I’ve just read Christianity’s Today article “Wounds of a Friend: Complementarian” by Dr. John Koessler, chair of the pastoral studies department at Moody Bible Institute, a self-described complementarian (he believes women cannot serve in certain roles because of their differences and/or God’s commands in Scripture) who makes this point: “Adam’s first sin was his silence in the garden when Eve was being tempted. His subsequent sin has been to silence the voice of his God-given partner.”
While I do not believe Adam’s first sin was his silence (God never judges or rebukes him for this) I do believe men are guilty of silencing their God-given partner. Koessler warns complementarians from using Scripture to push a certain social construct and control over women, one of which is manifest in calling stay-at-home mother’s as those who are accepting “God’s highest calling.” As one woman friend tells him, “My children are grown and out of the house. So when I hear people say that a woman’s ‘highest calling’ is to be a wife and mother, I find myself wondering if there isn’t anything else for me to do for Christ.”
This is precisely what some complementarians have done to women, in their eagerness to uphold the excellent work of mothering, they’ve allowed all other valuable, excellent jobs, vocations, ministries to pale in comparison. This is not what Christ teaches, which Koessler points out in detail in his article. I mention this here because of a recent post and long, dedicated discussion many of you contributed to the topic of stay-at-home mothering. To read this spirited, kind exchange go to “When Religion Hurts Women.”
In a follow-up article, Dr. Sarah Sumner warns egalitarians (those who believe women and men should serve in any capacity in which they are gifted be it elder, deacon, pastor, teacher) in her article “Wounds from a Friend: Egalitarian” that egalitarians need to be careful to use carefully exegeted passages to defend their belief in women’s public ministry, not political ideologies (and I’d add gut feelings like, “I feel very strongly that women should be permitted to preach.”) Egalitarians must be careful about taking Scripture out of context, not slapping just one definition of “head” on I Cor 11, to be wary of a marriage where there is no mutuality, but only independent individuals operating without the other’s input or love and to guard against a genderless church.
This last point is a problem I’ve noticed in the egalitarian movement. It is a problem that worked it’s way into an answer in my first book, Ruby Slippers: How the Soul of a Woman Brings Her Home. I’d like to share a short excerpt from chapter five, “A Natural Woman” the footnotes follow below.
Our bodies change the way our souls work. Our very experience of life is female. This difference goes beyond baby-birthing, nursing and menopause . . .
Women have dieted, tanned, styled, dyed, and even cut their bodies in order to get that one marketed look. Few women have observed and lived with their bodies intentionally enough to enjoy owning them, as they are, right now, not next month when I might be able to squeeze into my skinny jeans or after I have a baby when my breasts might swell a bit bigger. Not ten years ago when my stomach was a prepubescent flat washboard, but learning to be “in” my body and accept it right now. We don’t want our bodies, particularly not if they’re vulnerable vessels. This discontentment over our bodies’ vulnerability is the first place we need Christ’s help—to show us that women’s bodies are a good thing
My body is something I get to give over to my husband, a difficult task unless I actually believe that it is mine, part of me, and that my body is a good thing. I know women who smirk and grimace when their husbands praise their bodies—confident that he is misguided, blind or lying, or embarrassed to have attention called to their flesh. They don’t believe him or anyone else
Until my body and soul are really my own possessions, I cannot present them to anyone. Writer Virginia Stem Owens asks a grippingly good question, “Can I be friends with myself if I am not friends with my body?” To be friends with our bodies is a good form of self-possession, allowing us to own ourselves enough to be capable of giving ourselves away to God and others. What if we re-defined our bodies with Christ as our first consultant, not fashion, models or my own hurtful standards? What if I asked Christ what he thinks of thick thighs, thin calves, flabby arms and love handles? He may be more concerned at our attitudes towards our bodies than our bodies themselves. My body is something I get to steward, to love, to cherish, to be “in,” to give, until death do us part. After death, I get a new one and I’m not certain it will look all that drastically different from this one. Job says, “In my flesh, I will see God.” It may be time to learn to like what I have been given.
 This is perhaps the most egalitarian statement in Scripture: “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but he wife does. Stop depriving one another” (1 Corinthians 7:4-5). We get to give our bodies to one another.
 Owens deftly illustrates and struggles with the identity she feels with her body. This short story covers her encounter with a lump in her breast, her mother’s Parkinson’s, and her daughter’s horror at old ladies’ bodies. In the end she refuses to surrender her questions to the TV commercials or her HMO. It is this kind of honest body attention that women need to practice together. “The Message in the Body,” Image: Art, Faith, Mystery 48 (Winter 2005): 90
 Job 19:25-26. A thought to ponder: Do you think your femininity is something about you that you keep, even when your body is gone? In other words, do you think you will interact with God in heaven as a woman, or as an androgynous soul? When Jesus says that our resurrected bodies will be like the angels neither marrying nor giving in marriage, does he mean we lose our soul’s gender or just the earthly institution of marriage? Perhaps he means to point out that the exclusivity of marriage will be superseded, even outdated in the
I cannot see how anyone gains by minimizing the obvious differences in the bodies and souls of men and women. And even if egalitarians assert that men and women are not exactly the same, if we fail to talk about it, explain and understand these differences, then our differences are not permitted to make a real impression on our lives, our marriage, and our churches.