Beyond the gender wars in the Church

Steve Holmes, British Baptist minister and lecturer at St. Andrews, has an excellent blog post, parsing the insufficient categories of “complementarian” and “egalitarian.” Not all egalitarianism is founded upon androgyny, and not all complementarianism is founded upon biblicism. His own position, I would describe as “complementarian egalitarianism” — recognizing the complementarity of the distinct genders as precisely a key benefit of mixed gender ministry. Moreover, there are other in-between positions, such as those making distinctions between teaching and authority, etc.

I’m not too optimistic that one of these in-between positions will actually triumph, not in my lifetime, but maybe they will serve to lessen the tension in the evangelical community at large.



  1. Complementarian for me, the different roles of God for male and female simply must to be maintained! There is no such thing as a mixed gender, I am talking about the strict sense here. Sadly I see both male and females that doubt their God-given gender. This is simply an attack of the old adversary! “Has God said”? Note again, 2 Cor. 11: 1-3, / 1 Cor. 11: 2-16.

    On both a pastoral and theological level, Manhood today is quite under attack! Every man is Adam, every woman Eve. (1 Tim.2: 13-15) Note the Virgin Mary was the New Eve, theologically!

    It’s just that simple for this old Anglican! 😉

    • Yes, our culture is obsessed with “identity,” as something we discover and determine through a complex of desires, emotions, powers, norms, and willing. If women’s ordination is ultimately predicated on this postmodern subjectivity, then it should not deserve serious attention. But, there is an egalitarianism that fully affirms the God-ordained complimentarity of the sexes as biologically fixed (regardless of intersex situtions which liberals bring-up fifty times or more in every discussion on homosexuality!). That, of course, still leaves us with exegesis to do.

      • Yes, text & exegesis, hopefully ‘in spirit & truth’. The spiritual reality is often left behind, or the last consideration. Indeed our equality is within God Himself, but in creation we also have our roles to also ‘be and do’!

  2. I would argue that under the previous Pope and Ratzinger too, the deeply misogynist deeply reactionary patriarchal world view is now firmly entrenched within the “Catholic” church – almost unmovably so.

    Which is to say that these two chaps facilitated and encouraged the takeover of the “Catholic” church by Opus Dei and other right-wing “traditionalist” groups. These groups now set and control the entire cultural agendas of the church.

    In his book The Popes War, Matthew Fox describes how this occurred, and what the far-reaching cultural consequences of that takeover signify.

    Applied Opus Dei practices

    Would you allow your children to be “educated” by such people?

    • I agree in general, but I can’t go quite as far as saying “deeply misogynist deeply reactionary.” JP2 had developed a rather rich theology of sex and gender in his Love and Responsibility and, later as Pope, in his Theology of the Body homilies. Ratzinger has done the same through his engagement with Hans Urs von Balthasar’s theology of gender (in his Theo-Drama and elsewhere). I couldn’t sign on to everything in these works, but they are well beyond reactionary.

      As for Opus Dei, yeah, the testimonies I’ve read in the past are not flattering. It really is the Catholic equivalent of the more extreme parts of fundamentalism in “independent Baptist” circles in the South.

  3. I came across a reference to a new book by April Deconick titled Holy Misogyny. A book which describes how the feminine Principle was over time systematically eliminated from Christian, especially “Catholic” doctrine.

    Referring to my previous post I would argue that the takeover of the “Catholic” church by Opus Dei and similar right-wing “traditionalists” is the inevitable historical outcome of this process. And that no amount of the “theology of the body” can or will make any difference.

    Theology does not and can not even begin to get any where near to changing this situation because it is structured into the very bones (so to speak) of the church, and all of those that have been subject to its pedagogy (especially in childhood).

    The Jesuits: give me the child for the first 7 years, and they will be the “church’s” forever – quite so!

    I would also point out that there is no such thing as “Holy” misogyny, and that all misogyny is a personal and collective dramatization of a psychotic split at the deep feeling psychic core of whoever personally dramatizes it, and at the core of the collective psyche of the church altogether.

    • I’m as sensitive as anyone to the abuse of religious pedagogy, having grown-up in fundamentalist circles (though, thankfully, pedophilia was not a problem). But, I really can’t go along with the likes of April DeConick and their attempt to legitimize the early Gnostic groups as parallel Christian communities. This is one area of study that I’ve done a modest amount of academic research, having been first exposed to Gnostic writings as an undergraduate in Religious Studies. I haven’t read Holy Misogyny, but I can speculate that there’s about a 98% chance that I’ll find it unpersuasive, a 1% chance that I’ll burn it, and a 1% chance that it will rock my world.

      My reading of the early church is rather traditional, firmly aligning myself with the centers of orthodoxy and catholicity, and highly sympathetic to Constantine and the whole project of Christendom. And, I see the magisterial Reformation (Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican) as reform movements within (and still within) the ancient catholic church. Thus, I recognize the valid ministry and sacraments of the Roman church, the Eastern churches, the Lutherans, Anglicans, etc. as part of the catholic faith forged long ago. To someone like DeConick, I’m an imperialist and dogmatist.

      • Kevin, Noticed on the “about” page that you’re presbyterian. Is that a change? I had thought you were a free church evangelical.

        PS Happy Thanksgiving

  4. Kevin,

    You and I are basically in the some historical and theological place. Sadly with people like Deconick they have an agenda in my opinion, and it certainly has nothing to do with the presupposition of the Church Catholic. So I glady will call myself a dogmatist, and I guess even an imperialist, in the belief of God’s sovereign commonwealth! True Christianity can really only be expressed by dogmatic theology. I love the statement by Fr. Serguis Bulgakov: “Orthodoxy does not persuade or try to compel; it charms and it attracts.” Indeed Truth has its own persuasion!

  5. I think I’m a complementarian with respect to marriage, though I don’t think that necessarily implies 50s-style gender roles and I really don’t like how Driscoll et al have reframed that conversation. I tentatively support women in ministry.

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