A tweeter and a SBC Executive Officer chided me this week about my ministry as a Street Evangelist for women’s equality.
“If a church chooses to believe in complementarianism, that is their belief. Respect their beliefs and move on. There are churches who believe differently, go there. . It is not up to us to change the Church.” (the tweet).
“Thank you for your letter. Please know that we continue to stand by The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 relating to the office of the pastor and what we believe Scripture teaches about that.” (the SBC Executive Officer)
If only it were that simple! Just move on. Go somewhere else. I did, but the problem is still there and the calling is still here.
Complementarianism is the view of the BF&M 2000. It is manifested in denying women their calling to be pastors and to be equals to their husbands in their own home.
These teachings have consequences that affect all women. It is as pervasive as the air we breathe.
This is a teaching that directly impacts homes, subjecting whole families to whatever kinds of leadership husbands decide they are divinely entitled to. The BF&M 2000 Section on the Family says “A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband.”
When men are taught they have authority over women, this complementarian teaching that was born in churches and nurtured in Christian families, bleeds out into society. Both men and women who never go to church are influenced by it. Often it results in abuse of wives and girlfriends in both church and society.
Wives lose their status in marriage and come under the domination of the husband to whatever degree of submission he decides he wants. Girls are raped, sex trafficked, beaten, and murdered because females have been devalued. This devaluation produces long-term detrimental effects, and women and families suffer because of it.
Because complementarians push second-class citizenship for women in churches, when they advocate for abused women in shelters they come across as hypocrites. Church ministries spend time and money bandaging the wounds of those afflicted by male dominance, but they will not address the teaching that causes it. As Jesus said, “they will not lift a finger” to change it. In fact, they continue to perpetuate it.
The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (forerunner of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000) claims that they do not advocate abuse against wives, but when it does happen, they say that the church is better able to handle such domestic abuse than the secular world.
The fact is that the church has no such ability to handle abuse, and since the majority of pastors teach male headship, many will take the husband’s side. They have no binding or legal authority over any member of the church and abusers cannot be held accountable in a church setting.
The only action a church can take is to tell the abuser he cannot come back to church. They cannot make him attend any program for counseling, nor can they provide legal counsel to the wife. The result is that the abuser goes free and the woman is still at the mercy of her attacker.
If the Christian church did have authority over wife abusers and family matters, this would be akin to Sharia Law, which is the legal framework of public and private life that is regulated for those living in a legal system based on Islam.
Significantly, the church also has no authority over a child abuser. The church is unable to dictate terms of compliance with the law or counseling. They have no legal authority other than to provide an “eyes on” when a predator becomes a member of their church. A family member who is being abused by another family member also cannot be protected by the church. These are cases for civil authorities and the church must not interfere with their process in handling abuse by or against church members.
It is likely that your pastor has his degree from a Southern Baptist Convention seminary. Or perhaps the degree was from a seminary with teachers who studied at an SBC seminary. It is also likely that your youth minister has his or her degree from one of these seminaries that ardently teach male headship. They will teach this to the youth groups in churches they serve. This teaching will affect attitudes and beliefs of the young men your daughters will marry.
Young girls and women will be told they are mistaken if they think God is calling them into ministry. Teenage girls will learn that their membership in churches – the body of Christ – comes with restrictions.
However, the implications of complementarianism are far greater than what goes on in churches and on the mission field. Churches are made up of people and those church members who firmly believe in adherence to those doctrines carry that belief of male headship into the workplace, and out into society. They fail to promote women to higher paid positions because they believe women should be at home, or, particularly in private and smaller businesses, they are likely to harass and abuse women in the workplace.
Civilizations change and move forward. For well over two thousand years Christ was lost among civilizations, including our own, that sought to enslave others because some believed that they were born to a higher status. The end to slavery did not come about easily because many people used the scriptures to justify owning other human beings.
The concept of male divinity is not new. Greek mythology often has superior males called gods who come to earth and mates with earthly females. Similarly, for centuries it was believed that emperors were divine. That is what is happening today with male headship, but to a greater degree than ever before. Complementarians have decided that it is not just some men who are born to rule over women, but that all men are born to rule over all women.
Some people are willing to put forth anything outrageous about women because there is a deep-seated feeling that because of Eve, women are inherently capable of all kinds of evil things: Witchcraft, seduction, emasculating men, and even feminizing the church.
This attitude is learned in church and bleeds out into society, and thus we have some separate kind of alien being called “woman.”
Can they all be wrong? The answer is YES. When one group presents a rotten apple as being desirable, and others bite into it and call it sweet, does that make the rotten apple sweet?
I am not the first, nor will I be the last, to point out that the complementarian view of men and women is in direct opposition to the teaching of Christ. There are many voices crying out in protest that scriptures have been misused and mistranslated in favor of man’s superiority over woman.
This “headship” teaching causes suffering, because there is no way men, or women for that matter, can have the kind of god-like power that the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 bestows without it having dangerous consequences.