With the recent controversy about the use of USD200,000 in church funds to get a book of Mark Driscoll’s onto the New York Times Bestseller list, Carl Trueman has written a piece about how leadership works in American Evangelicalism. He raises a question at the end of the piece regarding “the silence of many of the men who present themselves as the leaders of [New Calvinism] and who were happy at one time to benefit from Mark Driscoll’s reputation and influence.” He points out that they’ve had no problem calling out Joel Osteen or the leaders of the emerging church, but that they’ve failed to critique Driscoll so thoroughly. Fair point. The silence has been striking, even among the fans in the circles I move in, who’ve just kind of stopped re-posting Driscoll’s statuses.
But the critiques have been there. Wendy Alsup has warned about Driscoll for more than two years and she’s recently issued a public call for him to repent. Her critiques go far beyond his lack of accountability with finances because she worked at Mars Hill and has seen the fallout from his abusive leadership, especially as he rejected elders who were critical of him.
I understand that as a staunchly complementarian movement, New Calvinism finds it leaders among men, and I respect that. But leaders are not the only voices to listen to, and Trueman himself identifies that a problem for evangelicalism has been “the power of a self-selected band of dynamic personalities, wonderful communicators, and talented preachers who have been marketed in a very attractive manner.” Women are not the leaders of the New Calvinism, but they are still worth listening to. The prophetic voice has been there, if only we had the wisdom to listen to it. If and when New Calvinism’s leaders call out Mark Driscoll, I’m hoping they’ll acknowledge that they are not the first, and that there have been people of courage who have done so before them.
I belonged to a church once that wouldn’t have identified itself as complementarian (because they believed women could preach and be ordained) but functionally was. The only female staff members were in children’s ministry, administration or junior music roles, and the pastor explicitly said that women would come to church if you got men to come, so the place to pour your time and energy was into men. Not surprisingly, this church had a very blokey culture, so much so that the kind of touching most men only do on the football field made its way off the football field, and was considered a joke. The girls in the church considered this inappropriate, and said so to their boyfriends, friends and fellow youth leaders. We said it was pastorally insensitive; they said we were uptight. Several years later when one of these guys started mentoring a young guy who was struggling with his sexuality, the penny dropped, and he told the other guys that this behaviour had to stop. The listened to him, repented and kept their hands to themselves.
A woman says it and no one listens, even if they hear; a bloke says it and we all sit up. In the meantime, there is fallout from not heeding the Spirit’s voice which grieves the women who have been sensitive to it and should be a cause for repentance from the men who ignored it.
Those of us who identify as complementarians must come to terms with the female voice as a legitimate voice. Whether she’s in leadership or not, she’s a part of the body, and it’s supposed to be a body that honours even the weakest parts. The Spirit doesn’t just work in leadership but in all parts of the body. Women see different things to men; we have a unique voice, and it’s one that the church needs.
It’s OK to listen to the sisters. We must listen to the sisters.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.