Russell Moore Explains if Complementarianism Will Survive the #MeToo Movement

Russell Moore addresses Evangelicals for Life conference at the JW Marriott Hotel on January 18, 2018.
(PHOTO: ROCKET REPUBLIC, COURTESY OF ERLC)

Amid the ongoing fallout over sexual misconduct within churches, some are wondering if a particular theology known as complementarianism will survive. A prominent Southern Baptist leader says it will, but stresses Christians must remain watchful.

Within evangelicalism, theological complementarians are those who believe that God has created men and women with equal dignity and worth and that He has gifted both men and women for service in ministry, yet scriptural prohibitions remain on women from holding certain pastoral leadership and teaching offices in the Church.

Meanwhile, on the opposite side, theological egalitarians agree that God made men an women with equal dignity and worth yet insist that the New Testament does not warrant such restrictions on women in ministry leadership. Egalitarians often point to women leaders in the New Testament such as Junia the apostle, Phoebe the deaconess, and Priscilla, who some believe authored to book of Hebrews.

As the #metoo movement has unfolded since last fall, these views are being increasingly re-examined.

In a Signposts podcast last week, Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, noted that he has been asked recently whether or not complementarianism can last given the continuing revelations about sexual abuse and how theology can be used to mistreat women within complementarian churches and institutions.

“One of the things that God is doing right now is revealing to us that there is no ideological safe harbor,” Moore said.

“It seems that the apocalypse, the revealing of things that were already present but hidden, was taking place, [it] has happened across the board in such a way that it’s impossible to say ‘Well, you are the ones who are to blame and over here are the people where that’s not happening,'” he explained, noting how sexual misconduct has been exposed not only in figures like Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby but also in churches.

Earlier this year, the Southern Baptist Convention — the largest evangelical Protestant denomination in the United States — faced a reckoning of sorts with regard to what many considered improper handling of sexual abuse situations and misogyny, particularly within Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Some voices have asserted that a rigid form of complementarianism is the “rotten theological tree” from which this culture of abuse has been allowed to exist for so long.

Yet credible claims of sexual abuse have also touched egalitarian congregations, most famously Willow Creek Community Church outside Chicago. The congregation’s founder and longtime pastor, Bill Hybels, announced his early retirement amid multiple allegations of harassment and misconduct.

Moore, who is a complementarian and Reformed Baptist, went on to explain that early in his ministry he did not believe complementarianism would survive, even though he thought it was biblically correct. He thought that the cultural pressures were so great and that egalitarianism would eventually win the day. But that did not happen, he asserted.

“I think that that did not happen largely because of the sexuality and gender identity controversies that emerged,” Moore said.

“What we are seeing now is a sifting of hyper-complementarianism and a biblical complementarianism,” he added, noting that the “hyper” variety emphasizes the distinctions between men and women in such a way that magnifies those distinctions “beyond the commonness and the sameness that we have.”

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Brandon Showalter