Sunday, July 5, 2009

I'm a complementarian

As a child in the 1970s, I was involved in a church that didn't ordain women to the pastorate or as deacons or elders, and the egalitarian in me considered that stance discriminatory and unnecessary.

Today, I attend a church that doesn't ordain woman as pastors or elders (there, deacons are not ordained positions), and now I understand why. If I haven't entirely recanted that stance, I now respect it.

Yes, I've become somewhat of a "complementarian" -- believing today that, when it comes to leadership in the church, it should be predominately (if not exclusively) male.

About a decade ago I did a lot of ballroom dancing with my then-girlfriend, and the first thing I learned in the process is that, in a couple, the man and woman have strictly-defined roles -- which, in this case, means that the man leads. It just works best that way.

I've come to realize that the same works in the rest of life, too. I didn't always believe that -- I mean, does gender really matter when it comes to relationships, especially in the church?

Yes, it does. Over the last two decades I've found that, when I'm in a situation that subscribes to a complementarian outlook, I'm treated with more respect as a man. But when it was more "egalitarian," with no division of labor according to gender, I often found myself ignored.

Why is that? Well, the feminist movement ended up making far more demands of men than of women -- in many cases the respect that women expected from men simply wasn't reciprocated, especially in evangelical circles. Although women claimed to want to be "equal partners" in marriage, they usually still shoot for partners with equal or higher status than they, which in practice means that the pool of available eligible men has shrunk because they have higher status. (Ironically, many of them complain, "Where are all the single men?")

During services at my church, only men are permitted to serve as ushers, collect tithes and offerings or disburse communion elements (the last of which I do regularly and enjoy). Reason: Men seek purpose, while women are more interested in fellowship. That is to say, men need something specific to do in a church, otherwise they would be less interested in remaining; women, on the other hand, are more satisfied just to "hang out."

But that also speaks to the need for us men to act as servants and not simply as "kings" enamored with authority -- just like our LORD. And that too is attractive to women, who whether they want to admit it or not crave somewhat whom they can trust to fulfill his responsibilities. Done right -- that is, with humility -- the "gender division" would be no big deal.

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