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.