Working on my review of Payne’s Man and Woman, One in Christ, it became clear that for Payne, and probably for many egalitarians, the issue of women in ministry is a moral issue that is closely linked to civil rights. To be clear, I think the Bible teaches complementary roles for men and women (here are a few earlier posts). Philip Barton Payne refuses to deal with the complementarian position as it is (that’s for another post), and his egalitarianism is necessarily intolerant. First I’ll lay out the intolerance of Payne’s egalitarianism, then I’ll suggest what this means for complementarians.
Payne denounces the injustice of the complementarian straw man he has created: “Such exclusion is discrimination and is a denial of equality in Christ” (Man and Woman, 97, italics mine). Payne thinks that complementarians discriminate against women (79, 85, 86, etc.), evade the meaning of Galatians 3:28 (79), and exclude women while giving special privileges to men (83, 93, etc.). He asks, “Dare we exclude women from offices of leadership and teaching to which God has gifted them and called them?” (104).
Here we have some of the logical fallacies I mentioned in my review. All this begs the question of whether God has indeed called women to these offices, assumes the conclusion that Payne takes on the issue, and caricatures complementarians as wanting to exclude women, which partakes of an ad hominem argument as it maligns the motives and character of complementarian interpreters.
These terms (“discrimination,” “exclusion,” “special privilege”) are emotionally charged, and they slant the discussion in a “civil rights” direction. Choosing to employ this language subtly implies that complementarians are gender-bigots. Payne never calls complementarians bigots, but he implies a moral equivalency between racial discrimination in the United States and what he apparently considers gender discrimination in the church. On the book’s final page, Payne writes, “Just as the church has come to unanimity in rejecting ‘separate but equal’ rights for whites and blacks, I trust that this book will help bring a truly biblical unanimity to the church in rejecting the view that God established ‘separate but equal’ leadership roles for men and women in the church” (463). Payne clearly regards the “right” that gifted and qualified females have to teach and lead men as pastors to be a moral issue.
If this is a moral issue for egalitarians, can they tolerate complementarians? It would appear that if an egalitarian agrees with Payne (that complementarian interpretations result in “discrimination” against women and the “exclusion” of women from what is rightfully theirs while granting “special privileges” to males), tolerating complementarians means tolerating those who believe in and would perpetuate unjust and immoral behavior.
What This Means for Complementarians
Complementarians need to recognize that if a person holds egalitarian convictions, the logic of their position entails the conviction that complementarians are immoral, unjust, and not-to-be-tolerated. Granted, not every egalitarian has worked out the logical implications of their views, so there may be egalitarians who are content to tolerate complementarians. But from what Payne says, it seems to me that if complementarians in leadership at churches, schools, or ministries want to remain complementarian, they cannot give leadership to egalitarians because egalitarians cannot tolerate complementarians and will not rest–from their position should not rest–until the injustice and immorality of complementarian practice and belief has been eradicated.
Does this mean that complementarians are intolerant? No. Self-preservation is not intolerant. It is not intolerant for the USA to preserve democracy by refusing to make a dictator king. Nor is it intolerant for a church or ministry to preserve biblical gender roles by refusing to acknowledge the unbiblical demands of egalitarians.