This article was called to my attention awhile back. I’ve read through it a few times, trying to decide whether or not to respond. Since the complementarian vs. egalitarian battle shows no signs of ending, might as well take the plunge. This isn’t some personal thing, but rather a discussion of concepts. I don’t want anyone to go over there and be nasty. She’s my sister in Christ even though we disagree, and I’ll defend her if I hear of any of that going on.
Here we go.
For those who don’t know, I’m a member of the Church of the Nazarene, which has been ordaining women since its inception a little over 100 years ago. I was an egalitarian long before that, though it took returning to school in the pursuit of a theology degree in 2009 to solidify my position. In my class on the Pauline Epistles, we discussed and even formally debated the role of women in the church, learning about the differing interpretations of the “trouble” passages (1 Corinthians 11:2-16, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, 1 Timothy 2:11-15) and their various strengths and weaknesses. Despite protests to the contrary, complementarians are just as inconsistent in their interpretation and application as they accuse egalitarians of being. (For example, the vast majority slough off the headcovering command as “cultural”). Anyway, long story short, I’m all for women preachers and teachers and missionaries. (For some good introductory reading on the subject, go here).
In the eyes of many, that one thing makes me a flaming heretic, or at the very least someone who winks at flagrant sin, even if that many would (probably begrudgingly) admit that my doctrine is solid (unless that many believes that Arminian/Wesleyan/Holiness types are also heretics, then all bets are off).
Really, that’s okay. I know that I’m saved by the death and resurrection of Christ. He gave me the grace I needed to come to repentance. In a moment He justified me and the Holy Spirit came to dwell within. He continues to justify and sanctify each and every day, holding me close until that blessed, sacred, longed-for moment when I fall before His throne, laying all at the feet of the King. I’m really not worried about anyone who thinks that my egalitarianism disqualifies me from life and salvation in the kingdom of God.
This security has come only after years of fearing the opinions of others, so I know that there are other women out there in cyberspace who are brought up short by the whole “can a Christian lady blog even if she might wind up teaching men?” question.
Short answer: Of course she can.
It has never once occurred to me that I need to define my audience or worry about who reads this blog. I left that in God’s hands a long time ago. You can fuss and fret and set up all the parameters you want, but you still have no control over who’s going to come across your site. Even if you explicitly state, in bold italicized underlined font, that only women are supposed to read your posts and you’re only reaching out to and teaching women and that this is a women’s blog only, chances are really high that you’re going to wind up with some male readers. Why lose sleep over it? Why freak out and delete or deny when Joe from Sheboygan interacts with what you’ve written? Maybe he’s got something really good to say. May he was encouraged by you. That doesn’t mean that you’re subconsciously plotting to send all men underground and bring them up only for the continuation of the species. (Egalitarians aren’t plotting that either, just so you know).
Some say that lady bloggers are okay as long as we don’t exposit Scripture. Well, goodness, after 8 years and nearly 600 published posts, I’ve exposited some Scripture. I’ve also shared about my life and discussed political issues. It doesn’t seem right to me to hold back just because a man might read and comment. Why would you shrink from your gift and calling? (This, of course, doesn’t at all mean that you throw wisdom and discretion out the window. Some stuff really doesn’t need to be aired in the public square).
Others say that if you happen to accidentally teach a man via the written word despite all of the boundaries you erect, it’s fine as long as you have some sort of prominently displayed statement declaring that you post your articles under the authority/guidance of a man (usually your husband or pastor). Huh? To my eyes that’s neither the letter nor the spirit of any of the “trouble” passages when seen through the complementarian lens. That’s something somebody sometime made up for “propriety’s sake.” (Really one of two things: a) the assumption that women are rather dumb and must be guided by men in all things and b) a loophole because you’re going against your stated position but don’t want to admit it or change).
Perhaps it’s because I don’t have a stereotypical “woman’s voice” or “woman’s blog” (nothing wrong with either), but I welcome interaction with men. They’ve got great perspective and insight. I learn from them just as they do from me. It’s a mutual exchange. I’m not lording it over them and they’re not lording it over me.
What about the whole “you can’t address men’s issues or call them to the carpet?” The example cited in this piece was written at the height of the Ashley Madison scandal, and the woman who wrote to prod men to kneel and do some repenting deserves applause. That’s a sister caring for her brothers and calling them to righteousness. If a man can’t handle that, then he’s got a whole host of problems. Because here’s the thing: If any of the men in my life, be they “real” or online, can speak a hard word to me if needed (and they have), then I can speak a hard word to them (and I have). That’s how family works.
I can hear it now: You’re not in submission to your husband! Chris is my greatest supporter. (I know. He’s a heretic, too). You’re not in submission to your pastoral authority! They’re super-cool with my writing. (Burn them all, right?)
I joke, but I realize that incorrect doctrine and practice are things we must be vigilant about. My faith is my life. I take it extremely seriously. I know that we egalitarians are supposed to be all liberal and ignore Scripture and stuff, but that’s simply not true in every case. Like I said, my denomination has been ordaining women for the whole of its history, yet we remain doctrinally and socially conservative. There’s some real live false teaching going on out there that few seem to be able or willing to see and confront. Further, people are dying due to extreme violence, poverty and lack of access to clean water. Dying without ever hearing of Christ. Perhaps I am naive, but I think that the tent is big enough to house disagreement on this and we’d all do well to turn our attention to these issues. Last I checked, Jesus did not speak the Great Commission only over the twelve Apostles.
Basically, you’re not a heretic if you’re a writing woman and you teach some dudes. Nor have you committed an egregious, unpardonable sin.
Lady bloggers, please don’t stress. If your heart is to write specifically for women and your posts are worded that way, great. May God bless you and whoever reads your words. If you’ve never even thought about the whole gender issue, great. May God bless you and whoever reads your words.
For His glory, just write.