A Complementarian in Canada

I mentioned in my last post Rev David Short, Rector of of St John’s, Shaughnessy, Vancouver, and a leading member of the Anglican Network in Canada which is breaking away from the official Anglican Church of Canada. He came to Vancouver from Australia, the conservative Sydney diocese. His church is, I am told, the largest Anglican congregation in Canada, and its financial contribution, expected to be 10% of the parish income, will no doubt be important to the Network.

A reader has pointed out to me that Short holds a complementarian position and, contrary to the rules of the Anglican Church of Canada, opposes the ordination of women. This has also been mentioned in comments here, and looks like being a tricky issue for the Network. As evidence for this, I was sent a link to some of Short’s sermons, with a recommendation of the (29 minute) sermon Prime Rib on Genesis 2:18-25, from 19th October 2006, which I listened to and made a few notes on.

I must say I was pleasantly surprised by this sermon. Yes, Short is complementarian, but this is the relatively acceptable face of complementarianism. He states clearly the fundamental equality of men and women:

“helper” is most often used in the Old Testament to refer to God … there is no implication of superiority or inferiority … a helper who is Adam’s equal … just as much the image of God as him

Indeed. He does go on to mention

the equality of woman and the difference … The text says that she is different

but he does not explain this difference.

But when Short moves on to the New Testament application of his Old Testament passage he shows his complementarianism, although not in a strong form:

The New Testament sees Genesis 2 as teaching male headship within marriage … Both parties are called upon to raise up the other person by choosing to serve the other person.

But he gives no clear explanation of what headship means in this situation of reciprocal service.

Short’s most controversial point is this:

Headship must be demonstrated in the local congregation, 1 Corinthians 11:3 … Within the local congregation a woman should not take preaching headship.

But Short’s logic is confused here. He notes that in 1 Corinthians 11:5 Paul allows women to prophesy, which he takes as equivalent to preaching, but that in 1 Timothy 2:12 he does not allow women to exercise authority “within the church at Ephesus”. Logically the conclusion he can properly draw from this apparent contradiction is that the rule in 1 Timothy is a culturally relative one which applies in that particular location but not universally. But instead Short seems to set aside what Paul teaches the Corinthians by giving the rule in 1 Timothy priority over it, effectively implying that Paul was breaking his own absolute rule by allowing women to prophesy in Corinth. Or maybe Short holds to the Muslim position that earlier inspired teaching from God can be abrogated by later teaching?

Nevertheless Short’s words “Within the local congregation a woman should not take preaching headship” do seem to imply that he cannot accept the ordained ministry of women. It is presumably to accommodate this kind of position that the Anglican Network in Canada has pledged to

recognize and protect the consciences and “careers” of those who dissent from the ordination of women.

I will not attempt to comment on the rest of Short’s sermon, except to say that it is a good clear exposition of the conservative evangelical position on human sexuality. I was pleased by his affirmation of singleness as an equally valid alternative calling to marriage, such a good contrast to the views of his fellow complementarian Mark Driscoll. Short finishes by pointing out

The great significance of Genesis 2 … [is that it is] a picture of the relationship between Christ and the church.

So, the kind of complementarianism and opposition to ordination of women mentioned by Short will be significant in the Anglican Network in Canada. But to me this is a less significant departure from biblical truth than the full acceptance of homosexuality which the Anglican Church in Canada seems to be moving towards. If I was an Anglican priest in Canada, I would certainly feel very positive about moving towards the Network, although I also respect the views and reasons not to move expressed in a comment here by my friend Tim Chesterton, who is in fact a Canadian evangelical Anglican priest.

Well, I am not a Canadian priest, I am an evangelical lay Anglican in England. But I may well have my own decisions to make within a year or so, and studying what is happening in Canada is helping me to clarify the issues for myself.

0 thoughts on “A Complementarian in Canada

  1. “departure from biblical truth” – Peter – surely no one wants to do this! The acceptance of same-sex marriage by the Canadian parliament was not done solely out of an ‘anything goes’ mentality. It has come about because of the message of the Gospel. The rejection of the same by my fellow Anglicans strikes me as a judgment against Christ himself. I learned a great deal from Harry Robinson at Little Trinity in Toronto in the time of my fear. Harry went to St John’s Shaughnessy later on. I also learned a great deal from Jim Packer from his writing, but they all would disagre with my understanding now. Perhaps in much the same way you and I disagree. I am not in favour of irresponsible behaviour, or inequality in relationship, or exploitation of desire. But I know those whose measure of male and female in God’s image make them different from me – and I respect them. I know two men who are married and who have adopted two orphans – now in their teens. They are raising them with the same difficulties as anyone else has raising children. Those children would not know love were it not for these men. Good laws are not made by our prejudice, whatever level of discomfort we may think we have. Our discomfort often shows our own fear, or only our own need to be seen as right. There are many homosexuals who have paid the ultimate price for their tenderness. Their murderers were not justified in their actions. For me, this issue is one of justice – as such it highlights the first world’s disease but not in the way that is usually thought.

    I will not be following any of these break-away leaders. Of course, God knows I am a rebellious fellow anyway following my own impulses, passionate about psalms and stuff – but my rebellion is thoroughly in the arms of the Good Shepherd. Perhaps you will wonder how I could possibly accept same-sex tenderness and mutual commitment of such companionship. Maybe you think He will get me to change my mind (again). He won’t. He cannot be unfaithful to himself.

    I am still waiting for the conservatives to argue from the truth. They don’t because they know, if they know anything, that it cuts both ways.

  2. Bob, we will indeed disagree. I consider “gay marriage” to be better than unrestricted homosexual relationships, and have written about this. But I cannot accept that it is right because of the explicit biblical prohibitions of homosexual acts, which for me must have priority over any liberal reinterpretation of “the message of the Gospel” which in fact very often denies the central points of this message.

    There are many homosexuals who have paid the ultimate price for their tenderness. Their murderers were not justified in their actions.

    I entirely agree with you on this point, and am hurt that you even hint that I am not. But:

    Those children would not know love were it not for these men.

    This is nonsense! At least in the UK, there are plenty of heterosexual couples waiting to adopt children, but not enough children to go around because there are so many abortions. These children need the love of a mother and of a father, and because these two men have adopted them they have been permanently deprived of a mother.

    I am still waiting for the conservatives to argue from the truth.

    You obviously haven’t been reading the right articles. Try this one, in which Packer argues this issue on the basis of the truth of the Word of God as he understands it. You have also read my arguments on this matter.

  3. Ahh Peter, we agreed briefly, but I have to say that “gay marriage” is an oxymoron.

    (Back to agreement) The concept that having two fathers (or mothers) as soul parents is, or ever can be, a good or exceptable thing is likewise an oxymoron and an affront to God.

    Over the years I have known several gay couples as friends and without exception they would go out together to find young people to take to bed.
    Gay couples who remain truly monogamous are the exception that proves the rule, but even those rare few who remain monogamous are still going against the clear teaching of Scripture and
    Gods created design.

    It is God himself who singles out sexual sin as being somehow ‘worse’ than other sins (in regard to Christians)

    As regards adoption it is a sad fact that there are many heterosexual couples who are denied the opportunity to provide a good home because of their age or because they earn too much or they are not the right colour.
    In a least one recent scenario a gay couple were convicted of abuse and the relevant authorities admitted that they had gone unchallenged for some time because of a fear of the backlash if they challenged a gay couple.

  4. “Both parties are called upon to raise up the other person by choosing to serve the other person.” – surely this is a classic egalitarian marriage. If you believe in complementarian (and I do hold to a moderate form of this), surely you need a better working model than this.

  5. Peter wrote:

    Yes, Short is complementarian, but this is the relatively acceptable face of complementarianism. He states clearly the fundamental equality of men and women:

    As I understand it, the fundamental equality of men and women is an integral part of complementarian views.

  6. In principle, Pete. But many complementarians argue that “helper” in Genesis 2:18,20 implies a lower status for the woman, even from her creation and pre-fall, a position Short denies. Also complementarians would generally deny that the husband should serve the wife, and that 1 Corinthians 11:5 teaches that women should be allowed to preach. These three concessions completely undermine the complementarian argument for women taking a secondary place in home or church, although they may support her taking a different but equal role. Short only holds on to anything really objectionable with his inconsistent exegesis of 1 Timothy 2.

  7. Thanks Peter.

    Again, I think you’re possibly misunderstanding the complementarian position (or have been subjected to bad versions of it).

    Whatever else ‘helper’ means it surely means something to do with helping. This implies difference in role, not of course in worth or value (since God is described as a helper too). I’m confused as to which of these you’re referring to by status, since that word could be used either way. All complementarians (to my knowledge) believe that christian women are fellow-heirs with christian men of the one hope. You don’t get more equal in status than that.

    Also, I don’t think complementarians deny that the husband should serve the wife. Quite clearly he should, moreover, he should love his wife. I think the debate is over submission and leadership. And of course, leadership and service, properly understood, are not incompatible. I understand the complementarian position to be arguing that the husband should provide servant leadership within the marriage, to which leadership the wife should submit (in the Lord!).

    Again, your language of ‘secondary place’ is unhelpful, since it could imply a value judgment that in actual fact complementarians would want to avoid.

  8. Pete, the complementarianism I am describing is mostly based on the works of Wayne Grudem et al associated with CBMW. This has been discussed at blogs like Complegalitarian. I don’t know what other variety you follow. Perhaps you can suggest some authors offering a different complementarian position.

    Grudem et al explicitly teach that “helper” in Genesis 2 implies a lower status for women. Short denies this. Grudem denies that husbands and wives should submit to one another in mutual service. Short disagrees. Grudem teaches that women should not preach. Short finds that the Bible contradicts this – but goes with Grudem’s teaching rather than what he finds in the Bible.

    christian women are fellow-heirs with christian men of the one hope. You don’t get more equal in status than that.

    Yes, you do. A promise of equality in heaven plus blatant inequality in this life is certainly less equal in status than equality now and for eternity. The gospel promises the latter. Men have stolen the “now” part of this from women. We must give it back.

    What the **** is “servant leadership” supposed to mean? What kind of “service” is it for a man to decide for his wife what she should do and expect her to submit to it? That is not service, that is tyranny! If that is what Short means by saying that a husband should serve his wife, he means the opposite of what he says. But I prefer to believe that he means what he says, that husbands should serve their wives by doing what their wives want them to do.

    Yes, I know complementarians try to avoid “secondary place” type value judgments. In doing so they are being dishonest. They insist that women must take a secondary place in practice, of submission and being denied leadership, and then try to deny what they are actually saying. I’m sorry, this is dishonesty. I don’t usually put things quite so bluntly, but perhaps I can shock you into seeing what is really happening here.

  9. Pete,

    If ezer were translated by ally, or “sustainer beside him”, it might be more clear that man and woman should be this to each other. Obviously it is not a subordinate or auxiliary position, but it has been called second in command.

    The most serious problem is that this interpretation means women devote equal skill, training and talent to projects initiated by men. A woman doesn’t create her own project or respond to God’s call to her. If she is musical, she can play the piano for her husband, if she is not musical, she can turn the pages for him. Nobody cares that she was born to be a surgeon, she must be a suitable helper for her husband. You understand that I am speaking metaphorically here.

    But why do men want women who are equal to them to turn the pages for them. Almost half will end up divorced anyway, and then look back on 30 years of building their husbands career, something they have no talent for probably. Besides callouses on their fingers from turning the pages.

    Where does it say that men get to choose what to do in life and women are their social secretaries, envelope stufffer or whatever kind of girl friday is needed.

    I personally don’t believe in people being a little bit complementarian. Either you treat women as equals or you don’t.

    Some people believe their pets will go to heaven. I think that was C.S. Lewis. So, if complementarians are proud of believing women are equal heirs of life in heaven, I think I would prefer to be one of C.S. Lewis’ cats. He said that he served his cat by letting it in and out of the house whenever it wanted. That is a better life than some women have.

  10. Peter – do not be hurt. I do not impute anything to you but the gentleness you have in your title. Nonetheless, I don’t think you saw my image. The bludgeoned gay teenager is despised and rejected even as our Lord was. When I say – reason from the truth – I do not mean reason from written law but from the Law of the Spirit of life that is in Christ Jesus. We are not under Law but under grace. And some laws we read wrongly. Some Laws were not good laws and should not be read as binding today. I think this principle is clear from Romans 8.

  11. Bob, I take your point. Some Old Testament laws were effectively repealed in the New Testament. But it seems perverse to appeal to Romans 8 in an attempt to prove that Romans 1 is not valid.

  12. Peter. I suspect we are talking at cross purposes about the word ‘status’. I’ll go have a look at Grudem etc. to see how they use it. Perhaps I have misread them and infact my position is different from theirs.

    I would want to distinguish status/value/worth from role. Just as the pastor in a church is not more valuable/does not have a higher ‘status’ than the flock, so too differentiation of role within a marriage need not be incompatible with equality of status either before God or within the covenant community.

    Tyranny is only when someone exercises leadership or authority illegitimately, say be exercising authority one doesn’t have, or exercising authority one does have in a sinful or illegitimate way. All authority is ultimately God-given and therefore must be done in the ways that he prescribes. I take it therefore that Jesus’ model of servant leadership is the model for all of life. To lead in such a way as has the best interests of those led at heart, that shows them love, etc. etc. is not tyrannical. So if one believes God has given leadership to the husband, and has prescribed how that should be done, then it is not tyrannical for husbands to exercise that leadership at all. Rather, it is their responsibility to exercise it, and do so in the way that God commands.

    Suzanne, thank you for your comments on ‘helper.’ I obviously need to think a lot more about it. I take it that the woman is given as a helper in Adam’s task of exercising dominion over the whole earth. I’m therefore not sure whether this means women can’t initiate their own cultural/social/economic/political activities, I’d be reluctant to say so. I’d also be reluctant to base a complementarian position just on the basis of ‘helper’ in Genesis 2. I think Genesis does, however, fit into a whole bible picture of differing roles for men and women in marriages and in church life. There is some significance in the fact that Adam was created first, though I obviously want to be very careful here, with this being such a sensitive issue and one which affects so many people in so many ways.

  13. Pete, if you don’t like “status” as a word to describe the position of a pastor relative to his (or her!) flock or a husband relative to his wife, then what word would you use? Do you accept that the pastor has some kind of unreciprocated authority over the flock, and the husband over the wife? What word would you accept here? I’m sorry, but it is logically certain that if one person has authority over another which is not reciprocated, there is some real sense in which one is above the other in the pecking order, all we need to do is find the right word for this.

    Do you consider a master to have a higher status, or position in the pecking order, than a slave, or a general than an ordinary soldier? Or are they just different roles? Would you tell the slave or the ordinary soldier that they have nothing to complain about because they have the same status as the master or the general? But at least slaves have the possibility of buying their freedom, and ordinary soldiers of rising through the ranks. If the pastor is in the position of the master or the general, and more so because the other, the woman in his congregation, is not even allowed the possibility in principle of reaching his position, then it is simply a lie for him to tell her that her status is the same as his. The same for husbands and wives.

    And that applies however good and loving the master, general or pastor is, even if the master exercises perfect “servant leadership”. In the 19th century Christians realised that slavery was wrong not just because some masters were cruel, but in principle. It doesn’t have to be tyranny for it to be wrong. The same is true of the authority of pastors over women in their churches, and for husbands over wives.

    if one believes God has given leadership to the husband

    If this is your faith position, I cannot go against it. But it is not a position properly derived from the Bible. If you are relying on “head” in 1 Corinthians 11:3, then you need to look at the long discussions on various blogs recently about the meaning of this word.

  14. Thanks Peter

    I wouldn’t want to build a case merely on one word in one passage. I think male leadership within marriage is testified to in a variety of places and in a variety of ways, including in 1 Corinthians 11 and Ephesians 5. I wouldn’t reduce ‘head’ in those passages to simply ‘one with leadership’ but I think considered in context it includes those kind of ideas.

    I think I understand better your use of ‘status’ now, Thanks for that. I don’t think I necessarily have a problem with it if means ‘position in an authority structure’ type ideas.

    I don’t think that it is the ability of the led to supplant the leader which makes the leader’s authority not wrong. Surely it is the God-appointedness of any leadership role (in any area of life) which makes such authority legitimate.

  15. Sorry, ‘supplant’ is not the right word above, I’m trying to describe the idea in your own comment of ‘the possibility in principle of reaching his position’. ‘Supplant’ is totally not the right word. 🙂

  16. Thanks, Pete. Perhaps “rank” might be a less ambiguous word than “status”, although I would be worried about a pastor who considered himself or herself to outrank the flock or have military style authority and discipline over them – and all the more so if a marriage worked like this.

    So, to go back to the original issues, I see Short as saying that Eve as “helper” was of the same rank as Adam, although with different responsibilities, and that the same can and should apply to marriage.

    I agree that the concept you tried to express with “supplant” is not the key one. Within God’s kingdom and the church, the only authority and leadership which counts is that appointed by God. Where we differ is that I allow God to appoint women to whatever position he chooses!

  17. Peter – Romans 1 is valid. But it is not a moral statement. My anti-spam word is Maskil – so I need more than skill here. Romans 1 is paired with Romans 14 in the rhetorical structure. “Who are you to judge your brother!” or “I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean of itself but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean” or Romans 15:1 “But let those who are strong bear with the failings of the weak.” But I say: let not those whose strength is in their own interpretation of God think that they are the strong – perhaps they are only the coercive. And let not those who are weak say – God dealt me a hand I cannot play – for they in their weakness must also crucify their unplayable hand. God does not make the new creation in my image.

  18. Bob, I see your point about different groups bearing with one another and leaving God to judge. Perhaps we should indeed allow the wheat and the tares to grow up together in the church, for God to sort out at the final judgment. If that were the only issue, I would not advocate separation from any church. The problem comes when others in the church try to use coercion on me against my conscience, e.g. by forcing me to accept the ministry of practising homosexuals. If Romans 14 is to be a rule for one side, it needs to be accepted also by the other side.

    On the other hand, 1 Corinthians 5-6 show that Paul did not take the principles of Romans 14 to imply allowing gross immorality within the church – and in that same passage he listed homosexuality as one form of this gross immorality.

  19. Pete,

    Why does not one ever discuss the only mention of authority in marriage, 1 Cor. 7 which is mutual and reciprocal? When so much of the teaching regarding how Christians treat each other is supposed to be reciprocal, as brothers and sisters, and the sexual relationship is supposed to be mutual. Why is all that abrogated, why does reciprocity become a throwaway?

    Since there is at least equal mention of reciprocity, and there is no clear statement that head means authority, there is no command for the husband to be an authority, there is no reason why one adult needs to be an authority over another, there is no Christian ideal that if there were two people on earth they should live ina an authority – submission relationship to best demonstrate either paradise or the Christian ideal. In fact, Christ’s command it to love your neighbour as yourself, which clearly goes entirely against the notion that one person is for this and the other person is for that, why do men only want authority in marriage? Why do they sacrifice all other Christian ideals for authority? Secular society seeks to protect the vulnerable from authority initiated sexual and intimate relationships, but no one realizes how badly Christian women need to be protected from authoritarian husbands.

  20. I agree with you, Suzanne. Just one point:

    why do men only want authority in marriage?

    This is not at all true of all men. Indeed I think most men in the modern world do not expect authority in marriage. Even among those seeking a Christian marriage, here in the UK, the great majority of couples choose to omit the optional word “obey” from their marriage vows. Most marriages are deliberately egalitarian, a situation at least accepted and probably preferred by most men.

    It is only within certain conservative Christian circles that some men are clinging to the old patriarchal model, or to part of it repackaged as “complementarian”. They are only doing that because some preachers are misleading them into thinking that that is what the Bible requires.

  21. So Peter, do you think Paul is inconsistent in his own thinking? Why shift to the wheat and tares image when Paul is talking about the weak and the strong – both of whom are in the covenant? Why shift to two words in 1 Corinthians when we are talking about Romans?

    The gate is narrow – and few find it.

  22. why do men only want authority in marriage?

    I most certainly should have said “some” or “these” men, but truly I think those who believe it do so because they want to. It is not simply that it is preached. It is much harder to convince some people that they shouldn’t watch sports on TV on the Sabbath, for example. There is a real group formed around male authority, so it must be something that is appealing to some people. Especially when all the rhetoric around male and female differences has no origin in scripture. Really, you cant blame this stuff on people wanting to be biblical.

  23. Bob asked:

    Why shift to two words in 1 Corinthians when we are talking about Romans?

    Precisely because I do not believe that Paul is being inconsistent. He is consistent in both Romans and 1 Corinthians in utterly condemning what he sees as immorality, including heterosexual and homosexual activity outside marriage, and insisting that liberty must be allowed in secondary matters such as eating food sacrificed to idols. It is you who are attempting to make him inconsistent by trying to apply his rules for non-moral matters to what he clearly sees as gross immorality.

  24. Thanks Peter – I think you are failing to distinguish things that are different. In spite of my words in this conversation, I understand that you insist that I am departing from Biblical truth and encouraging gross immorality.

  25. Bob, I don’t quite see you as “encouraging gross immorality”. But I do think that was Paul’s view of homosexuality. Now as Christians we are not obliged to agree with all of his culturally determined positions, only with the explicit teaching he gives in the Bible.

    But I am puzzled by your words “I think you are failing to distinguish things that are different.” What different things do you think I fail to distinguish? Two different Pauls, one who wrote Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6 and another who wrote Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8? That would be ridiculous!

  26. Suzanne

    Men often don’t want authority in marriage. In fact, many men abrogate their God-given responsibilities of leadership.

    Complementarianism doesn’t deny the mutuality of sexual relations within marriage as outlined in 1 Corinthians 7.

    I think our basic disagreement comes from our different readings of certain passages in the bible. So I obviously don’t agree that there’s no clear statement of male leadership within marriage. We are, if you like, arguing from two very different perspectives.

    Neither does complementarianism sacrifice all other christian ideals for authority. The kind of leadership the husband is to exercise is loving, serving, self-giving, considerate, kind, gentle, peace-seeking and so on.

    This of course, in no way excuses abuses of leadership which we all know have gone on and do go on in marriage. Manipulation, brutality, selfishness etc. are obviously wrong, and are excluded from the form of leadership God requires of husbands.

  27. Pete,

    You simply assume that there is God-given male leadership in marriage. This is an amost entirely useless concept to most women. Half of women my age are single and not through choice. Of the ones that are still married, one has a husband who completely lost his memory through a stroke, another, husband also disapled, another, husband unemployed, and so on.

    Of the women I know well, one in five have been brutally beaten by their husbands. These husbands ranged from non-Christian to minister in a congregationalist church.

    Really what women need is a little respect for the fact that they work hard, support their families, and have a least as many brains and as much leadership skill as men. We need to be treated as equals.

    This airy fairy reality of what men should be is a bunch of hooey. We live in a real world of real men and women. Men are never going to be perfect. Why do we have a responsible government? Why can we particpate in government and vote. Because power corrupts.

    Most women will experience men as equally human, seriously flawed, as are women, vulnerable to illness and needing financial support at some time in their life, or violent.

    Most women will have to take care of themselves and their families. Thank goodness my mother told me to get a good profession and learn how to take care of myself. Most women will never have a chance to experience all those lovely things you mention. So if we want a Christianity for the real world of women, let’s talk about a women being all the things men are supposed to be – providers, protectors of their children, moral leaders and strong independent people. Then, if a decent man comes along, who treats a women as an equal, so much the better. It is not that I don’t like men – but I am not holding my breath.

  28. Complementarianism doesn’t deny the mutuality of sexual relations within marriage as outlined in 1 Corinthians 7.

    It does, however, leave a woman with absolutely no moral authority and no recourse if he husband fails miserably to love her as Christ loves the church.

    Part of the dynamic of any relationship where there is spouse-abuse is that the abused person believes that the abuse is her or his fault. Teaching male headship sets a woman up for this thinking beautifully. She’s been socialised from birth to believe that obedience to men is her God-given duty. She may even think that God will not have anything to do with her if she does not put up with abuse.

    Further, part of the pattern of spousal abuse is that the abuser is almost always genuinely repentant after an attack. It’s an escalating spiral of abuse, remorse, greater abuse, greater remorse.

    Where do you think that a woman raised from birth under male headship gets the moral courage and social support to go against the teaching that God wants her submit in all things to her husband and that God wants us always and everywhere to forgive?

    I grew up in a male headship church. Just FYI before I’m told that I know not of what I speak.

  29. Pam,

    I too have had a little more male headship than I know what to do with. Women need to be brought up with a stronger sense of their own authority and a great deal less sense of male authority.

  30. Bob, theft and murder are different, but they are both condemned in the Ten Commandments and both wrong. Similarly, a homosexual relationship in love is different from a relationship of whatever kind in violence. That doesn’t mean that they are not both wrong, and clearly condemned as such in the Bible.

  31. Suzanne, thanks for your reply.

    I’m not really sure how worthwhile this conversation is proving to be. I don’t know you, or your specific experiences or circumstances, and i suspect that whatever I say to try and distinguish a complementarian perspective from the abuse of it will be open to misunderstanding. And, on top of that, i don’t think this forum is a great place for me to set out why, exegetically and theologically, as far as I can see I am not just assuming that there is God-given male leadership as you have charged me with. I have already told you that i think the problem is our different reading/interpretation of various texts, at this juncture I can’t really do much more than that.

    Pam, thanks for your comment.

    I don’t think complementarianism leaves women with no recourse, for many many reasons, not least of which is that the authority of the husband is not absolute in any way, and that the marriage is itself to be under the guidance, leadership, teaching and discipline of the church. I believe in leadership in all spheres of life that is accountable.

    Forgiveness does not rule out someone being subject to discipline and punishment for their own good and the good of others. also, submitting is constrained by a whole truck-load of biblical data and commandments. We don’t necessarily have to submit to a tyrant, and for example we shouldn’t when our lives are at risk, or the lives of others. all leadership retains its legitimacy only as far as it is conformed to God’s standards for that leadership.

  32. I don’t think complementarianism leaves women with no recourse, for many many reasons, not least of which is that the authority of the husband is not absolute in any way, and that the marriage is itself to be under the guidance, leadership, teaching and discipline of the church. I believe in leadership in all spheres of life that is accountable.

    The very practical problem here is that your ideal of complimentarianism requires men to behave in an absolutely sinless way. It creates homes where women are not able to stand up for what is wrong because they have the impression that God wants them to tolerate abuse.

    It’s really important to understand that raising daughters from birth to always defer to male authority is not going to provide them with the wherewithall to say ‘my husband is beating me senseless’.

    The whole ‘ontologically equal but functionally different’ thing is bogus. How do you explain that to a three year old girl? You don’t. You tell her that God wants mummy to obey daddy and that God wants her to obey her husband when she gets married.

    And finally, how do you ensure that the men in your church don’t close ranks around good old shy and retiring Wilbur who is really, really sorry for what he did? Is your church going to support the idea that it might be too much to ask a wife to come back to her husband after years of violence? (Often it’s not until a woman has been severely injured that she decides to leave.) Is your church going to support the idea that Wilbur needs long-term professional help before he ever tries to form a relationship with a woman again? (A friend found out by ‘accident’ that her ex husband was also beating his new wife to the point of hospitalisation.)

    Suzanne said: I too have had a little more male headship than I know what to do with.

    Which, of course, means we don’t know whereof we speak.

  33. Pete and Pam, for an example, hopefully an extreme one, of the kind of issues which arise when there are difficulties in a “complementarian” marriage, see this horrifying series about how Doug Phillips of Vision Forum dealt with one such situation. Thanks to commenter Charis for the link.

  34. Pete,

    As ;ong as men who tout male authority realize that they are giving women who are victims of male violence post traumatic stress then that’s okay. I am not saying that men or males cause stress to abused women. I am saying that the teaching that God invests authority in maleness triggers pain in victims of abuse. So as long as male authority men realize that this is the ongoing cost of their belief, and that their brand of Christianity is not for all women then what can I say.

    I wish that someone had written a whoetruck load of biblical data into the marriage contract becasue the vow of obedience certainly make is open season on the wife.

    Do you really think that it is helpful to tell a woman that for example she doesn’t have to submit if her life is at risk. Don’t you think that giving women the notion that they should endure everything short of that is a little callous.

    To tell you the truth, it is the callousness of complementarians in general, investing authority in one sinful human being over another and teaching that this is what Christ wanted, everybody on earth living in a male hierarchy, that just boggles my mind.

    Male authority just doesn’t seem like a very Christian thing at all to some women.

  35. Suzanne, thanks.

    My comments were not intended to imply that women ‘should endure everything’ short of when their life is at risk. You read that in to my words. I used that as an example, not an exhaustive list, nor a boundary marker, of the limitation which I believe the bible puts on all kinds of authority. I believe there are many many more things that should be said on that, and even then, there’s considerable room for decision-making on a case by case basis.

    I am sorry if you do feel I am being callous, and I’d suggest that were we having this conversation in a different context, and in person, you’d feel differently despite our obviously strong disagreement.

    Your language, passion (which I respect) and tone in your previous post confirms my prior decision toend at least my part of our discussion here. I fear going on will only lead to further misunderstanding, and possibly hurt.

    I feel this especially strongly as I’m aware of the dynamics of me (a man) discussing this sort of thing with a woman, and all that outside of the context of a ‘face to face’ relationship. It just doesn’t seem to be a wise and sensitive move on my part.

    Pam, thanks again.

    I’m still pretty convinced that the examples you cite are illustrations of the abuse of complementarianism. I disagree that it requires men to be perfect for it to work. As I’ve said above, I do believe there can and should be considerable accountability. All leadership can be abused. I see this as no reason to abandon leadership in and of itself.

    This also goes for the terrible (and no doubt, all too frequent) scenario you describe of a church where discipline has broken down and ‘Wilbur’ does not get the correction, punishment and help he needs. Of course I’d support the idea that someone who has committed violent abuse should be given trained help so as to prevent the violence from rearing its head in the future. I fail to see how that conflicts with a complementarian position.

    I don’t take ‘submission’ to mean absolute passivity. It does not rule out discussion, joint-decision-making, independent initiatives, disagreement, and of course is only required within the boundaries I’ve already hinted at (but not exhaustively outlined) with regard to the abuse of authority. I don’t believe complementarianism does involve bringing people up to yield unquestioning obedience, I don’t think the bible, or the marriage vow, entails that.

    And complementarianism means bringing men up to be loving, considerate, Christ-like servants. Of course they won’t be perfect, but neither need they be abusive controlling brutes.

    I hope that helps in some way, at least in explaining a little more where I’m coming from even if you still think I’m wrong.

    I won’t be in a position to visit this site again over the weekend.

  36. I’m still pretty convinced that the examples you cite are illustrations of the abuse of complementarianism.

    I agree with you.

    The problem is that complimentarianism has no way to stop itself being abused. At the end of the day, rule-based ways of living don’t work because human beings are sinful.

    don’t take ’submission’ to mean absolute passivity.

    But passivity is what happens when you socialise little girls in this way.

    And it takes much healing work as an adult woman to begin to believe that God sees adult women as being of equal worth to adult men. (I hope, at the very least, that complimentarianism has solved this issue of worth over and above male-headship, even though it still seems like a hair-splitting distinction to me.)

    And complementarianism means bringing men up to be loving, considerate, Christ-like servants.

    Yes, of course it does. But the ‘accountablity’ they are under by like-minded men who do not actually have to live with them day-to-day is much different than the actual, real accountability of a wife who believes in herself that she is worth being loved and considered.

  37. Pingback: Gentle Wisdom » Packer leaves the Anglican Church of Canada

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To prove you're a person (not a spam script), type the security word shown in the picture. Click on the picture to hear an audio file of the word.
Anti-spam image