Well, we’re back in a discussion on gender. It will be a limited one this time; I really want to finish the study of baptism that we’ve been doing.
But I have a few more things to say on this matter, a little more pot stirring to do, so we’ll give this topic the rest of this week.
One of my concerns about this topic specifically and current public discourse in general is the tendency to reduce all issues to two choices. You’re pro-life or pro-abortion. You’re liberal or conservative. In this discussion, you’re complementarian or egalitarian. (with my spell checker showing as little pleasure with the word complementarian as I feel)
I think it would greatly help this discussion if we could recognize that views on this issue cover a wide range of opinions and beliefs. It’s not yes/no or in/out. There are nuances and facets, themes and variations.
What if we thought about the differing views as a spectrum of ideas? This is still oversimplification, but it moves the discussion closer to the truth. Just for discussion’s sake, let’s call full egalitarianism E6 and the opposite extreme (misogyny) E0.
E0 sees women as inferior. They are to be silent in the church. Even singing is forbidden. Men and women don’t sit together. Women cover their heads in public, maybe even using veils.
E1 takes a slightly more generous view. Women may sing, but they are not to speak in the assembly. They may ask questions, respond to questions, or read Scripture in a Bible class setting; they may not pray nor teach. They may teach women, but only if there are no men present at the time.
E2 allows women to fully participate in church… as long as they do not do so from a standing position or from the front of the auditorium. They might be allowed to answer direct questions during the assembly or make prayer requests.
E3 lets women make announcements or give testimony in the assembly. They are restricted from anything that smacks of having authority over men or teaching.
E4 feels that women can pray or read scripture, based on 1 Corinthians 11. They are still restricted from authority or teaching, based on 1 Timothy 2.
E5 feels that women can do just about anything that men can in the assembly. The only restriction is that the eldership is still seen as a male domain.
E6 sees no difference between what men and women can do or be in the church.
Most points of the spectrum feel that those toward the lower end from them are a bit legalistic and those to the higher end a bit liberal. People at the far ends (E0-E1 and E-6) may feel that their view is the only possible view, the only one that is truly grounded in Scripture. Most of those toward the middle of the spectrum recognize the possibility that other views may be as acceptable as theirs.
That’s my proposal, artificial though the distinctions may be. Personally, I’m willing to allow each congregation to find its identity, answering not to me but to the Lord as to the correctness of their views. There is one view that I reject outright: the view that damns others that don’t share their viewpoint.