“While being absolutely equal in personhood and dignity, man and woman are distinct in their roles in the home and church. This position is to be distinguished from both ancient patriarchy that often neglects the equality of the sexes and egalitarianism which neglects the clear Scriptural role distinctions.”
– The Village Church, ‘What is Complementarianism?’
My heart has grieved over the many misunderstandings of complementarianism and the prejudice towards Christians who maintain this orthodox Christian view. I’ve been accused of sexism but perhaps the most frustrating thing I have experienced as a female complementarian is when people assume why I hold this position or assume that I am uninformed or, worse, ‘brainwashed.’ By who, I wonder? Probably those sexist complementarian male theologians I listen to, they might say!
But what they neglect to consider is perhaps, just perhaps, I have seriously considered this issue and read my bible in order to come to this conclusion that God created both men and women in his image but gave them different roles. This is not about cultural biases e.g. only women do housework but rather what does it mean, biblically, to be a man or a woman. Our gender is a glorious thing, made and set by God, which ought to be embraced and celebrated, not denied.
I remember my pain and brokenness when trying to ‘find myself.’ But then God brought me healing by showing me what He has designed and called women to be. I no longer need to comply to any society’s or organisation’s view of women. My Creator, in all love and for his good purposes, chose to make me female and He even laid out for me what that means and what gifts He has given me. He has called me to specific things such as being a ‘helper’ (Genesis 2:18), being hard-working and entrepreneurial (Proverbs 31), being brave (1 Peter 3:6), being of gentle and quiet spirit (1 Peter 3:4) and He has also called me to go and make disciples out of all nations (Matthew 28:19).
Now being a complementarian Christian means, by definition, I believe men are the spiritual leaders in both the home and the church. Therefore, I am convinced that the office of the pastor is reserved for men. Yet, I believe women are called to participate in ministry and go forth and spread the gospel because I believe there is a distinction between a preacher, for example, and a pastor. A pastor is a preacher also but a preacher is not always a pastor. Women too are called to the Great Commission stated in Matthew but in ways that although can be different, are in no way less valuable. Complementarism means team-work. We are a team and we have different roles within that team.
People get really worked up about this. They think just because complementarian theology believes only men can be pastors then it must mean women are oppressed or they cannot exercise their gifts, which can be teaching. They forget to mention that there is no biblical prohibition against a woman teaching other women or children. They also forget to mention that a church is made up of many different roles and ministries. The church is a body and we work together, each part needs the other (1 Corinthians 12:17). When the bible says that a woman is a helper, it is not demeaning her but rather it is giving her value by saying that her help is required! There is a need for her because God has equipped her with gifts that only she as a woman can bring forth.
I personally have made it my goal not to require or demand recognition but to make it my goal to be obedient to God. I see myself as a ‘helper’ in the church, in the body of Christ. This is not about me. It is about Jesus and if He has decreed that certain people should do certain things, then so be it. As the Lord Almighty, that is His right.
I adore what John Knox, the Scottish Reformer, once said:
“I sought neither pre-eminence, glory, nor riches; my honor was that Jesus Christ should reign.”
People may misunderstand me or claim they feel sorry for me ‘for restricting myself’ but I only see freedom in doing what God has called you to do and being obedient to that. It is this stance which I am deeply convinced of and with which I am content. It is my conviction that both men and women thrive best by embracing what God has called them each to do. God has not forgotten me and He has not given me a role that is not for my good. He has loved me and He has valued me.