Do you think complementarian versus egalitarian is a primary, gospel issue? To be certain of what you truly believe, let’s do a little mental exercise that will put a real life situation in that complementarian versus egalitarian issue.
Complementarian versus Egalitarian
Imagine you have been reading a blog written by a particular woman for a number of years. You’ve found her to be wise in what she shares about faith, marriage and parenting. She writes in a way that moves you toward Christ. You have been inspired and challenged in your walk with Christ and have been able to apply to your life a number of biblical insight she has offered.
One day while reading her blog, she mentions in an off-handed way that she needs to finish up her post because it is her turn to offer the devotion this evening at her church’s elder meeting that she is leading as chair and she needs to collect her stuff and go.
What would your first, gut-level response be?
Would you be unfazed? Disillusioned? Feel betrayed? Feel sick to your stomach? Say a prayer for her to do a good job leading her meeting? Be thrilled to discover another woman in leadership in the church?
Would you stop reading her blog?
Does the fact that she is an egalitarian and an elder in her church make everything else about her suspect now?
Is this an issue that would cause you to break fellowship with her or someone like her in your personal life?
Is this a primary, gospel issue?
The Heartless Termination of Dr. Sheri Klouda
If you never heard the story of Dr. Sheri Klouda, let me tell you a bit about it. Dr. Sheri Klouda was Professor of Hebrew at Southwestern Theological Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention. She received both her Masters and Doctoral Degrees in Hebrew from the very same seminary where she taught. She was hired unanimously by the trustees of the seminary. And then she was removed for being a woman. From Wade Burleson’s blog:
In 2004 Dr. Sheri Klouda was terminated from Southwestern Theological Seminary’s faculty as the distinguished professor of Hebrew because the seminary’s new male administration held to a principle that a “woman should never teach a man.” Sheri was released from the job of her dreams and forced to relocate to Indiana, taking a far less paying position at a Christian college. Sheri’s husband, Pinky, whom administration knew was suffering from critical cardiac problems at the time, had to leave his medical care in Fort Worth because of the forced relocation. Sheri’s daughter also had to leave her much beloved high school where she was to graduate the very next year. Sheri and her family were forced from a house in Fort Worth that they had purchased just a few months earlier-–all because of administration following a perceived “theological principle.”
When our church contacted Sheri a few months after her termination, we discovered she was selling pints of her own blood to help meet medical expenses for her husband.
Yes, the very same seminary that trained her and granted her advanced degrees threw her and her family out. I cannot even begin to express how my blood boils with righteous indignation every time I think about what that seminary did to her and her family. The callous application of a principle with the complete disregard for the physical needs of the family is so un-Christlike I don’t know how those men slept at night. Even if they were right in their theological principle, how in the world do they justify treating this family so callously? Their own brother and sisters in Christ?
Turning Your Back?
Or how about these stories from the same blog?
A few years ago, Pastor Julie Pennington Russell held the hand of her seven year old son Taylor as she walked through the picket lines that had formed outside Calvary Baptist Church, Waco, Texas. The picketers, Baptists from surrounding churches, were there protesting Julie’s call to become the pastor of Calvary. As she walked through the picket line her little boy squeezed her hand, pulled his mother down where she could hear, and then asked, “Mommy, who is Jezebel and why are they calling you that?”
In 2004, during the last business session which I moderated at the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, an extraordinary, godly woman from Quail Springs Baptist Church, OKC was elected second vice-president. I will never forget the sight from the platform as several men throughout the auditorium stood and literally turned their backs to the platform as they voted “against” the first woman to be elected to general office within the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
I will never forget the email I received from one of the young ladies in our Baptist seminaries who wrote me, confiding that she typed with tears in her eyes, having just come from her “preaching class” where the professor allowed all the “men and boys” in the class to remove themselves from the room so they would not be subjected to hearing a woman teach the Word of God. The young lady found herself preaching to the walls and wondered whether or not she had a place in Baptist life.
How would you respond if your sister in Christ was treated like this? Would you feel that it was deserved because she was obviously doing something so unbiblical? Would you stand by her? Would you be glad someone stood up for the gospel and put her in her place where she belonged? Would you weep with her?
Is complementarian versus egalitarian a primary, gospel issue?
Should it be a dividing line between who we will fellowship with in the body of Christ and who we feel justified in rejecting as obviously leaving the true faith?
This post is part of the Exploring a Woman’s Freedom in Christ Series.