On Ezer Rising, we talk a lot about two words that may, or may not, be new or unfamiliar to you. Maybe you have heard them but have no clue what they actually mean. We want to clarify and define the words “Egalitarian” and “Complementarian” for you and help you understand what we mean when we use these words!
Complementarianism – The belief system/theology within the church that says “the Bible clearly says” that men are the leaders of the church and their homes. Women were created to be the helpers in both scenarios…in ministry and in marriage. There is a broad spectrum of complementarianism. But, it all includes this hierarchy – men at the top, women in supportive roles. Ultimately it comes down to, “the Bible clearly says women do/do not ______ and men do/do not ______ therefore we _______” – end of discussion, no questions, full stop.
Some are ‘hard comp’…and on the very far end of that label are the people/churches/organizations/families that are visibly complementarian/patriarchal…the women do not hold any positions of leadership, they are to remain silent as much as possible, the men are clearly in charge, they usually practice a belief in the quiver full and stay-at-home-daughter movements, the women do not work outside the home, their children are usually homeschooled, the females wear dresses and have long hair, the males wear long pants. In short, they are just visibly patriarchal and fit into very defined and clear roles based on gender.
There is also what some refer to as ’soft comp’…and on the very far end of that label are people who are not visibly complementarian at all. Both males and females have the option of working outside the home. Women hold leadership positions at home, in the church, and in society. There are only a very few positions of leadership that women aren’t allowed to hold, and that is usually within the church -and most specifically the position of lead pastor. Within the home, it can appear to function more like an egalitarian marriage/family but the difference is that, ultimately, within their belief system, no matter how long the couple may have functioned in a very equal voice capacity, the husband is always always always ultimately more responsible and in charge…and he has the last say. His voice is always known to have more weight. Also…if the female has advanced and holds positions of leadership, it is because it has been approved by him.
There are all kinds of marriages and all kinds of ways the church/ministry functions along that spectrum from the far ‘hard comp’ end to the far ‘soft comp’ end. But, at the foundation of all of those marriages and ministries along that spectrum is that hierarchy, “clearly set forth by God,” within marriage and ministry. And that hierarchy involves men at the top of the flow chart, and women functioning in support roles…within ministry and marriage. Again, if a woman is able to advance to a higher position, it is because it was approved by the male(s) at the top. Without that approval, the woman stays wherever the man wants her to stay.
I want to make it very clear here – while complementarians teach very specific roles based on gender alone, there are many people who can fit into what seems like those complementarian roles and still not be complementarian. Complementarianism is a theology/belief system within the church. Sometimes people who are not even a part of a religious system, or are egalitarian, might seem to fit into a more complementarian role based on their gender. Yet, their belief system is not conducive to complementarianism. What is this about? There are some people who are not religious at all, or who are egalitarian, who just naturally fit into more ‘traditional roles, meaning, the man works outside the home, the woman is a stay-at-home-mom. I know a few families that operate this way – the man works outside the home, the woman is a SAHM who homeschools and they even have large families. Guess what? They are FULLY egalitarian.
What does that even mean?
Egalitarianism – Both male and female have equal voice and equal opportunity…within the church and within marriage/family. Any ‘roles’ that these people function in are solely based on gifts, talents, expertise, and their own personal desires rather than gender. One isn’t limited by their gender…they are not judged by their gender. They are given positions solely based on merit. It’s that simple.
Now…there are people/churches/organizations (very prominent ones) that are egalitarian within ministry (they believe that a woman should be able to have the same opportunities as men within ministry and leadership), but are complementarian when it comes to marriage (they believe that the man is the head of the marriage/household). That can get very confusing and complicating. But, that exists…and I’ve found it to be pretty common.
And…those are the basic definitions of each of those terms. I won’t get into what that means for women…how that affects us. I have already done that in the past in my MarriageMonday posts…and will continue to do that. We here at Ezer Rising post about that daily. But, today I wanted to go over the very foundation of what we talk about here…the very clear definitions.
What questions do you have? What objections do you have to these definitions? What has been your experience within these belief systems?
We love to hear from you!