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My Perspective of Christian Egalitarianism

My Perspective of Christian Egalitarianism

And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18 NRSV) Image: Transformed © Marian Trinidad (Creationswap)

I hold to an ideology called Christian Egalitarianism.  Some people know it as “Biblical Equality” or “Mutuality”. I’ve come across comments from a few people which indicate that some have a mistaken view of the egalitarian ideology. So I’ve written this post to briefly explain my perspective of what Christian Egalitarians believe.*

Egalitarians believe that all Christians, both men and women, are (or should be) completely equal in status in the home, in the church, and in society. The basis of this equality is that we are all made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26-28), and, as his redeemed people, we have all been adopted as sons of God with all the rights, freedoms, and privileges that come with being a son of God.

Furthermore:

~We believe that Jesus is just as much the Saviour and role model for women as for men, and that becoming conformed to his image is the ultimate goal for all Christians regardless of gender (Rom. 8:29). 

~ We understand that all Christians are part of the New Creation and we should be embodying New Creation values (2 Cor. 5:16-17).

~ We believe each follower of Jesus has been gifted by the Holy Spirit, who gives his ministry gifts and abilities without apparent regard for gender (Acts 2:17-18; Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:7-11, 27-28; Eph. 4:11-12; Heb. 2:4; 1 Pet. 4:9-11).

~ We believe that Jesus’ teaching on relationships need to be taken more seriously than seems to be the case at present in the church, and we take Paul’s words in Galatians 3:26-28 as both a theological and sociological statement.

~ We do not believe that some Christians have a higher status, or have greater rights, freedoms, or privileges than others because of their sex (or race, for that matter), but that is not to say that egalitarians think that men and women are the same. We don’t.

~ Christian Egalitarians believe it is who we are, including our personal qualities and abilities (our natural talents, spiritual gifts, and other aptitudes) that largely determine our different roles and ministries in the home, church, and society, rather than just our sex.

~ As well as recognising that men and women are different, Egalitarians also recognise that not all men are leaders (which is what some Christians believe and teach.) Moreover we acknowledge that the New Testament does not teach that men are the priests, or the spiritual authorities, or the leaders, while women are none of these things.

~ Christian Egalitarians believe that men and women complement each other, and we do this without a gender hierarchy. We are non-hierarchical complementarians. We do not place restrictions or disqualifications on women based on gender alone, and we do not grant licence and privileges to men based on gender alone.

~ Men and women are not the same, but neither are men all the same as each other, or women all the same as each other. We are all different, and we are all equal in the body of Christ. Equality in the body means that there is no place for elitism, or ranks, or patriarchy, or any kind of hierarchy. Rather we all are to love one another, mutually submit to one another, and serve one another. These relationship dynamics are the New Creation ideals of our new life in Christ. These dynamics tie in with Jesus’ warning against notions of power, prestige, and primacy among his own followers, and with his teachings that in his kingdom the humble are exalted, the lowly are the greatest, and the last are first.

~ We see in the Scriptures that, while the qualifications for the Old Testament, Levitical priesthood were all physical, the qualifications for New Covenant ministry in the church are moral and spiritual, and so we do not bar godly, gifted women from any ministry role, including leadership roles.

~ Christian Egalitarians have a high view of Scripture. We treasure the Bible and value its unique inspiration and authority.

~ We believe that numerous Bible verses, especially New Testament verses, when they are faithfully interpreted, show that equality between men and women is God’s ideal for his people. For example: Gen. 1:26-28, 2:20-23, 5:1-2, 21:12; Matt. 20:25-28, 23:8-9, 28:10; Mark 10:42-45; several passages in Luke including the use of “gender pairs“; John 1:12-13, 13:13-17; Acts 1:14, 2:17-18, 18:26; 21:9; Rom. 8:14-17, 16:1-7, 12-13, 15; Phil. 4:2-3; Col. 4:15; 1 Cor. 7:3-5, 11:11-12; 12:4ff; 2 Cor. 3:18, 5:16-17; Gal. 3:26-28; Eph. 5:21ff; 1 Pet. 2:9-10, 4:10-11; 2 John 1:1ff; Rev. 1:6, 5:9-10; etc.

~ We believe that the few New Testament verses which appear to limit the roles of women were given for specific reasons (e.g. so that the word of God will not be maligned among pagans), to specific women (e.g. young idle widows), and to specific churches which were experiencing specific problems (i.e. the proto-gnostic heresy in Ephesus, and the rowdy church services in Corinth).

~ We do not regard a wife’s submission to her own husband as a “role”, let alone her primary role. Rather, being submissive, just like being kind, is a way of relating, with mutual submission being the ideal (Eph. 5:21).

 ~ Finally, we believe that, generally speaking, families function better when they are led by both parents, and that church communities function better, and are more effective in gospel ministry, when they are led by both women and men who are free to function according to their strengths and abilities.

This is a brief overview of my beliefs and my observations of the beliefs of fellow Christians Egalitarians. There are many articles on this website where I go into more depth and detail about what the Bible teaches concerning the equality of men and women in Christian marriage and ministry. See links below for a small sample of these articles, or click on a relevant category on the side bar.

For more information, the statement of faith of Christians for Biblical Equality* is here. Their statement on Men, Women and Biblical Equality, which is available in many languages, is here.

*Disclaimer: While I have done my best to present what I think is a consensus of the views held by Christian Egalitarians, I do not speak for everyone who calls themselves a Christian Egalitarian, or for any organisation, in this post.


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Gender Division Divides the Church
The Holy Spirit and Equality in Acts
“Equality” in Paul’s Letters

Image: Transformed © Marian Trinidad (creationswap)

Posted October 20th, 2014 . Categories/Tags: Equality and Gender Issues, Equality in Marriage, Equality in Ministry,

Unkind, judgemental, bizarre, and off-topic comments will be deleted.

48 comments on “My Perspective of Christian Egalitarianism

    • Jerome says:

      Hello

      Thank you for this well written and succinct article.

      I am so glad to have discovered your blog and to receive your posts via subscription.

      I live in South Africa. In Afrikaans culture, marriages are very patriarchal. I have seen the strength of my mother-in-law in her refusal to be bullied into submission. She is outspoken and was the first person to get me thinking about the constant refrain in our churches that men should love their wives and women submit to their husbands as if that is the order and only order for life. She highlighted for me the passage about submitting to one another and many others.

      I am in a typical evangelical covenantal church where the common complementarian view is held. Through the writing of Jon Zens and Gordon Fee I have slowly come to change my view on this and am now of the egalitarian persuasion. I am amazed that there is such resistance to discussion about this topic. A typical response against egalitarianism in the home would be: You can’t have two captains, someone must take the lead. The strange thing is that the church I am in does not believe the in “lead elder” concept and has a team of elders. Yet, it seems, the principle behind their argument of having a single captain does not apply to leading a church.

      The truth is that Christ alone should be our Captain.

      Thank you for the excellent work you are doing with your blog. Please keep at it in the gentle but firm way you do.

      My view of Australia is that it is a very barren country spiritually and that preaching and sharing the gospel is difficult there because so many people are affluent. It is wonderful to know that the gospel is being preached and is alive and well down under. Even more, that there is a bright light for egalitarian Christian relationships shining from there all around the world. Or rather, a bright light shining for biblical relationships.

      warm regards
      jerome

      • Marg says:

        Hi Jerome,

        Thanks for your interesting comment. The writings of Jon Zens and Gordon D. Fee are excellent.

        Australia is very barren spiritually at the moment, but we hope for a fresh move of the Holy Spirit.

        I completely agree with your statement that Christ alone should be our Captain.

        Blessings!
        Marg

        • Jerome says:

          hi Marg

          thought you might find this article on Gospel Coalition interesting (or irritating).
          would be great to hear your comments or critique of it, if you have the time.

          http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/thabitianyabwile/2011/01/06/im-a-complementarian-but-women-must-be-taught-and-they-must-teach/

          regards
          jerome

          • Marg says:

            Thanks Jerome. I’ll take a look at it on the weekend.

            Update: I finally had a look at the post. I was intrigued by this criticism of egalitarians: “they make an illegitimate play for female leadership in the church, including the pastorate and preaching.” I think his word choice of “play” is unfortunate. It sounds as though, in his eyes, we are doing something underhanded and conniving by allowing godly and gifted women to be pastors and preachers.

            Also, it intrigues me that this man can be so certain that being a pastor and a preacher, without exception, is for men only, and yet the verses that are used to support such a position never say anything as plainly as he does.

            Very sad.

            This same man also wrote an article apologising for overlooking older women in his congregation. I can’t help but think that if he allowed female pastors in his church this neglect would not have happened.

    • hannah says:

      Thank you so much!! This is a beautiful post! It is elegant and concise. This truly represents biblical egalitarianism well!!

    • Ruth says:

      What a nice summary of mutuality in the Bible. Thank you. I appreciate it and hope to pass it on to others to read. I’ve always enjoyed reading your articles in the Pricilla papers or Mutuality of CBE International.

    • Carlene says:

      This is balanced teaching! It is a clear demonstration of the heart of God which is for men and women to be partners in ministry. This is such an inspiration to women who have been called and afraid to step out to fulfill what God has called them to do. God bless you and increase you a thousand-fold for bringing truth to the Body of Christ.

  1. Gail says:

    Bravo, Marg! This is excellent and expresses my own beliefs as a Christian egalitarian.

  2. Hi Margaret!

    Thank you so much! This post is very helpful for implementers of Biblical equality in a context like mine:- it is hierarchical, gender based approach to issues and patriarchal. This post gives sense to preach equality with love and wisdom in such environment.

    Domnic+

    • Marg says:

      Hi Domnic, I’m glad this post was helpful. I think we agree that hierarchies just don’t fit with Jesus’ teachings on leadership and community.

  3. Karla says:

    Excellent…so concise and direct. I am printing this off for my growing collection of your helpful articles!

  4. Heidi De Jonge says:

    Hello, Margaret – I am very thankful for you! You pointed me to your 1 Peter 3 articles a couple of weeks ago, and they were very helpful to me as I wrote my sermon on 1 Peter 3:1-12. I am an ordained minister in the Christian Reformed Church of North America, pastoring a congregation in Eastern Ontario. We have been ordaining women for almost 20 years, but there are still only a very few of us who have lead or solo pastor roles. I really appreciate your work, Margaret!

  5. Bev Murrill says:

    As ever, Marg, really clear and incisive information, easy to process but with depth and wisdom. Thanks.

  6. […] I much prefer to be labelled as a “Christian Egalitarian” or a “Casteless Christian”. […]

  7. Great Article on Christian Egalitarianism and the best described that I’ve ever read. Although I agree with what you’ve written, I don’t lump myself 100% into either the egalitarian or complementarian groups. Instead I opt to go beyond both these branches of Christianity in favor of learning about true Christianity and true biblical doctrines, which is the point for my blog. However, a lot of my conclusions tends to lump me in the egalitarian side but I actually agree with the complementarians on a limited amount a things. I think mainly focusing on what the true Christian ideals what bible really means rather than egal vs. the comp debate gives us a better chance growing in Christ.

    • Marg says:

      Hi CT, I don’t think of it as “sides”; I think of it more as a continuum.

      All Christians hold to beliefs and practices on gender relations which range from an oppressively strict, misogynistic patriarchy at one end of the spectrum to an extremely inflexible form of gynocentrism at the other.

      Most Western Christians, both Complementarians and Egalitarians, hold to moderate views somewhere in the middle of this continuum.

  8. Kristen says:

    Great job, Marg! I’ll bookmark this as the place to direct people who want to know the basics of Christian egalitarianism.

  9. Mim says:

    Thanks Marg. This is really helpful as a summary!

  10. Janie says:

    Lately I have resumed my quest to find out what the Bible really says about women and women’s roles in home and church. I have generally just ignored the subject off and on for years because I had no way to really resolve it. but recently have had to tackle it again, largely because I came to the conclusion that some truths do transcend others. So what it may appear that Paul is saying in Ephesians 5 to women cannot override the truth that Christ became a curse for us so that we would no longer have to live under the curse that ‘your husband shall rule over you.’ The way several of the New Testament passages are viewed in the church make what Christ did for women of none effect. So I decided to study more carefully to find out where the church has been wrong, because if we are still under the curse, there is no freedom in Christ at all.

    Thank you for this post and many of your writings which have helped me to gain a better footing on a truth that God has burned in my heart.

    • Marg says:

      Hi Janie,

      I think you are right that some biblical truths (and instructions) are transcendent (and universal), while others were intended to be more localised and limited in their outworking. Some Christians seem to have the wrong priorities and are emphasising the local instructions while ignoring the universal principles.

      It is very sad that, as you say, the church teaches and acts as if what Christ did for women is of no effect. Why do they insist that women must bear with the rule of men which is a consequence of the Fall?

      Bless you on your quest.

  11. Janie says:

    Thanks for your response. I’m really curious about something. How receptive is the church in Australia or New Zealand to a mutualistic approach? It would seem from what I’ve been finding that your part of the world is more progressive in that way than we are here in the States. Even as much as the leadership at Bethel Church in Redding, CA promote honoring women and seeing them rids up in leadership in the church, they still view the scriptures as saying that we are under our husbands at home and need their covering. Reading your articles (and that of a handful of others) has been so refreshing and liberating. I told my husband the other day that I have a new response for anyone who questions me about whether I submit to my husband at home. I can freely respond with yes, because I do in many ways. And he submits to me in many places as well. And it’s a beautiful thing! My goal is not to be free from service. I love my husband and want to serve him. He loves me and wants to serve me. We have never needed to establish a ‘man in charge’ because we already have one-Jesus!

    Again, thank you for daring to challenge the status quo. We will never be the church God intended until we as women are free from the curse to take our place of authority and service alongside our men without restriction!

    • Ruth burton says:

      Yes Janie I too was sad to hear that bethel has the view apparently that men have a special role for covering women. I read Chris v. Book and loved so much of what he said but I took a double take at his views on te head in marriage. I hoped I was wrong because he says so much that is empowering to sisters every where. I guess we are all on a continuum as you said Marg.

      • Janie says:

        When you really look at what Kris V says in his book and the couples he interviews, it honestly feels like they’re trying to take what really functions as egalitarian and fit it into the language of headship and covering because that’s what they think the scripture says. That was the feeling I got when I read it. They really do respect women and want to see them rise up in the church. They just haven’t been able to get around certain passages when it comes to the home. Interestingly enough, Kris is the first one to say that some of those restrictive passages are obviously contextual and don’t necessarily apply to now. He also states that what he is teaching is what a God has revealed to him up to that point, surely with more to come. So I think there’s an openness. But this doctrines is so prevalent in the church here that to challenge it is to take on the majority of the American church! They won’t let go of this pet doctrine without a fight and I’m amazed at the commitment women have to it as well.

    • Marg says:

      Hi Janie,

      I think the culture in Australia is generally egalitarian as far as class and gender go. We have what is called the “tall poppy syndrome” here: We don’t like it when someone thinks they’re better than anyone else. We love the “underdog” and value humility, and there is a social pressure to see every one as intrinsically equal. However, there are still too many incidences and “pockets” of misogynism and sexism, and racial and religious vilification.

      In the evangelical church, women are generally free to minister in various ways, but it is still difficult for women to be senior leaders in many denominations. In some denominations and churches it is impossible.

      I am surprised and saddened by Bethel church’s stance on the faulty doctrine of “covering”. As far as I can make out, this idea has no biblical basis whatsoever.

      • Janie says:

        Marg, as I said to Ruth, I do think part of it at Bethel is an attempt to fit into the language of scripture as they see it. But I love that your culture has been able to lead the way in such a sensitive area and that you have been able to articulate it so well. I live in the southeastern part of the States known as the Bible Belt. I plan to ruffle a lot of feathers here and want to do some of my own writing to address it within my culture. But I’m also aware that here this is ‘burn you at the stake’ material. Even my most progressive friends draw the line at husbands being their leader at home. My dear husband is the only man I know in my area who would hold the egalitarian view. Holy Spirit, break the chains for the sake of Jesus and His bride!

        • Marg says:

          I really don’t know anything about Kris V. or Danny Silk, or Bethel Redding.

          Even though Australian culture is fairly egalitarian, I have to be sensitive in how I present my message of equality among my Christians friends. I seem to have two reactions from my friends. Some wonder why I bother writing about it since women are obviously equal to men. I usually ask these people, “How many women senior pastors do they know?” Others don’t want to hear what I have to say and are content with prescriptive, traditional gender roles.

          Thankfully my family are all egalitarian, and I belong to a church where the two main leaders are women.

          • Marg says:

            A friend of mine asked Danny Silk on Twitter about Bethel Redding, Kris V, and “covering”.
            Danny replied with “I’ve never heard that teaching or heard that paradigm from him.”
            Kris Vallotton has replied with, “No, I don’t teach that a women needs to be covered by a man. Read my book!”

            There seems to be a misunderstanding somewhere.

  12. Greg Hahn says:

    I bought Kris’ book today so I’ll read it with a fresh set of eyes. I will come back and give my impression.

    • Marg says:

      That would be great, Greg. Thanks for your help with this! 😀

      • Janie says:

        I guess I need to clarify a few things. I shouldve been more careful when referencing names and it wasn’t my goal to discredit anyone at all. It is Danny Silk’s book, Powerful and Free, that references the issue of covering when interviewing the couples. It’s in chapter 7 on Powerful Partnerships. He interviews couples and asks husbands what it’s like to empower, cover, and protect a powerful woman. Some of the husbands don’t respond using the word ‘cover’, and some of them do. My earlier comment had to do with feeling like the language was used as a way to ‘fit’ a conceptual grid as opposed to the way the couples actually function. I was reacting to a word that gets thrown around in religious circles and wasn’t crazy about its use in the book although I don’t think the intention was bad. Also, I’ve heard Kris Vallotton speak many messages about women and have heard him clearly say that husbands are the leaders in the home the way he reads it in scripture. Again, I think he has done much to promote women in ministry. It’s just the way some of the passages are interpreted concerning leadership in the home. I hope I didn’t inadvertently misrepresent anyone!

        • Marg says:

          I didn’t think you were trying to discredit anyone, but that you were having an honest conversation about legitimate concerns.

          However, I am happy to edit or delete your comments if you’d like.

  13. Greg Hahn says:

    I think with Janie’s clarification I agree with her.

    In Chapter 7 of Danny’s book he does ask several couples, “what it looks like (for the husband of their relationship) to empower, ‘cover’ and protect a powerful woman.” The word “cover” is placed in quotes, and I think Janie is right- the word is there to fit a conceptual grid. I’d have preferred he hadn’t used that word, but given the charismatic audience that Powerful and Free is likely to attract- I can understand that might be why he used it.

    I like what Rolland Baker said of his wife Heidi in their section of that chapter. “Heidi doesn’t need any special ‘covering’ or ‘protection’ apart from simple, normal love that does that anyway.” (p. 121)

    Danny strongly defended Kris on Twitter when we asked if Kris taught that women need a male covering, which implies Danny doesn’t teach it either. So if he doesn’t, why use the word in the first place? That seems enigmatic.

    Which brings me to Kris’ book, for in many ways I felt it was enigmatic as well. I didn’t like the first two chapters at all, and would have quit reading after chapter two if not for my promise to read the book and report back here.

    But starting at chapter 3, the book begins to get interesting and powerful. It culminates in chapter 5, “Jesus- Founder of the First Women’s Liberation Movement”. This chapter is GREAT and it alone makes the book worthwhile.

    All in all, chapters 3-8 are excellent- but with some seemingly weird contradictions inserted. It feels like Kris hasn’t figured out how to put it all into a consistent message.

    For instance, on page 149 h says, “I personally have a struggle believing that a person’s sex would inherently give him or her authority over another person. It makes no sense to me that a man who is living outside of a relationship with God would inherently have authority over a woman who is born again. It also seems wrong to me that a new believer would have authority over a woman who has known Christ all her life.”

    Yet in the same chapter, only 3 pages later: “I do believe you can make a very good case that in marriage, there is a natural governmental flow in which a wife is required to submit to a loving husband who is laying down his life for her.” I found contradictions like that to be frustrating, despite the overall powerful and good message of chapters 3-8.

    And then comes chapter 9. It feels like an afterthought, and at times it almost seemed to embrace complementarianism. If you hadn’t just read the earlier parts of the book you’d swear that’s where he’s coming from.

    That being said- Kris does say of chapter 9, “I want to be clear I am not in any way trying to relegate women to staying at home and raising children while men ‘bring home the bacon’. It is vital that you view this chapter in the context of the entire book, which was written to empower women to be all that God has called them to be.”

    Kris is pretty clear in the book that he, too, is a recovering patriarchalist. I think the contradictions are evidence that he’s still on the journey.

    All in all- I’d rate the book 3 stars out of 5. There were parts I LOVED. There were parts I HATED. LOL.

    Whatever flaws they may have, Kris and Danny are friends of women, and they are important voices in a very important and influential place. We need to pray for those guys, and for God to raise up more like them!

    • Janie says:

      Greg, thanks for reading Kris V’s book and giving your assessment as well as your input on Danny Silk’s book. Just wondering if u followed up with Danny on Twitter about the issue of covering from his book. I would love to hear how he responds. And I agree with you that we need to pray for these men who have a heart to promote and release women in leadership. Because they are key leaders in the church with such a large following they really do need increased revelation to reconcile some of the troubling passages. I know they get lots of grief from the religious community about anything that appears on the surface to not follow a traditional, face-value interpretation of the Bible. But I believe that this is a major issue that isn’t going away. Our Lord is highlighting it in order to finally bring restoration to what was lost in the garden concerning women. They just need a solid biblical base to stand on. For me the revelation was that the curse in Genesis 3 sounded too much like the interpretation of Ephesians 5 and other passages about wives submitting to their husbands. If we were redeemed from the curse of the law then something wasn’t adding up. We were reading it through a lens that had a patriarchal bias. Holy Spirit, shine Your light on truth that has been hidden through the ages for such a time as this!

    • Janie says:

      Greg,
      I was rereading the posts after I directed a friend here to check it out. I wondered if you were ever able to follow up with Danny Silk about the covering issue. I would really like to get his clarification.

      Thanks!!

      • Marg says:

        Hi Janie, Greg tweeted to Danny Silk and Kris V about “covering” late last year, and included me in the conversation. There were a few exchanges.
        Danny replied with “I’ve never heard that teaching or heard that paradigm from him.”
        Kris replied with, “No, I don’t teach that a women needs to be covered by a man. Read my book!”

  14. Eve says:

    This was excellently and beautifully written!

    I don’t get why so many people are against gender equality.
    It is sad how many women promote patriarchal exclusive marriages.
    Male headship was just a cultural norm that was practiced at that time. But, it is a new age and some biblical aspects are outdated.
    Christ should be the strong leader of us, not whoever has XY chromosomes.
    Thanks for taking the time to write this gem ^^
    Best regards and bless you <3

  15. Janie says:

    Hi Marg,
    I was looking back at the string of comments to get the sequence and to help clear up what I was asking. On December 8 There were the Twitter responses from Danny S and Kris V that you first posted. Then I replied on December 9 and Greg H responded in December 15 where he critiqued the books and talked about where the issue of ‘covering’ was mentioned in Danny S’s book. I was just hoping for a follow up on that because I really do want to better understand their perspective. I wondered if the question was asked again after the December 8 post based on Greg’s analysis. If not it’s ok. I just don’t have access to either of them on social media to ask a question and get a reply. Blessings to you!!

  16. […] Egalitarian View in a Nutshell– Explore this blogger for other answers to questions you may have!! […]

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