My Official Break Up with Complementarian Theology

I listened to a sermon today.

That’s not too odd, considering it’s Sunday and I’m a regular church attendee.

But, I listened to a really, really good sermon today (which doesn’t happen every time I attend church).

The sermon was about walls—walls we build and walls we tear down. It wasn’t just about our personal walls, but social and cultural walls. Walls sometimes play a positive role, providing protection and security. Sometimes, they play a negative role, causing separation and isolation.

The sermon talked about the way walls are used for good and for evil. The Jerusalem wall in Nehemiah was referenced, as well as the mention of walls in David’s writings, and the analogy of walls in Ephesians chapter two—where the imagery speaks of a wall of hostility being broken down by Jesus. This wall is that which separated God’s people with the rest of the world, as well as the physical wall that was in the Jewish worship center separating the Gentile (non-Jewish) court from the holy place (where non-Jews were not allowed to enter).

The sermon today was informed, educated, contextually accurate, and culturally relevant.

The sermon spoke about the physical walls that were built in the ghettos of Poland where people were living in forced labor camps. It spoke of the barricade-walls that were used during Jim Crow era to separate whites and blacks. It referenced the metaphorical walls we’ve built in our own society, the “us” vs. “them” …the walls between political parties, social classes and races.

When speaking about the negative aspect of walls—the ones built in society, the preacher displayed this picture…

A physical wall formed by church clergy during the terror at Charlottesville. They stood firm, hand-in-hand, forming a wall against white supremacy.

I left this sermon with tears in my eyes. I walked away with an overwhelming desire to step over boundaries I’ve unknowingly created in my world. I left broken yet encouraged, saddened yet hopeful. I walked away reminded of what God intended for his people through Jesus—that the wall of hostility would be broken down; that all would be equal; that there would be no distinction between a Jewish person and a Gentile person, a man or a woman, a slave or a freed person.

I left this sermon moved and changed. The message was one that I surely won’t forget. But more than that, tears filled my eyes because of one specific detail: this sermon was preached by a woman. A pastor. A woman pastor. And this sermon was preached at my new church in my new home in Southern California.

This might seem like a huge deal to some of you, and it may not seem like a big deal at all to others. But you see, the last ten months have been a bit overwhelming—flooded with an endless amount of praying, reading, studying, sleepless nights…and lots and lots of tears.

I’ve never considered myself a feminist. I didn’t go to the marches, I didn’t sign petitions, I didn’t repost any memes about women’s equality. I didn’t jump on the women’s-rights-train because I was a Christian—a Bible-believing, Calvinist-preaching, rightfully-submitting, conservative Christian. I belonged to the tribe of Reformed Theology. I read the right theologians, meditated on the right devotionals, listened to the right preachers. I even stuck to the ESV and the HCSB versions of Scripture. I didn’t give too much of my energy to social issues (unless it was about abortion) and I didn’t speak up against injustice, because well, I was to be set-apart from post-modernism, liberalism…culture.

I remained “unstained from the world”… until, well, until I began to feel the pangs of inequality myself.

While in my first two years of seminary, I was encouraged to study and learn and grow in my knowledge of God. I was taught that we were all given gifts by the Spirit, and that we should exercise them in obedience for the edification of the church….except, of course, if my gifting was to teach or preach or lead…because, well, I was a woman, and women can’t do that…their “role” is different.

The first church I attended during this time accused me of being “unsubmissive” because I initiated a Bible study with a group of young women. The problem was that I didn’t ask for their permission. And the pastor’s solution? Well, to speak hurtful things behind my back, of course. In the midst of this chaos, I called several other pastors and friends and asked for their opinion, wondering what in the world I did wrong. A good friend (and pastor) of mine admitted, “to be honest, Kat, you’re a woman. Some men in this context feel threatened by a woman’s initiative and leadership.”

Another time in a hermeneutics class, a well-meaning professor went off on a tangent to the class how important it was that everyone learns Greek and Hebrew, as it changes the way we read and teach Scripture. It was clear that he really was only talking to the males in the class when he finished his speech with, “and ladies…your husbands will be really impressed if you can exegete Scripture alongside them…” my heart sank as I heard this, flabbergasted that he would imply I go through the pain of learning Greek…simply to impress my husband. I nearly fell off my chair when he ended that sentence with, “right, Kat?” I was one of the outspoken students in class, not only debating theology, exegeting Scripture in Greek, and having an educated opinion alongside my male peers, but also spending just as much of my personal time studying…not to eventually lead the church, but to impress my husband, of course.

The more I spoke and shared my knowledge of Scripture, the clearer it became that my knowledge didn’t carry the same weight in a man’s world.

Thankfully, this knowledge I had gained led me to deeper study… sleepless nights digging through journals and commentaries, devouring the work of previous scholars who were experts in biblical writings and ancient culture. The more I studied Jesus’s teachings, Jewish religion, Roman and Greek culture, the more I saw that patriarchy was so clearly…wrong.

So I kept digging. I kept praying. I shed more and more tears. I became obsessed with the 1st century. I became obsessed with Greek words and their English translations. I became obsessed with, well, the Bible…and other ancient writings. The more I studied, the more I recognized the exegetical inconsistencies with fundamentalist translations and conservative interpretations…

Patriarchy.

It didn’t add up.

For so long I was blinded to it because I hadn’t stepped outside of the boundaries created by tradition. I was ignorant. I didn’t know any better. For years I sat silent and unnecessarily “submissive.”

And it didn’t just end with patriarchy…

Inequality.

Injustice.

It’s not what Jesus stood for.

“If you keep my commandments you will remain in my love. This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you.” (John 15)

I say this to you as someone who now understands inequality: I’m sorry. I’m sorry for my ignorance and for my silence. To my hurting and oppressed sister who has been taken advantage of, whose voice wasn’t valued because of her gender. Your voice matters. To my black brothers and sisters who fight the battle of inequality on a daily basis. Your life matters. I’m sorry to all of you who have been abused spiritually and emotionally by those who claim to represent Jesus. Sometimes, wrongfully so, right doctrine deems more important than His love.

To the scholars and experts who have gone before me in this fight for freedom, THANK YOU. Thank you to N. T. Wright, Ben Witherington, Kenneth Bailey, Gordon Fee, F.F. Bruce, Scot McKnight, Kevin Giles, Richard Hess, Douglas & Rebecca Groothius, Craig Blomberg, Rachel Held Evans, Kate Wallace, Nunneley, Michael Gungor, Mike McHargue, Kurt Willems, Nicholas and Allison Quient, Christena Cleveland, and SO many others who have contributed to the equality of persons.

We stand together.

 

Comments

  1. Esther Gomez says

    Keep writing, Kat! I love how you mentioned that in Christ we are one and that through the Spirit, God gives us gifts in order to edify the Church. Why would women be any different?I know a few women leaders/pastors that have influenced my life as they biblically preached the Word of God within this past year. Nothing wrong with that. Love you!

  2. Jorge Tucker says

    Kat, life is built by the lessons we learn.. The love we share and the Faith of a Higher Power.. As it states in Romans 3:22-24 “Even the righteousness of God through Faith in Jesus Christ. For all those who believe, for there is no distinction”. You have a beautiful soul & spirit and the doors you are opening will only help to break the walls that so many before us have built in some form or fashion.. There is only one race, the Human Race and we all bleed the same. So follow your heart and listen to your spirit they are one in the same.. God has many plans for you and from the looks of things they have begun to start. Blessings to you and Taylor and I look forward to seeing those blessings bloom!!

  3. says

    My good friend, Stephen Goetz, pointed me to this piece you wrote. First, I grieve with you for those moments when the Spirit was saying “yes” to your gifts but ideology told you “no.” Clearly, you ARE gifted! Second, what an honor it is to have been part of your journey in some small way. Thank you for mentioning me. Lastly, keep going!!!!! We need more gifted women leading in the local church and the academy!!!!!!!

    • Kat says

      Yes! Thank you! It’s been a long and hard road. I so enjoyed your insights on your podcast. Thank you for your commitment; we will continue this fight for equality.

  4. Audrey says

    Loved this! I struggle with the balance of “being set apart” (so I feel pressure to not get involved with social issues) and “be the change you wish to see” (speak out, defend and be a humble representation) I feel like I have some more learning to do before I can confidently be at this place a freedom I can sense from this blog, but I’m thankful for your much needed bravery in this world.

    • Kat says

      This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing your heart. It really is a struggle…one that I dealt with for a while…but, I just couldn’t be silent any longer. I will send prayers of wisdom and discernment your way!

  5. Tweet says

    As latinas who pass as white women, it is difficult for us to see inequality because we have lived lives free of oppression and prosecution just for existing. Our ancestors were not sold and murdered and raped just for the amount of melanin in their skin. Our families, for the most part, have always treated us with respect and given us every opportunity available. Women, people of color, LGBTQIA, and other marginalized groups have not had the same opportunities for something that is beyond their control–for simply just being who they are. What we have is called privelege. And when we have privelege, we need to use our voices in order to fight for those whose voices are silenced; otherwise, we are no different from the oppressors. Our silence is consent. Realizing our ignorance and role in compliance is overwhelmingly painful, but not as painful as life is on a daily basis for those marginalized groups. We have only started the fight. I love you.

  6. Dayna Bickham says

    So a person is Jewish if their mother is Jewish, yet Patriarchy is the norm. We read stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and it seems normal to recognize and slip into patriarchy, but NONE of those men would have survived, much less thrived without the women God let walk with them. Judaism is more than the commands God gave, it is additional laws, made by men, and passed down as tradition that became religon. In that same context we see the early church struggle with it over and over. Then the council of Laodecia.

    If mysagony was a consequense of the fall (you will desire your husband but he will rule over you” – Genesis 3:16) and Jesus came to break the curse of (original) sin and death, and IN Him we find our true identity then the church should revel in the freedom Jesus brought for women.

    While most misinterpret Pauline advice to a culturally perverse society that worshipped female dieties, they have no problem ignoring the “holy kiss” part or the fact that a former Pharisee allowed women to learn. Silent or not. They also ignore the women who pastored and later supported – even working with – Paul. Eunice, Pricilla, Junia just to name a few.

    Follow the One who designed you before the foundations of the world were laid. Seek Him first and let Him tell you who you are. Listen to a man rather than to God and you will commit the same sin Adam did in the garden. Just think on that.

  7. Natalie Chaves says

    Love your writing and the knowledge you always share! Keep fighting the good fight and motivating others along the way! You are a true inspiration!

    Best,
    Natalie Chaves

  8. Alex Richardson says

    Kat, I never got the opportunity to know you at seminary and I only knew your husband a little, but we have a mutual friend that encouraged me to read this blog post. I’m so glad that I did. Thank you for your courage and your honesty. Thank you for sharing your battle, for owning up to the blinders you had placed on before, and for the countless hours of studying and wrestling that brought you to this place. I have existed in the secular feminist, conservative reformed, fundamentalist baptist, and so many other “camps,” and I can say without a shadow of a doubt, I firmly and joyfully rest in knowing that I both love Jesus and am a feminist. I joyfully follow the leading of Christ and wholeheartedly believe patriarchy was not His desire for us. I will be praying for you on this journey. I’m so excited for you and the freedom you will undoubtedly cherish through this “break up” with complementarianism.

    • says

      Thank you SO much for this comment and for your encouragement. It really means a lot. I am so, incredibly happy that Jesus led you to freedom considering this topic! We stand together <3

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