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Part 1 of a 3-part series, presented here, focuses on the radical redefinition of authority Jesus taught and set in motion for his church; it considers the complementarians’ circuitous idea of gender authority.

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In recent decades, traditionalists have dug for deeper roots in search of a viable biblical theology on which to support their superstructure of hierarchy. What has emerged instead in contemporary complementarianism is a sociocultural and extrabiblical “theology of roles.” It is this to which we will direct our critique.

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The marriage guidance in Ephesians 5, rather than subjecting wives, is aimed at bringing the freedom of true Christian community into our homes.

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Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. She used to sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the sons of Israel came to her for judgment. (Judges 4:4–5, NASB)

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Like many other biblical texts, Gen 17:15–16 invades our worldview and reminds us that God sought out covenant partners—both male and female—to bring blessings to all the nations.

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Where did judges like Deborah come from? We read in Acts 13:20-21 that the Israelites settled in Canaan and “After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. Then the people asked for a king....”

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Complementarianism is nothing more than the old argument of “separate but equal” applied to gender roles and dressed in a type of theological clothing. This is the same argument earlier generations used to justify segregation of the races.

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In 1998, the Southern Baptist Convention made headlines around the nation with the addition of the words “A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband” to the Baptist Faith and Message (B F&M).

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It is apparent that the Christian church is grappling with the issue of women’s roles in ministry. Many churches rely on conclusions not founded in Scripture as the basis for their policies. This article seeks to illustrate such inconsistencies and challenge each church to carefully examine the scriptures as the basis for their attitudes and policies regarding the contribution of women to the ministry of the local church.

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Kevin Giles is a graduate of Moore Theological College, the largest seminary in Australia, noted for its conservative commitment to the headship of men. This summary is the outcome of his extended debate with the faculty over many years.

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