Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism

Fluid leadership vs rigid gender roles

In response to my previous article, Arthur on Facebook wrote, “In marriage, the leadership role tends to sway depending on the task.” For some reason, the word “sway” resonated with me, and it reminded me of this statement Dale Fincher wrote a while back on his blog Free at Last.

Leadership is not a criterion for being a man or a woman. Leadership is a fluid and seasonal role you play depending on your responsibility in the moment and the larger task at hand. Some men and women are gifted with more managerial skills than others. Some with more visionary skills than others. It has nothing to do with manhood and has everything to do with being faithful with what you’ve been given.
Dale Fincher in part 2 of Leadership: a poor test for “biblical” manhood.

In real life, leadership does tend to “sway” in marriage and other contexts. Moreover, there are many examples in the Bible of fluid leadership exercised by men and by women: some exercised leadership in temporary or one-off situations, while others held lasting leadership positions.

Furthermore, unlike what some Christians may say, the Bible does not define or equate manhood and womanhood with male leadership and female submission. In fact, the Bible doesn’t define manhood and womanhood at all.


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5 thoughts on “Fluid leadership vs rigid gender roles

  1. I’m often perplexed by this constant, unchanging debate over who is in charge. Why are we so determined to articulate that a man must be leader, or a woman can be leader? What deeper fears do we as people have that mean we cannot simply focus our trust and obedience to God, and trust that from that natural point of leadership, love will allow the mutual, serving submission to develop between individuals as it needs to. Surely that would be a lot more relaxing!

    Basically — why does complementarianism exist at all, and why is it so fiercely protected and fought for by men AND women? I’m not asking this of you, Marg, so much as a wider questioning across all of society. I’ve spent years refusing to accept that complementarianism is the way my life must go, so discovering that my stubbornness had a name and it was egalitarianism was a relief and a joy. Does this tension of demanding to know who is in charge come straight from the Fall? Or have we created it as another way of avoiding Christ?

    1. Hi Lucy,

      I ask the same kinds of questions: Why this obsession with who has authority or who is in charge?

      This obsession is completely misguided. Jesus called ministers to be witnesses, proclaimers, and servants. He gave these ministers authority over demons and illnesses, not people. He never said anything like, “Be leaders and have authority over people.”

      Each of us is authorised and gifted by the Holy Spirit to minister in some capacity, but it has nothing to do with authority over another capable person.

      And authority over another person should play no part in a marriage of equals.

    2. They don’t want Jesus to be in charge (in spite of protests to the contrary). They want to have a king over them.

  2. From what I learned from complentarians is that they view male leadership in the marriage as part of of his role as the head that mirrors Jesus who was suppose to be the leader of the church. It often is just holding on to patriarchal ideals on gender roles and the mindset that a marriage and family just like any organzion needs a leader. To me the only think the man should lead in is a self-sacrificial and self-giving love to his wife just like Jesus had for the church. Basically initiate a Christ-like attitude to his wife of giving himself up for her, nourishing and nurturing her spiritual growth etc and she voluntarily yields hserself this. This has nothing to do with who’s in charge or who’s to be subserviant.

    1. Yes, Jesus’ leadership and lordship are not mentioned in Ephesians 5:22-33, only his sacrificial, self-giving. Unity and mutual submission are the themes. 🙂

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