Field Notes from the Schism

Field Notes from the Schism November 29, 2013

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving. If you’re here in the States, I hope you did, too. As usual, I baked pies — pumpkin, pecan, and sour cream raisin — as well as roasting the auxiliary turkey on the grill, with great success. It was also a day away from the Internet, which is always good for the soul. Today, I’m taking my sons on their first-ever pheasant hunt — just two hours at a game farm, but they’ll get the chance to see what it’s all about.

In between, however, I thought I’d get down some random thoughts about what’s happened here on the blog in the last week.

1) One never knows when a post will go viral. I suppose there are some bloggers who have a formula for it that more-or-less works, but I don’t. I can’t seem to make it happen. But, on occasion, it does happen.

2) As of today, it’s been one year and one day since another viral post, “Where Are the Women? That post was a totally different deal altogether. It was written quickly, almost absentmindedly, on a day that I was trying to get out the door. A year later, some people still seethe with anger over that post and the ensuing commentary. In spite of their ongoing anger at and demonization of me, the number of women commenters on this blog has continued to climb. I’m thrilled with this development, and it’s made this blog a better place.

3) Unlike that post and another viral post, last Friday’s “Schism” post provoked criticism from both sides. (No substantial criticism from my right came on the last two viral controversies, only from the left.) This, I’ve got to say, is gratifying. Not that I mean to “poke” both conservatives and liberals, but that the issue of women’s roles in the church (and society) are still of great interest to both sides. More than any other post I’ve written, it seems the Schism post catalyzed a great deal of thoughtful commentary in many places.

4) If I may overgeneralize, the liberal/feminist criticism seemed to be primarily this: as a man, you shouldn’t call for a schism over women’s issues. Only women have the right to do that. Fair enough. There are, indeed, voices out there who keep saying that allies on any number of social issues should shut the hell up and do only one thing: make room for the marginalized voices. The problem with this kind of reasoning is twofold: 1) it assumes that communication is zero-sum game, which it’s not. That is to say, there’s not only so much talking that can be done on a issue of justice. Instead, the more voices the better. And 2) it misunderstands the nature of the blogosphere. The blogosphere (and Facebook and Twitter) is, at least in part, a meritocracy. That’s not to say that there aren’t also power and privilege at play. There are. But thankfully, the internet has an equalizing effect on communication, and that’s good, because it’s made room for marginalized voices that were previously unheard. So I will continue to share my platform whenever possible, both here on the blog and, even more significantly, at the conferences that I produce.

5) The conservative/complementarian criticism was conflicting. Half said, “Tony, you’re wrong, we don’t think that women are ontologically different than men, we just think that God ordained different roles for each gender.” The other half said, “You’re damn right that women are ontologically different! That’s why God ordained different roles for each gender.” The ambivalence of the conservative argument just shows how much work conservatives still need to do on gender issues. When the presence of one or two Bible verses trumps so much other logic, it reveals a very unsophisticated hermeneutic.

6) The slavery analogy, while harsh, was appropriate. A century-and-a-half ago, slaveholders argues that Africans were ontologically inferior to Whites (3/5’s human, etc.). There are all sorts of ways that we justify holding the positions that we do. Back then, people used the Bible, they compared Africans to monkeys, and more. We look back now with horror and disgust, as we should. And people a century from now will look back similarly on the church for holding retrograde views on women.

7) The church is lagging. In almost every other sphere of human endeavor in the Western world, women are seen as men’s equals. This is true in principle, though in practice it takes time to implement. Even the U.S. military, not exactly a bastion of progressive values, women are now considered ontologically equal to men, even in combat. This is a dramatic change from, oh, about 10,000 years of human history. As long as parts of the church (conservative evangelical, Catholic, and Orthodox) refuse to accept women’s equality in all aspects of ecclesial and social life, the church will be seen as retrograde.

8) This is about ecclesiology. I’ve written two books on ecclesiology, so my views are public. I don’t particularly like ordination or denominations. And I’m a fierce Congregationalist, so I think that every local congregation is the Body of Christ, complete, and that each local congregation should have complete autonomy. Since that’s not going to happen anytime soon, I will continue to advocate for women’s equality in the existing bureaucratic structures that dominate Christianity.

9) Friends matter. While others were tweeting at me and writing blog posts for and against me, Sarah Cunningham was calling me, texting me, and emailing me. We pushed through disagreements and misunderstandings, and what resulted was a public contribution to the dialogue that has been universally praised. Again, thanks to Sarah for her friendship and commitment to me in this.

10) I am grateful. Yesterday at 6am, before the holiday merriment started, I went to the health club for a pre-feast workout. There, in the quiet of an empty gym, I reflected on what I’m grateful for. Overwhelmingly, the answer was clear to me: I am thankful for readers of this blog, for interlocutors in public and private. I get to do what I love, which is write theology, and to have great and life-giving conversations — via the internet and in-person — with so many great people.

So thank you. Thank you for reading, for engaging, for arguing, agreeing, disagreeing, tweeting, commenting, posting, and reading. I am truly humbled and grateful that we’re all in this together.

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  • Morton

    “When the presence of one or two Bible verses trumps so much other logic, it reveals a very unsophisticated hermeneutic.”

    On the other hand, when somebody’s personal agenda (specifically, YOUR personal agenda) trumps Scripture entirely, it reveals a complete lack of an honest hermeneutic. When Scripture does not support the position you took before you even consulted Scripture, perhaps it’s not Scripture that’s wrong. The meaning and definition of “presbuterous” is clear, as is the meaning and definition of “episkopēs.” And no amount of swearing and cursing is going to make up for the lack of an honest hermeneutic.

    The flip side of the coin is that there are churches everywhere whose primary focus is the Gospel of Jesus, its power to bring people into a right relationship with God, and transform broken lives. Churches where women actually love their husbands rather than hate men in general, and are thrilled to partner with their husbands (and other Godly men) in leading their families and their church. Churches where there are real men who truly love God and demonstratively love people, and who feel no need to apologize for being men. These are the churches that are filled with the Holy Spirit and LIFE, not empty pews. Thank God for THESE churches.

    • aricclark

      Any church that prohibits women from serving in ordained ministry cannot lift people into right relationship with God, because that right relationship entails equality of dignity and service, and the erasing of oppressive power structures. Egalitarians do not lack on honest hermeneutic. We lack a misogynist hermeneutic.

      • Morton

        I find your use of harsh, angry, inflammatory words to be very telling. If a church that humbly follows Scripture – as opposed to following an angry agenda – is misogynistic (or, more accurately, your skewed definition of the word), so be it. But said churches are drawing people to Jesus, which is exactly what we are called to do. And, believe it or not, nobody is being oppressed or abused.

        • aricclark

          A church that follows Jesus cannot be misogynist and no amount of hiding behind a particular, flawed, interpretation of scripture will change that.

          • Morton

            A church that follows Jesus is not misogynistic, and no amount of angry anti-Scriptural rhetoric will change that. People who don’t know Jesus need Jesus, not angry feminism.

        • Morton, much of your own tone and choice of subject is just as, if not more, harsh, angry and inflammatory.

          It is likely that more can be accomplished by discussing Scripture interpretations and such.

          • Morton

            I’m sorry that you have such disdain for Scripture, Tiro, but that doesn’t not change what Scripture says. Nor are your tireless attempts to re-write it evidence that your views, or what you are doing, is right.

            • Morton, I really don’t think you are going to provoke anyone to a battle with your angry Bullying words. It seems pretty much most people here are smarter than that. But the question is what do you hope to accomplish. Do you even know? What about this subject makes you so angry? What is so threatening to you?

              Really, you are NOT making your case.

              • Morton

                Tiro, after another of Tony’s angry feminist rants, I repeatedly quoted Scripture, cited the Greek words, their meanings AND proper definitions, and gave the proper context. All you could do is respond with comments like, “LOL!” I proved, from Scripture, that the only way for you to prove your agenda right is to prove Scripture wrong.

                Why not just admit that there are FAR more important and pressing issues than these trumped up FirstWorldProglems? And why not just admit that the Church has far more important issues to address – Biblical illiteracy and Scripture-twisting, for instance?

                • I don’t know if Tony considers himself a feminist. One does not have to be a feminist in order to believe in the mutuality and equality of women and men in Scripture. And a lot more has been said besides LOL. Readers do not have to take your word for what has been written but can read for themselves.

                  You are not the last word on how to interpret difficult verses in Scripture. They are difficult because over hundred’s of years there has been disagreement, just as there was regarding the equality of blacks and other races.

                  Your verbal battery and false accusations toward good Christians does you no good. You cannot ‘win’ anything that way.

                  • Morton

                    And now we throw in the “there used to be slavery…” argument. Seriously?

                    You’ve had repeated opportunities to provide any sort of scholarly explanations, but the ONLY rebuttal you’ve had to the clear use and definition of the Greek can be summed up in 5 words: “But I don’t like it!”

                    I feel badly that you are so hung up on this non-issue that it has blinded you to everything else. But most of us have long-since moved beyond it.

        • Eric Boersma

          You accused egalitarians of “hating men in general” and you’re going to tone check someone else for use of a “harsh, inflammatory tone”?


          • Morton

            Yep, that is exactly what I said. At the core, the majority of you egalitarians are man-hating women, and the little men who are intimidated by them. Some of the women pastors are THE worst. One such woman I know – a Lutheran co-pastor – is one of the most derogatory, angry sexists I’ve ever met (her tiny little husband co-pastors with [obeys] her). Were she a man, she would NEVER get by with the horrible things she says. A truly reprehensible individual. And she wonders why attendance at “her church” is less than half what it was 3 years ago.

            • Eric Boersma

              At the core, the majority of you egalitarians are man-hating women, and the little men who are intimidated by them.

              This from the guy who’s never actually met an egalitarian. Keep Lying For Jesus!

              • Morton

                You making up lies about me is a condemnation of nobody but you.

                Does your liberal theology lead you to believe that not only are the words of the Bible not true, but that YOUR words don’t have to be true either?

                …by the way, I personally know over 20 female pastors. Without exception, they all need professional counseling.

                • Eric Boersma

                  Those 20 female pastors you know…are they like the hundreds of former mainline churchgoers who left because of angry feminism and environmentalism in one big church move that you still won’t provide a single shred of evidence actually happened and you may or may not have attended depending on the point you’re trying to make at that particular moment?

                  • Morton

                    I’m not giving you names, times, and places because of two reasons:
                    1. Confidentiality.
                    2. You won’t believe it anyway.

                    But here’s what is obvious, even to a thick-headed belligerent person such as yourself: By your own admission, your denomination is rapidly dying. You’re just not smart enough to know why, so I’ve told you.

                    That’s the end of this stupid “discussion.” You’re free to believe whatever lies you want to believe, and make up and tell whatever lies you want to tell. Carry on!

                    • Eric Boersma

                      I’m not giving you names, times, and places because of two reasons:1. Confidentiality.
                      2. You won’t believe it anyway.

                      I asked for a newspaper clipping or link to a website where this church of hundreds of members left the Presbyterian church for reasons that you continue to not specify. I don’t believe you because you’ve yet to show that a single claim you’ve made could be verified by an external source. We’re up to seven times now that you’ve denied to provide even the slightest shred of entirely public information to corroborate your claims.

                      By your own admission, your denomination is rapidly dying.

                      Uh, no. I said literally the exact opposite of what you’ve claimed here. Which, again — if you feel like the growth of a particular religion is the hallmark of whether it has God’s favor, you should probably be joining Islam, because it’s been the fastest growing religion in the world for decades.

    • Delilah Emerson

      “And no amount of swearing and cursing is going to make up for the lack of an honest hermeneutic.”

      So the fact that there is no amount of swearing or cursing in this entire piece DOES make up for the lack of an honest hermeneutic?

      Sorry, I don’t speak unfounded accusation, you’ll have to break it down a little more for me. Could you explain how you chose the one thing that doesn’t exist to use as the crux of your disagreement when there was clearly so much more wrong with this piece?

      • Morton

        I don’t know what you’re asking.

      • Russell Snow

        Maybe Morton was responding to the profanity in th “Schism” post comments by Tony. I found the bad language off putting as well.

        • Morton

          Correct. An author who claims to be a Christian, yet regularly resorts to such phrases as, “…shut the hell up…” and, “…You’re damn right…” and, “…for shit’s sake…” loses a lot of credibility – not to mention the moral authority that said author tries to assume.

          • Larry Barber

            And one who tries to distract people from the main issue with cheap moralism gains nothing for his argument. BTW do you think that Paul loses his moral authority due to his language?

            • Morton

              So then… Throwing temper tantrums, swearing, and hating people who don’t agree with you is a legitimate method for getting your way?

              • Eric Boersma

                I don’t know? How has throwing temper tantrums and hating people who don’t agree with you worked out for you getting your way?

            • Russell Snow

              It is not “cheap moralism” to note that somebody who laces their speech with profanity loses credibility. Particularly when engaged in what is supposed to be an inter-church discussion. I am not opposed to a well placed warranted bit of profanity, c.f. Tony Campolo, but that is not what any of that was.

              • Eric Boersma

                I could give a fuck about what kind of language someone uses to make a point in church. Not everyone has such ridiculous delicate sensibilities. Some of us grew up and turned into adults along the way. Others are still stuck covering their ears and hopping up and down if someone says a word that they don’t like.

          • Ghost_King

            maybe he loses credibility with you or a self-righteous bigot somewhere else in the world, but not with me and not with sooooo many other people , including a whole generation of Y’s that would appreciate it much more than legalistic slander. So for shits sake get a move on in life and get real!

    • Prester John

      “Churches where women actually love their husbands rather than hate men in general, and are thrilled to partner with their husbands (and other Godly men) in leading their families and their church. Churches where there are real men who truly love God and demonstratively love people, and who feel no need to apologize for being men. These are the churches that are filled with the Holy Spirit and LIFE, not empty pews. ” quoting Morton from above.

      My questions regarding this statement: This world view doesn’t seem to have any room for single women to serve since they are lacking husbands. Apparently Mary Magdalene didn’t get that memo. There are huge numbers of single women serving in churches and they are in a privileged place as many are unencumbered by children and husbands. To relegate them to simply people who are waiting for a man  to unlock their service potential is wasteful and demeaning.

      • Morton

        It’s a good thing I never said nor implied that single women are inferior, isn’t it?

  • Tony, your blog is a daily read for me, I’m grateful for it and for you. Great stuff found here.

  • Thursday1

    Half said, “Tony, you’re wrong, we don’t think that women are ontologically different than men, we just think that God ordained different roles for each gender.” The other half said, “You’re damn right that women are ontologically different! That’s why God ordained different roles for each gender.”

    I don’t think you have characterized this correctly. Ontologically different is not the same as ontologically inferior. One can be different and equal. And being a different kind of thing in one way doesn’t doesn’t mean you can’t be the same kind of thing in another. Both cats and dogs are mammals, both Apple and PC are computers. Different yet the same, with the difference not necessarily implying inferiority.

    • Morton

      This is so very true. Different does not imply inferior.

      • Larry Barber

        It does when one of the parties always has to assume the inferior role, based only on gender.

        • Morton

          I find your assumptions to be very telling – not about me, but about you.

    • toddh

      I’m not sure your analogies work. Perhaps this shows some of the difficulties with the complementarian argument.

      • Thursday1

        You should explain.

        • toddh

          The issue is about how deep the differences between human males and females go, and what it means. Does it mean that one is inferior to another? Does it mean that the differences necessarily lead to role differentiation? Or does their shared humanity preclude fundamental role differentiation?

          The analogy to dogs and cats doesn’t make any sense. Human male and female could correspond to canine male and female, but I’m not sure how that helps the argument. Dogs have no fundamental role differentiation based on gender that was ordained by God, at least that I’m aware of. Human male and female just don’t correspond well to dog and cat as an analogy.

          Likewise, I’m not sure what the PC-Mac analogy is about, and it may support the opposite of your point. PC’s and Mac’s are both computers with different operating systems, but they are able to perform the same tasks. They have no fundamental role differentiation based on their operating system.

          It would be helpful to the complementarian case if its proponents could come up with analogies to support its arguments. The problem is, the analogies end up falling short. I don’t think arguments from nature or technology work to support the complementarian case, which could show some of its flaws.

          • Thursday1

            I explicitly stated the principles that I extracted from the analogies. I think you got yourself all twisted into nothing by trying to extract more from them than I did.

          • Eric Boersma

            PC’s and Mac’s are both computers with different operating systems, but they are able to perform the same tasks. They have no fundamental role differentiation based on their operating system.

            Dunno. I think that sounds like a great analogy for male/female relationships.

    • Lose the word ontological and it will be understood better. Both men and women are inherently human. Agree on that. Then you can say that of course men and women are different. It means something of course. Now you can discuss what importance that has.

    • Ric Shewell

      ontologically speaking, PC is inferior to Apple.

  • Toby, get out of the feminist textbooks and read some neurobiology. Recent neurobiology: the MRI scanner and the new work on microglia and synaptic pruning and regeneration is changing the way clinicians think about the brain, and (although we were not looking for this) is showing, in detail, how male and female brains differentiate from puberty.

    Apart from your errors (feminism like all ideologies, can turn into idolatry) the science is moving far, far away from the blank slate that progressives think exists. Your position contradicts scripture AND science.

  • its been a while since I tried to engage in discussion with comps. I’m out of practice. It is amazing that some (not all) of them really don’t care about logic or real discussion. It seems to really be all about domination. Reason is out the door too. The only thing some gender hierarchalists want is for all to give them whatever they want. And to think that these types actually use Scripture to get their way, or try to, is amazing. All one can do is present your case and then go away, because they aren’t going to listen.

    I really appreciate you Tony for your efforts.

    • Morton

      “…don’t care about logic or real discussion…” “…all about domination…” “Reason is out the door…” …gender hierarchalists…”

      These are, straight-up, some of the most PATHETIC phrases I have EVER heard used! Self-condemnation and, frankly, borderline insane. Absolutely amazing…

      • Eric Boersma

        If ever you longed to see someone effectively prove someone else’s point in just two sentences, you need look no farther than this post.

  • Lisa Carson

    Hey Tony, I have not followed the entirety of this subject in regards to you – but for the most part this post summary has much I can concur with. I suppose for me in regards to male and female roles, it is not so much that I would want to place specific gender categories on it, individuals are complex. I tend to think that various forms of partnering types will always have areas of needing to work out each others strengths or weaknesses within life favoring efforts, which may be different from couple to couple. I do think that in the gender role category; I generally tend to approach it with the future vision of equality within the reality that some situations have already been set to systematically favor role types. When people respond in favor of roles, I think it tends to be revealing (among other things) a habitual way to sustain the drudgery of life (it works, change is difficult), or if I claim “equality” the environment or situations imposed do not always automatically allow for it to give place to the claim – then in that sense the call for equality then might, for a time, take on a sense of “preference-unto-eventual-equalizing”, if that makes sense. Anyway, rambling. But in general, I like you Tony and I like that you keep going and sharing.

  • I have issues with points six and seven. You aren’t talking about denial of human rights, but whether or not there is a theological basis for women taking specific job positions in the Body of Christ. These positions for the most part are small in number and interest relatively few women. It’s similar to CEOs-while one can argue more women need to be represented as them, there are far more issues than simple bias or racism to consider. You’re using too harsh of a comparison for an elite position, especially when many denominations that don’t allow women priests or pastors are perfectly fine with them in teaching roles outside of the church.

    With seven, you are using a spurious analogy. Women are not equal to men in combat ontologically except in certain roles. Most women simply can’t match the physical standards needed for infantry without suffering injury, and the military is complementarian when it realizes this and seeks to match those who serve with roles they are capable of performing. There are other areas in life which are similar; women on the whole simply cannot make up large percentages of physically demanding positions due to the way they are made. Or they may not embrace fields that require insane hours or will have adverse effects on starting a family.

    We aren’t lagging behind this. If anything, the church is being proven right as more women realize you can’t have it all, and that it’s not a bad thing to have male and female roles when one understands the reasoning behind them. A very small percentage of women can and do gravitate to elite roles as pastors, but they are realizing that the men who did so suffered a huge loss in quality of life, and what they sought they put up on a pedestal and ignored the downsides of.

    • It could help your logic some, if you were to put yourself in the shoes of women. Pretend it was you that because there were not very many men that stepped up for the job, then women decided that men should not do it. That seems to be part of your logic.

      I totally understand the point about physical strength and endurance regarding physical combat in the services. But there are plenty of places
      where women’s strength is sufficient and they are being used there. But in the ministries of the church physical strength is not an issue. And for the most part neither are children. There are pastor’s wives who work alongside their husband and do fine. Women with older children and grown children and single women all have plenty of time for teaching, preaching, pastoring, counseling and all the other stuff pastors do.

      It isn’t about having it all. It’s about women being used in the gifts God
      has given them. And it is indeed a bad thing to have restrictions on only women that men do not have. I don’t hear too many men who complain about their quality of life because of their ministry. And if there are many, then it is indeed time to stop restricting women. Women want to
      help build up the Body of Christ.

      • Tiro, they exist too. A good example is male elementary school teachers. They only make up 16-18% of all teachers in middle school, and are virtually extinct in kindergarden. Other professions face similar issues; veterinary science is increasingly dominated by women even at the highest levels, and female librarians outnumber male librarians 4 to 1. There are other positions like this: publishing and nursing are also heavily women-centric.

        A surprising one that most people don’t realize is that women increasingly are a majority of missionaries. single women volunteer at a rate of three times more than single men, and as older couples retire, they will dominate the real numbers more and more. Increasingly, there are many positions where men will not fill or will be looked askance at wanting to fill.

        I agree the analogy doesn’t hold for all fields, but Tony wasn’t using a correct one. Some roles are off-limits, but others are viewed equally, which is the scope of this debate. I would just say that for one, a priest is different than a pastor, and many denoms have theological reasons tied into how a priest interacts with Christ that would cause issues if extended to women.

        Also, many pastors do complain about QOL issues. They won’t do so in person, but you can find ample evidence on the web. People’s view of the pastorate is skewed by megachurches and wealthy urban churches; many pastors live at the poverty level or even need to work second jobs and part-time pastor to survive.

        Women should build up the body of Christ. But there are many ways to do this, and too many women forget these verses.

        “In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary.

        And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen,

        while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity.”

        1 Cor 12:22-24

        Differing roles aren’t always bad. This applies to men, too, but we make peace with this where women don’t see.

        • Much of what you said holds some value. But you forget one major thing. It isn’t up to humans to decide who God will use in the spiritual ministries. They are not ours to decide. The Holy Spirit decides. God decides. And God already decided that He would use whomsoever He desired. God already has shown that He desires to use women. So all this discussion about it’s not so bad after all to be restricted by men is a moot point. If God had never called, equipped and used a woman to lead or teach His people, then likely no women would complain.

          • He does do this, but the problem is that we have to judge whether or not what we do is in line with His desires. Otherwise what anyone wants is what God wants. We use scripture and tradition to verify the claims. There’s actually a strong case for women to minister in situations that don’t involve direct spiritual authority over others…teachers, prophets, healers, and evangelists are often women in both scripture and tradition. It’s just the pastoral and priest aspects that are restricted.

            I don’t claim to know all the reasons why. It might be the church will change on the pastor issue, especially as many protestant pastors seem to be more once-a-week teachers with a side order of social work. The priest thing I don’t think will ever change because that’s bound up with representing Christ in a mystical way I can’t really explain or get. But we have to use scripture and tradition as guides, and have a good reason why to change. We can’t just say “oh, we are lagging behind the secular world and we need to catch up.”

            • Why would you think that God would call women to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers and Judges, all of which carry tremendous authority and think that God doesn’t call women to be pastors, a ministry of lessor area of responsibility. As well, why would God call this important ministry a name, shepherding, when that is a responsibility that both men and women did in the OT.

              There actually is no Biblical ministry of priest. Priest vanished when the Levitical priesthood died out, which began to die out after the temple veil was torn at Jesus’ death. We have our high priest, Jesus. And we all are a priesthood of believers.

              All these reasons you speak of are just men’s reasonings. There is no real Biblical mandate. Can’t be. Or God would be disagreeing with Himself.

              • The pastor is different because it is the only position that has direct spiritual authority over other people. Teachers are indirect-they cannot ban a person from the local church due to immorality or discipline. I think the verses boil down to it being dangerous that women have direct spiritual authority over men. I’d be pressed to explain why in fifty words or less though.

                I agree with you on priests, and I only mention it because it adds a wrinkle to the debate.

                You have to reason from the fact of Scripture first. In the end, interpretation will always play a role. However, one can reason from secular premises a little too easily these days. Even Christians.

                • In the OT the Prophet was the most authoritative ministry over Israel, then the Judge and the High Priest. Women were prophets, some very authoritative. There was at least one Judge over Israel. Numbers don’t matter. Scripturally, there is no good reason to interpret any verse as God changing His mind in the New Covenant about women and favoring men in teaching or in leading.

                  ” it being dangerous that women have direct spiritual authority over men.”

                  It seems that Jesus considers it ungodly for anyone to have direct spiritual authority over anyone. Only God has spiritual authority over us.

                  Matt. 20:24-28

                  25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. 26 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. 27 And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

        • Eric Boersma

          A good example is male elementary school teachers. They only make up 16-18% of all teachers in middle school, and are virtually extinct in kindergarden.

          The distinction here (and it’s an important one) is that there’s nobody preaching that if a man gets a job as a preschool teacher, he and anyone who supports him are denying God and going to Hell.

          Structural sexism is an issue in our society, but it’s more of an issue within our churches because according to those same churches, the stakes are significantly higher than learning to count or read.

          • Where has anyone here said that? I’ve yet to see anyone claim egaliltarians are going to hell over that belief. Often people worry about progressives mostly because they seem to toss core aspects of the faith out like Jesus’s existence, but I know plenty of egalitarian conservative Christians and it’s stupid to think this issue damns a person to hell.

            As for structural sexism, well, we already have plenty of denominations that ordain women, often enthusiastically so. If the goal is to help women reach potential, you can point them to a denomination far easier than you can try to change people against their will. If there truly is enough demand, over time the opposite position becomes marginalized anyways. Trying to force-educate and disrupt other churches to me signals that it’s more about ideological control than any real desire for women to be ordained.

            • Eric Boersma

              Where has anyone here said that?

              Russel Snow on the “Schism” thread said that if a woman joins the church but is unable to work within the confines of a complementarian viewpoint, she wasn’t really a convert to Christianity at all.

              • Then he’s wrong. He doesn’t reflect the mainstream, and I’ve never heard people say this in large quantities.

                • Eric Boersma

                  So on the one side we now have that No True Christian would hold an egalitarian viewpoint, and on the other, we have that No True Christian would say that an egalitarian viewpoint makes you unchristian.

                  He doesn’t reflect the mainstream,

                  I think you’re wrong, but if you wouldn’t mind: what does define the mainstream? “You’re not going to hell, but you can’t really love Jesus if you don’t submit to your husband”? “Men are weak animals and thus cannot be expected to control their lust so women need to never wear anything that could cause a man to stumble”? “It’s OK for you to help with children or teach women’s classes, but if you wanted to give a message on Sunday, that would put our church straight on the path to Satan”?

                  • What defines the mainstream is how many people say and believe a thing. I do not see large numbers of complementarians damning people to hell over not forming that belief or making it a core doctrine of Christian faith. It’s not “No true Christian” because I’m saying he’s wrong, not that he’s not a Christian or complementarian for holding it. He just doesn’t represent the mood of most people when they discuss it.

                    If you mean what defines mainstream comp thought, it’s “Men and women are equal under law, but each have different abilities, roles, and strengths due to their gender and it’s futile to assume they are interchangeable.” Christians believe these differences are made in us by God.

                    • Eric Boersma

                      “Men and women are equal under law, but each have different abilities, roles, and strengths due to their gender and it’s futile to assume they are interchangeable.”

                      If that were all complementarians believed, I would have no bone to pick with them. I’m both a feminist and an egalitarian and I believe that statement there. If I believed that men and women were interchangeable, I wouldn’t think that we as a Church would benefit from more female voices at all levels of the institution.

                      The problem I have with complementarian teachings is that what you’ve stated is then used to justify the treatment of women not as “not interchangeable” but as inferior. Going from “A man does not provide the same things as a woman” to “Therefore, a woman cannot be useful within certain environments, like leading a household or a church” is sexist and does real damage to real people.

                      Feminism (and other forms of advocacy for diversity) doesn’t suggest that people are all the same, but rather that the differences we bring to the table, especially within the church, isn’t materially damaging to the ability of that person to be used within any role God chooses for them, including leadership. Those differences are considered valuable — by increasing the variety of voices that are brought to the table and not only allowed but encouraged to speak and teach and lead, we draw attention to the huge variety of ways that God works in our world and subsequently, by seeing that “someone like me” (whoever me is in this situation) is not only capable of but encouraged to lead in this church, it draws more members with more to offer to the church. It’s a cycle that builds on itself.

  • Tony, I continue to be impressed by your dialogue. You stated a strong position, but have shown a willingness to reconsider, to add more information, to become more aware, and to raise other voices. I am so thankful for the humble way in which you have dealt with this becoming viral, and look forward to your continuing thoughts and responses to it.

  • Lynn

    “There are, indeed, voices out there who keep saying that allies on any number of social issues should shut the hell up and do only one thing: make room for the marginalized voices.” Well, I hope you understand that wasn’t what I was trying to say. There’s a difference between questioning whether the call to action and the prescribing of action is best lead by a man or woman, vs saying allies should ONLY make room for marginalized voices. I love it when allies speak from their perspective. I just question whether they are the best ones to lead a women’s movement when it comes time to actually, you know, move. Best to you.

  • When you said “Friends matter,” I was hoping it was a reference to your Quaker pals across the world. ALAS.