Someone asked me this question the other day.
I recently read a complementarian article that compares women’s subordinate roles in the church with that of the occupation of a police officer or other authority figure in society. The complementarian position is that even though these individuals have authority over us, we are still equal in value before God. . . There’s something that doesn’t ring true about this comparison but I’m having a hard time disputing it. Can you help me?
Here’s my response.
The main problem with the police officer analogy is that anybody who wants to join the police force, meets the requirements, and passes the tests can become a police officer. But, according to many complementarians, women can never be in certain positions of authority in the church. (Let me add that, in healthy societies, the authority of police officers is regulated and greatly restricted.)
Furthermore, corrupt, abusive, or inept police officers should be sacked and lose their position of authority. But many complementarians believe that all men have a greater level of authority than women regardless of morality and competence.
Photo is of Admiral Michele Janine Howard of the USA Navy.
I’ve heard people use the position of a ship’s captain in a similar way. Complementarians who use this analogy point out that we need a captain in charge so that the ship will run smoothly, but that the captain and their crew are equal as human beings. This analogy also falls down. A capable sailor may one day hope to become the captain of a ship. But, according to complementarians, a woman, no matter how capable, can never hold certain ministry positions in the church.
Complementarians say that men and women are equal in value before God—many complementarians also say that men and women are equal in being—yet they do not give men and women opportunities to function as equals. Their “equality” is theoretical or spiritual rather than practical, and they place a cap on what women can do and what they can be based solely on gender.
How can the theological and spiritual principle of the equality of men and women simply be theoretical and not have a practical and sociological outworking in the body of Christ?
Complementarians insist that being male is one of the primary prerequisites for ministries such as being a senior pastor or a teaching elder, and that women are automatically disqualified regardless of ability, talent, or experience. There is no equality here.
Complementarianism is a form of sexism. Analogies used by complementarians are designed to mask this sexism and they may sound plausible at first, but they don’t stand up to a closer look.
What other analogies used to support complementarianism fail under scrutiny?
On Twitter, J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina, has defended complementarian gender roles with this analogy: “Ronaldo is not allowed to touch the ball with his hands in a soccer match but his goalie is. Does this distinction of roles mean the goalie is superior in essence to Ronaldo as a player?”
My response on Twitter: Ronaldo is playing a position that suits his ability. Hopefully, the goalie is playing his position because he has a superior ability as a goalie. In the church, we need to have people in ministries that suit their abilities, and gender has little to do with ability.
Also, Ronaldo touches soccer balls with his hands every day, just not when he plays a certain position during a match.
How Christian Egalitarians Understand Equality
Authority in the Church
Can a Woman be a Pastor? Yes or No?
Women Bible Scholars and Translators in the Church
Articles on 1 Timothy 2:12 here
The Status of Christian Women, in a Nutshell
Galatians 3:28: Our Identity in Christ and in the Church