Seeking clarification on the egalitarian position

My name is Scott Barrett,
I am from Cardiff, Alberta, Canada.

Long time follower of RZIM ministries.
I am part of a pastoral search committee.
Hoping to find answers to hard questions through the word of God. And to hopefully offer encouragement whenever and wherever I can.

I am part of a local church that my parents originally helped to pioneer/ plant approximately 35 or so years ago. Baptist by denomination, born again christian around the age of 5 and reaffirmed/baptized by age 12. Our church is currently without a permanent head pastor, we have an interim pastor who is a firm believer in teaching God’s word in it’s entirety as we firmly believe the bible in it’s unadulterated form, is 100% absolute truth!

The issue: in june on Father’s day most of the men of our church were attending a mens retreat including our interim pastor. I was unable to attend the retreat, hence, I was one of the few males in attendance at church that Sunday. A guest speaker, a former congregant / member had been invited to speak and her entire message complete with biblical quotes from the CEB or common english bible, was based on the “Biblical patriarchal culture and why it is outdated (wrong). She is an avid supporter of the egalitarian world view.

For the first time since our church was planted, people were so disgusted and shocked at her message, so blatantly flippant and biblically incorrect, they started leaving. Phone calls and emails started pouring into the church office to our church board members in total outrage. I am not very familiar with egalitarianism but I am fairly familiar with my bible and I was stunned and completely caught off guard by this woman’s message. What exactly is egalitarianism and do egalitarians recognize the Trinity. It would seem that the Triune God would be in direct contradiction to an egalitarian as the patriarchal system is immediately established… GOD the FATHER… GOD the SON and GOD the HOLY SPIRIT.

I am seeking advice on how to properly present a rebuttal using Gods word as truth to expose the darkness and shine the Light of Gods word to those in our church who are easily confused and lead astray!


Hello, @Scottib30! Welcome to the Connect community. We’re grateful that you have brought your question to us, and we pray that this conversation will be fruitful and enlightening. :slight_smile:

I can imagine that an unexpected message like that would be a rather shocking way to be introduced to the egalitarian position! (Or, at least, the ‘egalitarian’ position as she presented it.) Without knowing exactly what line of argument she was using, it will be difficult to present some lines of challenge to her thinking.

So I suppose I’d like to start off by asking for a bit of clarity. The point of contention seems to be the ‘patriarchal system’. I’m curious about two things:

  1. How do you understand that concept?
  2. How did she present (or seem to understand) that concept?

Looking forward to working through this with you and others! :grin:


@Scottib30 Hi Scott,

I am really enjoying a book titled “Discovering Biblical Equality” with editors Pierce, Groothuis, and Fee. (there are many authors!) A chapter by R.K. McGregor Wright titled “Is the God of the Bible a Male Deity?” did an excellent job addressing some of your questions in a Q&A format (e.g. question 1: “Isn’t it obvious from even a first reading of the Bible that Scripture usually refers to God as ‘he’ and ‘him’, suggesting that God is in some sense male?”). I’d highly recommend the book if you are indeed interested in this topic.

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So sorry to hear of this turmoil at your church. My father in law is a pastor of 30 years, and I’ve seen how much it takes a toll on the heath of those in elders or pastor positions when ‘the poop hits the fan’ - sorry if this is a little (or a lot) irreverent but just trying to cause you to smile. Seems like people have impossible expectations for pastors (and elders). Be encouraged in your ministry.

There are so many terms thrown around and as Kathleen says it’s important to ask questions to clarify. Sometimes not easy to do this when under stress or pressure when trying to deal with church folk you love who are very upset. Just for my own understanding are we talking about the views on egalitarianism vs complementarism (

I don’t think it’s a question of compromise of the Trinity either way; I’m from a Baptist background (and still attend and serve in a Baptist church) and traditionally would say there is a leaning towards different roles : but I don’t hold to either position but would simply say that both men and ladies are both equally made in Gods image ; and both ladies and men are reflecting slightly different amazing characteristics of Gods character. I think men and ladies are both equal before God, and have complementary but equally important roles. I’m just thinking of how different my wife and I are - we are not in competition within our marriage as to who has the better role. We’re on the same team with complementary and equally important roles pulling together towards the same goal. It’s counterproductive in our marriage to compare things like paid vs non paid work or whatever else. Just looking at Christ’s relationship to the church shows me as a husband that to show true greatness I’ve gotta humble myself, protect my wife and ‘husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself’ as Paul writes. I’m not sure how these thoughts might apply to your situation but just sharing where I’m at…

I would probably avoid the term ‘patriarchal’ in any conversation if you are trying to repair hurt church relationships.

Thinking of you as you try to resolve the hurts in your church and separate that hurt from the different views people hold. People are extremely complicated and people problems are quite difficult to deal with. We’ve had our fair share of church problems and as part of the healing and understanding process I bought and read the recommended book in the article (, called ‘Firestorm; Understanding and preventing church conflict’ ; I’m not in church leadership but this helped me understand and put past events into perspective. Might be of interest to you.

Be encouraged- It is worth it in the end.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.
Phil 4:6

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Galatians 6:9


My understanding of the Patriarchy as laid out in the bible is fairly simple: God the father is the head of the trinity. Christ is the head of the church, the church submits to Christ. The husband is the head of the household, acting as the spiritual leader to his family, loving his wife as Christ loves the church, sacrificially, dying to himself in order to build up his wife and children, living and leading by example. The wife honours her husband because he puts her and the children above himself… they are equally important to God and one is not valued above the other.

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The message that I took away from the version presented, was that the biblical patriarchy was merely due to the culture of the day. The biblical model no longer applies in modern day society… and that now women should be permitted to fulfill any role in the church. It would appear to me however, in 1Timothy2:11-13, that women are expressly forbidden to teach and or preach in positions of spiritual authority over men as commanded by God. I can find no exceptions to this as of yet in my search of the scriptures.

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It is also my understanding, that elders and pastors fall into the same category. The elders and pastors are responsible for the spiritual well being of the church body and hold each other to task. Being accountable and administering discipline when necessary. Which in my mind, would preclude women in general from these specific roles. Not an equality issue as women are neither incapable of teaching or preaching. But forbidden by God because it does not fall into His order of things as given to the church by Paul. Your perspective concerning this matter is most welcomed!

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Hi, @Scottib30! Good to have you back, and to have a bit more context on your situation. :slight_smile: My thoughts generally come in spurts, so I will do my best to begin addressing this topic in a (hopefully) coherent way. Ha! It sounds like I come from a theological line of thought that is similar to yours, however I think my introduction to the egalitarian position was a bit softer than yours!

At the outset, I am with you in disagreeing with this woman’s reasoning as you’ve relayed it. In my mind, if women are permitted to fulfil any role in the church, it will not be because the ‘biblical model’ is outdated-therefore-no-longer-applicable. Like you articulated in your first and third replies, a complementarian understanding of gender roles in marriage and the church are rooted in Trinitarian theology, not cultural norms.

I am of the mind that, if women are permitted to fulfil any role in the church, it would be because we (the church) have, among other things, misunderstood what Paul is actually forbidding in his letters. I still have my own philosophical and practical questions about the egalitarian approach, but I have appreciated hearing/ reading thoughtful theologians who understand the passages in Paul in a different way.

I have attached a link to one of our earlier Q&As with Mike Day, one of RZIM’s fellows in South Africa, which I hope you find helpful. He was replying to a question I asked of him, which was, essentially, How would you encourage women who have the proclamation gifts of teaching and evangelising? In light of some of Paul’s writings, should they hesitate to exercise them?

His reply was incredibly detailed and shed some light on some of the questions within the issue. He also takes a quick look at the 1 Timothy verse and recommends some further reading that deals with both approaches.

I suppose a couple of things that I would ask of you as you think through this is,

  • Is there ever a time, in your understanding, when a woman (who is gifted and knowledgeable) would be/could be permitted to teach the whole of the church/congregation?

You had written that it’s ‘not an equality issue as women are neither incapable of teaching or preaching. But forbidden by God because it does not fall into His order of things as given to the church by Paul.’ Is it always forbidden, or would there be an appropriate time for a particularly gifted woman to be given space for the edification of the whole congregation?

The other question is about ‘spiritual authority’…

  • What does this actually mean? What does it look like to hold spiritual authority over someone or to be under spiritual authority? Can a man learn from a woman when she is teaching and not necessarily be under her ‘spiritual authority’?

One thing I generally find to be toxic is when a man believes that it is not right (i.e. morally wrong) to learn from a woman. I’m not saying you believe that, I just wish to push back against extreme applications if there are any. :slight_smile:

Quick aside about 'patriarchy’
‘Patriarchy’ as a term seems to have acquired a fairly negative connotation in the western world over the last 100 or so years, as it is most generally used to label cultures who use the idea of ‘male headship’ to dominate, repress and abuse women. It’s not difficult to find examples of this in practice even in the modern world. I would probably try to steer clear of defending the term itself or trying to define it in a different way (unless you have the time!), but, instead, try to distinguish the biblical ideal of headship/authority from its abuse.

Right. This reply is probably long enough! I’ll get us started, and maybe some of our @Interested_in_Theology could chime in with some clearer thoughts. :grin:

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Just to clarify on some points, I am not offended or insecure enough in my faith or my personal life to take instruction from a women. There have been many times throughout my marriage that my wife has held me accountable and brought
me back to solid ground and I am grateful to have been blessed to have her in my life. I cannot speak for our entire congregation but I can speak for myself when considering the merits of a devout woman of God. I don’t believe in gray areas… and I am quite
sure God doesn’t really allow for them either. Our church along with myself are merely seeking to follow the instructions as given to us by God through the bible. I don’t wish to take a legalistic approach to this matter, but to follow the conviction I feel
from the holy Spirit. Our society today seems so willing to constantly change and redefine language twisting reality into something it has never been or was meant to be! I personally have no problems with women serving the Lord according to their call…
however, if there is a situation that appears to be contrary to God’s word and a message that appears to blur the lines as given to us through the bible, I definitely have an issue and do not wish to stand in judgement answering for my lack of action and
conviction. I hope that is not too confusing. Just my thoughts.


Sounds pretty clear that this woman is a usurper. I say that because she waited until all the men were not in the picture to give this message to the other women. We have to look at the context of these things. If she was doing a good thing, then it is likely that the other elders of the church would have known what she was going to preach on. But that doesn’t seem to be the case since it shocked you and your church represents a different view of things than what she is saying. Lot of red flags here.