“Equal” is not “The Same”!

A common accusation toward egalitarians is that we advocate for an androgynous society where there is no difference between men and women.  I can’t speak for all egalitarians, but I can tell you that this very idea made me reluctant to self-identify as an egalitarian for a very long time.  To my perception, the bulk of egalitarian scholarship concerns “workplace equality” within the church.  At the risk of offending egalitarian readers, I confess that I have no passion for that.  What I care about is equality within my marriage and the marriages of my 8 children and the marriages of my sisters and brothers who sit beside me in the pews and those who lead from the piano or pulpit.

My Wesleyan church has a female pastor on staff as does another local Wesleyan church.  Neither of these female pastors are treated as equals within their marriages.  They do not have equal voice, authority, nor respect from their husbands.  Yes, they have broken the glass ceiling when it comes to the church job market, but what good it that when the marriage remains a painful place of unequal yoke?

Being “EQUAL” does not mean being “THE SAME”.  As a mother who bore and nursed 8 full term children, I cannot emphasize this enough.  Perhaps this is why- at times- I identify so much with complemenentarian thought.  Sharon Hodde in Can Women Relate to a Male Savior? speaks of how pregnancy is the literal laying down of one’s life for another!

Females do this by nature and design.  If we hear of a mother doing otherwise, we are horrified: it’s unnatural!  As I meditate upon Ephesian 5, I see the following  unilaterally directed  toward  husbands:
 For no one ever hated their own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,” Ephesians” 5:29

What was Paul thinking?  His description resembles a pregnant mother…

It’s passages like the above directed to husbands, with no “vice versa” clause directed to wives, which undermine egalitarianism if equal must mean “the same”.

Do I sound like I am advocating for feminine superiority (females, by nature/instinct, nourish cherish and lay down life)?  Or do I sound like I see wives as inferior (we “weaker vessel” wives NEED nourishing and cherishing from our husbands)?   Women are neither superior nor inferior but men and women are different.   I advocate for equality, not sameness.   I long for the day when the voices of women carry equal weight with the voices of men within the church and within relationships.

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16 Responses to “Equal” is not “The Same”!

  1. mindfulconsideration says:

    Reblogged this on Mindful Consideration.

  2. lizsykes says:

    You are so right about the home, Charis. There has been progress re what women can ‘do’ in church life, but how women are viewed as people still has the thought of inferior or so different that they really can’t be involved in leadership. When relationships in the home are more biblically based (mutuality) then it will transfer to the church. So concentrating on home life is so important and affects everything else.

  3. MeakinsSpeak says:

    Wonderful post. I have been “arriving” at these same thoughts this year. I recently read a short book “Still Side by Side” which addresses the traditional scriptures used to defend the complementarian view of marriage. The author does an amazing job of showing a different view of the same coin. The scriptural interpretation that intrigued me the most was that Man is the head of the home as Christ is Head of the Church. She walks us through the potential that the greek root here can also mean head as in the headwaters of a river, or the source. I get so excited to finally be affirmed as more than inferior, that it almost scares me a bit 🙂 We truly are equal but different! Thanks for sharing your passion and insight.

  4. Charis says:

    Welcome Cheryl 🙂 (I dropped by your blog which has your first name). I’m glad that you are on the journey of healing and being affirmed in how very precious you are to the Lord!

    You said “man is the head of the home as Christ is Head of the Church”. Correction, “Husband is head of WIFE as Christ is head of the church”. I don’t mean to sound like I am nit picking but it can make a world of difference in lifestyle. (I speak from personal experience- I was robbed of my God ordained feminine authority by the “husband is the head of the household” myth for two decades of our marriage…)

    The book you mention sounds intriguing with “head” as “source”. That matches well with the description in1 Cor 11:12 “the woman originates from the man” (the man is “the source of” the woman). A plain intimacy metaphor also makes sense: The head is connected to the body and they are interdependent and connected- “one flesh”.

    Thank you for sharing your insights. I enjoy thinking through these things together! 🙂

    Warmly, Charis

    PS. The book Cheryl mentioned is available here

  5. lizsykes says:

    Maybe a caution is needed re the thought of different though equal which is the byline of complementarian thought. Women and men and more similar than they are different and it has been said there are more differences between people of the same gender than the other gender.
    We are all made in the image of God and are capable of showing the characteristics of God (including those of a nurturer) which are talked about throughout the bible, and able to display the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy longsuffering etc)

    Equal means we are of equal worth to God and given equal responsibility in the Body of Christ so in that sense we are all the same if we are indwelt by the Spirit of God. Our differences are biological and functional as it applies to the sexual relationship of marriage and any resultant child-bearing (bearing in mind that many couples do not have children)

  6. Charis says:

    Fair enough, Liz. Since the blog is about marriage and not “christian workplace equality”, I figured it is safe to address the biological and functional differences as pertaining to marriage.

    I can really understand both sides of this. I am now egalitarian and feminist and I am glad my daughters are not following in my “submissive wife” footsteps! But When I was a hyper-patriarchal quiver full fundamentalist, I had an interesting “conflict” in a Sunday school led by the egalitarian head of the religion department of a Nazarene University. He said “there are no differences between men and women! They are completely equal” I pointed at my 8 month pregnant belly and said, “Yes there are differences!”

    That baby was my 7th. As a QF mother, I am used to being “beyond the pale” on the motherhood, homeschooling, and apple pie side of this issue. I don’t feel that any egalitarian ministries address issues relevant to “traditional” women like myself very effectively and consistently which motivates me to add my 2 cents to the egalitarian conversation FWIW.

  7. lizsykes says:

    You are right, Charis in that most books and magazine articles talk about women who have the desire or are already in some form of ministry. Personally, I think the egalitarian perspective is not so much about what a person does as who they are and how they relate to women and men.
    I have been a ‘traditional’ woman too, having only worked outside the home occasionally when having children and some part-time work once they had all left home. I have been extremely blessed to be able to stay home and be a wife and mum, even though we have never been well-off. However….I have always thought of myself firstly as a Christian and secondly as a woman. Our unity and equality is best based on our all being children of God, inheritors of the Kingdom and recipients of the fruits and gifts of the Spirit.

  8. Charis says:

    I agree, Liz. Knowing who I am in Christ and the truth that I am a child of God and infinitely precious to Him is empowering, no matter what gender, race, social status, or age.

    As mentioned in the post, I have personally observed two couples where the wife is a pastor who are not treated as equals in their marriages- who do not have equal voice nor respect. My marriage was that way as a fundamentalist, patriarchal, QF practitioner which is perhaps- no surprise. What is surprising to me is that being “egalitarian” regarding church jobs fails to carry into the marriage.

    And maybe I am idealistic, but I have this idea that an accurate and respectful understanding of the differences between men and women might help husbands to treat their wives better. eg if femininity were not something to be considered a “put down” and inferior (comp ala Driscoll) or a liability to be obliterated (egal), but instead something to be cherished and valued as reflective of aspects of the image of God which may not be as familiar to a man, and as a gift to make men better in the long run when they hear the will of the Lord and draw upon His power to live with a wife in an understanding manner as co-heir (1 Pet 3:7).

  9. Charis says:

    And just a thought I have entertained lately: I have experienced that the Genesis 3:16 consequences and burden upon women diminish greatly post-menopause. Seems so for men too if they wind down on their working life. Perhaps the sunset years become more biologically “egalitarian”?

  10. liz sykes says:

    I don’t know about biologically, but the Genesis 3:16 description of how things would be now that humans had disobeyed doesn’t have to be the way things remain. As part of redemption, we can return to the pre-fall way of relating to one another as we live ‘in Christ’ and learn the way of love and laying down our lives for each other.

  11. Charis says:

    Don Johnson’s thoughts on Genesis are insightful and helped me. Stay tuned…. I think Don will be willing to share that material here.

  12. Roni says:

    I came across your blog from a comment you posted on an article entitled “The Universal Enslavement of Women’.
    I clicked on your icon and it brought me here and this article struck my eye.
    I will use the title of ‘complemenentarian’ to describe myself but as I read your article, I can
    relate – and I agree – with much of what you say!
    Titles can be so limiting can’t they?

    I have read nothing of your testimony but I appreciate the way you approached the issue of equality in this article (I haven’t read any of your other posts yet.)
    One question I have, which you may have already addressed somewhere else on your blog, is why do people feel like women don’t have a ‘voice’ in the body when Paul specifically talks about women prophesying?

    I’m not a ‘greek’ student or some indepth scholar on these things but when I think of prophesy, I think of a very important function in the Body. Paul says we are even to ‘desire’ to prophesy. The only restriction he puts on women ‘foretelling and forthtelling’ the things of God is that they are to be ‘covered’ -right? (and understanding that this goes beyond some ‘physical’ manifestation of wearing a hat/scarf/shawl). I think some of the confusion may arise because of how we currently function as a ‘body’ in our current institutional, traditional settings.

    Having one man stand up front in an auditorium setting or classroom setting automatically sets everyone else up as an audience of silent spectators with no input unless this tendency is intentionally fought against.

    If we assemble together the way Paul seems to describe in Corinthians with each one having a
    ” psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation” (1 Cor 14:26, KJV), then both men AND (coverd) women (whatever a person’s understanding of ‘covered’ may be) would be flowing in the Spirit and functioning equally.

    So it would seem, at least in our fellowships, it is more a matter of how WE as people, people who ‘see through a glass darkly’ who still battle with our flesh, have set up a structure of assembling and fulfilling our callings in the body have have done a disservice to ourselves, both men and women.

    As far as equality in the home, someone in the comments of the article that brought me to your site, made a very astute statement.

    Something to the effect of women who have husbands who act in a domineering, authoritarian manner towards their wives are giving the wives an opportunity to extend grace to them and allow them room to come to a greater understanding of the Father’s will (their ‘meek and quiet conversation’). (or some statement like that, lol) I thought this was good!

    We ourselves haven’t always believed what we do and how gracious of the Lord to still bless us until the ‘time of OUR visitation’ when our eyes are opened. That’s REALLY submission if a wife can ‘lay down her life’ and wait for her husband to ‘catch up’. Being a daughter of Sara sometimes means submitting to things we have different (and wiser!) understandings of and doing it without fear, The way Sara said she was a ‘sister’ even though she probably thought, “Abraham, you spineless dummy this is going to end up being a problem” and of course it did. But, without fear (and without murmuring I believe) she did, as we must do, submit herself to the Lord through submission to her husband, her example now being displayed to us as one to emulate.

    Well, this is getting long so I’ll stop here, lol. I have much to learn/understand about the mind of Christ still so I hope I am not speaking offensively to you or any of your readers – I just sincerely want to be pleasing to the Father like everyone else.

  13. Charis says:

    Hi Roni,

    Welcome 🙂

    On the relationship between Sarah and Abraham, we have an article on the blog:
    The Egalitarian Marriage of a True Patriarch

    On meekness, I recommend MEEKNESS AND HUMILITY FOR WOMEN by Katharine Bushnell.

    Regarding your question:

    why do people feel like women don’t have a ‘voice’ in the body

    This blog is about marriage and I did not have equal voice nor equal authority within my marriage. I have also observed two couples where the wives have broken the glass ceiling into church jobs as female pastors but they do not have equal respect nor equal voice within their marriages.

    So to answer your question I don’t feel like women have equal voice in the body (the “one flesh” of marriage) because of personal experience as well as observation of other marriages.

    Hope that helps!

    Warmly, Charis

  14. Roni says:

    Hello Charis,
    Thank you for receiving my comment without offense – these type of topics can be very sensitive so I’m grateful that you didn’t see me coming off as disrespectful to you or your readers.

    I read your first suggested article about a True Patriarch and enjoyed it. I must admit that I am more blessed than I sometimes realize and approach the topic of equality in marriage with ‘rose colored’ glasses. I can see MY marriage in how he described the mutual authority/respect between Abraham and Sarah and I forget that that is not the norm for everyone.

    After reading that article, I took a detour and read “The Team” page and followed the link to your site called ‘A Wife’s Submission’.

    I have only briefly read a couple of articles at that site but one in particular that stood out to me was ‘Irresistible Submission of Ephesians 5:24’.

    Your study on the word ‘subject’ as being descriptive and not prescriptive was very good! I can’t wait to show it to my husband and say ‘see, I DON”T have to be ‘subject’ to you after all – at least not in the way we have always understood it. 🙂

    I learned a portion of your testimony from one of the articles I read on that site so I can see why you say ‘personal experience’ has brought you to the understanding of inequality in the marriage relationship.

    Again, I’m thankful that you didn’t find offense in me saying ‘just submit as unto the Lord and God will honor your submission’. For someone who HAS done that for many weary, unrelenting days(years), that must seem like a tiresome tirade that complementarians always sling out.

    Please forgive me if I caused you any undue unrest for thoughtlessly speaking without knowing where you have been. While that may work in marriages where both are humbly trying to ‘submit one to another’ it’s obviously a problem when the man wants to use those verses as a hammer to show who’s in charge.

    I read the other article you recommended and while I started out understanding what the author was saying, it became confusing to my mind. If only ‘real’, Spirit produced humility and meekness, partnered with our other ‘balancing duties’ will inspire a positive change in our mates, then it would have been helpful to give some specific duties or even life examples of how that plays out. I know she says that we follow Jesus our pattern, but I was still confused on what ‘duties’ that SHE particularly had in mind for women to emulate. I don’t want to give away my birthright but now I wonder if I am doing that by not following these ‘duties’ she alludes to (?) Can you tell me more on this?

    I plan on reading some more of your “A Wife’s Submission” blog – I think it will be very helpful to me in my desire to be a better help meet and understanding what the Father intended for us as wives.

  15. Charis says:

    Thanks for the encouragement, Roni. I feel very blessed that the Lord can use my testimony and the truths He revealed to me through those experiences! And thank you for your sensitivity and concern, but I really have healed to the point where I can detach from the marriage teachings which were so destructive to our marriage.

    Katherine Bushnell never married and lived a 100 years ago. That said, I liked that chapter on the Meekness and Humility of a Woman because- even in her culture- she was so firm that a woman needs to follow Christ above all. Paragraph 412 at the link encouraged me personally that God wants me to stand up against evil/vice and not be “meek” in a manner which is weak and enables sin. Being assertive about such matters did not fit with the teachings I had absorbed about how wifely submission is supposed to work.

  16. Angie says:

    “What was Paul thinking? [Eph 5:29] His description resembles a pregnant mother…”

    Within the context of a head-body metaphor, I see Paul describing how one practically loves his own body (flesh) because he feeds and takes care of it i.e. gets nourishment from food & drink, rest, sleep, bathing, anointing, tends wounds, etc.

    “It’s passages like the above directed to husbands, with no ‘vice versa’ clause directed to wives, which undermine egalitarianism if equal must mean ‘the same’.”

    I do not see the unilateral instruction to Ephesian husbands as undermining egalitarian marriage but giving a Christian ethic to the patriarchal paradigm of the original audience. Paul, contra the philosophers who told the patriarchs how to govern their estates, tells them to love sacrificially their wives, not to provoke their children, and to treat their salves well knowing they both have a Master in heaven.

    I think the call for all Christ-followers is to love sacrificially, and Paul is addressing a specific circumstance, culture, and audience. Without a doubt, being a Christ-centered wife requires nourishing, cherishing, sacrificing for, and agape-ing (loving) your husband, and from what I can tell you know that well.

    Aside from the physical/biological differences, I think, lizskyes says it well: “Women and men and more similar than they are different and it has been said there are more differences between people of the same gender than the other gender.”

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