will the real complementarian please stand up?


Being a kid who grew up in the 50’s and 60’s, I often spent time watching television with my dad. Our Sunday evening ritual included ice cream at the Tastee-Freeze after evening church followed by curling up on the couch together with a large bowl of popcorn to watch game shows on our black and white set.

One of our favorites was To Tell the Truth. The show featured host Bud Collyer and three contestants who would try to stump a celebrity panel who quizzed them. One of the contestants had an unusual profession and had to answer every question truthfully while the other two competed for prize money by attempting to persuade the panel that they were, in reality, the legitimate contender. And everyone waited in great anticipation for Bud to say “Will the real_____please stand up?

The show was hilarious and of course was the most fun when the celebrities were completely fooled by the contestants! Not telling the truth was pretty entertaining and certainly kept audiences coming back for more. In fact, the show actually ran for 25 seasons, reaching into 6 decades!

I couldn’t help but think of this show last week as I read several articles on the definition of the word ‘complementarian.” As recently as the taping of my first series of podcasts on patriarchy and patriocentricity, I would have happily used that term to describe my own views of gender relationships. But I am no longer able to claim this as a word that describes me because none of the definitions fit what I had once been taught to believe it means!  In fact, it seems no one really knows what in the world “complementarian” does mean let alone how it works itself out in everyday life.  Everyone is trying to convince the evangelical world that they are the true complementarians!

Just for fun, let’s look at the “contestants” in this “complementarian” game show:


Contestant Number One: Mary Kassian


In an article on her blog last week, Mary Kassian, author, one of the spokeswomen for John Piper’s True Woman conferences, and part of the committee that penned the Danvers Statement on men and women that many evangelical churches embrace, wrote a piece called Complementarianism for Dummies. Since I have read and followed Mary for more than 2 decades, I was curious to see how she would identify the word “complementarian” today. Since she wrote it for “dummies,” I thought she might help me understand what this label means. (It would have been more helpful if she had left the comments open on her website so we could ask for clarification.) She begins by stating:

“Though the concept of male-female complementarity is present from Genesis through Revelation, the label “complementarian” has only been in use for about 25 years. It was coined by a group of scholars who got together to try and come up with a word to describe someone who ascribes to the historic, biblical idea that male and female are equal, but different.”

Kassian then continues by listing several points where she believes complementarianism is misunderstood today, telling us, on one hand, that the committee who chose the term had considered using both the words “hierarchy” and “patriarchy” but decided their new word was a better choice. In fact, Kassian has this to say about “patriarchy:”  ““Patriarchy” is regarded as a misogynistic system in which women are put down and squelched. That’s why we rejected the term “patriarchalism.” Complementarians stand against the oppression of women. We want to see women flourish, and we believe they do so when men and women live according to God’s Word.”

She also points this out about hierarchy: “Feminist theorists maintain that male-female role differences create an over-under hierarchy in which men, who are like the privileged, elite, French landowners (bourgeois) of the 18th century, keep women—who are like the lower, underprivileged class of workers (proletariat)—subservient. Complementarians do not believe that men, as a group, are ranked higher than women. Men are not superior to women–women are not the “second sex.” Though men have a responsibility to exercise headship in their homes, and in the church family, Christ revolutionized the definition of what that means. Authority is not the right to rule—it’s the responsibility to serve. We rejected the term “hierarchicalism” because people associate it with an inherent, self-proclaimed right to rule.”

In case there is any doubt as to how this is supposed to look in real life, Kassian assures us that the committee never wanted women to emulate any culture from the past:  “In our name-the-concept meeting, someone mentioned the word “traditionalism” since our position is what Christians have traditionally believed. But that was quickly nixed. The word “traditionalism” smacks of “tradition.” Complementarians believe that the Bible’s principles supersede tradition. They can be applied in every time and culture.  June Cleaver is a traditional, American, cultural TV stereotype. She is NOT the complementarian ideal… Culture has changed. What complementarity looks like now is different than what it looked like sixty or seventy years ago. So throw out the cookie-cutter stereotype. It does not apply.”  

Kassian then concludes by saying “If you hear someone tell you that complementarity means you have to get married, have dozens of babies, be a stay-at-home housewife, clean toilets, completely forego a career, chuck your brain, tolerate abuse, watch “Leave it to Beaver” re-runs, bury your gifts, deny your personality, and bobble-head nod “yes” to everything men say, don’t believe her. That’s a straw (wo)man misrepresentation. It’s not complementarianism.”

Hhhhmmmm, so, if we are to believe Mary Kassian, patriarchy, traditionalism, and hierarchy are not to be confused with complementarism. I am wondering if her friend and fellow speaker at TW conferences, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, knows this. Nancy is a big proponent of traditionalism, militant fecundity, and stay-at-home women.  Is Mary Kassian the real complementarian? I am also wondering what our next contestant makes of this!


Contestant Number Two:  Russel Moore


Russell Moore is the dean of the School of Theology and Senior VP for Academic Administration at Southern Baptist Seminary. He is also an apologist for complementarian relationships but here is what he has to say about the word complementarian:

“What I fear is that we have many people in evangelicalism who can check off “complementarian” on a box but who really aren’t living out complementarian lives. Sometimes I fear we have marriages that are functionally egalitarian, because they are within the structure of the larger society. If all we are doing is saying “male headship” and “wives submit to your husbands,” but we’re not really defining what that looks like . . . in this kind of culture, when those things are being challenged, then it’s simply going to go away………If complementarians are to reclaim the debate, we must not fear making a claim that is disturbingly counter-cultural and yet strikingly biblical, a claim that the less-than-evangelical feminists understand increasingly: Christianity is undergirded by a vision of patriarchy. This claim is rendered all the more controversial because it threatens complementarianism as a “movement.” Not all complementarians can agree about the larger themes of Scripture—only broadly on some principles and negatively on what Scripture definitely does not allow (i.e. women as pastors). Even to use the word “patriarchy” in an evangelical context is uncomfortable since the word is deemed “negative” even by most complementarians. But evangelicals should ask why patriarchy seems negative to those of us who serve the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the God and Father of Jesus Christ.”

Then, in an interview with young and restless pastor Mark Dever, Moore also states: “I hate the word complementarian. I prefer the word patriarchy…… because complementarianism doesn’t say much more than the fact that you have different roles. Everyone agrees that we have different roles, it just a question of on what basis you have different roles? So an egalitarian would say, “Yeah, I’m a complementarian too, it’s on the basis of gifts.” I think we need to say instead, “No you have headship that’s the key issue. It’s patriarchy, it’s a headship that reflects the headship, the fatherhood of God, and this is what it looks like, you then have to define what headship looks like…”

Getting a bit more specific in how he actually sees his definition of complementarianism playing out in the real world, he says “It is noteworthy that the vitality in evangelical complementarianism right now is among those who are willing to speak directly to the implications and meaning of male headship—and who aren’t embarrassed to use terms such as “male headship.” This vitality is found in specific ecclesial communities—among sectors within the Southern Baptist Convention, the Presbyterian Church in America, the charismatic Calvinists of C.J. Mahaney’s “sovereign grace” network, and the clusters of dispensationalist Bible churches, as well as within coalition projects that practice an “ecumenism with teeth.”….These groups are talking about male leadership in strikingly counter-cultural and very specific ways, addressing issues such as childrearing, courtship, contraception and family planning—not always with uniformity but always with directness.”

So, if we are to believe Russell Moore, the true word to describe men in their relationship to women is “patriarchy,” one of the words that Kassian says they rejected when they coined complementarian. And in fact, Moore “hates” the word complementarian! He also seems to be at odds with Mary over views of militant fecundity and other practical applications.  Is this the guy to believe? Is Russel Moore the real complementarian?

Moving on…..

Contestant Number Three: fill in your own blank with Mr. or Mrs. Patriarch


This was a tough choice since the movers and shakers within the patriocentric movement all claim “complementarian” and “patriarchy” at the same time. In fact, repeatedly they have made the point that there is no difference.  It is interesting, however, to see some of their differences in application bubbling to the surface time and again.

When Sarah Palin was nominated as the VP candidate in 2008, for example, Voddie Baucham went on CNN to explain why those who believe in the truth of Scripture could not vote for a woman to be a civil magistrate. Doug Phillips agreed, stating that male leadership extends beyond the home and church and into the public sphere. But James and Stacy McDonald supported Sarah Palin, as did John Piper and many others who are complementarian, err, patriarchal, err, hierarchal, oh, I don’t even know. The Bayly brothers, PCA pastors who are sort of in a world all their own, have stated they wouldn’t even want to take a speeding ticket from a female police officer and, to their credit, they have moved away from the “complementary” label in favor of pure patriarchy in the past couple years. At least they are consistent.

Then there is the issue of women working outside the home. Phillips believes that the home is the only appropriate sphere for women through all the seasons of her life and admonishes even daughters to remain home until given in marriage. In Passionate Housewives Desperate for God, published in 2007 by Vision Forum and written by Jennie Chancey and Stacy McDonald, the authors lay out what they call a “fresh vision for the hopeful homemaker,” the role they declare is “the glorious picture painted for us in Scripture.” They use phrases like “rightful place in God’s created order,” “God-ordained womanhood” “biblical directives to women to be wives, mothers, and keepers of the home”, “our respective roles given to us by God” “God has created women to fulfill the unique role of homemaker. That’s all we need to know to rest in our callings.” “God has given women a sphere that is naturally and wonderfully their own to manage and wisely govern.” “Why is God’s role for women so important? Because God says when we reject it, we blaspheme His Word.” “We can walk confidently in the role God ordained for us since the beginning of time.” And “homemaking is a woman’s “glorious duty.” All of these phrases make it clear that being a wife and mother in the home is God’s undisputed calling for all women without any qualifications or exceptions; this is the only standard for real complementarianism.

If there is still any question about the role of women in God’s eyes, Jennie Chancey explains why not being a homemaker is a sin in an article she wrote for Vision Forum in response to Pastor Andrew Sandlin who has critiqued these teachings on several occasions. She said: ““What truly amazes me is that Rev. Sandlin can state so confidently that the Bible does not call a woman leaving her God-given, home-based occupation for work outside the home “sin”..…. blasphemy is sin, whether it is spoken verbally or lived before a watching world.” Please do not miss what is being taught…The role for women is being a housewife and not being one is blasphemous and therefore a sin.”

However, it seems that while Jennie believes a woman has only one role, that role doesn’t include voting. Or does it? She authored a piece for Vision Forum on her opposition to women’s suffrage, yet campaigned for presidential candidate Ron Paul and worked hard on her own husband’s political campaign, admitting in a 2008 news piece that she does, indeed, vote. Apparently Jennie is as confused as I am when it comes to being a complementarian. I would like to see these girls sit down with Mary Kassian and give us their consensus!

And as if the complementarian waters are not muddied enough, William Einwechter whose articles are often featured on the pages of Vision Forum (many will recognize him as the pastor who advocates stoning rebellious youth) believes that there are two point complementarians, those who say hierarachy of men over women applies in the home and church only, and three pointers who say it applies in the civil or public spheres as well.

Confused?  I know I am. Are any of these patriarchs or patriarchettes the real complementarian?

Perhaps it is time for someone to ask “Will the real complementarian please stand up?”


Some random after thoughts on why this matters:


Men and women are most definitely different from one another and they most definitely are complementary to one another, that is, they complete each other, filling in the spaces that each other leaves blank. “You complete me” is really one of those famous movie lines that is quite profound!!!

In biblical terms, being a “help meet” means a wife comes alongside her husband in spiritual battle, each complementing (filling in the gaps for) the other to advance the message of the Gospel. It also means that we need to be ever mindful that the practical application of these things looks different in each and every marriage, each relationship.  God mysteriously makes a husband and wife one flesh and how that one entity functions as one should not be tweaked by experts or well-meaning do-gooders who, for whatever reason, want every marriage to look just like theirs. There are too many stories of marriages strained and even broken via dogmatic teachings of complementarianism. It is just as true within homeschooling marriages. Beware.

We should never forget that Christian husbands and wives are also brothers and sisters in Christ and that that relationship is the one that will go on throughout eternity. Living together in harmony and in true representation of what it means to be a Christian encompasses living out the one another commands in our marriages and in all relationships we have. Why is this never ever mentioned in these discussions? Submission is a two way street, not just for wives and not just for marriages.  What part of “submit to one another” isn’t understandable?  This concept seems to be a hang up for an awful lot of people. Why?

And here is my biggest concern about this label that no one really knows how to explain or apply in practical terms…..it is now being interlaced with the Gospel message. It is no longer just Doug Phillips who has declared that one must believe, teach, and live “biblical patriarchy” to be faithful to Christ. Now mainline pastors and conference speakers are telling us that the very Gospel itself is at risk if we don’t adhere to their particular brand of complementarianism, a term that even they cannot define. This sort of nebulous instruction and confusing rhetoric only sets people up for failure.


I am waiting for an explanation.


While we wait, here are some awesome resources to get your wheels turning! 


Great thoughts from a survivor of adversarial relationships!

More great thoughts on being a godly Christian woman.

Inspiring a wife to understand what her husband really wants in a marriage. So good!!

What the Gospel message itself really means in marriage!


follow up to this article: more complementarian schizophrenia, this time from Tim Challies


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  1. Paula says

    Love the format of this article! Some how you took a hard subject and made it fun :). I’ve wrestled with these ideas and thoughts for many years. On the practical level though I must say that my husband and I know what works for us and we aren’t going to let anyone dissuade us from that. We both provide what the other needs and strongly support each other. We have a common goal of serving the Lord and raising our children to love Him and others. 🙂

  2. says

    Paula,you have truly summed this up well! It is how we apply the word of God to our marriages and family life that is important! Another point I didn’t make but one that I will cover in a few weeks is that if we look at the history of this word and how the definitions are applied, it looks like they are making it up as they go along! I am interviewing Jon Zens tomorrow for a podcast to talk about doctrines olds and new that are entering into the discussion. Should be enlightening!

  3. says

    You know….treating each other as equals, with respect and love and grace is just so much more simple. Really. We don’t need labels or books that explain what our “roles” are supposed to look like and what molds we’re supposed to fit in. Those books have done far more damage in my life than good. As Christians, we need to free couples to operate according to what works for them, not putting more rules and bondage on each other.

  4. says

    My initial question is: why do we even need committees to sit around and coin words? Isn’t that making a blanket statement (in not so many words) and labeling people?

  5. says

    Thatmom, bravo!

    I asked her a question or two on Sunday, on the complementarianism for dummies thread, on how this plays out in real live, and to confirm whether she would find certain views (those given by her fellow comps) wrong.

    She did not answer, and on Wednesday I returned to find all comments deleted and comments closed.

    You are right – what she say about complementarians is contradicted by so much of what others say.

  6. Anthea says

    Well, Mary Kassian seemed to be on the money, until she did that really annoying thing. You know the thing people do when they want to distance themselves from nasty patriocentrists … they insult housewives to look cool.

    “If you hear someone tell you that complementarity means you have to get married, have dozens of babies, be a stay-at-home housewife, clean toilets, completely forego a career, chuck your brain, tolerate abuse, watch “Leave it to Beaver” re-runs, bury your gifts, deny your personality, and bobble-head nod “yes” to everything men say, don’t believe her. That’s a straw (wo)man misrepresentation. It’s not complementarianism.”

    You see here how cleaning toilets is bracketed with abuse and chucking your brain. I hate it when things I get ridicule for doing huswifery for free, and when others do the same thing as a paid business it has respect. Nigella Lawson or Mary Berry receive acclaim for baking cakes on TV, Don Aslett or Kim’n’Aggie writes books on how to clean the house and that’s fine. Grrr!

    *My* contestant is the metaphysical poet George Herbert. Take it away, George:

    Teach me, my God and King,
    in all things thee to see,
    and what I do in anything
    to do it as for thee.

    A man that looks on glass,
    on it may stay his eye;
    or if he pleaseth, through it pass,
    and then the heaven espy.

    All may of thee partake;
    nothing can be so mean,
    which with this tincture, “for thy sake,”
    will not grow bright and clean.

    A servant with this clause
    makes drudgery divine:
    who sweeps a room, as for thy laws,
    makes that and the action fine.

    This is the famous stone
    that turneth all to gold;
    for that which God doth touch and own
    cannot for less be told.

  7. says

    I find that my thoughts/beliefs about this undergo constant tweaking.

    When I was first married I could have been easily labeled as a full-fledged patriarchist, but recently I’ve realized that I don’t have a label, although I probably come closest to Mary Kassian’s definition…

    IMO, Christians have taken a relatively minor issue, one that’s mentioned just a few times in the NT, and blown it up in reaction to feminism. One of my favorite marriage teachers stated that he doesn’t teach on wifely submission, because when the husband loves his wife as Christ loves the church, it shouldn’t even be an issue.

    I believe it goes both ways. When two people love Christ and love each other sacrificially, seeking to practice the “one anothers” of scripture in their relationship, submission will probably rarely, if ever, come up–even for people who believe they are complimentarian. I think this is exactly why many “complimentarians” are “functional egalitarians.”

    A woman who respects her husband and values his insight will either defer to his judgment or communicate until some kind of resolution is reached. A man who loves his wife like Christ and values and respects her will want her input and gifts as they make decisions together. Men and women who love each other and seek to put the other before themselves will automatically consider the preferences of the other…In hyper-comp and patrio circles, EVERYTHING is a submission issue (what the family eats, where they live, how they dress), whereas if we simply seek to serve our spouse treat them as we would want to be treated, I believe that hardly anything will be a submission issue. Those things will all take care of themselves.

    That, of course, is assuming that both spouses love each other and are seeking to walk with Jesus.

    Does this make any sense at all?

  8. Marla Abe says

    Just a question for people who do believe it is best that women stay home to rear their children and think that society is better and more scriptural for doing so. I do hope you continue to support aid for single mothers sometimes known as welfare, so that these mothers can be home and raise their children. That may save their children from being on the street, help them get a good education, and have consistent parental love from a present mother.
    Think about it, maybe we should do more to help all parents from being constantly at work and unable to be an active presence in their children’s lives.

  9. Nellie says

    Thank you. This was fun way to be very informative. I am just now learning a lot about this, and figuring this out. I first heard the term complementarian just about 2 years ago. Grew up in a pretty conservative church, where lots of lip speak was given to submission of the wife and male headship, but yet in function I would say most of the congregation, including my own parents, were pretty egalitarian. Why? Because as someone mentioned, if you just follow Biblical relational concepts of love and respecting each other, and try to accommodate each others desires and fears, that’s just what it ends up looking like. It seems to me that the marriages overly obsessed with the patriarchy terms, in general, end up looking and acting more dysfunctional. Anyway, it’s very confusing to grow up hearing terms used, but you don’t really see in function (at least in most of the happy marriages). I realize that’s a generalization, but’s it’s been a pretty consistent observation for me for the past 20+ years. I understand that there are some that embrace patriarchy who may say they are very happy in their marriage. I tend to find that those marriages work because the woman thinks it’s her righteous, Godly duty to submit all her desires, thoughts, gifts and uniqueness to her husband and that she needs to just have a “happy heart” about it.

  10. says

    Marla, it’s a complex issue.

    I can be consistent in saying that people need to support their families and not look to other people to do it, because my husband and I both worked outside the home and put our daughter in daycare. (She’s 25 years old now and turned out just fine.) There are arguments to be made for and against welfare, of course. No one wants to see people starve in the streets, especially children who suffer for adults’ poor decisions. On the other hand, it’s a character-destroying thing, to enable adults to never grow up and take responsibility for themselves and their families, and actually encourage a culture of helplessness and entitlement that gets passed down to children and grandchildren. It’s easy to assume that people we disagree with have bad motives and there are lots of potential for bad motives on both sides of this issue. Harder to look critically at arguments on both sides and acknowledge the truths wherever we find them.

  11. Nellie says

    Marla, I would echo the previous post about what a complex issue welfare can be. I see situations where someone truly needs it, and I am glad that they have a way to feed themselves and their children until perhaps they get a plan and put it into action so that welfare does not become a way of life. Single women are a very special circumstance, but I do question a woman who would have the ability to provide for her family who chooses not to because it does not line up with lifestyle choices of how to educate her children and wanting to be a stay at home mother. Don’t get me wrong…I feel especially gracious and sad for the woman who is in that circumstance of wanting to be able to do those things, and not having the finances to do them without assistance. However, my mind is drawn to scriptures concerning providing for our families, working and diligence, and paying our debts. There are no easy answers sometimes to these very tough situations.
    For example, I know a family who had a daughter and at the time the mom and dad both worked and there was day care for their young child. Unfortunately, this couple had made financial mistakes and had accumulated a lot of debt that they wished to be responsible for. An elder at their church approached them about how it was “not right” for the wife to be working. This was very confusing and upsetting to this young couple who felt it their moral obligation to pay their debts, and felt the elder was essentially asking them to rob their creditors in order to have a certain way of life. They felt that was the temporary price that had to be paid in order to do the right thing. I know of a family right now who has recently embraced patriarchy, and is basically destitute. It makes me so sad to see them living on food stamps while he tries to starts a home business (because that’s what you do if you’re a good patriarchy family so all your girls can work for you someday) and she is allowed no outside work at all…not even in the evenings. In other words, they have embraced a formula or a “right way” and seem not to be executing wisdom in how they can improve their situation.
    The Lord is gracious to the weak. There is no shame or sin in being poor. However, I’m afraid there are some who get bound up in how their life has to be and what is has to look like, and miss out on His leading and good things if they follow. I guess what I’m getting at is this…if my husband suddenly died and I knew the savings was going to run out in 6 months, I would take that as the Lord leading me to find a job and trust for His protection and provision on me and my kids, even if I couldn’t be with them during the day, so we could have food, clothes, and shelter.

  12. says

    “IMO, Christians have taken a relatively minor issue, one that’s mentioned just a few times in the NT, and blown it up in reaction to feminism. One of my favorite marriage teachers stated that he doesn’t teach on wifely submission, because when the husband loves his wife as Christ loves the church, it shouldn’t even be an issue. – Stephanie

    If all complementarians thought like that, I would probably never have written anything against complementarianism. It would most likely have been a non-issue for me. Thatmom probably also writes because she know it is not always like that.

    Anthea – I love that poem. Believers who are not complementarians agree with it as much as complementarians do!

  13. Anthea says

    Hello all

    Nellie: I have always been a litle concerned at the emphasis on home businesses by some Christian writers/speakers. It takes a special person to be self-employed, and even those who succeed often fail many times first. Thank you for your anecdotes.

    Marla: I agree that your point needs to be examined,for in our attachment to the idea of being financially independent and self-sufficient, we have forgotten other issues. Children need the mindful presence of a consistently available adult, especially when they are fatherless. Yet, what we who have husbands often say to the lone mother is that she should be making money and paying her way as a top priority. (The mums who have their children minded by Granny are blessed indeed. For a short time I did that, and worked 3 days per week so that we could avoid nurseries. I dunno about the US, but over here, given the choice of 8 toddlers minded by an 18-yr-old with an NVQ in “Childcare”, or my own mother — Grandma was clearly better.)

    Bear in mind, too, that most daycare/childcare is subsidised by taxpayers, so it is not appropriate to describe the recipients of benefits/welfare as if they are the only ones getting a handout. To quote John Donne, “No man is an island, entire of itself.”

    Sorry for getting a little off-topic.

  14. Becca says

    I guess my biggest struggle, coming from one of those Bible churches that teaches using the word “complementarian” when the issue comes up, is the links that you provided at the end of your article. I read the first one, “Great thoughts from a survivor of adversarial relationships!” and couldn’t bring myself to read more of the links. It seems the problem that most people have these days is with the concept of “patriarchy,” or whatever you want to call it, is User Error. I don’t think there’s a real problem with the system itself, especially when we follow the lead of Scripture, which everyone seems to skirt around in all their confessionals. Rather than accepting the blame and consequences for their own Pharisaical behavior (i.e., their sin), they shift the blame to a book or video they’ve read or watched and claim “freedom in Christ.” Reminds me of my kids when they’pre playing tag and use me as “base” when they don’t want to be tagged.

    Such a sticky issue…so many intricacies… 🙂

    Lots of good comments above.

  15. says

    Those who use the label complementarian lack the courage to own publicly what they really believe, just as those who advocate abortion call themselves Pro-Choice. I’ve heard some patriarchists even apologize for their position, saying they personally don’t like it, but they must follow what the Bible teaches. What an insult to the character of our good and just God who is perfect in all His ways! The true debate is over whether male rulership is God’s original intent or a result of the fall.

    I am speaking as a mother of 6 who homeschooled for decades, a homemaker, a missionary to Mexico and Peru, and given the gift of teaching. Even though I lived under the patriarchy teaching most of my Christian life, what got me reexamining the subject were the inconsistencies and contradictions of how and to whom I was allowed to teach… must wear a hat, a head covering is not necessary, only to women, both men and women but not in a church building, with the covering of my husband, not as a leader, etc. Then, if I preached at a church service it would be unacceptable, but the same men wanted to hear my teaching on audio or were happy to read what I put in writing. Insanity. Now firmly in the egalitarian camp, I am far from convinced by the arguments of Christian patriarchists.

    Hoping to write a book on this, but not here, I will mention just a few crucial points to consider. Jesus said in Luke 10:41-42 that Mary chose the one necessary thing, discipleship, therefore everything else is secondary including motherhood, family, and church activities (Luke 11:27-28;14:26;Matt 12:47-49; 10:37.) Only in Christ are we complete. Only as a disciple can we be Christian. It’s not a role but a relationship. But as a disciple, every other relationship we have is spiritually blessed by God. Also, whatever calling God gives us is good – whether single, married, married with children, or married without children – no one misses out – no one is second class is the Kingdom of God. Knowing and proclaiming the Gospel accurately is God’s top priority for every one of us. Whatever we do in word or deed reflects that message, and those doctrines and traditions that distort the Gospel must be denounced. I am convinced that patriarchy does not accurately reflect God’s original intent for men and women nor is in harmony with the Gospel message. But to prove this would take a book…

  16. says

    “IMO, Christians have taken a relatively minor issue, one that’s mentioned just a few times in the NT, and blown it up in reaction to feminism. One of my favorite marriage teachers stated that he doesn’t teach on wifely submission, because when the husband loves his wife as Christ loves the church, it shouldn’t even be an issue.”

    I could have written this. In fact, my husband told me just as much the other night. Which goes back to my original question: why was there even a committee in the first place to coin a word for this? What was the need? Where they asked to do it or did they do it on their own?

    The last thing the Church needs is more labels.

  17. says

    Yes, when you look at all of the issues out there, it’s weird how much emphasis is put on women knowing their place. And ironic that Titus 2 says that people are to be cool “so that no one will malign the word of God” and yet feminists malign the word of God when it’s erroneously used to express to them that they are supposed to subordinate themselves to men, and that’s OK. It’s a good thing to irritate feminists. No need to try to win them to Christ.

  18. says

    Becca, I hope you will read the other articles I link to as well! Lots of good insights and Laurie’s personal testimony is a blessing to me.

    I think it is important to recognize the impact various teachings can have on us, especially moms who really want to do the right thing!

  19. says

    Christy, I so appreciate your testimony! I especially love how you have done so many different things and in different seasons of your life! I had to giggle at the notion that men can’t be taught by women in formal setting but via CD or tape is ok! I have know others who were “allowed” to teach in their homes as long as their church didn’t sponsor the event, otherwise that wouldn’t have been proper! All the manipulating of Scripture is troubling.

    I spent this morning interviewing Jon Zens on some of the doctrines that are undergirding much of the applications in the FIC movement and in prep came across a couple things that I think are significant. Check this out…

    The Danvers Statement I mention in the section above about Mary Kassian is supposed to be the standard document/statement for the comps and it was written nearly 25 years ago. Interestingly, the doctrine of the eternal subordination of Jesus (the Son) is now promoted as the key, crucial, determining teaching that undergirds hierarchy. We are told that it has been central to the Gospel since the 1st century and that it is heresy to not believe it. However, it is not mentioned at all in the Danvers Statement, which tells me they are continually trying to find new “doctrines” or teachings to uphold a hierarchical view of relationships.

    This and the cover-up changing the apostle “Junius” to “Junia” have made me skeptical of much complementarian teaching, at least I think it has….how do we know what is true complementarianism?

  20. says

    I am sharing a comment left on my FB page. I think it is worthy of discussion. Is this a picture of complementarianism?

    Very interesting blog post. So what is it? Anyone’s guess (opinion). My parents were complementarian, in that Dad was the head of the household, but Mom was the neck that turned the head, or so they used to joke. In the church, my parents were both licensed ministers, and Mom acted as Dad’s assistant. She ran the children’s, mission’s, and women’s ministries. She played the piano and directed music in churches where that was a need, and she also sang special numbers and played the accordion. No one had to be hired for those jobs, because she ministered at Dad’s side…two for the price of many, a real asset in times of a tough economy. She frequently spoke from the pulpit, and I have a book of her sermon notes. She also went with Dad on most hospital and pastoral calls. Pastoral calls, what were those? They were visits to the homes of all the parishioners. I didn’t like those pastoral calls because I had to go along, and I was taught appropriate behaviors for those situations. I remember that I could not ask for candy from a candy dish unless it was offered, and I recall looking longingly at many a candy dish. I became an avid reader, as I most often went “calling” with a favorite book under my arm. If the weather was nice, I got to stay outside and play. Mom never had a paid job outside the home but never criticized those who did. She took joy in her service to family and church, and Dad joyfully whistled his way through each day. “Whistling girls and crowing hens will always come to to some bad ends,” he used to laugh, while teaching me to whistle. I still whistle, and recognize that the rhythmic breathing required has a calming effect. They grew churches differently back then, but they did grow and thrive under that form of leadership. Do you think they were complementarian?

  21. says

    “Why was there even a committee in the first place to coin a word for this? What was the need? Where they asked to do it or did they do it on their own?”

    One wonders…..

  22. Ilene says

    Thanks, Karen for posting my FB comment above on this page. Funny, but I never thought about the ministry of my Dad and Mom as anything outside the realm of normal. It was our lifestyle, and I certainly did not know it had a name. Or does it?

  23. Susan T says

    Ilene, Just sounds to me like your parents followed The Way, as in the book of Acts. 🙂

    Karen, It is sad and disheartening that so many Christian leaders and authors and groups have tried to make The Gospel and The Way so complicated. Many of them wax eloquently or host celebrations – on The Reformation and know the history of how the Bible came to be in their own language, yet instead of simply reading THE BOOK and encouraging reading & understanding of the WHOLE Book, in one’s language, they seem to want to make money/prestige off of talking about only parts of the Book and forming little groups about these preferences instead of knowing Jesus better and following Him alone. “Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. no one comes to the Father except thru Me.” John 14:6

  24. says

    Somehow I’m reminded of this little passage from The Screwtape Letters:

    Her[ confidence in her beliefs], which she supposes to be due to Faith, is in reality largely due to the mere colour she has taken from her surroundings. It is not, in fact, very different from the conviction she would have felt at the age of ten that the kind of fish-knives used in her father’s house were the proper or normal or “real” kind, while those of the neighbouring families were “not real fish-knives” at all.

  25. says

    Becca, I think “user error”, or only following directions halfway, is actually what saves many people from the full extent and damage of patriarchy. Some people are able to listen to the good parts and ignore the parts they disagree with. They are able to eat the meat and spit out the bones.

    I wish I’d had more user error when I was ingesting patriocentric information, including that on women’s roles! 🙂 Instead I swallowed all of it and lived out all of it to the best of my ability. I decided it was safest to err on the side of caution and take things to their logical conclusion. If it’s blasphemy for a woman to work outside the home then I decided I should not encourage career-oriented women by voting for them or giving them my business as a customer. It sounds strange, but in my thought process I felt I was protecting them in some small way from blaspheming the Word by not supporting them in it. Just like some people won’t shop on Sunday because it forces someone to work on the sabbath.

    People who claimed to be complementarian yet didn’t take things to their ultimate conclusion were “inconsistent” in my mind. Or “functionally egalitarian” to use Russell Moore’s term. I think with regards to voting many patriocentric women dream of a world where only the head of the household can vote. But since we don’t live in that world they go ahead and vote. At least that’s what my own mindset was like.

  26. Anthea says

    Hello Karen

    I thought you might find this article interesting.It is by George Wood, a leader in the US Asseblies of God. There’s no jargon or use of labels. I found it v helpful, and like the element of ‘healing’ in the exposition of the passage.


    Note also that this is a church leader writing to other leaders, of both sexes. So it’s an influential article.

  27. Pressing On says

    Very good points. Too often “complementarian” is just a “nice” word for “patriarchy,” along with the baggage therein. Better to be a true disciple of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

  28. says

    Mea culpe. Becky, you are describing the thinking path I was on as well! I cringe at the harshness I exuded in those days.

  29. says

    Anthea, thanks for the links….

    There is much more openness for women to be involved in ministry within charismatic circles…except the C.J.Mahaney churches.

  30. Don Johnson says

    Very good article. We see that people who agree that a husband is to somehow be a “final decider” cannot even agree among themselves on something that is (according to all of them) very clear in the Bible! What a bunch of hooey! Thanks for showing how much they are hoist upon their own petard! (Hamlet’s actual meaning is “cause the bomb maker to be blown up with his own bomb”.)

    The alternative is that the gender verses are complex and complicated and not very clear at all on first reading, but then that involves trying to understand the cultural context in which they were written and people that do that very often end up egalitarian!

  31. says

    I appreciated your thoughts Don. The confusion these labels produce, especially when there are so many variables in real life application, is truly a problem. When these “treated” evangelical groups try to explain their (often silly) views along with the more heavy handed stuff we are seeing and hearing, it only makes for disunity, legalism, and judgmentalism. I have several more aspects of this I intend to write on as soon as I can. Right now I am thoroughly enjoying grandma duty in South Carolina with a tiny preious new baby!


  1. […] truest meaning of the word, they have differing roles. (For example, only a woman can be a mother.) However, the way the word is now used is troubling to me so I no longer use it to describe myself. For the record, I also do not label myself an egalitarian. I reside somewhere in “the normal […]

  2. […] meaning of the word, they have differing roles. (For example, only a woman can be a mother.) However, the way the word is now used is troubling to me so I no longer use it to describe myself. For the record, I also do not label myself an egalitarian. I reside somewhere in “the normal […]

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