Womanhood, Complementarianism, and the SBC: Megan Dickerson
I don't know if you keep up with SBC happenings on Twitter (and I can't recommend you do) but it's been rough going off and on. I'm not sure we're being well represented on the social media platform. There's more fighting than encouraging and building up. One of the common flash points has been women in ministry and what complementarianism means in application.
It's been confusing to try to sift through the arguments, the misrepresentation, the flat out lies. It's been overwhelming to think that people are putting up dividing lines depending on the kind of complementarian you are. I'm not really sure what it would mean to be a “hard” or a “soft” complementarian, neither sounds all that appealing if the descriptions on Twitter are correct!
But I have to admit there has been some good produced in my own life from watching this argument happen. I pray we can all say the same. Here's what I've found so far:
1. I've been driven to the Word.
That's always good, right? I'm not sure where I stand on women teaching Sunday School or being the church's worship leader. With so many men and women that I respect offering different views, I've gone to the scriptures for myself. I'm still not sure but I think I'm ok with accepting there's a range within orthodoxy, even a range that's acceptable within the SBC.
2. I've been more careful with my words.
There's something about social media, isn't there? When we say something, we expect that people can understand what we MEAN to say instead of what we ACTUALLY say. Too often what we mean to say isn't what others hear. If the goal of communication is helping the hearer grasp the meaning, I have to choose my words carefully.
3. I've thought about my own gifts and how to steward them.
That's the point, right? Are we as women limited in using our gifts? I can't tell you a time that I've ever been told I couldn't do something that I wanted to do in a Southern Baptist church. I've had the opportunity to teach women and girls how to study the Word. But I'm understanding that isn't the story for everyone. If I've been given opportunity, I want to use it well for God's glory.
4. I've been challenged to encourage other women.
I didn't realize how widespread a misunderstanding of complementarianism was that says women shouldn't learn or shouldn't be strong. I've been blessed to have men and women encourage me to know God and to use my gifts. I didn't know that was rare! I'm thankful to be able to encourage the women around me with better understanding.
5. You can't define something by only saying what it's not.
You can't define a tree by saying it's not a flower. Instead of saying what complementarianism isn't, let's proclaim its beauty! If I am firmly in the SBC and firmly complementarian and I don't understand what the argument is really about, we need to define our terms better! If God's design for men and women is as beautiful as we say, let's make it sound beautiful! Right now it sounds anything but.
I can't tell you if I'm a soft or a hard complementarian. I've been a (mostly) stay at home and homeschool mom for almost 9 years. I have 4 children that I love dearly. That brings some assumptions. I've had people assume that I thought all women should only stay at home and never have any type of career. I've had people show their surprise when I have a (fairly) educated opinion about some doctrinal stance. I've had people try to push me into a box where I just don't fit.
I also have a Master's degree that many believe is wasted on a homeschool mom. I'd have to firmly disagree. Education, especially theological education, is NEVER wasted. But that too says something about what I believe is the role of women. We're not one-size-fits-all. We all have our own good works prepared for each of us before the foundation of the world and yours won't look like mine.
We need to share stories about what it looks like to support women in their calling. We see the stories of women being brushed to the side or pushed down. We see the stories of women abandoning complementarianism all together. Let's celebrate the beautiful gift of biblical complementarianism by sharing stories! I'll get us started.
Today my husband went to a used book sale and brought home a box of Greek flash cards. For me. He knows that I'd love to go back to school. He knows I'd love to be able to pursue a PhD. He knows what that would mean for our family and how hard it would be. He knows I'd have to take Greek first. He didn't know how much it would mean to me that he would support my dreams in this way. Because people don't assume the homeschooling mom of 4 wants to study Greek.
His is the complementarianism in action that I want to have. He leads our home well. He stands firm in his belief that God's Word says that men should be the head of the home and the church. He also believes that women can learn and grow and use every gift God has given because we complement one another. He believes that complementarianism makes us all better as we live in God's design. He doesn't believe it limits women to being homeschool moms while believing motherhood is a high and noble calling.
Unfortunately, none of this will fit on Twitter nor would it do any good to tone down the squabbling. Maybe one day we'll decide that we can do better.
Megan is the wife of Drew who is studying Historical Theology at Southeastern. She is mom to Dillon, Lottie, Addie, and CJ. She spends her time reading, homeschooling, and chasing toddlers. She believes the gospel touches every aspect of our lives and seeks to share it with winsome clarity. Megan graduated from SBTS with an MA in Biblical Counseling.