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My Complicated Journey Into Complementarianism

*I want to preface this by saying this is not meant to be an argument for complementarianism over and against egalitarianism. Rather, this is my own personal experience of entering into the complementarian view. A lot of what I will say here is loaded with theological presuppositions of complementarianism and I am aware of that.

How I Got To Where I Am

My story of coming to the complementarian position is pretty weird. For those of you who are unaware of the terminology, complementarianism is the belief that the distinctive leadership role within the home and the church is designated to qualified men. Conversely, egalitarianism is the belief that such a gender distinction with respect to leadership in the home and/or church does not exist.

I was raised in an egalitarian church (one that I hold very dear to my heart). Though there was a brief period of time when I was a toddler that our congregation had a female pastor, the overwhelming majority of my time at this church there was no female pastor though there were female elders and deacons. I hadn't really thought much about it until I went to Bible college and I started hearing a lot of opinions on the subject... I didn't know it was a subject people had opinions on (oh my innocence).

I had a lot of friends who were telling me that women shouldn't be elders/pastors or deacons. In fact, the egalitarian view was more unpopular in my friend circles. Certainly, I knew people who were jerks about it (and still do). But that's another matter and perhaps the cause for another post later on. Suffice to say, I was new to this conversation entirely. I decided to do some digging on my own and over time I too became convinced of this position. Reading texts like Eph 5:22-33, 1 Tim 3:1-13, Titus 1:6-9, and others I became persuaded that God had appointed leadership in the home and church to men.

Though, I would return home for the summers and begin attending my egalitarian church once again. I never really told a lot of people of my newfound views. At first, it was because I just didn't think to but over time as I became more and more acquainted with the intensity of the debate, I decided to keep my mouth shut considering male leadership in the home and church. Perhaps there is even a chance that some people may read this and not have known this about me. I just didn't want to get into fights with anybody. But this resolution of mine has moreso caused me pain.

First, it caused me to go against my conscience (namely, sitting under the authority of female elders) which Romans 14:23 says is sin for me. Second, it forced me to paint an inauthentic picture of myself for others. People would vocally assume I was egalitarian and I would go along (though, there were certain situations where it made sense to do so). It has led to a good number of uncomfortable confrontations that could have been avoided on my part. It has also led to uncomfortable situations for my wife, Morgan as there have been occasions where people look at her like she’s being held hostage. Third, I have missed out on membership within a complementarian congregation where I would have learned from other complementarian men and women with respect to church leadership and, more importantly in my case, marriage. I rest the blame for all three of these aspects on myself and my harmful though well-intentioned resolution.

Where I Want to Go From Here

I am beyond thankful for the egalitarian church I grew up in where I heard the Gospel faithfully taught, saw the likeness of Christ practiced in relationships, and grew in my gifts and calling to ministry. I am glad it is a part of my story and a big one at that. However, I am overjoyed to be on staff at a PCA church (a complementarian denomination) and thus on the way to membership within the PCA. I certainly feel at home.

It is evident to me that my well-intentioned resolution was not helpful. Though I believe I was honoring the Lord by my desire to live in harmony with my fellow Christians (Psalm 133:1, Rom 12:18), I now know that this resolution to never discuss my convictions and ignore them was unhelpful and dishonoring to the Lord. So, I want to discern a new resolution. One that is still fueled by a desire to live in harmony with my egalitarian friends yet is also honest about what I believe. It may sound pretty elementary to some but hey... nothing wrong with that. Thus, my new and improved resolution is

To live in active unity with my egalitarian brothers and sisters in the Lord while presenting myself to others in honesty

I'll explain:

This past semester at RTS my wife Morgan and I attended a dinner and panel discussion hosted by Dr. Mike Kruger titled Women In Mission: Navigating the Complexities of Being a Woman in Ministry. The panel guests were Melissa Kruger, Connie Miller, and Denine Blevins. It was such a joy to hear from these three godly women. There's a lot that I could say about how much Morgan and I learned from that event but one thing that I learned was in a conversation with Dr. Mike Kruger after the panel discussion had ended.

I had asked him, "How do you navigate being a complementarian when people often have misconceptions about complementarianism as harsh and anti-women?". He replied, "To some extent, and in some ways, that misconception is warranted." Now, Dr. Kruger is a committed complementarian. However, he is right to say that some complementarians (the loud ones... see this video if you're not aware) have a history of being harsh and anti-women. Complementarianism does not include a commitment to be harsh with women or against them. In my resolution, I want to be a witness by my speech and conduct that complementarianism is not harsh and anti-women. I also want to be a witness that even though I am a complementarian, I can have love and appreciation for my egalitarian friends; even women who have assumed a role I believe is not designated for them.

At the same time, I want to be honest with others about what I believe. I know that my view has and will become increasingly more unpopular. However, I am convinced of complementarianism's truth and goodness. My arguments for it (though I am not too keen on debating it) may not satisfy others but that is okay. The point of this is not to convince you of the view I hold. Rather, my aim is to acknowledge that where these convictions are firm, ecumenical unity can still be sought.


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