Earlier today, John Hobbins was calling for “respectful dialogue” as the “need of the hour.” I like John Hobbins, and he displays great wisdom. Respectful dialogue is both needed and rarely to be had.
Unfortunately, with respect to the issue of women in leadership, I have a hard time complying with that request. It’s not the nature of the logical arguments involved. I do regard the complementarian position to be an egregious misapplication of scripture, using a collection of particulars to overcome the force of the overarching and underlying narrative. It uses a few comments by Paul to transform the incarnation into some sort of petty power play.
But that’s not why I’m emotional about this, despite my fairly heavy language in the last paragraph. I read, hear, and speak this issue in the shadow of the many women I know whom God gifted for leadership, and whose behavior these women would call ungodly.
It’s not that they want to raise children. Many of the women of whom I speak raised families as well, and I do not intend to speak ill of those women–or men–who make a choice to be homemakers. It’s a praiseworthy choice. It’s not so praiseworthy, however, when one pretends that choice makes one spiritually superior, or makes efforts to restrict the choices for other women who may feel somewhat differently.
At the emotional level I know women who are definitely gifted, ranging from Lucille Knapp, the gifted woman who taught me my first two years of Greek to Dr. Leona Running who taught me such languages as Syriac, Akkadian, and Middle Egyptian, to my wife Jody Neufeld who is a gifted teacher capable of taking spiritual concepts and bringing them down to daily life.
The problem, you see, is that when I hear someone say that a woman can’t speak or lead in a church, it’s not some abstract thing. I see those women and the myriad of others like them, being told that it doesn’t matter how God has gifted them–they better shut up, go away, and make that other choice.
Egalitarians can, and should, celebrate women who choose to make their ministry in their home. But complementarians will find it impossible to celebrate those women who choose to exercise their God-given gifts of leadership in the church, or those men who choose to be homemakers.
And that leaves me with a strongly, even emotionally, held position.