I am fortunate to belong to a global denomination that affirms and supports women in ministry. Since its official formation in 1908, the Church of the Nazarene has ordained women right alongside their male colleagues. I’ve often heard it remarked that Nazarene women could preach twelve years before they could vote in US elections!
Critics have done a brilliant job of establishing all that complementarianism isn’t. I am grateful for their groundwork. But today, I want to explore what egalitarianism is. I want to move beyond a justified critique of complementarianism toward a strong egalitarian theology against abuse.
“Healthy” is not exactly the adjective I would match with the word “sexuality,” especially when it comes to the ways the church and Christians have portrayed and lived out what we believe about sex these past few centuries.
What happens when the hall of theology becomes an echo chamber? What happens when half the sky meets God but the church doesn’t want to hear their story? What happens when the theological insights of women are pressed to the margins of Christianity?
Many complementarians want to respect women’s needs and stories and benefit more concretely from their insights, but are not sure how to begin moving in that direction. I used to leave church in frustration every week because of the implicit marginalization on display in services. A childhood, or lifetime, of watching women pushed further to the edges of leadership and visibility has an immense impact on a woman’s self-worth.
Here are 5 practices of a church culture that seeks to empower and invest in women, based on what I’m learning through current experience and being graciously taught about the church’s largely unheeded role in the development of women.
I was raised in Christian purity culture. I proudly wore my “True Love Waits” ring. I read Joshua Harris’s Christian cult classic, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. And today, I’m a psychologist and a vocal critic of purity culture.
Does the Bible really body-shame women? Does it exonerate men when they objectify women? Proponents will say they don’t exonerate men. Men are still guilty, but women, the victims of men’s objectification, are guilty too. But there’s a chasm of difference between “men are guilty, period” and “men and women are both guilty.”
Studying hierarchical complementarians seemed a good choice for the project. A colleague, Patti, and I approached three of them, and they agreed to interviews. We invited them to study us in return, and they were surprisingly enthusiastic.
This paper was given by Kevin Giles at the Evangelical Theological Society annual conference on November 15, 2016 in San Antonio, TX. The other speakers on the plenary Trinity forum were Dr Bruce Ware, Dr Millard Erickson, and Dr Wayne Grudem. Dr Storms presided.