Working toward the establishment of a team of elders is one of the major endeavors of my home church, Felton Bible Church, during 2018. As we’ve begun to discuss this step of faith, we have been (and will be) talking about God’s roles for men and women in the body of Christ (and in life generally). Some of you may recognize the terms “complementarian” and “egalitarian.” For better or worse, these are shorthand ways of describing a person’s belief about gender roles in God’s design. Speaking far too simply, complementarians generally affirm two beliefs: 1) God has created men and women equal; 2) For his glory and our joy, God has endowed men and women with distinct roles and responsibilities, both within the family and within the body of Christ. In short, complementarianism is “equality with distinction.” Conversely, egalitarians articulate a different manner of thinking: 1) God has created men and women equal; 2) Equality means that there is little-to-no distinction between men and women with respect to roles and responsibilities, both in the family and in the church. Such, in a limited sense, are the distinctive points of each position.
Insomuch as labels are helpful, I am complementarian. Why? Because Scripture is very clear regarding the utter equality of men and women before God…and…regarding the important distinctions between men and women in the God-given economy of the family and the church. When we set such distinctions aside, we run counter to God’s plan and purpose.
My point for saying all of the above is really to recommend the following article, written by Mark Thompson (the “Principle” of Australia’s Moore Theological College, and “a canon of St. Andrews Cathedral, Sydney”): “Is There a Place for Women on a Theological College Faculty.” In this article, Thompson responds to a recent opinion voiced by John Piper regarding women serving as seminary faculty (you can find Piper’s opinion here: “Ask Pastor John: Is There a Place for Female Professors at Seminary”). You may or may not be interested in the views of each individual with respect to the question at hand…but that’s really not my point. Rather, I recommend Thompson’s article because, on the way to answering Piper, Thompson does a beautiful job voicing the complementarian position. He does so in a markedly winsome manner, especially as he articulates gender roles with respect to the local church. I hope you’ll take the time to read Thompson’s relatively short article.
(Note: For clarity’s sake, I tend to side with Thompson on this issue, even as I am quite sympathetic to Piper’s overall point. It is possible for a seminary to completely miss the boat with respect to seeing and affirming God’s good purpose for men and women in terms of their faculty selection and assignments. That said, I don’t think that what is binding on the local church translates, “whole hog,” into the context of the seminary. There is a larger conversation here about the role of seminaries, the role of specific programs and classes within a seminary program, and the corresponding needs with respect to men and women professors serving in a seminary.)