The observations in this post are based on my experience with egalitarian and complementarian men in both face-to-face and online settings. There are exceptions to the following, however the majority of instances fit the pattern.
I have not experienced respect from complementarian men, rather I am patronized by them. My opinions and abilities are not valued or taken seriously. My spouse can attest to this, as he has observed first-hand the condescending treatment. However, egalitarian men have treated me with respect. I’ve actually been overwhelmed by the respect I have been shown. My input has not only been sought out, but valued.
And this got me thinking about an irony. If these egalitarian men believed in unilateral male leadership and female submission (which they don’t), I would actually have no problem submitting to such men and being led by them!
But the complementarian men? Based on their disrespectful and patronizing behavior, there is no way I would ever want to be under their leadership!
Another point…I came to the conclusion that there are only 2 church options in regards to the role of women: strict complementarian or fully egalitarian. Wait, you might be thinking that there is middle ground? For example, what about a soft complementarian view where women can do everything except be a lead pastor or elder?
Well, my personal experience is that soft complementarianism exists only in theory, not in reality. In an old post entitled “Women in ministry…lip service vs reality” I address this problem. A church may say that women have more freedom to serve, but gifted women in their midst are not encouraged, their input not sought, and little effort (if any) is made to utilize their gifts more broadly in the church body. It is lip service only.
It comes down to the underlying views of women. If you tend to see all women as forever tainted by Eve in Genesis 3, and that the core sin for women is to want to usurp male authority – then it only makes sense that there will be a hesitation to encourage women to do more. Women can even be treated a bit like children. The underlying theology is off-base, ultimately leading to an approach that can never truly value or respect women, even when a genuine attempt is made to do so (more below).
In a 3-part review of a complementarian book, I analyze and point out the foundational problems. Another post that may be of interest is a straightforward one on Genesis: It all begins in Genesis…the absence of male rule and gender hierarchy in Genesis 1 and 2.
In a recent publication I read, from a complementarian perspective, there was a somewhat worthwhile article attempting to address how gifted women can be better valued and utilized by the church. This effort was encouraging, yet the underlying view, although subtle, was there: women just can’t be trusted, but men can be.
For example, women are cautioned against certain sinful attitudes and portrayed as potentially wanting to seize power through manipulation or in other unhealthy ways, and warned against this. But there is no corresponding portrayal and caution of men about holding their power in dictatorial and unhealthy ways! Surely men have sinful attitudes that also require a word of caution.
And to be frank, no women I know – who are seeking more opportunity in the church – want to compete with or topple the men. They don’t. They simply want to be valued, respected, and given the opportunity to lead and use their gifts along with the men.
Even if some women feel forced to use unhealthy and sinful ways to wiggle their way into power, shouldn’t there be some honest analysis of why they have had to revert to such tactics? Shouldn’t there at least be some indictment of the men for an inappropriate and sinful use of their power?
Again, the point is that the underlying complementarian theology makes it more challenging to create an atmosphere where men and women can serve side-by-side, both utilizing the gifts God has given them. It can create the very power struggle they are trying to prevent, as men seek to maintain control over the supposedly usurping women. Instead of being a blessed alliance for the kingdom of God, there is suspicion between the sexes.
Egalitarianism is much more capable of creating an edifying atmosphere where men and women can work together, not as competitors, but truly side-by-side, as God intended in Genesis 1 and 2 and through the redemption of relationships that came through Christ Jesus. The time grows shorter my friends for the return of our Lord Jesus. When Jesus returns may he find the gifts of both his sons and daughters being fully utilized, and not latent or buried because of silly and unbiblical gender restrictions.