When it comes to complementarianism, one of my biggest frustrations comes from trying to work out the practice from the theory.
I know what I think with regards to the big picture theology, but the problems come with the nitty-gritty every day of living that out.
I suppose this is why to just say ‘I’m a complementarian’ doesn’t necessarily make one’s position clear. People who think women can preach ‘under the authority of a man’, and people who think women shouldn’t even pray aloud in church, and people who hold positions at various points between those two, would all describe themselves as ‘complementarian’, and that causes me some problems.
What’s the right practice? What’s okay? What’s not okay? What’s a girl to do?
These are the questions that plague me at night.
Well, not actually. But it’s not a small question, and particularly in my job, because the Bible doesn’t give a list of what to do and what not to do in a parachurch organisation.
I might have decided not to preach in church, but what do I do about speaking at CU, or giving a seminar, or leading a mixed Bible study?
I think all of this is why I’m uncomfortable when matters of complementarianism are found within the statement of faith or ‘confessional statement’ of some groups of churches. This is taken from the confessional statement of the Gospel Coalition, (click here to read the full thing), from the section of ‘Creation of Humanity’:
In the ministry of the church, both men and women are encouraged to serve Christ and to be developed to their full potential in the manifold ministries of the people of God. The distinctive leadership role within the church given to qualified men is grounded in creation, fall, and redemption and must not be sidelined by appeals to cultural developments.
The thing is, on the face of it I am on board with what it says there, but the question is, does everyone who signs up to the statement agree that it means the same thing? What does ‘distinctive leadership role’ look like in each different church?
The church family that I am part of is complementarian. We don’t talk about it very much, but that is the way we roll. However, the way that we define that, and the way that is seen (in the make up of our eldership; the gender of those preaching; and the different people who are represented in various areas of service within the family) is probably quite different to the way that it’s worked out in other churches who would also label themselves as complementarian.
I think that it’s okay that we differ on these kinds of things, and since there isn’t an exhaustive list of permitted and prohibited activities appropriate for a the 21st century British church (or parachurch organisation), I suppose we’ll have to agree to disagree. But I wonder whether that agreeing to disagree would be easier for churches if they didn’t hold up complementarian practice as a defining article of belief.
Anyway, how about you? How does this work out in your life? In your church? Any other thoughts?
In summary: theory vs. reality.