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.
- 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.