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Why I am Not an Egalitarian: Postmodernity Did it To Me

I just posted an essay on church and pomo blog on “Why I am Not an Egalitarian in relation to women in ministry in the church: Because postmodernity did it to me.” (The title was shortened for the blog). If you’re interested in the subject please check it out. But first I need to explain some things.

First, I believe flat out the issue of gender relations is central to the church and its witness to the justice God is working out in the world through Jesus Christ. Anyone who knows me for a while, knows that I have been an advocate of women’s ordination and women’s full participation in the authority of the church for many years. I do not subscribe to the complementarian approach that says women can be in any position of authority in the church as long as they have a man over them because I don’t believe that limitation is put on women in Scripture. I believe 1 Cor 14:34, and 1 Tim 2:12 is about something else. Yet I humbly confess I see some problems in staking out a position using the terms “egalitarian” along with “equality” and even inherent individual rights. It is the political assumptions that so often undergird those terms that bothers me.

I believe the Western liberal political assumptions encoded in the words “egalitarian” hinder true gender reconciliation and justice in the churches I have been in and around. They set us up to be individuals, not members of one another in a unity that supersedes gender yet does not erase it (Gal 3:28). They exert power discourses that sublate gender difference. So we have fights, square offs, pain, hurt, make women be men, hurling at one another in unbelievable division in local churches and denominations nation-wide. For these reasons I think the political assumptions that undergird the egalitarian interpretation need to deconstructed. I think postmodern critical theorists can help. Of course I also think complementarians need deconstruction as well for they are captive to the same political categories as egalitarians. I could have written the post on the complimentarians, but that would have been too easy.

Unfortunately I fear if I criticize or engage in the dangers of the political assumptions that underly the Egalitarian position, I get that look of not being Politically Correct, like I am a dinosaur from the fundamentalist dark ages (how can a guy read Judith Butler and be a fundy?). Like how can I REALLY be for women’s justice and full participation in ordination if I am not a complete advocate of the egalitarian position. It’s one of those postmodern things that sometimes you can be saying something that sounds like one position but actually means something quite profoundly different. So I knew I’d be taking some risks when I posted this essay. Nonetheless, I gave it a shot. Lord have mercy. Anyways, if you’re interested in why I am not an egalitarian – because postmodernity did it to me … check it out on churchandpomo and then tell me where I went wrong. Seriously, I’m open for conversation and feedback!

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