In the lead up to the recent CBE conference, which Tamie has already reflected on, The Age published a local write-up of the quarrel between egalitarians and complementarians in Melbourne Anglicanism.
We’ve heard some people worry about the article’s inaccuracies, yet it has at least one thing exactly right: Christians really are at loggerheads on this.
Others have seen the article as inappropriate: doesn’t it make a scandal out of an internal matter for the church, an issue that Christians need to work out behind closed doors? Yet this is as public as it gets. The world will know us as Jesus’ disciples because of our love for other disciples. Or take the cosmic sweep of Ephesians: God will be known as the church becomes the place where all humanity is unified, in plain view of the whole Universe. Whatever comes of this issue will happen in public.
The tragedy of this debate is not that men might be oppressing women, as appalling as that is, but that it simmers with a disunity that undercuts the most basic business of the Christian church: making God known together as we worship him together. This is the irony of The Age article, which seems a banner for division as much as a banner for justice. Is this really the occasion to join some camp or other?
Instead, what if Christians talked together as Christians and worked together as Christians? The great need is for Christians to stop treating one another as adversaries. Thankfully, there are already some wonderful examples of this in practice (my coverage here). And we can do more. What if complementarians made themselves known as passionate advocates of gender equality? What if egalitarians seriously tried to get to grips with gender differences? Maybe someday the opposing camps will even hold a joint conference — now that would be something!
As for Ridley, if it is somehow ‘at the centre of the renewed debate’ as The Age article claims, I would hope that it’s as a flagship for Christians working together. That has largely been my experience, at least. As Peter Adam is quoted in the article, students are indeed free to hold either position with a clear conscience. More importantly, students usually understand that this issue is a second-order one. Mostly, complementarian students are not stupid enough to set upon women candidates for ordination. Mostly, egalitarian students are wise enough not to heckle others for sincere beliefs. And the rest of us are free to discern what to make of these things, along with many other matters, while together we get on with the business of making God known. This is formalised in Ridley’s Gender and Ministry Policy.
Arthur Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.