It’s Time for a Schism Regarding Women in the Church

I don’t take this lightly. I very much take Jesus’ prayer for unity in the Fourth Gospel seriously. Our eschatological hope is that the church will be one, and that we will all be united in belief, practice, and love.

But sometimes we need to separate. We need to say hard words to those who are not living the way that Jesus laid out for us. We need to divorce.

The time has come for a schism regarding the issue of women in the church. Those of us who know that women should be accorded full participation in every aspect of church life need to visibly and forcefully separate ourselves from those who do not. Their subjugation of women is anti-Christian, and it should be tolerated no longer.

That means:

  • If you attend a church that does not let women preach or hold positions of ecclesial authority, you need to leave that church.
  • If you work for a ministry that does not affirm women in ecclesial leadership, you need to leave that ministry.
  • If you write for a publishing house that also prints books by “complementarians,” you need to take your books to another publishing house.
  • If you speak at conferences, you need to withdraw from all events that do not affirm women as speakers, teachers, and leaders.

That is, we who believe in the full equality of women need to break fellowship with those who do not. The time for dialogue and debate has passed. The Spirit has spoken, and we have listened. It’s time to move forward with full force.

Several schisms have rent the church in the past. They have indeed caused much damage to the body of Christ, but they have also ultimately produced benefit. Little good came from The Great Schism of 1054. Much more good came from the Reformation schism catalyzed by Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, and others.

Other issues that vex the church have not risen to the level of schism. Gay rights, for example, is an issue being worked through diligently and faithfully by many churches and denominations. They deserve time and grace as they study the Bible, listen to their people, and test the Spirit.

The full equality of women and men, however, is an issue that has long since been settled. Those who continue misogynistic practices in the church are not being faithful to the Bible or the Spirit of Christ, they are perpetuating retrograde and archaic beliefs and are doing great violence to women and men and the cause of Christ.

Having grown up in a church that ordained women, allowed women to lead, and had women preachers, it is honestly shocking to me to continue to run into so-called “complementarians.” I don’t meet them in real life — I just see them in the blogosphere, on Facebook and Twitter. And friends of mine like Rachel Held Evans and Sarah Bessey assure me that they exist.

I don’t know what a schism looks like in the 21st century. It won’t look like past schisms — there’s no monolithic authority like the Vatican for us to protest against. Probably, like so many things in our postmodern society, it will be pluriform — a million little schisms.

It will be difficult for many people. It will cause broken relationships. But we have daughters, and the subjugation of women in the church needs to end in this generation.

  • Dyfed Wyn Roberts

    It’s an uncompromising stance but I agree. Unity built on inequality is not acceptable.

  • ngilmour

    In other words, leave the church if you don’t like it. Business as usual.

    • FemalePastor

      You completely missed his point if this is all you took away from his post.

  • Jon Altman

    The United Methodists settled this (in favor of full clergy rights for women) 57 years ago.

  • Anton

    I could not agree more.

  • Robbie Mackenzie

    Tony this is a tough one. Is there any way for a compromise as you see it or does it have to be such a sharp dichotomy?

    • Tony Jones

      On this issue, no compromise.

      • Sarah Raymond Cunningham

        It makes me laugh that I am down-voting you. :)

  • Steven Kurtz

    Not to quibble, but don’t you have to be an insider to be in a schism? A Roman Catholic or a Complimentarian-Church-Attending Protestant might become one, but if you are not inside, isn’t an opposing view simply an attack on a position held by others? But in any case, it’s already on (the attack, that is), and yes, I agree, that this issue was settled so long ago it seems nearly bizarre that in this time it’s still a live one. Like arguing about slavery – seems both anachronistic and rather soft-headed.

  • Associated Baptist Press

    Thus the reason we have the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship as a divorce from the Southern Baptist Convention. We actually just ran a piece about this at Associated Baptist Press yesterday:

  • Sarah Raymond Cunningham

    “That is, we who believe in the full equality of women need to break fellowship with those who do not.” …If we break relationship every time we disagree, then how do we learn from each other?

    • Tony Jones

      Read carefully, friend. This is not about breaking “every time we disagree.” This is about breaking over one, fundamental human rights issue.

      • Sarah Raymond Cunningham

        Alright. Fair. Let’s speculate though that not every church who closes the pulpit to women is doing so out of flagrant dismissiveness, but out of some sincerely searched conclusion that this is an appropriate interpretation of scripture related to the topic. Whether or not you agree or not, what is our responsibility to humanize the other here? Does it not involve relationship? (I hate it equally, for example, when conservatives otherize–or break ranks with–YOU for positions you’ve come to out of sincere searching.) Much love…

        • Tony Jones

          I’m not saying to dehumanize anyone. I’m saying that at a certain point, we need to break. That point has come. It doesn’t make them any less human, but it does make them less Christian.

          • Sarah Raymond Cunningham

            Man, bro. It “makes them less than Christian”? I have such a hard time with that. Aren’t all Christians–on any pole–flawed representations of God/Jesus/theBible? I believe in disagreeing as wholeheartedly as you want to, but people with differing opinions on this subject ALREADY identify with different denominations and traditions. I really struggle with the idea of promoting further division and calling for a break from relationship. I know I don’t want others to break from you or I over the way they might consider us “less than Christian”. We will live to fight it out another day, I suspect though. Have a good day, my friend.

            • Tony Jones

              Yes, it’s harsh. I understand that. But, on rare occasions, harshness is warranted. I don’t do this lightly.

              • Sarah Raymond Cunningham

                T, I know your communication is often rooted in intellect and academia; in forensics. And I have always appreciated that you make space for someone like me whose communication is…hopefully not void of intellect, but is often a lot more “heart on the sleeve”.

                So be patient with me, friend.

                You watch as the religious landscape once again flames up around women in leadership, and your drive for justice (as well as frustration?) prompts you to write a bold blog post demanding audacious action. I get that drive. I respect it. You know I do.

                What I wonder, though–and push back all you want–is if a call to “break fellowship” is a convenient position to take because not only does it voice a satisfying level of intensity, BUT it also is directed at this big, name-less, face-less corporate group of people. SAYING “we should break fellowship” has little real-life consequences for you or anyone else.

                But, if we accept this line of reasoning–that we should ACTUALLY break fellowship with those who disagree on values we consider central to a Christianity, it isn’t an academic or forensics exercise as you know. It has very personal consequences for everyone.

                Like then we have to put names and faces to it, T. For example, does there come a day when you–who are known to be more progressive than me–look at me and say, “Sarah, I am breaking relationship with you over issue X.” Or “Sarah, I consider you to be less than Christian.”

                (I get none of this is directed at me and I am not upset at all, but I need a hypothetical that means something to you and I don’t want to bring anyone else into this.)

                Does that day happen where you end relationship with me over a belief? You can tell me, but I don’t think it does.

                This is only partially-informed speculating here, so maybe I’m off. But I don’t think you–the real, fully dimensional you–is as comfortable severing ties with everyone who holds a given position with that broad of a brush. I trust you wouldn’t abruptly dismiss me…because a. you have affinity for me and b. you can find compassion and grace for people who you sense are trying to sincerely apply their ideas and beliefs given their current understanding. I think you’d be willing to concede that though you and I are not always on the same page, and though it might not be easy, that there is growth for both of us in staying connected. And that breaking relationship forces us both into rigid corners where we don’t benefit from differing perspectives on any number of things.

                If that is true–at the personal level–here’s the problem I see then.

                I’m not the only Sarah (i.e. moderate Christian) and you’re not the only Tony (i.e. more-progressive) who are friends. You have others besides me in your life; I have others besides you in mine. The Christian landscape is full of others besides us.

                So I am appealing to your heart as well as your intellect here, Tony, in asking you…if it wouldn’t be good for us to break ranks over disagreements why would we suggest it’d be good for the whole of Christianity? If we can have strong opinions, fight it out, and be in-process on any number of beliefs at any given time, and still have a meaningful, growing friendship that stretches us both, than why would we try to strip that learning from the whole? Why would we try to divide where we can grow?

                And if part of the answer is “Sarah, you don’t try to dismiss and oppress people” in the name of any conservative beliefs you hold, than all I am saying is neither does every evangelical church who closes their pulpit to women. It’s too broad of brush. I will continue to give Sunday sermons where asked and I will always defend your right to voice your opinions, but I think calling for breaking relationships works better in a feisty blog post than it does in real life.

                • Tony Jones

                  I take your words to heart, Sarah. I will admit that when I was writing the post, I felt rising anxiety for what I was asking people to do. I realize that this carries real costs for people — way more costs that I’m likely to experience as a result of this call. So I don’t know if what I’m doing in this post is right, but I think it is.

                  Breaking fellowship — though not relationship — with someone over an issue of theology and justice is not to be entered into lightly. But sometimes, rarely, it is justified. Sometimes a surgeon has to cut through healthy, living flesh to remove a cancer.

                  • Sarah Raymond Cunningham

                    Thanks. I, too, put these thoughts out there humbly. These are just the best thoughts I have at the moment, and I feel them deeply, but it’s possible they will evolve over time. And I know that there is probably no singular “break” or “stay connected” response that fits every scenario.

                    So with those pre-cursors on the record, clarifying that we’re talking about “breaking fellowship” and not “relationship” doesn’t fix it for me. The same logic holds: So, not on this issue but on some other one you some day feel similarly anxious about, will you one day come to me and invalidate my identity as a Christian? Will you decline to speak at an event I help plan; at a church where I am a leader? Will you refuse to be part of groups where I am in attendance?

                    I know and trust you and believe the best about why you sometimes choose to communicate via what appears to me to be extreme language. But to me–to me, T–this kind of stuff calls us to remember a gracious and enduringly patient God who humbles himself to keep fellowship with such flawed and deviant humans like me. :)

          • Amy

            My god, you’re a judgmental ass.

      • Sarah Raymond Cunningham

        Just for the record, even though I still participate in all kinds of evangelical tradition, I’ve given many Sunday morning sermons at many churches. So I’m not being personally defensive.

        • Mark Baker-Wright

          While I find myself (somewhat surprisingly, given my distaste for anything resembling harsh, schismatic, language) siding with Tony on this one, I think your comments are very much needed in this conversation. As both you (and those like you) and Tony (and those like him) clarify your views, the case for a “break from relationship” (or not) is made clearer.

          • Sarah Raymond Cunningham

            Thanks, Mark.

  • KentonS

    Processing… I’m an egalitarian in a technically complementarian church. (Supposedly women can do anything but be elders, but at the same time they’ve never led on Sunday either.) I’ve spoken out and have been heard, but the statement still reads no women elders. I haven’t thrown in the towel and bolted yet, and don’t see it happening right away, but I’ll hear you out.

    As I’m processing, let me ask, “why now? Why today?” What happened recently that sent you over the edge? RHE’s twitter mess? Richard Beck’s recent post? Piper/Driscoll idiocy?

    • Tony Jones

      All of it culminated in this. Honestly, I am truly shocked that this still goes on, that RHE needs to fight these battles, and that Richard and Scot need to keep theologizing about it. For shit’s sake, this should be behind us.

      • Richard Beck

        Agreed. The prophetic urgency you articulate so well here keeps me up late at night.

        I’m at a flagship church in our tradition and it’s at a tipping point, hovering between complementarian and egalitarian in practices and common life. If it tips the consequences would be huge for our churches. But how long to wait on that tip? I have a timeline in my head for when, in my life, I’d have to leave and start an egalitarian Church of Christ in my town.

        • Tony Jones

          Hopefully sooner rather than later. :-)

          • Richard Beck


        • Eric Fry

          Would you consider writing about Tony’s idea on your blog, Richard?

  • K. Rex Butts

    You write that “much good came from the Reformation schism…” seemingly to justify pursuing a schism. I think it would be better to say that God has brought about much good from tragic event in Christian history, just like God is always bringing his redemptive good from the tragic consequences of a fallen world. However, that does not mean it was/is God’s will for the occurrence of such tragic consequence, be it a schism in the church or else.

    • Tony Jones

      I’m not saying that we justify a schism because good will come. I don’t think we can ever know the results. We simply have to break and trust in God. But effectiveness cannot be the motivation. A thirst for righteousness must be.

  • Mark Raggett

    Unfortunately the church does not have the unity required to make a schism effective (like it did in, institutionally, in 1054 and during the reformation). We need to demonstrate what it is to be united in the face of non-essential questions before we can use the weight of schism over essential questions.

  • Kimberly


  • Kelly J Youngblood

    It has continued to surprise me how prevalent they are. Even thought I grew up (half) Catholic, and women can’t be priests, the Director of Religious Ed at the church was a woman, and she and the priest worked together on pretty much everything. From my pov, it looked like a partnership. The pastor at the Protestant church I grew up going to was male, but I never once heard women couldn’t do certain things. Then when I started back to church in college, the church I attended had a woman as the associate pastor and women as elders/deacons/whatever. I don’t think it was until I was 24 or 25 that I heard this idea that women weren’t “allowed” to fully participate in the life of the church–and then I have continued to see people believe that over the years, and it’s sad. When I moved to my current town, one of the “qualifications” for choosing a church was that women in leadership were accepted. Even though the one I ended up at doesn’t have any women as elders, I learned that they they have been nominated, but nobody has accepted the nomination because they haven’t wanted to be the first one! Pastors there are all supportive, too, and when I proposed teaching a class on “Women in Leadership” they were all on board, so did that last spring.

  • Eric Fry

    I said this same thing a couple of years ago. This is not a difference that the supporters of women’s rights in the church should compromise on, and the opponents of women cannot afford to be seen as conciliatory towards us. It’s time to go our separate ways. Though we use the same book and the same words, it’s obvious that we worship very different Gods.

  • John D’Elia

    I agree with you in principle, Tony. Something dramatic needs to be done to put this issue to bed. As a historian of fundamentalism I have a deeply-felt resistance to schism, though. I see the fallout from the last century or so of Protestant conflict as having produced next-to-nothing of significant import, and I don’t know if this would be any better. I do, though, believe strongly that we should continue to work from within these traditions to bring change. For me and for my own denominational tradition (PCUSA), this has been a settled issue for a generation, though not without local difficulties. And now that I’ve said that, can I ask, perhaps in the name of unity-building irony, that you give a little encouragement to the church traditions who have led the way here? You’ve been awfully hard on mainline denominations over the years, sometimes even with good reason. How about a gentle shout out to, say, my home PCUSA church in Burbank, that hired some amazing women during my formative years, who helped grow my faith and model gifted ministry?

    • Tony Jones

      Yes, John, my own tradition led the way on this. Antoinette Brown was ordained as a Congregationalist minister in 1851. The mainline denoms have been on the forefront on this issue. And I’ve many times publicly praised the denominational bureaucracies for forcing local congregations to take on women pastors before those churches were ready. Good on you!

  • gimpi1

    “It will be difficult for many people. It will cause broken relationships. But we have daughters, and the subjugation of women in the church needs to end in this generation.”

    Speaking as an outsider, this would make your faith much more attractive. Frankly, I can ‘t put much stock in a belief that says, on one hand, “You are a child of God, redeemed, valued and loved,” and on the other hand,”You aren’t trustworthy, smart or honorable enough to be in any leadership positions because you don’t have a penis.”

    Racial segregation wasn’t ended by “unity,” it was ended by passing laws and enforcing them, even when it was divisive to do so. Gender subjugation won’t be ended in your churches unless those of you who understand it to be wrong push back, hard. It will be divisive. But if not now, when?

    • Tony Jones

      Yes, on this, I think that we very much need to listen to non-Christians.

  • JTB

    hi Tony,
    I appreciate your passion on this. As a woman, a theologian, and life long CofCer (that’s Churcha-Christer, verbalized) I want to affirm your anger and the need for justice. And, also to defend why I “stay” within a church denomination that (typically) refuses not only to allow women into leadership and (paid) ministry positions, but to allow women’s voices to be heard and women’s bodies to occupy space “up front” during corporate worship.

    First I want to say that I don’t counsel other people to do what I’m attempting to do. The “stay or go” question is vexing and complicated and there’s no one size fits all answer, I think. But I don’t encourage people to stay in a church environment that has become toxic to them (my husband left years ago and is now happy being an Episcopal priest).
    So, since I don’t counsel other people to stay put as a more righteous or effective response to this injustice, why do I? Because I can, and because at the moment I think I can do more good by staying rather than leaving. It’s a unique possibility given my location and resources and education and network, and so I’m doing my best to utilize these things well.
    But I engage the work, not because I want to reform the institution or change the Church of Christ, per se. I engage in this work because I care deeply about the women sitting in the pews for whom leaving is still an unimaginable possibility, and the little girls who grow up hearing things that make them feel like, and I quote, “Jesus only died for the boys.” There are so many of them. And for those who find the courage to leave, hallelujah: be free in Christ to serve and glorify God with all that you are. For those who are still stuck, I’ll stick around.

    For anyone who’s connected with the CofC and is interested in working toward gender justice in the CofC, is still around and thriving. :)

    • K. Rex Butts

      I so much appreciate your spirit and the work you do with I serve with the Columbia CoC (Columbia, MD) which even though it can’t be classified as egalitarian, it does affirm and encourage the giftedness of women more so than many congregations of our tribe. One day…

  • cordobatim

    Did I miss the part in Acts 15 where the Jerusalem churched expelled those who wanted to require circumcision?

    I’m glad to be part of a Kingdom that shows much more grace than this article!

    • Tony Jones

      God also struck down Ananias and Sapphira in Acts. It seems that some issues warrant severity.

      • KentonS

        Did you actually write that? :)

        • Tony Jones

          Are you surprised I quoted the Bible? :-)

          • KentonS

            LOL! No, I’m just surprised you held up Ananias and Sapphira as the epitome of dealing with sin/conflict in the body of Christ. (Note to Self: Stay AWAY from Solomon’s Porch.)

  • Renee Goodwin

    Lots of people have left churches because of their lack of full participation for women. Schism implies making a public statement as you leave, not just silently skulking off and slinking through the doorway of a more progressive congregation. For those who are willing to do this and are able to pay the price, I applaud your bravery. And as always, Tony, I adore your cantankerousness.

    • Tony Jones

      Thanks, Renee.

  • Thursday1

    Unfortunately for you, this would enormously benefit the complementarians, and hurt people like RHE and Sarah Bessey. They desperately need their credentials as Evangelicals to keep their little industries running (and their voices heard), and so they can’t just separate. Nobody cares about someone who is just another liberal Christian.

    Same with publishing houses and such who need the Evangelical market.

    You kind of just assume that fudging the lines isn’t helping your own side.

    • Thursday1

      I appreciate your bravado though.

  • Keith DeRose

    I wonder about what the basis is for the distinction between this issue which you declare “settled,” and the other you mention: “Gay rights, for example, is an issue being worked through diligently and faithfully by many churches and denominations. They deserve time and grace as they study the Bible, listen to their people, and test the Spirit.” I can guess, of course. The stats are somewhat different. But listen to some who have had enough and have already bolted over the latter, and also those who still extend time and grace to those working through the former, and it’s hard, at least for me, to see it as so cut-and-dried. I suspect that, on both issues, some are called to bolt, and some are called to stay and be a force for good from the inside. Or, put negatively, that we all still grant time and grace on the latter, but that we should all bolt over the former, strikes me as very dubious.

    • Tony Jones

      In the American Pragmatic tradition, I think it is entirely appropriate to make judgment calls on things like this. I’ve made that call. Will others join me? That’s the test.

  • Jennifer Ellen

    I sympathize with your feelings, but the logic is the same used by fundamentalist separatists. I’ve never seen it lead to flourishing. It’s meeting fire in kind. On the other hand, I’ve seen those willing to live graciously in tension win the next generation.

  • Thursday1

    I also have to wonder about your endorsement of a very recent book, one whose main thrusts was about how we “need to disagree beautifully” on this issue. What happened?

    • Tony Jones

      99% of the time, that is correct.

      1% of the time, revolution is appropriate.

  • JRBProf

    Schism may well be necessary and inevitable; in fact, I think we are
    in a slow-motion schism already. This is a matter of justice and
    gospel liberation and reconciliation, so we must bend the arc of the
    moral universe without compromise but in sustainable, righteous love.

    so, if one has not grown up in these contexts and if one does not have
    real, living, vital relationships in communion with others who are not
    “there” yet, then one may not be able to imagine the costs to families,
    neighbors, friendships, roots, communities. One may not be able to
    reckon with the spiritual investment of generations, not to mention job
    security, at stake in a call for schism. It’s easier said than done
    for those of us who have some skin in the game.

    To that end,
    please consider the good, hard work of folks like
    ( and One Voice for Change
    ( who are actively, intentionally,
    deliberately and bravely moving within the Churches of Christ to bring
    gender justice to life in our churches. In our particular
    congregational polity, there are no votes to take; just the hard work of
    social change within the culture. This is not leaving a corporate
    body; it is leaving family. As Beck said, there is a tipping point
    coming soon, but for now, we are working really hard.

  • Daniel Mann


    I think we have to choose our battles carefully and not
    confront every expression of hypocrisy. However, some are so egregious that
    they must be addressed for the good and unity of the church – something you say
    you care about. However, you charged:

    “Those who continue misogynistic practices in the church are not being faithful
    to the Bible or the Spirit of Christ, they are perpetuating retrograde and
    archaic beliefs and are doing great violence to women and men and the
    cause of Christ.”

    Indeed, Scripture teaches much about the essential equality of male and female
    (Gen. 1:26-27; Gal. 3:28) and the mutuality of husband and wife (1 Cor. 7:1-10;
    Eph. 5:22-30). However, your insinuation that the church is “not being faithful
    to the Bible or the Spirit of Christ” in terms of maintaining role distinctions
    is Scripturally insupportable. Here are some verses you might consider:

    1 Cor. 11:3 I want you to realize that the head of
    every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man,
    and the head of Christ is God. (Note that even though Christ
    subordinates Himself to the Father, this doesn’t imply any inferiority.
    Likewise, the wife subordinating herself to her husband is in no way
    demeaning. In fact, the greatest shall be least!)

    1 Tim. 2:11-14: A woman should learn in quietness
    [of spirit] and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to
    assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam
    was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the
    woman who was deceived and became a sinner. (Note that this role
    distinction was not relative to the churches of Paul’s day but to the
    creation order and the Fall! Also 1 Cor. 14:34-38)

    Jesus Himself appointed no women among His 12! Will you also charge Jesus with misogyny?

    Is the Bible’s teaching on role distinctions injurious to women as you charge? I don’t think so! Instead, it dignifies them (1 Peter 3:7) If you choose to disagree and claim that they must not be any role distinctions among people – child/parent, subordinate/supervisor – that all role-distinctions are demeaning, then you must prove this!

    You claim to be concerned about Scripture, but you show no
    respect for it. You claim to be concerned about the welfare of the church, but
    you consistently tear down the “Bride of Christ” with your charges.

    • Tony Jones

      Daniel, the 1 Cor verse was likely a later scribal insertion, as evidenced by its placement at different points in the letter in various manuscripts.

      2 Tim is not a Pauline book, and was written in the late first century in Paul’s name by someone who was attempting to put women down.

      Jesus did, indeed, have several women among his closest followers, and he appeared to women before men at the resurrection.

  • JAS

    How has this long been settled and by whom? How is being a complementarian anti-Christian? As an example in honor of the anniversary of his departure into the church triumphant, Is C.S. Lewis anathema for creating a fundamentally complementarian world in his allegory in the book Perelandra? Is the majority of Christianity, apart from North American and western European culture, where a majority of this kind theological opinion is held, anti-Christian? Has the church catholic been anti-Christian until the last 100 years or so of Western culture and philosophy? Were the church fathers anti-Christian for not having a female priesthood? Was the Apostle Paul Anti-Christian when instructing Timothy? Was Jesus being duplicitous when he talks about the relationship between himself and the church as husband care for his wife, when we know that the relationship was built on His sacrifice as husband and our submission as wife being the church? Is that view on marriage Paul talks about, continuing to build on what Christ taught all of the sudden invalid? Were the instructions by Yahweh in the Law and the Prophets concerning priesthood wrong when He commanded a male priesthood? Was the distinction of male and female by God in the Garden something that God got wrong and has now progressively been fixing until we have ideas like this today?

  • Craig

    Tony’s suggested boycott against publishing houses is excessive.

    If some highly conservative press offers to publish, distribute, and aggressively advertise to their audiences your progressive arguments, then, in good conscience, let them. Likewise, if a reputable publishing house publishes the best scholarly representative of some conservative doctrine–even a heinously regressive one–I see no intrinsic problem with that. It’d be a shame if they couldn’t out of concern for the politics.

  • Craig

    Suppose that the so-called leadership roles, to which only men were invited, were, both practically and theoretically, roles of servitude that lacked any special church authority. This should change the equation. But can the male-exclusive positions be divorced from their distinctive church authority?

  • R Vogel

    This is a very interesting post. Reading the comments, particularly Sarah’s (which are wonderful, thank you, Sarah), I have a few things rattling around my brain.
    What does schism mean for your personally? What does it mean, functionally, for someone who is not part of a traditional that excludes women to split with those who do? Although it is an interesting suggestion, are you the right leader to call for this? Do you have enough skin in the game? (This sounds like I am calling you out, it is not my intention – it is an honest question)
    On the other side of the argument, I wonder how those who are uncomfortable with the call would deal with a church that, say, still made African Americans stand in a particular place in the balcony during services? Would you continue to fellowship with them as fellow Christians? Maybe in 1870, but not today, right? As you said this issue has been settled. How is the church’s treatment of women any different? How long will be stand by and lovingly abide this oppression prayerfully hoping G*d will change their hearts? Sometime the progressive side of the table is just too squishy.
    I am really interested in how you draw the distinction between the treatment of woman and the LGBT community. Women, and even African Americans in antebellum America, were at least allowed fellowship in the church. LGBT folks are denied access, demonized, and often the victims of violence. Is it that you see progress on the LGBT issue, it is not a settled issue as of yet, whereas the role of women has solidified? When does LBGT equality reach that point?

    • Sarah Raymond Cunningham

      Thanks for listening and being part of this discussion.

  • Siri C. Erickson

    Hi, Tony. Thanks for your post today. You inspired me to post a vision of a Good-for-Women Church I wrote a couple of summers ago during my sabbatical. You can view it here. I am looking forward to seeing you in a couple of weeks.

  • Amy

    Oh God, please do. I would *love* not to have to pretend you’re my brother in anything, let alone Christ.

  • Tony Jones

    I realize that I’m suggesting the Christian version of the “nuclear option” here. Maybe that’s never warranted. But it seems to me that Jesus, when he cleansed the Temple, used the nuclear option of his day, and it resulted in his arrest and crucifixion.

    • Sarah Raymond Cunningham

      The kind of “nuclear” act Jesus took here led to the sacrifice of his own life, not demanding sacrifice from others.

      • Tony Jones

        What? Jesus didn’t demand sacrifice from others?

        Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

        • Sarah Raymond Cunningham

          You’re right of course about his followers. He didn’t demand sacrifice from his opponents.

          But the sermon on the mount builds a strong case for sacrificial response to unfairness.

          And when questioned about eating with those others considered less than…

          But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’

          And the end of that verse you just quoted…calls us to the cross, right?

  • julia

    Thanks, Tony.

  • Camp Whisperer

    So I read some of your work in college for my major…and didn’t really see any of it as all that powerful. Well written, yes. Useful, probably. But I just didn’t connect with it very powerfully. This post changes that. While I struggle with the entire idea of separation (as many others clearly do as well), I appreciate that someone has finally drawn their line in the sand and said “NO MORE”. The fact that you have done so finally makes me believe doing so myself is not necessarily a sinful action. Standing up for myself as a Christian woman, really standing up for myself, can be a reality without shame.

  • Ray

    Then we look like any other group in the world that can’t get along.

    And the church loses its internal and external witness, because sacrifice in the name of an ideology–even an ideology of justice–trumps love.

    I’m an egalitarian too, but we all need to go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice (even if that sacrifice is based on a desire for justice).”

    Just a thought: what if Martin Luther King Jr. & those with him said, “Forget this. We tried. We’re outta here” and left the South to its own demise.

    Thank God there are some who stick in it and with it and have the patience to let God work, even in the darkest hours. The world–and the non-egalitarians–need to see that kind of radical love and faith.

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