Guest Post: An Introduction to the Roles of Men and Women in the Church and Family
By Andrew Linderer
The issue of men and women in the church seems to be a ticking time bomb in the modern American church. It has enormous potential to split churches, break up families, and leave people broken and confused. It’s a heated debate and often one that brings about a certain degree of petty name calling and childish behavior among educated Christian scholars and layman alike. (Hopefully we can avoid such childishness in the comment section of this blog)
My goal here is not to give a detailed explanation of both sides and then argue for the side that I find the most compelling. This is a brief guest posting and I am not naïve enough to think I could persuade you in 1500 words or less. Rather, it will be my goal to introduce the topic as simply and briefly as possible, in order to initiate dialogue and get the ball rolling on what I hope will be an enlightening discussion no matter which side of the fence you may fall on.
For those of you who are new to the debate I will give a brief overview here to catch you up. Basically the dispute springs from the question of the roles of both men and women in church and in marriage. Difficulty arises based on differing interpretations of several key passages and interpreters usually end up affirming 2 of the following 4 views.
The first view, referred to in scholarly circles as complementarianism, is that women are forbidden from holding a leadership or teaching role over men in the church. This view is based partly on the creative order but relies more heavily on 1 Timothy 2:9-15 where Paul writes, “I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man.”
The second view (egalitarianism) is quite the opposite. Proponents of this view often claim that Paul’s command to Timothy is culturally bound and specific to the church in Ephesus and is therefore not binding for the modern Christian. Verses like Galatians 3:28 and others are cited to argue for the equality of men and women in all areas of life but more specifically and for our purposes, in church leadership.
Obviously these first two views are way more complex than my brief synopsis but due to the concise nature of a blog post, this is all I have space for.
The third and forth views are extensions of the first two views even though some people may think it ridiculous to divide them into separate categories. My reason for doing so is practical in nature. The first two views described, deal specifically with the nature of women and leadership in the local church. The second two, deal with the roles of both men and women in marriage. While those who hold to complementarianism in the church tend to hold to complementarianism in the home as well, it is not always so. The same goes for those who hold to egalitarianism in the church.
With that in mind, the third view I’d like to put forth is complementarian marriage. Proponents of this view argue based on Ephesians 5:22-33 that women should submit to what they call the “headship” of their husband. This view of marriage is based on the idea that the man of the house has been given authority by God and is relied on heavily for the spiritual leadership of the home. The wife’s role is to support him in that endeavor. She is called to compliment her husband, to be submissive and supportive at all times.
Egalitarian marriage is quite different. Proponents of egalitarian marriage see the husband and wife as a team that works side-by-side with equal authority and responsibility. Many egalitarians point to Ephesians 5:22-33 and explain that while the wife is called to submit to the husband, the husband is called to sacrifice for the wife; like Christ sacrificed for the church. The balance of submission and sacrifice leads to a relationship where two partners are constantly supporting and encouraging each other.
Entire books have been written on each of these views and it seems almost silly to try and talk about them as concisely as I have but I hope that you will take the time to submit your thoughts and dialogue with me and each other. Let me know where you stand and why. What tips the scale for you? Maybe you haven’t thought about this issue in great detail and you’d like more reading. I’d be more than happy to point you in the direction of authors on varying sides of this debate and/or answer any questions that I can. I will do my best to present each of the views as fairly as possible.
I will ask that you keep your responses Christ-like and encouraging in nature. I have seen Christians get stupid, defensive, argumentative and angry over their view of women in leadership and while I understand the frustration it makes me sad. This issue deals with the requirements of a person’s gender and the conclusions that you draw may or may not disqualify someone from serving in a capacity that they feel called. The tough thing to swallow is that this disqualification, in the case of complementarianism is based on something that a person has absolutely no control over. As we discuss and debate this issue we need to constantly keep the brothers and sisters that we are arguing against in mind and remember that “the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith”(I Tim 1:5). As a wise man once said, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, Charity”.
In regards to women in church leadership, a very real risk is run by taking a stance on either side. If you take the stance of complimentarianism and are in fact wrong, you have impeded God’s work by denying his daughters the ability to exercise their God given talents in your church. If, on the other hand, you take a stance on egalitarianism and are wrong, you have completely disobeyed a command of God and allowed something that He has specifically forbidden. Which is the lesser of two evils? We run the risk of incredible failure on either side of this debate; therefore, we should take this discussion and the scrutiny of relevant passages very seriously. We must do this while constantly remaining humble and encouraging our brothers and sisters as they walk a similar path in search of truth, rather than condemning them or mandating that they arrive at the same conclusions that we have arrived at.
I look forward to hearing your feedback.
About the author: Andrew Linderer is a graduate of Arizona Christian University where he earned his B.S. in Biblical Studies. He is 23 and lives in Phoenix with his wife Jenalee, and one year old daughter Zoe. He is a Youth Pastor, currently serving at Glendale Christian Church. Interests include writing, technology, shooting sports, self defense and cigars. He is currently shopping for graduate schools hoping to start his master’s degree in the fall of 2012. You can visit his personal blog at www.andrewlinderer.blogspot.com.