You can’t possibly be conservative, biblical, and an egalitarian.
That’s what I’ve been told by people on both sides of the complementarian versus egalitarian debate.
Some people say it nicely.
Some people not so nicely.
Some people tell me I’m not saved.
Of course I can be conservative, biblical, and egalitarian.
They are not mutually exclusive.
As a conservative, I have a preference for traditional things. I’d rather worship in a beautiful building with stained glass windows, a choir, and a pipe organ (or a stringed quartet!). When I sit down to play the piano in the evening, I turn to my favorite hymns and play one after another. I like dresses and skirts more than pants. I dislike profanity. I am pro-life. I fall moderately right of center on many issues and in other areas toward the far end of conservative libertarianism. I appreciate it when any man holds a door open for me. I find the British royal family fascinating, loved Downton Abbey, and like reading books written by people who lived long ago. I believe there can be wisdom in conserving what is best from the past.
As someone who is biblical, I value the Bible, the Word of God. I believe it is authoritative in the life of a Christian. I desire to have it instruct me in how to live my life. I enjoy studying it deeply. I believe it is God’s word to us. I believe it is understandable. I believe the Bible is amazing. I believe I am called to follow Jesus as best I can based on the revealed Word of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit. My commitment to the essentials of the faith as expressed in something like the Nicene Creed has not changed.
As an egalitarian, I believe God bestows spiritual gifts on men and women as He chooses. He can raise up a man or a woman to do whatever He calls them to do as is so clearly demonstrated time and again in both the Old Testament and New Testament. Men and women should serve based on their spiritual gifts, not their gender. Men and women are of equal standing and equal value in the church. I believe if someone is willing to study the arguments for egalitarianism from the Scriptures, they are compelling.
I do not believe the egalitarian view is about demanding rights for women but instead is about freeing both women and men to serve God in the ways He has chosen to clearly gift them.
Biblical Support for Egalitarianism and Not So Much This
At the same time, there are things I don’t identify with. Since I am a conservative biblical egalitarian, you aren’t going to find posts on my website that use words like the following:
- power structures
- social constructs
- social justice
I realize some of my Christian egalitarian brothers and sisters write from that perspective and it matters very much to them. I’m glad they are reaching out to people who think about this topic from that perspective.
But that’s not where I am. I don’t find gender studies or psychology or any of that to matter very much to me when it comes to understanding this issue in the church. When I began to question the complementarian view, I only cared about understanding the Bible and following the Holy Spirit. What is happening or not happening in the culture doesn’t shape my views about God’s intention for the Body of Christ. I only care about following Christ and seeing the Body of Christ around the world free to serve. Will that impact how I interact with the culture in which I live? Yes, but it doesn’t (and can’t) drive my understanding.
Ending Up Egalitarian
On the issue of women in the church, I simply believe after extensive study and prayer over a number of years that the complementarian view is fraught with significant problems. This entire website is a document of that journey from the first questions to now.
I think the egalitarian view makes much more sense in the totality of Scripture. I don’t find the “troubling verses” very troubling any longer.
In this case, I think the conservative-leaning side of the Body of Christ is, at best, missing out and, at worst, is in disobedience to the Lord.
I still have much in common with my conservative brothers and sisters in Christ, but I believe the egalitarians are in all likelihood right on this question.
Why am I saying this?
A few reasons.
Why Discuss Conservative Biblical Egalitarianism?
One, there are many Christians who believe that conservative/biblical and egalitarian are mutually exclusive. They do not believe it is possible for someone to believe in the authority of Scripture and end up in the egalitarian camp by way of biblical conviction. They have been told so many times that the only way to follow God as a Christian and have a happy marriage is to be complementarian that they have no idea that is possible to believe anything else.
Well, it is.
Two, I know there are so many closet conservative Biblical egalitarians out there. Christians who live happily as egalitarians and secretly think that the egalitarian view is correct, but won’t say so publicly for fear of what it will cost them in terms of friends, family, professional standing, and church position. I know they are out there. They’ve written and told me so. There aren’t enough people who are willing to say that they love Jesus, love the Bible, think conservatively, and believe egalitarianism is right for the body of Christ.
I think that needs to end.
Third, I’m saying it because I want my daughter to grow up in a time when the Church experiences the fullness of the body. When men and women serve each other together. When people are put in positions of leadership and teaching because they are clearly gifted by the Holy Spirit. I want her to have the opportunity to live in a time when the Body of Christ more fully reflects what God intended.
So I will say that this is me. Will you say it, too?
Arguments for Egalitarianism
If you think that I’m just one person who is off her rocker and there is no one else like me, I encourage you to consider some of the resources below that feature churches that hold to the authority of the Scripture. They are also people who believe in the authority of the Scriptures and women functioning freely. Then you can spend some time going through my site. There is much information here for someone who truly wants to begin exploring the idea of being a conservative biblical egalitarian.
The first is a video by a church in Texas that just went through a lengthy process of determining their views on this topic.
Here is another church that did an in-depth study of the issues related to women functioning in the church. Scroll down to “Can Women Serve in Leadership at Grace?” and download their document.
Lastly (or, actually, maybe read these first), I would point you to Wade Burleson’s blog. He has many excellent posts about the important cultural background aspects of the so-called difficult passages. I would start with:
May the Lord Jesus bless you on your journey.