When Gender Theology is Divisive, And Why That’s Okay

When it comes to theology of gender, I am often told that it shouldn’t be discussed because it is divisive.

Sometimes I am met with fiery backlash from the male-headship crowd telling me that I am disrespecting my brothers and sisters in Christ, and “causing disunity” in the church.

Occasionally, brothers and sisters who share my views say they don’t speak up because they, “don’t want to be divisive.” Or perhaps they don’t want to be called divisive in a storm of angry accusations. Either way, they have been silenced.

And some organizations or pastors say they support the full equality of women in the church and home, but they choose not to stand up for equality, because it will cause division among supporters, and hurt fundraising.

It is the same accusation over and over again. Discussing theology of gender is divisive. The position of women is sacrificed in the name of unity, or worse, fundraising.

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:1-6

It’s clear that the apostle Paul feels that unity in the Spirit is important. He calls us to be humble, gentle, and patient with one another. We are reminded that there is one God, and one Christian faith. However, nowhere in scripture are we told not to speak up against injustice within the church for the sake of unity. Nowhere does it say that we should ignore bad or damaging theology for the sake of unity. Nowhere does it say that we should all agree with the pastors, or the elders, or the largest financial donors for the sake of unity.

In fact, the passage in Ephesians goes on to talk about attaining unity in faith and knowledge of the Son of God. Unity in knowledge, not obedience. It is contrasted with ignorance and hardness of heart. And we are to be made new in the attitudes of our minds.

Yes, we are to get rid of bitterness, rage, malice, brawling, and slander when dealing with our brothers and sisters. But that doesn’t mean we have to agree, or ignore disagreement. It only tells us how we should deal with these disagreements. We are not to simply comply or keep our mouths shut when the teaching we hear is in opposition to God’s plan for men and women.

Although I sometimes fail, I do strive to speak on gender theology with grace and compassion. And even when I speak gently, some people accuse me of being divisive. If my words are dividing the just from the unjust, then I say, great. Let’s divide. If my views are dividing false teaching from the knowledge of God, then may the divisions increase.

Big money donors or wealthy denominations might not like churches and organizations taking a hard stance on certain issues. But God never gives us an “out” when it comes to truth. God never says, “It’s okay to avoid addressing certain issues when you are having a hard time getting funding.” And God will provide support when we stand up for truth and justice and the gospel. God never lets his message falter, or his purposes fail. God honors truth, integrity, and faithfulness.

So I will continue to call out gender injustice, and pray that the church unites in the Spirit of justice and equality.

I will stand for the equality of women, because God created humanity, and endowed both male and female with the imago dei, the image of God. Male and female are different, beautiful, unique, and equal in value and authority. They are both gifted and called into God’s work. They are both saved, justified, renewed, and redeemed.

The broken state of the world teaches us otherwise. The brokenness comes crashing down in Genesis 3, and the rest of scripture unfolds in the arid desert of sin and dysfunction, with drips and tastes of the living water breaking through. The dysfunction isn’t God’s ultimate plan. It is what God has come to undo. God crashes into the scene like a waterfall in the desert, when Christ becomes incarnate. And all through the New Testament we see new life, new hope, and the first fruits of the restoration that is taking place. That restoration has nothing to do with laws, rules, proper protocol or prescribed gender roles. It has everything to do with grace, sacrifice, freedom, gifting, and healing. The dryness is slowly leaving the land. The brokenness between humanity and God is being repaired, as is the brokenness between male and female. When women had been pushed down almost too far to breathe, Jesus lifted them up. Jesus chose women. Jesus ordained women. Jesus healed women. Jesus engaged with women. Jesus showed us that the dysfunction is not the way it’s supposed to be.

So I stand confidently with my Savior, as Jesus calls and ordains women to preach, and to teach this dysfunctional world about the living water he has to offer. And I will continue to speak out against the theology that denies the full freedom my savior offers. I will continue to speak out against those who say that women and men are not equal in authority. I will continue to say, “this theology is bad for women and bad for the church.” And I will pray for Unity in the Spirit, the same Spirit who gifts both men and women for all of God’s glorious purposes.

And if those words divide, so be it.

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1 thought on “When Gender Theology is Divisive, And Why That’s Okay”

  1. You were reading my mind. I get all of these responses so often, and I’ve arrived at the same conclusion as you. Jesus’ death and resurrection gave us a giant ‘do-over’ to the garden! Thank you for sharing this!

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