in the church and home.  The New Calvinist movement was named one of the 10 Things Changing the World (2009), which, for all the good these churches do – great.  However, when it comes to this issue, they are simply wrong.  And, if John Piper is correct, this growing movement is turning the gender conversation back toward “complementarianism.”  Watch the following clip for his view:

Revival of Biblical Roles from Desiring God on Vimeo.

What do you think based on your experiences?  Which perspective is more dominant in your context?  Why?

Resources:

  • Scott Harris

    I tend to agree with Rachel about what direction things are moving, but I don’t know if things will move as quickly as she thinks. This is basically because it has taken almost 20 centuries for Christians to get to where they are now, and I think we still have much further to go.

  • Bhansbrough

    As a woman in the Catholic Chirch I have watched the silencing of women who found their voices for a very short time. I watched as churches allowed girl altar servers and as some avoided and then denied that privilege. Watched as the Bishops condemned the very scholarly work of Sr. Elizabeth Johnson and pushed on schools the very unscholarly work of Scott Hahn. We used to hear a woman “give a reflection” which meant preach sort of, but this is no longer allowed. We have been told not to even discuss the possibility of woman’s ordination – not to even think or write about it and many of us know a sister fired and excommunicated for attending a ceremony where women were ordained ( the bishop send someone with a camera to gets tires of attendees ).
    So, for the moment I have little hope. Our Protestant Sisters and our Catholic sisters need to be as one in this struggle to be allowed to use their voices in the churches that are theirs. Notice, I say nothing about belonging. Our churches belong to us. We create them with Jesus in every task, in every prayer and yes in every critical loving thought.

  • http://www.makemystuffwork.net/ Erik Pasco

    I feel like things are changing in Americal rather quickly. One denomination I know of is fairly far down the road to changing (recovering really) their view on women in ministry. I would say that there will be a positive shift towards more women in leadership within the next 10-15 years

    • http://logicandimagination.wordpress.com/ Melody Harrison Hanson

      Ten to fifteen years is slow when you have kids growing up in the church. 

  • http://www.missional.ca/ Jamie Arpin-Ricci

    Thankfully, my context leans very much towards Rachel.

  • http://benirwin.wordpress.com/ Ben Irwin

    I started to write something about this being one of those issues where we’ll see a significant shift as a new generation takes the reins. But the neo-Reformed (or new Calvinist) phenomenon is being driven, to a large extent, by younger (predominantly male) evangelicals. Maybe they feel disenfranchised by the growing emphasis on equality and are drawn to the neo-Reformed/complementarian emphasis on power and hierarchy.

    Anyway, I think it’s, in some ways, a reaction to the larger trend toward more equality. The question is, will our Reformed brothers and sisters come along for the ride eventually, or will they “circle the wagons,” essentially becoming the new fundamentalists?

  • Mike Ward

    The role of women in protestant churches will continue to simply follow the changing role of wome in society with a bit of a lag. This is because the flexibility of the protestant world–everyone interpreting the bible for himself, minimal distinction between clergy and lay members, the power of members to choose there own leadership, ease of changing churches if you don’t like the one you are at–make it very succeptable to syncretism.

    Also, I don’t think complementarianism is a viable doctrine. I think it is a temporary stop gap measure which seeks to find a medium between the patriarchal model we see in the bible and the egalitarian model our society is on the cusp of fully adopting.

    In my mind, complementarianism is analogous to creation science which attempts to satisfy our desire to view both the bible and science as sources of truth by rejecting to smallest ammount of both of them to reconcile their different views of life’s origin.

    Complementarianism does the same thing. It is neither the completely male dominated structure seen in the bible. Nor is it the equality that secular American society embraced after the sexual revolution, but it doesn’t completely reject either. It simply splits the difference.

    I suspect egalitarianism will win the day among protestants though there will always by a large minority of protestant churches that will not embrace egalitarianism.

    I think it will remain that we until society shifts aware from egalitarianism. Once society shifts, protestant churches will follow in 1 to 3 generations. No matter which way society shifts–even if it is towards female domination!–the churches will follow.

    As for Catholics, I think they will undergo the same shift as protestants in their daily lives: egalitarian marriages for example. And like protestants there will be a large minority of holdouts. But the Catholic church instelf willonly see minor shifts in its structures. It is affected by syncretism, but it has huge inertia that causes it to shift extremely slowly.

    At least this is how it all appears to me.

  • http://twitter.com/aldisal Al Di Salvatore

    Woman are vital to the ministry.  From Deborah to Esther…and it was women who discovered the empty tomb not male disciples.  Woman have played a huge role in the American church of many Methodist women who wrote great Hymns and Agnes Ozman the first recorded American to have a Holy Spirit experience. I don’t get this “reformed” view of women in ministry. 

  • Erin

    Tangent…  but a serious one: as a Canadian, I do not understand why Americans must turn everything into a “war”. War on terror, war on poverty, war on drugs, war on crime, war on domestic violence, war on… gender? I am not being ridiculous here, as I appreciate the blog’s content deeply. And I know blog titles do need to be catchy for readership purposes, etc. But really — why do American citizens have this need or pattern to repeatedly turn dialogues and various ideas into oppositional wars? Is there some confrontation and opposition? Sure! But by referencing war repeatedly in all of your issues, you connote the slaughter of the enemy. While JP and RHE might not agree, my hope is that they wouldn’t seek to overcome the other and have the purpose of destroying the other. (FYI: this has been a common question of mine towards my American friends over the past couple years regarding the image of war, even in the context of doing good. Still haven’t received many answers…)

    • Mike Ward

      Relax. It’s just an expression. I’m sure plenty of Canadians use it as well.

      • Erin

        Not being uptight. Just trying to understand a mindset and a use or terminology. What’s just an expression to some has serious ramifications to others. Only asking a question, which Kurt thoughtfully answered. Yes, canadians use it as well.

        • Mike Ward

          In general, I think the only mindset is a love of overstatement.

          The impression I get, and please correct me if you disagree, is that you view Americans as overly militaristic, and would like to draw the conlcusion that the free use of the word “war” for peaceful things in the States is a reflection of our violent mindset.

          • Erin

            What Canadians think of Americans & vice versa is better left for another day, if at all necessary. Suffice it to say that I have a more rounded perception than what was mentioned above.

            My sincere motivation behind the question was simply as it was stated: why use the word war so repeatedly when tackling tough issues? Yes, Canadians do use the term, but I was simply curious as to American policy when it is incorporated as “official” — “The War on…” That’s all.

          • Mike Ward

            Thank you Erin, I take you at your word that I misjudged your intent, and appreciate that you corrected me gently and without taking offense.

            I really do think think we just like to exagerate. Also (and I think Kurt touched on this). “War” is a short word. This makes is great for slogans.

          • Erin

            No… no offence. Thank you for being patient with me as well.

            And yes… hyperbole and exaggeration can be quite useful tools in engaging an otherwise difficult to engage audience. :)

          • Joy F

            As someone who works in IR, it is interesting how extreme Americans are on war – they are either pacifists or believe in their wars with an nationalistic idealism. We theorize it has to do with not actually having much historical war and relatively peaceful neighbors (thank you!) in contrast to Europe and Asia that saw it as a necessary but unpleasant reality due to long histories of being surrounded generally unfriendly neighbors. Only in recent years has that begun to change, while America thinks of peace as the normative state.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

      @e431fb332de6c5e3761f9fca0442f0ff:disqus … it is an expression more than anything.  Not sure if you read the first two lines, but that was my clarification on the language.  as a pacifist, I certainly use my words wisely… at least try to.  when I was titling this, that tension led me to put the word “war” in quotes… to strip it of the typical power its given.

      In this case, the word war simply allows me to use less words in a title so people know what I’m talking about.  I could have said: “who’s winning the gender conflict” or “who’s winning the Gender disagreement” but they just don’t bring it home in the amount of words allotted for a title :-) 

      But, yes, I would affirm your question about Americans using the language of war in that sense… I guess as one who has lived here my whole life, I’m susceptible to their jargon, even as an advocate for nonviolent resistance.  But, to be fair… Paul borrowed war language quite a bit from Rome :-)

      I hope you have a wonderful rest of the day and a refreshing weekend Erin!

      • Erin

        I did read the first two lines which actually precipated the question… evangelical wars. While I struggle with believers using the word in addressing issues, our broader context certainly does bear some resemblence to a war zone.  And yes, I do see and understand your use of the word… which again, simply brought up the question. When I title posts, I do use words that will punctuate attention.

        It wasn’t my intent to stray too far from the content of the post, but this was what struck me when I was reading it: “We do see ourselves often at war with each other”… why? Why is war such a popular frame of reference where sometimes it might be appropriate, but at other times it shoves life vastly out of proportion? (questions not of the blog per se, but of cultural mentalities)… if these were questions too far off the point, I apologize.

        • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

          @e431fb332de6c5e3761f9fca0442f0ff:disqus … the use of “wars” with evangelical is a chosen word by those engaged in it I suppose.  We in the US have heard, way too often, “battle for the bible” etc.  Culture war is something that is the typical jargon for this stuff… not great, but its where things seem to be at the moment.

          And by the way… you are free to comment however and about whatever you’d like ;-)

    • http://logicandimagination.wordpress.com/ Melody Harrison Hanson

      erin – we love war and conquering, as evidenced by our devastation of so many other countries.  sadly. 

    • http://somuchshoutingsomuchlaughter.com/ suzannah {ShoutLaughLove}

      language is important, and we do frame things as fights to the death in ways that aren’t always helpful.  someone this week, commenting on the “mommy wars,” said that it’s not a war among mothers–it’s a war against women and mothers. i think the same is true here.  when the Body of Christ turns inward and “wars” we all lose.

      as for the post’s question, i am encouraged.  i grew up in conservative evangelical culture and became a youth minister.  honestly, if it weren’t for the internets, i’d have little idea that this was such a touchy issue in fundamentalist subcultures.  women are equal (philosophically at least) to men in many parts of the Church and have been for years.  in practice, we all have a ways to go.

    • http://twitter.com/ElaineSH Elaine Hansen

      I appreciate what this article has to say about the different view points surrounding gender issues in our churches.

      Erin – Thank you for noticing the use of the word “war”.  I am agreement with you.  I can only speak from my Cincinnati, Ohio perspective.
      Here’s what I firmly believe – Words matter.  I found 454 instances of “the Word” in the Bible.A friend says, “All change is linguistic.”  I think that is true.The words, “collateral damage vs. causalities of war” shifts something for me.For me, “war” is a masculine word. It evokes a vision of violence, death, and destruction. Win/lose thinking.  It requires someone to be better than and the other to be less than.  For me, at least, I think the metaphors of war are over used.As  a woman, I think of this time in history – whether it be religion, gender issues, politics, the economy, and more – (Phyllis Tickles has a nice book about this) – I think we are in a time of “transition”.  In childbirth, “transition” is a time of resistance and pushing, and hard labor, and discomfort, it is very hard work – all to birth a new life.

      When I was taught the Lamaze method of prepared childbirth, one of the things they repeatedly said was that if you “resist” labor and transition instead of working with the labor – it will take longer and be more uncomfortable in birthing the new life.

      This labor has been delayed decades maybe centuries. This child will be born.

      As far as I am concerned, the terminologies of war are over used. This is not a win/lose proposition. 

      There will be significant benefit to all humanity when we are all treated as equals.

  • Jo

    Great blog, Kurt I am with you. I do not want to be a man I do not aim to be a man (never) but I am a woman who leads in a Church and know the calling of God in my life. It saddens me to hear what John Piper says,

    • Allen D. Mitchell, Ph.D.

      Allen D. Mitchell
      There should be complete freedom for all who call upon the name of Christ and are part of His body THE CHURCH.  I am almost 80 years old, have pastored, preached and taught in more than one denomination.  I have taught at the university level, lectured on ministers finance and co-authored the book “The Prophets Dollar”.  I have come to abhor men who use the word of God to trample anyone!  It has been historically arguments over slavery, ownership of land, ownership of church buildings, taxation without any representation, etc. etc.  The Bible is the Word of God leading to Salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Believe it! It has nothing to do with who witnesses, who preaches, who teaches, or who worships.   Doctrine destroys the basic message.  I worked with many seminaries over the years and students and professors at those seminaries.  I became convinced that more of the education was of doctrine of humankind taken from what each thought the Bible said rather than what it said!  Paul continually spoke against false teachins and Paul depended on women a great deal.  I am now an Elder in the Methodist Protestant Church.  Each church is totally democratic and self governing and our church would welcome and assist all women who God calls to minister to His  Church.  It is His Church.  Praise  The Almighty God for that.  Some that wish to speak for God have a BIG problem.   

  • Bshantz49

    I wish that the Church would love women and their gifts as much as I have learned that God does.

    Biblical? Why is Acts 2:17-21 not used more often in this debate?  THIS is clear text for which you don’t need a cultural explanation. It expresses the fact that Jesus came to free women to answer His call, whatever that is, as compared here to the time of the prophet Joel. And, I think that hermeneutics states that we’re to use the clear texts to explain the unclear, as I would call the Timothy passages.

    God has called and equipped me experientially and by the Holy Spirit to teach in my field – men or women.  I didn’t ask for it and don’t need to ask a man (except my husband who is dedicated to my fully expressing my gifts) if God has called me.  I am also surprised when men try to tell me that I don’t know God’s call.  Most interesting since there seem to be more women in church and at prayer meetings seeking God’s face than men.

    However, like many in the pre-1920′s suffrage movements, I do not expect to see the completion of this debate in my life-time (I’m in my mid-50′s).  I must just follow my Lord’s calling and be part of congregations and communities who allow me to be who He wants me to be.  For sure, I’m not going to stand in front of God and say that I didn’t do what he called me to do because someone (man or woman) stood in my way. 

    Barbara Shantz

  • Ryan Robinson

    In my experience the majority of the church is egalitarian but the complementarian minority such as Piper and Driscoll are very vocal about how wrong we egalitarians are. With Rachel, I’m still fairly confident that the majority will win out within a generation or two. Usually when the church matures like this, there is a backlash of those who refuse to change – especially when it is a sacrifice of power as in this case. That backlash typically looks like a powerful “revival” movement at the time but quickly fades out when people realize there isn’t that much substance (i.e. Scripture) to back up their traditional views.

    • http://logicandimagination.wordpress.com/ Melody Harrison Hanson


       the majority of the church is egalitarian”  no way!   show me where you see this?  

      • Mike Ward

        Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. I thought maybe it was a regional thing. It ain’t the majority in the South.

  • Frank

    Hands down…. John Piper!

  • http://kingdomseeking.wordpress.com/ K. Rex Butts

    I wonder to what degree culture and upbringing have a role in the entire gender discussion and expectations.  To take my wife as an example, what I mean is that she would agree that a faithful reading of scripture will yield an egalitarian understanding of gender…if not, a very weak/soft complimentarian.  Yet when it comes to practice, she is quite comfortable with a more traditional complimentarian way because such is the environment she was raised in as well as the fact that she is a more behind the scenes rather than out-front personality type.  So as a result, while she has no objections on moving more towards an egalitarian approach, it’s not one of her priorities since she is not discontent.  

    Now whether that is right or wrong on her part is another issue.  My point is just to show how culture and upbringing might play a part in how big of an issue or non-issue this becomes for some people.

    I am happy to say that I serve a church which has made moves towards a more egalitarian practice and hopes to continue that journey in the future.

    • http://logicandimagination.wordpress.com/ Melody Harrison Hanson

      this is a very interesting point you are making and it can be backed up by the Barna research done for the work Jim Henderson did on his new book The Resignation of Eve.  the unfortunate result though is that another generation of girls and women will grow up spiritually living something that is wrong.  i have a friend whose husband is an elder (in training) at my church.  her college aged daughter asked her why women can’t be elders in our church and her reply was “well i don’t really want to teach and be a leader and …”  i challenged her on that, because we might not have the spiritual gift, but what about someone else (her daughters) that do?  we have to be willing to press forward, even press hard on this for them!  she had never thought about it like that. 

  • http://kingdomseeking.wordpress.com/ K. Rex Butts

    I wonder to what degree culture and upbringing have a role in the entire gender discussion and expectations.  To take my wife as an example, what I mean is that she would agree that a faithful reading of scripture will yield an egalitarian understanding of gender…if not, a very weak/soft complimentarian.  Yet when it comes to practice, she is quite comfortable with a more traditional complimentarian way because such is the environment she was raised in as well as the fact that she is a more behind the scenes rather than out-front personality type.  So as a result, while she has no objections on moving more towards an egalitarian approach, it’s not one of her priorities since she is not discontent.  

    Now whether that is right or wrong on her part is another issue.  My point is just to show how culture and upbringing might play a part in how big of an issue or non-issue this becomes for some people.

    I am happy to say that I serve a church which has made moves towards a more egalitarian practice and hopes to continue that journey in the future.

  • Tasiyagnunpa Livermont

    In my experience, charismatic/evangelical churches are buying into this Reformed movement without understanding where and how this is coming from. I have heard far more women being the ‘yes-men’ for their husbands than anything. They can preach that women have a ministry in the church and are equal heirs, but what do they do? Do women only teach women? Do men and women have shared studies together or are they highly gender based? While there should be support for women and men in their unique roles (motherhood/pregnancy/nursing for example), there’s still too much division. Its like Jim Crowe–separate but equal. 

    When I walk into an Episcopal Church, I see women deacons and servants, readers, and study groups that are open to both sexes.  One more reason why I’m a recovering Evangelical and decided to plug into the Episcopal Church. No denomination is perfect, of course, only Jesus is, but we have to be where we can be of most use.

  • http://twitter.com/wvcnpastor Bruce Barnard

    I’m tired of hearing Pastor Piper and others of his movement blame this on “feminism” . The Church of the Nazarene, of which I’m 4th generation and now pastor, has recognized the important, critical, and yes, BIBLICAL role of women in preaching/teaching ministry since its inception – over 100 years ago! And I think God’s okay with it…

    • Mike Ward

      What you say suggest that feminism did not influence the opinion in The Church of the Nazarene, but there’s been a huge shift in the thinking on this issue among almost all churches this side of the sexual revolution. That is not a coincidence.

      We can look at this either way if you like.

      1) Churches were right in the good old days. Men were men etc., then after the sexual revolution the new social pressure shaped the thinking of churches.

      or

      2) Society was wrong before. And social pressure from that society caused the churches to adopted the wrong thinking of the day. After the society’s view changed, it freed the chruches from the negative social pressure and allowed them to come to an honest, biblical conclusion.

      So, I’m not saying that it can be used by one side or the other (obviously Piper thinks it can be though), but in my mind, the change is either driven or made possible by feminism.

      • http://www.jennyraearmstrong.com Jenny Rae Armstrong

        Actually, though, some churches were MUCH more open to women in ministry 100  years ago. Denominations like the SBC used to ordain women, right? For some churches, feminism had a NEGATIVE effect on the issue–they figured that if the feminists wanted it, it had to be bad, I guess. 

        My father-in-law, who was raised Baptist, remembers many women teaching and speaking with great authority before WWII. After that…not so much. 

      • Joy F

        Actually, I grew up Assemblies of God, which branched off of the Methodist Church. My Geandmother was an A/G minister as was her sister. Since its beginning, in 1914 after leaving the Methodist church, it has upheld women in ministry and that was one of the reasons there was a break from Methodism. Of course, we are also Wesleyan and you have to reject Calvinism to be ordained, but that’s another issue…….I think that Feminism allowed the A/G to be accepted into the mainline denominations, where previously it was excluded, but it didn’t change the church.

  • Anonymous

    Based on my experiences, I have to agree with Rachel and I do think that Piper and those who share his views represent ” the last desperate throes of a dying movement.”  Often those who find themselves in a dying movement will respond in ways that are hurtful as they make desperate attempts to maintain the status quo.

    Last year, I left a church where I had served as an elder for 2 1/2 years, then when I was elected to serve a third year, people began working behind the scenes against women as elders.  One couple even left the church citing I Timothy as their reasoning.  Have to wonder why they stayed my first 2 1/2 years and then decided all of a sudden that it was a problem.  Maybe because a second woman was also nominated to serve as elder.   Who knows?  Anyway, I’m now attending a church that is affirming of women and while I am not serving in any capacity right now, it is refreshing to at least be in a place where dialogue can occur.   

  • http://logicandimagination.wordpress.com/ Melody Harrison Hanson

    All I really know is my experience in the church, right?  And was that it took a long time to grow into my view (egalitarian) slowly over two decades.  Perhaps I always was one, but I felt insecure expressing it.  I had to do all the work on my own.  I wasn’t savvy about all the blogs by women and men, or they just weren’t there while I was doing my thinking, growing,firming up of my thoughts.  I got no help at church. 

    I am in an EFCA mega-church I can say this made things harder.  ‘Cuz they are all kinds of gray on this.  While they do not ordain women they can go to their seminary.  While my church says they would have female teachers if there were any that would rise up (organically) they don’t have any because they haven’t — risen.  And then in actuality women are basically running my church (logistically) while men teach.  They could change their bylaws about Elders (currently all men) but they haven’t.  But there’s nothing in EFCA that says that they cannot but the change would be such a dramatic (and “divisive”) change that they haven’t.  

    I stay because I know that there is more to a church than this issue. And that there is no perfect church.  And that if there are more of us bravely speaking up then perhaps change will come.  (I blog about women in the church all the time)  

    Back to the educating aspect, I’ve bought books on the topic and have valued CBE for their clarity and perspective.  But in the ten years at my church, nothing has changed and I worry for my sons and daughter who are growing up into a view– one that is being lived out at church and another that my husband and I live in front of them.  

     I read RHE’s blog post about being so optimistic and I’m glad that she is.  Does she go to a denominational church?   It is one thing to write and speak about these things, and another very different thing to live and breathe in an actual church as a woman of conviction who has studied these things.  

    Have you seen The Resignation of Eve by Jim Henderson.  It’s an interesting challenge to the church that they better wake up or women will begin to bolt.  The thing is that I don’t want to leave — I want to help my church change.  

    Thanks for asking the questions.  I look forward to hearing the perspectives of others in your cyber world. 

    • http://logicandimagination.wordpress.com/ Melody Harrison Hanson

      my pastor would say he is a complementarian without hierarchy.  or something like that.  he has changed to this from something more conservative in the years i have been there.  

      • http://twitter.com/ElaineSH Elaine Hansen

        Melody – do you know what “complementarian without hierarchy” means to your pastor?  It sound like saying “separate but equal” that I grew up with during the 50s and 60s and the civil rights movement issue.

      • participant

        hierarchy comes into play when we’re all acting like a bunch of jackasses.

  • http://www.life-after-church.com Chrystal Westbrook Southwell

    I was glad to see Rachel’s optimism and I sincerely hope she’s right. My own experience, unfortunately, doesn’t leave me as optimistic. I grew up in Pentecostal churches, where the Acts passage of the Spirit being poured out on all flesh, including both men and women, was taken seriously. There were numerous women pastors, including filling the senior pastor role. The denomination I served in was founded by a woman….long before the feminist movement of the 60s and 70s that Piper and others seem to blame for influencing the church. In the late 30s/early 40s, more than half the pastors in this denomination were women. Today less than 25% are. Rather than the feminist secular society reinforcing the acceptance of women in ministry, the evangelical thoughts on the subject have impacted what had been a welcoming attitude. Certainly there have been additional influences, however, the desire to be accepted into the evangelical mainstream has played a large part in my opinion. The teaching regarding complementarian marriage also played a large role. It has been incredibly disconcerting and somewhat ironic to hear male pastors in this female-founded denomination teach from their pulpits that married women could only be elders if they had the “covering” of their husbands, especially in light of how many of those congregations were established by female pastors. 

    • Joy F

      Yes – I have noticed this trend – though it is not true in Pentecostal/Charismatic churches abroad. I think it has to do with cultural shifts. When Charismatic churches began around the turn of the twentieth century, they were a rebel outside group and accepted being outside of mainstream. When the culture shifted in the 50′s-70′s they found themselves being mainstream for the first time and liked it. Now that the shift has turned back, they find themselves caught in a shift – to go with the mainstream they had gotten used to or go back to the edges where they were before. It is a difficult place, because they got used to having a voice in the Evangelical world – a world that until the 90′s they were not generally accepted into. Now they have gotten comfortable and are having to choose – long held doctrine or acceptance in the mainstream church community once again.

  • Thinker

    I think it’s more of a “men need to take responsibility”. Because men are often lazy in the church and that reflects in the way women see them (I think, they see them as weak people who are only hindering them[women]). I think it’s just frustration when there are no strong male leaders in the church and women fell as though they need to take over. ( I feel like I’m alone here..)

    • http://thingsfindothinks.com/ Findo

      I think that speaking and thinking in terms of ‘responsibility’ rather than ‘roles’ is a more helpful paradigm in general.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sara-Nesbitt/100000366407387 Sara Nesbitt

    Our church ordains men and women for ministry, but, despite these outward acknowledgments of equality, the norm still tends to lean towards male-dominance.  I have my own ministerial calling and sometimes enjoy preaching when God gives me a word to proclaim.  My pastor has pretty much said that I wouldn’t get an opportunity to preach in our church.  His wife gets to co-preach on occasion (maybe once a year), but that’s about it for women in our church’s pulpit. On paper, our Sunday morning small group is co-led by a husband-wife team, but she has facilitated one class in two years.  In that setting, the word is that only our class’s deacons are allowed to teach; they’re both male.  (Currently, though, our diaconate is majority female.)

    Our marriage is very different.  My husband and I are egalitarian, and for a long time, it felt… wrong, somehow, because it didn’t mesh with what my Southern Baptist upbringing taught or the complimentary marriages his parents and brother have.  However, we’ve come to peace that this is the way our marriage is and it works for us.  We strive to walk with God daily; show the love of Christ to each other, our daughters and others; and live our married life in grace and love (if not always peace – lol).  We figure that, as long as we’re glorifying God and loving each other (and our children), then what other people think of our marriage really doesn’t matter.

    I laugh when people cite that I Timothy passage as justification to subjugate women.  In Greek, the word for “usurp” refers to trying to usurp the authority of the church.  In patriarchal thinking, this was the male leader of the church.  However, who has more authority in the church than God?  I read this to mean that all people are free to minister as long as they submit to the authority of God.  The word for “quiet” in that passage is the same in the Greek every time it occurs in this chapter, and it means peaceable, non-contentious.  The writer of I Timothy instructs men and women in the church to conduct themselves in peaceable ways, both in the church and in the larger culture.

    The complimentarians are being dragged – kicking and screaming – into a new way of doing church and marriage.  Because of that, they’ll be more vocal about how the Bible “supports” a hierarchical structure.  Men like Driscoll and Piper, from what I’ve read and heard, thrive on bullying and intimidating people “in the name of Jesus.”  The idea of women as equals created as much in God’s image as men are rankles for men with this mindset, and they’ll fight this change as much as they can. 

  • http://morganguyton.wordpress.com/ Morgan Guyton

    My wife is a pastor. I’m a pastor. One day maybe we’ll be pastors together or maybe she’ll be my pastor if I go into academia. This is something I wrote recently about the sermon that we preached together at our wedding: http://morganguyton.wordpress.com/2012/01/05/why-gender-hierarchy-makes-no-biblical-sense-to-me/

  • Kristen

    Thank you for a thoughtful post.  I am curious about something, and would love feedback.  When we consider the role and ministry of women in the OT, NT and early church, we see the Church being revolutionary in terms of how it views and welcomes women.  Romans 16 cannot be disregarded in this discussion.  Slowly, however, it seems the Church has become less of a cultural innovator and leader, and more of a responder and follower.  When did that change happen?  And why?

    Piper and others like to blame feminism, but that’s laughable in my mind.  We have records in Scripture of women doing much more in ministry than they are typically “allowed” today.  Something shifted, but what?  And when?  (Obviously it was a slow shift…but would love some thoughts as to what caused the shift.)

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

      @a8c5c48b32c68ae28ce53fb64cb3dd6b:disqus … this is an excellent question and comment.  I don’t have the answer as far as the ancient history stuff, but here is some thoughts on the 1800- till now… http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/2009/09/04/fundamentalism-some-rants-on-its-historical-development-repost/

      This is an *Early* post so it may have some small things in it that I disagree with now :-)

      • Kristen

        Thanks for the response and link. I will definitely read this! I am actually researching and writing a paper on this very topic for church history in seminary. I am excited to see what comes out of the research but am also eager to see what other reflections you all may have.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1603320065 Kirsten Zoe Hyer

    Here’s the thing, and this is just from my own experience, and personal feelings 

    I am an intelligent and gifted woman. Born with a desire to speak my mind, I believe that this valuable quality can do much for the Church and for the world. Such a gift in a man would be considered beneficial and God given without question. But because of the anatomy God chose to grant me, this gift is considered by some to be sinful. I should rather speak quietly, hold my piece and support the men in my life. So why is a quality in one gender a blessing, and in another a sin. 

    Yes there are different brain chemistries, and biologies. But this anatomical difference should not be a deciding factor in leadership. Furthermore, holding that a woman is ment to support men suggests that only through marriage women become whole. This disregards several passages in the Bible that support singleness as being just as holy as marriage. I am myself without a man, and my opinions stand on their own.

    John Piper, I am one of those ‘Angry Feminists’ (Oh I am an Feminist and this topic makes me angry) and I will preach it to the heavens that women should not be held back in the church. For centuries we have been blamed for the sin of the world, for thousands of years we were property to the men that owned us. I will not be property, andI will have my own voice.

    • Jonathan Aigner

      Kirsten, I really affirm your position on this and think you are dead on.  As N.T. Wright talks about in his article on women in leadership, we need to let women be themselves; that is, women should be allowed to be the person God created them to be, whatever that looks like.  I can’t imagine what it would feel like to always be repressed and stifled because of your gender.  Blessings.

  • Jonathan Aigner

    Fantastic job here, Kurt.

    John Piper is a wonderful, dedicated man, but he’s wrong here.   The days of the YRR movement are numbered. Piper can’t see it because he’s the leading voice in their movement and he preaches to them each Sunday.  It’s no secret that, except for the increasingly-irrelovent Southern Baptist Convention, evangelicals are coming around on this issue and women are being allowed to serve as God calls them. 

    There is still a long, long way to go, but I pray that during my lifetime, this will become a non-issue.  I firmly believe that Christians 100 years from now will be as embarrassed about this issue as they are about slavery today.  Because this is the greatest injustice that has ever plagued the Church.

    By the way, I grew up in the ignorance of the SBC and patriarchal homeschooling movement.  If you wish, you can read a bit about my journey out of those movements (as undramatic as it was) here: http://wonderlovenpraise.blogspot.com/

  • Jonathan Aigner

    Fantastic job here, Kurt.

    John Piper is a wonderful, dedicated man, but he’s wrong here.   The days of the YRR movement are numbered. Piper can’t see it because he’s the leading voice in their movement and he preaches to them each Sunday.  It’s no secret that, except for the increasingly-irrelovent Southern Baptist Convention, evangelicals are coming around on this issue and women are being allowed to serve as God calls them. 

    There is still a long, long way to go, but I pray that during my lifetime, this will become a non-issue.  I firmly believe that Christians 100 years from now will be as embarrassed about this issue as they are about slavery today.  Because this is the greatest injustice that has ever plagued the Church.

    By the way, I grew up in the ignorance of the SBC and patriarchal homeschooling movement.  If you wish, you can read a bit about my journey out of those movements (as undramatic as it was) here: http://wonderlovenpraise.blogspot.com/

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BFTOLQGFGUIKDZUR3TNSZJRKRQ JimM

    Thank God for faithful pastors like Dr. Piper!

    • Jonathan Aigner

      Praise God for those women who courageously follow God’s calling in their lives.

  • Jhines_86

    Scriptures do not change with society. Praise God for that!  The one thing that this article and almost all the responses lacks is scripture. The role of a man and woman is clearly defined in Ephesians 5. The roles of church leadership is clearly defined in 1st timothy 3 and in Titus. 

    Now, I disagree with some of Piper’s teachings, but this isn’t one of them. 

    What Godly woman submissive to the Word would not desire and submit to a truly Godly man whose desire is for Him and to be the leader of their family living out Ephesians 5 washing her over with the Word? If this was structure of the majority of Christian families, I believe the desire for a woman to be in Church leadership would decrease dramatically.   

    It turns out that submission is a hard to pill to swallow and not just for women. Far too many men want no part of Eph. 5 and want nothing to do with fully submitting to Christ. Today men will settle for women washing themselves with the Word rather than take that responsibility.  

    The truth is however, that God will use whoever or whatever  He wants to bring the message of salvation and the Gospel of of Jesus to the lost of this world. I’m afraid however, that growing desire for women to pursue a leadership role in the church is a result of men failing to take the responsibilities given to them in Eph and other places in the NT. 

    Sorry women, if you read Genesis the woman ate the apple but God’s transgression was against the man. Adam was held accountable not Eve. Nothing in this relationship between man and woman has changed. Husbands are held accountable to their wives. 

    • participant

      hi,
      i think it’s interesting that Paul stated that his own personal restrictions on women’s teaching in the church had to do with Eve having been deceived (making many think that either women are weak spiritually and easily deceived or that it is a sort of punishment on all women for Eve’s wipe-out). Neither explanation stands up to New Covenant theology.

      another time it is stated that it’s because of the angels that women are exempted from specific leadership responsibilities. One can ponder that and probably come up with some explanations.  Again, though, New Covenant theology doesn’t support grudge-holding and unforgiveness for Eve’s infraction. So, the angel comment must mean something else. hierarchy maybe. their learning which scripture alludes to as being important. I suppose because of Lucifer’s fiasco.

      you know, prophesying is easy. ya get a Word, and ya kinda check it a bit and then say it and what not.  teaching is really rough though, I think. At least much of the time. it requires a lot of time to put things together.  Women were fairly busy and distracted and culturally untaught in so many ways academically and religiously.  It may have been a protection issue as well for these reasons. in that day, women really were only seen in a certain way and maybe the perverts were eyeballing them. just a thot.

      I may get into trouble for this but women are sex objects (heck would we look like we do if we weren’t?)  for there husbands and that’s okay, but we’re more than that.  much more.

      This is an area where I think scripture can (with extreme care) be updated. It’s not core theology in which the salvation message is reliant. It’s instruction for dealing with the mayhem that was the New Covenant struggle for structure, order and understanding.  And, Paul…well, while I dearly love him, and despite his lack of being married, he did seem to express Christ’ love for women, I think he was dealing with what he had where he was. Many rules were in place for the purpose of dealing with disputes or tensions.  kinda like when kids run up and use too many spoons or cups at a potluck, someone steps in and tells them to stop it and do things a certain way for the purpose of order and out of necessity. Where there is agreement and a specific level of spiritual maturity, why not let women do whatever they are gifted to do including teaching?

      that being said, i do think many Christian women have abandoned their first place (the angel thing comes to mind), and in these cases I don’t think they should have a leadership role in the Church because if they’re already off track, what are they really gonna bring to the table? crap scraps. no thanks.

      women have some really awesome testimonies and those should always be offered to build people up in their faith regardless of whether they have time to teach or not.

      you know, my husband and i joke about him being a better housewife than me.  he could get the kids to do so much more than i could.  i always seemed to struggle to keep my head in the game here.  i was and am good at managing the appointments and doing the paperwork, etc. I just couldn’t seem to get as much out of the kids and get as much housework done as him even though when I do housework, i’m faster and better at it than him.  i’ve been jealous. how does he do that?
      well our youngest child has a year of school left so maybe i’ll get something done around here eventually.lol

      on an even more personal note, my husband is more of a servant leader and i’ve been the more assertive of the two of us, so I have always worked on not taking advantage of that and encouraging him when i can an letting him make the decisions even when I thought i knew the answer or the better way.  he’s really changed over the years. so have i. he’s gotten more courageous and i’ve gotten less aggressive and competitive. Sometimes women want to be in control because they feel second best in God’s eyes and they feel they have something to prove.

    • participant

      one definite pattern i see in scripture is change, change, change. 

  • participant

    if it’s a war, i do like i always did when i played games with my children when they we’re little, I let them win.  if men are that insecure, how am i helping the situation by fighting with them? i’ve got eternal life. that works to make me feel better about things now.

  • http://thingsfindothinks.com/ Findo

    The thing I dislike most about this debate is the way in which both sides accuse the other of ‘not following what the bible clearly teaches’ or something along those lines. Complimentarians can be too quick to say that Egalitarians are just letting their feminist influence skew their perspective, and Egalitarians are too quick to accuse Complimentarians of being sexist or simply wanting to hold on to power.

    BOTH sides need to start with the basic assumption that the other is sincerely trying to follow scripture as they understand.

    Kurt, you might like what Hugh Palmer has to say about how this debate ought to take place: When Christians Disagree


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