Where Do Women Belong?

March 13, 2008

“Never make a principle out of your experience. Allow God to be as original with other people as He is with you.” -Oswald Chambers
Hey All! My name is Tia Lynn and I blog over at Abandon Image. Linda, this site’s gracious creator, asked if I’d cross post my ongoing series on biblical equality. March is Women’s History Month, so it’s a perfect time to address this very important topic.
The last few months I have been researching biblical equality as it pertains to the roles within marriage and roles within public church life. I absorbed so much information from both complementarian and egalitarian camps that my brain is starting to seep out of my ears. However, I have gained some imperative insight into the Bible’s most bizarre and difficult verses to interpret from a consistent, holistic-scriptural-perspective, taking cultural and historical contexts, as well as original language into account. Since there is SO much information on the subject of women in church leadership and gender roles within a marriage (and society), I will be putting together a series of posts on various topics. So stay tuned!
For now, I will leave you with a summary of the beliefs of both complementarianism and egalitarianism for clarity purposes.
Christian Egalitarianism:
Derived from the French word égal, meaning equal or level, also known as biblical equality, is a recent adaptation of the historic moral doctrine of Egalitarianism which holds that people should be treated as equals. Ultimately, Egalitarianism holds that all human persons are equal in fundamental worth and moral status.

Christian Egalitarianism holds that all people are equal before God and in Christ. All have equal responsibility to use their gifts and obey their calling to the glory of God. God freely calls believers to roles and ministries without regard to class, gender, or race.
According to Christian Egalitarianism, gender equality in Christian church leadership (including pastors) and in Christian marriage is biblically sound. Its theological foundations are interpretations of the teachings and example of Jesus Christ and other New Testament principles. It refers to the biblically-based belief that gender, in and of itself, neither privileges nor curtails a believer’s gifting or calling to any ministry in the church or home. It does not imply that women and men are identical or undifferentiated. Christian Egalitarianism affirms that God designed men and women to complement and benefit one another.

Complementarianism is a term to describe a theological view held by some Christians that differing, non-overlapping roles between men and women, manifested in marriage, church leadership, and elsewhere, is biblically required. The term Complementarian was coined in recent years and largely replaces today what previously was known as the Traditionalist or Hierarchical view of gender relationships. It comes from the tenet that men and women are designed to complement one another. The opposing viewpoint is Christian egalitarianism which maintains that there are no biblically-required distinctions between men and women in marriage, church leadership, or elsewhere.Complementarianism holds that “God has created men and women equal in their essential dignity and human personhood, but different and complementary in function with male headship in the home and in the Church.” Unlike the historic Christian Traditionalist or Hierarchical patriarchal perspective of gender relationships, complementarianism maintains that men and women are equal in the sense that they bear God’s image equally. But with respect to roles in the church and in marriage, gender-based differences determine or restrict the roles appropriate for each. Specifically, there are requirements of men, and restrictions on women.
The complementarian position has clear implications for the ordination of women as well as for Christian views of marriage. Men are expected to take spiritual responsibility, often called headship, for leadership in the home and in the church. Women are restricted from holding the teaching office of the church and from spiritual leadership in the home and in marriage.

next post: adam and eve: the first egalitarians?

13 Responses to “Where Do Women Belong?”

  1. […] and women are equally empowered by the Spirit to both lead and follow, regardless of gender, see here for more) unable to approve of heirarchal organizational structures at […]

  2. Thank you for your wonderful biblical research on egalitarianism. I’m going to post some of your information on a Christian forum for discussion.

    Grace and peace!

  3. nico Says:

    Wat? Women belong in the kitchen!

  4. […] on gender roles in Christianity was new to me (for more on Complemenatry vs Egalitarian read this: where-do-women-belong-2). And really helpful. I so want more people to be informed about this.  It really interesting that […]

  5. Mitchell Wellstead Says:

    definition of oxymoron – noun: Christian feminism

  6. Tia Lynn Says:

    Mitchell, that kind of comment makes for a snarky bumper sticker, but it doesn’t engage with the evidence for the viewpoint(s) we are advocating here–which is we (male and female) are one in Christ Jesus, we have all been called to building God’s Kingdom on earth, working together in peace, love and unity, and we should not limit a believer’s gifts, callings, and roles in the church and home because of their gender.

  7. linda Says:

    mitchell, you may not realize this but some of the first feminists were christian women & men. the first wave of feminists fought for the right for women to vote among other things. they had also previously been involved in the fight for the abolition of slavery. while they may not have used the term feminism they were fighting for equal rights for women. the second wave of feminists in the 60s & 70s gave them this title out of respect for their significant work, but being a christian feminist is not to be confused with being a liberal secular feminist. they are not the same thing.

    Some notable first-wave Christian feminists:

    Fredrik Franson (1852–1908). Founded the Evangelical Alliance Mission.[2]
    A. J. Gordon (1836–1895). The founder and first president of Gordon College.[3] “‘Dr. A. J. Gordon stood by me steadily,’ Frances Willard recalled.”[4]
    Katharine Bushnell (1856–1946). Medical doctor, scholar, missionary, activist.
    Catherine Booth (1829–1890). Co-founder with her husband of the Salvation Army.
    Frances Willard (1839–1898). Preached at D. L. Moody revivals. President of Women’s Christian Temperance Union.
    -from womensrightsworld.com http://bit.ly/bovsWu

    i would also add former slave Sojourner Truth and Phoebe Palmer, one of the founders of the holiness movement, to any list of women who worked for women’s rights in the 1800s. many of the suffragists were influenced by Quakerism.

  8. Since spiritually only Jesus is truly male and all true believers are therefore spiritually truly female, of course women can occupy any office as long as they have been saved. The requirement is the same for men. Physical variation within humans does not translate to spiritual gain or loss. When scripture says that the woman should be silent, this can only be correctly interpreted that we as the bride of Christ should follow his word and not add or remove anything from it.

  9. womans place beleiver Says:

    before anyone gets angry about what ihave to say i would like to state that i am a woman who truely believes this women belong under men as eve was a gift to adam women are a gift to men and therefore a mans possesion

  10. Tia Lynn Says:

    Eve was not given to Adam as a “gift,” each were gifts to each other, and Eve was called an “ezer” to Adam, a Hebrew word used to describe God 17 times in the OT, which means help. There is nothing inferior about woman or superior for that matter. Both were made in God’s image, both were given the same mandates in the garden without distinction, and we are all one in Christ. We belong to God, and we get married, man and woman belong to each other, but are never possessions.

  11. linda Says:

    woman’s place believer, it’s important to make the distinction between what the text says and our interpretation of the text. saying a woman is the possession of a man is clearly an interpretation. nowhere does scripture ever say that. you also have not indicated how this would work for single women or widowed or abandoned women. whose possession are they? eve was not created from adam’s foot to be under him but from his side to be his equal and companion. adam ruling eve was a consequence of the fall. this was not a part of God’s original design.

  12. sarahaskins Says:

    As I read through this post and its subsequent comments, I am reminded that Christ revealed the mystery of the gospel through the church which is supposed to be unified in Christ. No where does Christ give a gendered hierarchy of whose spiritual gifts may be used or not–we are called to be unified. As a Christian woman my spiritual gift is teaching, imagine the pain felt when I have been told that I can’t use my gift because I’m female.Even allowing me to teach children is a slap in the face. You can teach those under age 12, but no one older. Did God give me this gift so that I could fail? In some church circles, the answer is yes.

  13. The Actual Mitch Wellstead Says:

    I didn’t make the above comment, a friend was trolling me.

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