CBE conference happened this weekend. I really wanted to go, especially for some of the workshops. Plus, one of the speakers, Kevin Giles, was a former minister at my Adelaide church and having heard so many wonderful things about him, I’d have loved to have met him. But we ended up having other things on and it was also really expensive! (There was a reasonable student rate if you went for the whole time, but no concession for p/t). From all reports, it was a really interesting conference. It’s certainly reignited the gender debate here in Melbourne.
Arthur and I have great respect for both sides of the gender debate. (We use the terms complementarian and egalitarian.) We’ve appreciated the courtesy with which those at Ridley interact and feel that it’s a really positive environment. Those who’ve been following our blog for a while will know that we don’t find ourselves comfortably in either camp though if you pushed us we’d probably lean slightly more to the complementarian side of things.
But someone said to me the other day that from observing our behaviour, you’d think we were egalitarian. I can see that. We both preach. Arthur proudly encourages me to study the full M.Div. We thrash issues through and I’m often more vocal than Arthur. Arthur talks about ‘headship’ in terms of initiative to serve, not ‘leadership’ or ‘decision-making’. And that works for us. We find ourselves in a relationship where both of us are able to flourish and exercise our gifts irrespective of traditional gender roles.
But here’s my dirty little complementarian secret. I kind of like those gender roles. I want to be a mum. And not just be a mum for a bit and then go back to work. I want to do the stay-at-home, go to mothers’ group, mentoring younger women kind of mum. Not because I think it’s going to be easy (I’m Facebook friends with enough mums to hear plenty about the trials) but because I just want to. I feel like it’s part of being a woman. I might feel that way because of ‘how I’m wired’, as complementarians might argue. Or it might be because of the cultural construct I find myself in, as egalitarians might argue. Either way, it’s still something I want.
The Third Wave feminist in me says that’s OK. Even a conservative expression of femininity is valid. But the debate we’ve witnessed here in Melbourne suggests that there are some expressions of Christian femininity that are better than others – both sides stridently put forward a right and a wrong. So I feel a bit guilty for wanting a certain role. As if I’m taking sides. Except that I feel like my own life is a microcosm of the debate. Because there’s something in me that fears that living such a conservative role may not set my heart on fire like ministry does. And yet, for some reason, I feel drawn to it. Any other women experience this conflict?
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.