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.
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.
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.
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.
Julia Kavanaugh, an Irish Roman Catholic, was a Victorian novelist and biographer. Her book "Women of Christianity" offers the earliest survey of women’s lives in the Christian tradition. This text refutes the frequent charge of trendiness of egalitarianism, as it was written 150 years ago. It confronts male-dominated history (“great events, dazzling actions”) as pagan and transcends the “wearisome similarity” often depicted in saints’ lives. Finally, her book invites connections with contemporary feminist texts.