The introduction of the word “submission” into a Christian conversation about adult human relations immediately strikes different responses. For some Christians, submission is a happy word describing the proper biblical relation of a wife to her husband or of a woman, whether married or single, to the males in the church congregation.
Evangelical women face a myriad of messages related to pastoral and teaching roles in the church and academy. Some evangelical churches open their doors to women leaders while others reject the ordination of women and endorse explicitly hierarchical models of gender relations, both in marriage relationships and also in church and church-focused institutional hierarchies. Others even extend male authority to secular arenas, excluding women from exercising leadership or authority over men that is direct and/or personal.
There are several New Testament passages dealing with the proper relationship between husband and wife. The words of Jesus and the writings of Paul and Peter are quite explicit about the roles and responsibilities of husband and wife. But there are only a few stories in the New Testament that give us any information about married couples who were related to the mission of Christ and to the forming and expanding of the church in the first century.
What an understanding of culture’s influence should do is put gross generalizations about the nature of men and women out of reach. Moreover, it challenges us to think about how and why we value particular attributes connected to these gender stereotypes. So often we believe that we are reacting to Scripture or that the powerful feelings we have about particular gender activities are our created nature. Rather, we need to realize that we are exhibiting the cultural context in which we live.
Scripture and church history make abundantly clear that women can and do exercise significant influence and power in a variety of contexts, including the church. Yet, most of the books and articles available on Christian leadership are written by and for men. In this paper, I will address some leadership issues with a focus on women as leaders.
Why would a woman espouse an ideology that consigns her to a less-than status? Howell and Duncan surveyed 72 women to explore the rationale behind women’s beliefs in the subordination of women to the authority of men.
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.