Gender Roles Is Not a Gospel Issue

This week, I posted my thoughts in regards to the decision of the Church of England to not allow for women bishops, though they allow for women vicars/pastors (and InternetMonk has posted the article as well, so hopefully some good conversation in the comments). I mainly spent my time reiterating some of the thoughts of the well-known Tom Wright, which I think many a complementarians have missed in their own response to Wright’s article. Tom argued that the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the introduction of new creation even now changed everything in regards to social orders, and I couldn’t agree more!

Yes, we still have Jews and Gentiles (I am Gentile by birth), men and women (I am male by birth), slave and free (I am free by birth), rich and poor (I am richer than probably 90% of the world’s population), etc. But none of this has any consequence whatsoever on the calling and gifting of God.

Now, a blogging colleague of mine, TC Robinson, whom I respect dearly, posted an article sharing that he remains complementarian. TC and I agree on some issues, but not on all. Yet, I loved the main point of his brief post at This Scroll:

Furthermore, I agree with R. Scott Clark and Carl Trueman that complementarianism versus egalitarianism is not a “gospel issue.” And its a serious strain on Scripture to make it such.

This was music to my ears.

Why?

Because not everyone agrees. Some make the view on gender roles (complementarian vs egalitarian) to be a gospel issue. This means it’s something that determines whether we should or should not work alongside a particular church or church group in our endeavours to make Christ and the gospel known.

Now, though I have egalitarian leanings, I still believe in authority, meaning that God does actually gift, call and anoint people to lead. Leadership – in the church, in the home, in society – is healthy. Of course, as sinners, we mess it up quite a bit. I’ve learned this firsthand in the past 4 and half years in my shepherd/elder role in my church context. And, so, if one’s view is that church leaders (pastors, elders, bishops, etc) are the main gospel proclaimers and teachers, I can somewhat understand why people make it a gospel issue.

Still, I believe it’s not worth dividing over.

Listen, though I am egalitarian in my view, our door is open to complementarians. I have had quite a few people, some of whom I suspect are of a more balanced complementarian view, that have taught and preached in our local church context. And, though it’s not about giving an open door to any ol’ person to teach and preach amongst the flock, I don’t believe the door should be closed simply because one is egalitarian. There can be much solid agreement on the more essential issues of the gospel and Christianity.

But with gender roles – I don’t believe this is something that should cause us to close our doors and hearts to those who hold an opposite view. We’re already missing the opportunity to work together on a whole host of issues. This is not one that makes it to the top of the list.

Thanks, TC!

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13 thoughts on “Gender Roles Is Not a Gospel Issue

  1. I think it can become a gospel issue if one’s views on gender roles lead one into any kind of idolatry of human authorities. So if anything, I would think it would be entirely appropriate for an essentially egalitarian church to exclude at least some complementarians from ministry on the grounds that they idolize human authorities. Because this is all too often the case. A substantial element of the complementarian ‘camp’ clothe their fears and ambitions in Scripture, call this ‘the clear teaching of Scripture’, and then try to keep their ‘subordinates’ in place by telling them that they are ‘not Spirit-filled’ or whatever if they fail to obey this ‘clear teaching of Scripture’. In other words, they use an insidious spiritual manipulation that is even more dangerous than the teaching of honest-to-God unbelievers! Quite frankly, I would question whether a person who behaves like this is even a Christian. They are an idolater, (im)pure and simple. And it is not for nothing that the Scriptures tell us not to be unequally yoked…

  2. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve come to believe that it is a Gospel issue. Because the Gospel is about Christ, the New Creation, the New (Hu)man, the New Covenant – in whom and which, and with respect to whom and which, there is not “male and female” (Galatians 3:28 quoting the LXX of Genesis 1:27).

    To preach a Christ that still distinguishes between male and female when it comes to the giftings and operations and functions in the Body is to preach a different Christ and a different Gospel of the Kingdom.

    Would it not be the same as preaching that Gentiles and less-than-free people hold by birth and economic status a secondary place in the church?

  3. “Listen, though I am egalitarian in my view, our door is open to complementarians.”
    That is so refreshing. As one trying to push in to just right of center, I feel too often progressives just write people like me off as haters. The political fringes of the debate often make it too difficult to have a civil exchange and mutually constructive critique of ideas. I’m looking forward to more of your thoughts on this.

    • Only if you define the Gospel in terms of morality or ethics. If you find yourself saying “that’s just WRONG!” you are describing an issue of Law (without which, of course, there is no Gospel).

      Gender abuse and marginalization of that nature could certainly be considered an injustice the church ought to speak against, like other sins. But the Gospel is not about not sinning, it’s more about the fact that we can’t stop to save our lives.

      • Actually, I’m not defining the Gospel in terms of morality or ethics. I’m defining the Gospel in terms of what it is – “The Gospel of the Kingdom,” as Jesus often referred to it.

        And there are certain aspects and characteristics of that Kingdom and the One New Human into whom we are saved and who heads and makes up the Kingdom that are mischaracterized and misrepresented by those who would relegate women to a place below men based on gender when it comes to the functions and operations and giftings and offices which the Holy Spirit, who has been poured out on God’s menservants and maidservants, graces the members of the Body with – a gracing done without regard to them being Jew or Gentile or slave or free or male or female.

    • Exactly! Every member of the Body, whether male or female, is female in relation to Christ, the Bridegoom. In fact, that’s MORE reason for having women, rather than men, be in positions of leadership and pastorship, since they best represent the Church, which is Christ’s Bride. If the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church argue that men only can be priests, because they are to represent Christ to God and to the congregation, I think an even stronger case could be made that the priest or pastor or whatever, who heads and shepherds and leads and protects the church, should be a woman, as the church is Christ’s Bride, i.e., a Woman. 🙂

    • Greg –

      When I say it’s not a gospel issue, I am ultimately communicating that we shouldn’t divide over whether we believe women should or shout not be allowed in leadership. Though I believe women should be considered for church leadership, I can proclaim the gospel with those who believe women should not be in leadership.

      I hope that clarifies.

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