How often do egalitarian beliefs and lived experiences coincide? This articles explores how we might address the gap and deal with the guilt and shame and stress that sometimes accompanies these questions.
We spent many years of our marriage and raised our sons in a church that sought to form men into manly Christian leaders and women into submissive followers. Thankfully, we realized that model didn’t make sense for our marriage or for our sons.
Karen and Mark are both pastors with vibrant ministries, but their marriage is at a crossroads. Karen has been offered a large church in a growing area that sounds like a perfect fit. Mark has no desire to leave his flourishing ministry. They love the Lord and each other, but they can‘t agree. How can they decide?
Jon and Carol Trott are members of Jesus People USA (JPUSA) in Chicago, a group of believers practicing gender-equal relationships while living in community and working in ministry. Living with 500 other people gives the Trotts a unique perspective on gender roles in relationships and in the church.
"For the husband is the head of the wife, is that not what the Bible says?" my friend asked in all earnestness.
"No," I replied, "that is not what the Bible says. Paul says that the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. How is Christ the head of the church?"
"I guess," he responded, "he is the Holy Spirit."
On the way home from church, my preoccupation with our conversation puzzled me. Why is it, I thought, that someone like my friend had spent so much time serving as pastor and yet had not grasped this basic truth of which Paul spoke? A lifetime of sermons and I had rarely, if ever, heard about how Christ is the head of the church. The essential exposition is not the husband as head of the wife. The critical question is, "How is Christ the head of the church?"
I was specifically interested in learning from single adults in complementarian churches like the one my friend attended—churches that often teach or imply that marriage and parenting are the Bible’s ideal for men and women. These questions became the basis of a six-month research project.
When I was five, my grandfather gave me a fishing rod. I practiced casting my line for hours in our long, skinny back yard using a rubber practice sinker. When a friend offered to take me fishing, I caught my first fish: a round, orange and yellow sunfish called a pumpkinseed. I admired its beautiful colors, then carefully smoothed down the spiny dorsal fin and removed the hook. As the pumpkinseed swam away, I wondered if it knew a few moments earlier I’d held its life in my hands.