Speaking at the Southern Baptist Convention’s Caring Well conference last week, author and Bible teacher Beth Moore addressed the elephant in the room: Is complementarian theology part of the problem in the church?
Before we get into what Moore said, we should probably define our terms, because I’m going to go out on a limb and assume “complementarian” is probably not a word that often comes up when you grab coffee at Starbucks with your friends on Tuesday night.
Complementarianism is essentially the theological version of “separate but equal.” It argues that, while men and women hold equal value and dignity as God’s image-bearers, they have differing responsibilities in the home, in church, and elsewhere.
So now, what did Moore say?
The popular speaker explained to those attending the conference in Dallas that, in her view, complementarian theology is not the root of the problem. Rather, the root is a sinful and broken world. Furthermore, the idolization of complementarian theology, she argued, has become an issue.
“Complementarian theology became such a high, core value that it inadvertently … became elevated above the safety and wellbeing of many women,” Moore said, according to Church Leaders. “So high a core value has it become, that in much of our [Southern Baptist] world, complementarian theology is now conflated with inerrancy.”
She made her case by pointing to those within the Southern Baptist world who might feel compelled to dismiss people who espouse egalitarian theology — the view that men and women hold equal value and dignity as God’s image-bearers, and therefore, can hold equitable responsibilities in the home, in church, and elsewhere — as having a “low view of Scripture.”
Moore also called out the fact that so few women serve in any form of visible leadership within Southern Baptist institutions. As a result, women who face sexual assault and/or abuse “don’t even have a female to turn to” and “don’t know where to go” for help.
She also alluded to the fact that complementarian theology has been used by some as a way to cloak wrongful behavior that is dismissive if not abusive of women.
“Misogyny has no place in those who are being conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ,” Moore said.
The well-known author went on to argue those within church leadership as well as laypeople need to “learn how to smell a wolf” in sheep’s clothing. She added that the SBC has long held to the unwritten rule of not questioning “those in high positions.” That, she said, “must become a thing of the past.”
“Those who cannot be questioned,” Moore continued, “cannot be trusted.”
To people who are bothered by Moore’s clear-eyed rebuke, she reminded listeners of the apostle Paul’s words to the believers in Galatia. He wrote in Galatians 4:16, “Have I now become your enemy because I am telling you the truth?”