When I relocated to Durban from my native Cape Town in South Africa, I started attending a charismatic church after some months in the city. I visited other groups and churches and tried to broaden my Christian fellowship network outside of my own community of faith. In doing this, something dawned upon me.
Women were being ordained as part of the eldership, they were being acknowledged as prophets, teachers and evangelists, deaconesses and elders. But I have discerned many women who have callings as pastors (church leaders/shepherds) and apostles, yet I have never seen a male church leader identify and ordain gifted women as such. So, in essence, male headship in the church is still subliminally taught, and even reinforced by women who themselves have been given the opportunity to preach, teach, and prophesy.
The second thing I realized is that male church leaders might be “very egalitarian” in their approach to female leaders in church, but practice complementarianism in their own marriage as well as teach it as doctrine for marriage.
It is taught that a woman in ministry is equal to a man, but when it comes to marriage, she is equal, but subject. She is of equal value, but not equal leadership stature because the man is greater as he was created first? If that is the case, then by the same virtue, grass must be a greater leader than a man, too.
Nothing frustrates me more than having my “value as a woman” thrown into a sermon as a patronizing afterthought. Why is it even being mentioned when it should go without saying? Or is it that, while the husband is being painted with a leadership brush, we must not leave the wife out for the sake of “equality”? Surely one cannot hold such a double-standard view and still teach equality? Could it be that women’s place in the church and society at large cannot be denied any longer, but their place in the home can? Is this not a symptom of the real underlying issue: that the consequence of original sin is still active? That some male members of the church at large still desire to rule over women, and vice versa? And why is this?
Feminism opened doors for women politically, socially, and legally. It is my opinion that the change we have seen in the church in the ordination and/or leadership of women, is largely due to the political pressure from the secular world, the rise of the Charismatic movement, and gifted women leaders in both ” sacred” and “secular” professions. It can no longer be denied that God gifted women just like he gifted men. So could it be, that while we recognize women superficially, but our hearts, where the real shift is supposed to happen, remain unchanged because it is still hardened by the judgment of original sin? Could this be where the double standard stems from?
Beloved, I would dearly love to wrap up this article with a nice bow. But because the process of being made whole in Christ tends to be messy and not very pretty, I cannot. So I am going to leave all of us, egalitarians and complementarians alike, with the following statements and questions.
- We address male chauvinism, but the danger lurks in the female version of it, too.
- As men and women, we are to guard our own hearts against the consequence of original sin. We must be careful of our motives. As women and men, are we really standing for true equality, or are we still struggling with the desire to rule over one another and thus, advocate for change only superficially?
Let us rightly divide the Word of truth. It is, after all, a double-edged sword.