Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Married to a pastor's Wife
The ongoing debate regarding women in ministry among Evangelical circles tends to showcase voices from mainly two camps: the complementarian and egalitarian views of gender in religious functions. To summarize these two views, complementarianism and egalitarianism agree in the equality of the sexes. Both consider that male and female Christians share equal intrinsic value in Christ to the kingdom of God. Both also acknowledge intrinsic differences between the sexes that allow the respective sexes to uniquely reflect the Image of God. Where they differ is in their answers to the question: Do these differences inherent to either maleness of femaleness translate into any difference of religious function?
The egalitarian answer, in a nutshell, is “no.” The equality that is won by Christ for all of those who have trusted Him for salvation, are indwelled by the Spirit, are enlisted into His mission and will be taken to Heaven someday translates fully into religious activity. For this reason, it is asserted that religious hierarchal structures ought not to allow gender to factor into authority selection at all. To do so is to deny the necessary affect that theology is to have on reality, and perpetuate inequalities that the giving of the Spirit to all believers is intended to shatter. Galatians 3:28 supports this view by seeming to abolish former distinctions like Jew and Gentile, slaves or freemen as well as male and female. They do not deny that these distinctions exist, but are to have no effect on declarations of religious value of people.
On the other hand, complementarians affirm the equality of the sexes while acknowledging that differences between them do indeed translate into difference of religious function (thus they “complement” one another). They argue that a comprehensive survey of biblical literature, not simply select proof texts, reveal a simultaneous equality of the sexes and difference of function in religious activity and spiritual responsibility. Egalitarians may accuse them of double-talk, suggesting that spiritual value and spiritual responsibility are linked. Complementarians, however, are un-phased. They instead argue that it is reminiscent of the Gnostic tendency to separate material and spiritual realities to suggest that the physiological and psychological differences that exist between men and women have no spiritual effect. On the contrary, it is the worst type of identity crises to confuse areas of responsibility with one’s value. If Jesus has already declared that “the first will be last” and that “one who is great must be the servant,” kingdom ethics would seem to dictate a converse relationship between responsibility over people and intrinsic value to the kingdom. Since this is not the reasonable path, any relationship between function and value for believers of Jesus Christ must be discarded.
As one who holds the complementarian view, I not only confess that diverse spiritual responsibilities are delegated to believers, but that gender affects that delegating act of the Spirit. Are these responsibilities grouped in categories that overlays them on spiritual gifts, such that gifts and functions are synonymous? I argue “no.” Many have similar gifts that are used in myriad functional roles. Likewise, many have similar functions but are aided in the execution of those functions by diverse gifts. They are not synonymous. For this reason, many teachers are pastors, but also are leaders of small groups, teachers of children and speakers to demographically specific groups at conferences and camps. However, not all pastors are gifted teachers, but some are gifted in hospitality, comforting or administration. Therefore, it does not follow that if there are functions delegated specifically to men or women because of their gender that spiritual gifts have somehow been unevenly distributed. On the contrary, one may be delegated an area of spiritual responsibility that translates into a religious function, yet esteem another as more gifted who was not delegated that responsibility.
Such is my view of my wife.
Because I was born male, the responsibility for spiritual leadership in my home falls to me. The Spirit is quite capable of accomplishing proper spiritual direction for my family without my responsive participation in His leadership stream. This scenario is seen often in homes where single mothers must rear children in a Christian worldview. However, the thrust of Ephesians chapter 5 appears to be the preferred paradigm of men serving their families with sacrificial Christ-likeness. Therefore, it falls to me to serve my family in a way that models Christ’s self-sacrificing leadership regardless if I esteem my wife as more “spiritual” than me (which I do).
I also am entering a vocational religious function, which carries spiritual responsibility for a community of faith. How ironic that, because I will serve as the pastor, some will esteem that role as more spiritual and gifted merely by virtue of the office. However, they may not have a corresponding esteem for my wife because she is either not holding the office, or simply because she is a woman (confusing delegation of the office by the Spirit with intrinsic spiritual giftedness to execute it). They would not understand, then, how giftedness, function and value all serve different truths. They would not perceive correctly that they are of equal value in Christ, gifted by the Spirit to be useful to the kingdom and delegated a specific function that they must uniquely fulfill.
The final irony is that my wife is given a measure of identity within the community from her marriage to me. The pastor is esteemed, at least the office, to a degree that he serves as a prefix for relatives’ titles (i.e. pastor’s wife, pastor’s kids, etc.). Though I am delegated by the Spirit the function of spiritual leadership for a local church, the truth is that I continue to esteem my wife as one to look up to in spiritual maturity and depth. This may sound like “code” language for egalitarianism, suggesting that my wife has just as much “right” to the pastoral office as I do. On the contrary, it is the very essence of complementarianism to realize that neither sex has a “right” to a religious function since the responsibility for executing it is delegated by the Spirit. In addition though, if the religious function of pastoral leadership for a church is delegated to men only (as complementarians believe), then it behooves that pastor to serve that community (especially those in his home) by recognizing their spiritual giftedness and maturity, and esteem their capabilities accordingly, even if it results in looking “up” to any of them. For this reason, instead of introducing her as “the pastor’s wife,” it would perhaps be more reflective of the spiritual “muscle” between the two of us to introduce myself as “married to the pastor’s wife.”