We’ve been betrayed. This is something that has disturbed me, as well as a handful of other women writers, for a while now. We’ve tried to respectfully engage, and we have been ignored. Completely. So I put a few rocks in my snowballs and threw them out, hoping the sting would provoke some men to wake up and say something. Some have. That’s why I was so pleased to share Liam Goligher’s guest post. All of a sudden people are listening. And asking questions.
CBMW in particular owes a lot of women an apology. They haven’t acknowledged one woman who has critiqued their fringe teaching and asked for them to think of its practical consequences, including my one reasonable question about their stance on Nicene Trinitarian confessions. It has made some wonder whether they are even interested in listening to women. This is not complementarity according to how I thought of the definition of the word. It seems that “complementarity” has been reduced to nothing more than authority and submission, one inherent in men, the other in women.
Women have been betrayed by the packaging and mass selling of hyper-authoritative teaching under the guise of complementarity. Men who know better are just helping to perpetuate it. And women who know better are also silent. Why is that?
Are there just some things we are not allowed to say or question? It seems the more friends you make in these parachurch organizations, the trickier it gets. The unspoken notion is that if you want to build or keep your platform, if you want to write and sell books, then you need to know your place. You also need to know when to be quiet. And that silence is heard and received on the Internet as approval or indifference.
But apparently it is okay to teach in opposition to historic Nicene faith regarding EFS and eternal generation. You can even teach about hair length. You can go on and on about being micro-managed by your husband right down to the number of soap bubbles you missed on his dishes. And you can write all kinds of applications of about how women should relate to the postman, whether she should strength train, or if it’s feminine to compete in Mixed Martial Arts.
We have been betrayed—betrayed by the gospel-centered, Christian industrial complex. These last couple of weeks we have focused on theology proper, as Trinitarian orthodoxy is a first order issue. Interestingly though, and as Liam has alluded to in his very first post, the guys still swinging at the fences on ESS/ESF/ERAS are the ones with the gender agenda. Their teaching is so intertwined with it. And it’s taught under the banner of “The Beauty of Complementarity.”
So here we are now. CBMW has made no statement affirming Nicene Trinitarianism. They’ve made no retractions of the teaching of those who have taught ESS/ESF/ERAS under their brand. They have made no retractions, although I have personally asked them to, of troubling teachings such as Sanctified Testosterone or Soap Bubble Submission. Has anything changed in the last two weeks? Will there be change? And if so, will it be driven by a love for truth, or simply because they’ve been called out in public over issues they have known about for years?
Women have been betrayed because we have read their works with a heart to learn more about living in a complementary relationship with our husbands, church officers, and other men in our lives. We see that both women and men distinctively reflect the image of God. We wanted to live biblically. But trusted names have endorsed troubling teaching that isn’t biblical. While there has been helpful teaching that has come from CBMW, other teaching reduces women to ontologically subordinate roles. And some husbands have even used this kind of teaching to fuel abuse in their relationships. I get emails from women who have been in these relationships, thanking me for speaking out. Some hate complementarian teaching now because they were never heard.
I don’t see how CBMW can move forward from this in a healthy way without cleaning house and publicly apologizing to those it has misled. How can CBMW speak to a culture with “widespread uncertainty and confusion in our culture regarding the complementary differences between masculinity and femininity” (from the first rationale in the Danvers Statement) when there is diverse teaching on both first order doctrine and complementary differences within their own council? And why should women be told to learn about biblical womanhood from men who base their teaching on gender and relationship on an unorthodox view of the Trinity? Furthermore, I know there are men in CBMW who do not agree with this teaching. Why are you quiet? To quote Dr. King: “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
Why do I get emails from a few, privately encouraging me to speak out while they remain publicly silent? Is it complementarian to encourage a woman to take the hits? Is it?
Complementarian men should respond to women with a listening ear and a resolve to better teach what headship actually means and what it does not mean. They should be reaching out to abused women, whose husbands and churches hide under the banner of headship and complementarianism, and call out the abuse and false teaching loud and clear. They should be working to help church leaders to recognize abuse and provide godly counsel and resources for those abused. And if they truly believe in complementarity, they above all should want to invest in women with solid teaching, since they know their value to the church.
But instead, when women like me plead for change, we are accused of being feminists or egalitarians or ‘thin complementarians.’ We are blacklisted and ignored. We are treated like women who won’t fall in line. Is that the beauty of complementarity?
*Originally published on June 23, 2016.