Two different schools of thought on how men and women should relate to each other and what their responsibilities are in the church. 

1) Egalitarian- There should be no gender distinction in roles of men and women in the function or leadership of the church, to include ordination of women, or in society in general; in marriage the wife and husband not only are created equal as female and male, but there is no biblically-prescribed hierarchy giving the husband any authority over the wife.

2) Complementarian- God has created men and women equal in their essential dignity and human personhood, but different and complementary in function with male headship in the home and in the Church.”  Men are expected to take spiritual responsibility, often called “headship,” for leadership in the home and in the church. Women are restricted from holding the teaching office of the church and from spiritual leadership in the home and in marriage.


I am a complementarian.  I believe that is what the Bible teaches.  I am ok with people disagreeing with me.  I don’t see its teaching as a salvation issue, but I do see it as an issue of healthy doctrine and I would divide from a church with a woman pastor.


Egalitarian Approach

Men and women are each created with authority over nature, Men and women are created inherently equal in their capacities to serve and lead, and negating an office of authority based on gender parallels the horrors of owning slaves and the horrors of racism.

Here are some points and Scriptures egalitarians frame their theology on:


1) Calling roles or distinctions into question based on gender is wrong and like doing so based on ethnicity (Jew or Greek) or social status (slave or free)

  • Galatians 3:28- No distinctions in Christ between men and women

 2) A woman is acknowledged by Paul as an apostle

  • Rom 16:27- Apostleship given to a woman

 3) Women play a prophetic role throughout the Bible

  • Exod 15:20-21- Miriam is a prophetess and led the assembly of women in song
  • II Kings 22:14-20- Huldah is a prophetess and is consulted by messengers of Josiah
  • Judges 4:4-5- Deborah was a prophetess and a judge over men
  • Luke 2:36-38- Anna served as a prophetess and spoke to the people of the savior who would redeem Jerusalem
  • Acts 2:17-18; Joel 2:28-32- God’s spirit would cause both men and women to prophesy, both men and women to dream dreams

 4) Women are referred to as “fellow-workers” with Paul

  • Romans 16:3- Priscilla referred to a fellow worker in Christ.  The same term is used for Timothy (Romans 16:21), Apollos (I Corinthians 2:9), Titus (II Corinthians 8:23), etc.

 5) Women serve in the office of deacon in the New Testament

  • I Timothy 3:11
  • Romans 16:1- Phoebe is referred to as a deacon


To summarize the egalitarian position, positions of authority are now obliterated based on gender as are racial and social positions (Galatians 3:28) in Christ.  Women serve throughout Scripture as prophetesses, are referred to as fellow-workers, serve as deacons in the church, and one was also noted as an apostle. 


  • Is the egalitarian interpretation Galatians 3:28 the best one?
  • What else is suggested by the immediate context of Galatians 3:28?
  • How do these observations relate to Paul’s instruction for church governance?

Complementarian Approach

Complementarian view starts by looking at created structures in the beginning of Genesis and how they fit together or complement each other:

  • Night and day (Gen 1:5)
  • Sea and sky (Gen 1:6)
  • Dry land and sea (Gen 1:10)
  • Sun and stars (Gen 1:16)
  • Day 6- Men and women (Gen 1:27)

 Other ideas of complements are:

  • Peanut butter and jelly
  • Hot fudge brownie and ice cream
  • Bert and Ernie

 Gen 2- God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve

Gen 2:20- There was not a suitable helper fit for Adam.

Gen 2:18- God said he would make a helper fit for Adam

  • Woman comes from man. 
  • Woman fits man
  • Man is given responsibility in naming woman
  • Question: Is the way woman fits man only biological?
  • Question: What, if anything, does Adam’s naming of Eve represent?

 Though both sinned, Adam is called out by God and is identified later in Scripture as the one in whom all sinned (he bears a special responsibility)

  • Gen 3:9
  • Rom 5:12-15

 Gen 3- Complementary curses

Curses attack strengths of each character

  • Gen 3:16- curse on woman- pain in childbearing, desire for husband’s rule power (manipulation), he shall rule over her, woman will desire to rule over her husband
  • Gen 3:17- curse of man- Will work ground in pain, in sweat of face fighting weeds, thorns, etc.

 Isaiah 3 Woman

Women in positions of authority over men is spoken of as being chaotic and an inversion of order

  • Isaiah 3:12- Women ruling paralleled to infants in charge of the people

 Authority and vows

Men bear responsibility for their vows before God while women’s vows can be negated by their husbands or fathers

  • Numbers 30

 Other issues to look at: Instructions for church governance (qualifications for elders / overseers, headship in marriage- Eph 5) FOR NEXT POST:

  • Do complementarians hate women? (No, next question)
  • What are the implications of this view / How does this play out in everyday life?
  • Is complementarianism really just modern misogyny?

How are the roles, outlined in the egalitarian view for women of prophetess, apostle, deacon assimilated into the complementarian view?

Much of the analysis of this is taken from Tom Schriener in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.  ed. John Piper and Wayne Grudem.  Thanks for the great work and analysis by the men and women in that book.