Sermon Decoding, Some Final Thoughts

I wanted to take a moment to consider that this whole message is a separation – not only of that of men and women, but of the culture of the Bible and our own culture, the principle from the command, the meaning from the context. Consider how a bit of the passage was reviewed, talked about and how much of it was skipped. It’s almost as if a leaf was taken out of the Bible, planted, and grew into some other plant. This separation serves no one.

Do you remember how the OT had a point where the people were told to gather stones, place them together, and when children asked: “What’s the meaning of these stones?” That their parents were to answer: “To remember how we got here …” It’s almost as if the separation of the command and principle destroys this picture and that one. If nobody gathers the stones and places them together, then the children won’t have an occasion to ask: “What’s the meaning?” If the kid’s don’t ask the question, then the parents don’t have to give an answer.
Culturally, we’ve decided to do away with wearing head coverings. But we want to keep the meaning, so we teach that men have authority over women, husbands have authority over wives – it’s called Male Headship … not Husband Headship. Some churches call it a ‘spiritual covering‘. Some churches say it applies only to marrieds. Others say it applies to singles.

There’s no consensus on this. In my lifetime, it’s also know as the ‘Umbrella of Protection‘, as long as women submit to their heads, their husbands, and their husbands submit to their head, Christ, and Christ submits to his head, God, then God’s blessing will trickle down from God to Christ, from Christ to Man, and from Man to his Woman/Wife. Any woman who steps outside from under her umbrella of protection can get soaked, is open to the elements, is an easy target for the demons and dark forces of the world. Without protection, she deserves what evil fate befalls her. This teaching hails from Bill Gothard’s ministry, the same one whose founder had to step down because he had abused his authority and dozens of women in the process. It shares it’s DNA with the shepherd movement – the idea that everyone ought to be submitted to a human shepherd over them. It failed because it too was abused. It doesn’t work for the same reason that slavery was never quite humane: putting one person in authority over another has always been abused no matter how much emphasis we put on the person in authority being nice, we place just as much emphasis on submission no matter what. Wives are told to submit even to their abusive husbands. Wives are told to submit even to their husbands with criminal inclinations who will take them down with them because God will protect them when their husbands won’t. God will forgive them because they were obedient even if they were obedient in breaking the law.

So often we’re just given the surface-level teaching, the plain common-sense reading. To really puzzle these teachings about maleness and femaleness and the parallel relationships with the trinity, we have to go deep and ask the questions we’re not supposed to. The problem is, it leads to the inevitable conclusion that we’re in some sort of twilight zone, a grey area that the Bible does not explicitly state, but we still believe it to be so because it was deduced from Scripture. We take it out of context and stretch it – like the Father being the Father into eternity, means that the Father has authority even over the son forever. So since this relationship is the one from which husbands and wives take their cues, we suggest that women are eternally subordinate to men. When we ask about what gender spirits and souls and bodies have and what that means once we’re resurrected. When we say things like: “equal but different” what that really means down to the day to day living. Ultimately, we cut Jesus in two, half is ‘for the men but not the women’ and the other is ‘for the women but not the men‘. Only when a man and a woman is joined in marriage can they bring their halves of Jesus together. Even as singles though, men with the ‘male‘ half of Jesus tend to have more authority just because they are male. It’s called male headship for a reason, not husband headship. That means that as singles, women with the ‘female‘ half of Jesus tend to have less authority just because they are female. Complementarianism isn’t about women having what men lack, it’s about men having the authority that women lack and seeing to it that things stay that way.

Ultimately, Jesus did not call us believers to become biblical men and biblical women, to have biblical families or biblical churches. All he said was, “follow me.” He had two sets of disciples – the men had the most press, but the women supported him of their own means, and stuck by him when the men did not. They were the witnesses of his death and Resurrection and some of them became leaders in their own right. In Jesus’ day, husbands could teach their wives, but not just any man could teach any woman. There was a gender segregation that ruled over everyone. It even existed at the temple, where the Gentiles could only go so far as the Court of the Gentiles, the women could only go so far as the Court of the Women – so certain parts of the temple were out of bounds for them. The early church would meet in Solomon’s Colonnade, which was located in the Court of the Women. Why there of all places? That might have something to do with John 10:22-30,

Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

Solomon’s Colonnade was where Jesus himself taught, calling himself God’s son, making him equal to God. It’s no wonder the early church would choose that place to meet together to honor him. The father/son relationship is often used to explain the complementarian position, but with Jesus saying that the son is in the father – it blurs the distinction of the two, the separation of the two, the authority of the two. Yet you’ll never hear Complementarians say that women are in men in the same way that the son is in the father. Oh sure, they’ll say that women and men are equal in person-hood, but they’re different in roles. In order to support complementarianism, the oneness of the father and son must be destroyed in one sense to make sense of what is commonly taught. The early church met where both men and women could meet together, at a holy site where Jesus talked about his equality with his father. The Bible mentions quite a few women who were leaders in their own right in the New Testament church, Phoebe, Junia, Priscilla, Lydia, Euodia, Syntche, and many others – they hosted churches in their own houses, were teachers, contended for the gospel at Paul’s side, went places where men could not go to reach those that men could not speak to. Just after the close of Scripture, a letter written to Clement so that he could teach the men and their families included the directive for a second copy to be made for Grapte so that she could teach the widows and the orphans. Jerome directed the men in his church to ask Marcella because she could explain just about any doctrine to them easily. The Order of the Widows and the Order of the Virgins were formed as outlets for women to serve the church as single women. A widow’s ministry was one of prayer, in exchange for prayer for the church, members would help provide for their needs. In one letter, the Order of the Widows was listed as the women who sit with the clergy. Women started hospitals and opened their doors to care for the ill and the poor, they taught each other and others, they served the church just as the men did. And yet here we are, two thousand years later, closing those doors that women worked hard to open, and nailing them shut. It’s a separation alright, a separation of women and God.

Now that you’ve heard my thoughts – you can hear the original sermon for yourself here:

8 thoughts on “Sermon Decoding, Some Final Thoughts

  1. Hi, Jamie! I assume you’ve read Lee Grady’s 10 Lies the Church Tells Women. If not, it’s worth a read. I can and can’t believe that the role of women in Jesus’ ministry and in the Bible itself is so rarely taught in the church today. This shouldn’t be so new to me. I really hope believers get their heads out of the sand and recognize the prophetic voice of women and let them speak in the church and not just in women’s Bible studies.

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    1. I hadn’t read it, but I had heard of it. I just had the honor of being called a non-Christian heretic for holding the stance that I do. Apparently, if I were really a true Christian, then I could only believe in Complementarianism. With so many drawing lines on the sand – it’s a difficult task to bridge the gap and join in fellowship with those who insist that I be on the same page. The problem is that for far too long, the contribution of women has been ignored or downplayed to the point where the only proper contribution is in the role of wife and mother – leaving everyone else standing out in the cold.

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      1. It has been a good book so far, yet it has influenced my anger with injustice to women in the church. However, this is a catalyst to change and proof that my misgivings with what I see practiced in the evangelical church in terms of gender roles and equality shows sadly that the church is steeped in oppression. There are many good quotes in Grady’s book, but this one, quoting from Gilbert Bilezikian’s Beyond Sex Roles, just floors me.

        “Because man as the fountainhead of women’s existence was originally used to supply her with her very life, and because he continues to love her sacrificially as his own body in marriage, in return a Christian wife binds herself to her husband in a similar relationship of servant submission that expresses their oneness. The imposition of an authority structure upon this exquisite balance of reciprocity would paganize the marriage relationship.”

        That last sentence is just frighteningly true of some marriages I’ve witnessed! And this should not be. Also, I was reading Peter Scazzero’s Emotionally Healthy Spirituality today and he admitted that in his first 15 years or more of marriage that he was more about the “oneness” of marriage being mostly him or his will. I love that he is so humble and writes about these things. So much to learn.



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      2. You have no idea how timely this interaction has been – I’ve just had a conversation with someone who is so into male headship that she believes that I’m not a Christian because I don’t see the whole thing the way she does. It feels like the day when two people who believe different things could worship under the same roof is nothing but a myth that elders say church used to be like.

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      3. Glad I could encourage you, Jamie. You might also like Jory Micah’s work (blog and Facebook posts). It was tough when I was at a church in my early 20s where I was told that I had no business ever getting married if I wouldn’t adhere to the umbrella model (God-Christ-man-woman-children). I nicely told the woman who said that “This is your choice, not mine.” She then asked if I ever missed my mom not being there for me while she worked a full-time job. I confessed that I did, especially during the summers, and I wondered if the model she was advocating was right after all, that maybe she was right to say I had no business ever wanting to marry if I didn’t stay at home and have as many kids as my husband wanted. However, if I were to get married soon (doubtful since I’m not even dating and not trying to since every time I try to make something happen, it fails), I would not be able to have 9 children like that lady has. Time would run out long before then. 🙂 We all have differences in this Christian walk and we don’t have to be cookie-cutter comps.


      4. That’s the problem with teaching it as a one size fits all plan – anyone who doesn’t match up is considered selfish or immature. When I read up on the concept of being loving, it’s accepting people for who they are and where they’re at. This comp teaching denies true love – it keeps a record of wrongs, it’s not patient, it’s not a lot of things that it should be. No one should have to do x, y and z in order to be loved, especially if those things are to marry, have children, and be submissive. That’s not what Jesus wanted of his followers – he wanted them to be a spiritual family of brothers and sisters – not forming spiritual families of husbands and wives.

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