Oh, I am so very thankful we can be gracious and humble and nissssssse to each other here! That? Oh, never mind him. He's so gracious that you'd never know his little bite delivers a deadly poison. Honestly, don't worry. As long as we're all gracious to each other and set aside our differences so we can engage in conversation it will all work out in the end. Snakey included.
One of the chief problems with the church today is that so few of us seem to have the discernment, let alone the courage to yell, "Watch out! Deadly Snake!" when the presence of such a creature warrants it. In fact, we are so far removed from such warnings that I doubt even many of the Shepherds and Titus 2 women among us can discern the difference between a black mamba and the earthworm struggling about on the sidewalk after a hard rain.
Diane Montgomery's blog post assessing Rachel Evans' "Year of Biblical Womanhood" is a case in point. Montgomery is a frequent contributor to CBMWs GenderBlog but this piece was cross posted at Unlocking Femininity where she blogs with several others. I am interested in the piece's appearance on the latter, along with the accompanying discussion (I have not listened to the talk Evans gave at Baylor's Truett Seminary), and my purpose here is to take a look at that discussion -- the manner in which Complementarians engage a "thoroughly liberated" beneficiary of the feminist movement. We are used to the Complementarians playing footsies with the self-described "biblical" Egalitarians, but are they a bit more stand-offish and wary of someone who openly embraces the "F" word?
The answer is "no". Even with a self-described liberated beneficiary of feminism, the Complementarians make a gracious and gingerly approach. This is a grave mistake because, although feminists such as Evans pretend to be gracious, and live within porous boundaries, they actually have very strict parameters of engagement. These parameters deal with form and style while the conversations remains friendly but they have porous boundaries where substance is concerned. In other words, you can agree to disagree all the live long day but as soon as you use the "H" word or the "O" word or the "T" word, much less when you dare ask to clarify meaning and nail down definitions of terms, the gracious conversation rapidly grinds to a halt. Distinction and discrimination with regard to tone and style is allowed, but discrimination and discernment are entirely out of bounds when making judgments about substance, the meat of the matter.
So Rachel Evans, for her part, "really respect[s]" Diane Montgomery's depth while Diane, in return, thanks Rachel for her "gracious comment[s]". And all will appear to be well as long as we can be gracious and civil while we ignore the black mamba quietly slithering around our ankles. While they are being gracious and respectful to each other, unsuspecting souls are being led into the belief that these matters are not so consequential after all.
Matzo crackers or Wonder bread for communion? Pish, not need to worry! No fear of dividing over "nonessentials", my dears! You want a woman pastor for your church, well you just go ahead. I'm not comfortable, but we can agree to disagree agreeably, can't we?
In the mean time, an even uglier snake is given a platform to tell her false tales about Scripture, how the Canon came to be and just which bits we should obey and which we justifiably discard. Erika, a respondent on the blog thread, dismisses portions of the canon as "in no way equal to the commands issued directly from God" and St. Paul as "a mere man" who wrote letters "addressed to specific churches - not the Church in general." Erika also tells us that the rejection of "women in ministry" comes down to one single verse in Paul's first letter to Timothy and that St. Paul is a mere human from whose pan come "some of the most degrading ideas about women" in Christianity.
Now, I don't know Diane's reason for allowing Erika's fictions to go unchallenged, but I don't mind saying that the lack of response doesn't cause me to re-think my evaluation of complementarianism as a fatally compromised endeavor. Complementarianism reveals its flaws when it fails to distinguish, where feminists also fail, between essentials, those matters which rapidly ramify into essential distinctions -- and -- those matters which are truly adiaphora, of secondary importance. Several decades ago, Complementarians might have been excused for engaging the "Egalitarians" as well-meaning if misguided colleagues, but that time has long since passed. When Complementarians can publish a glowing obituary of CBE's founding mother without once mentioning her dubious scholarship or her essential role in the founding of that organization, we have a problem. When past CBE conference speaker Carolyn Custis James is listed by CBMW's annual annotated bibliography of "gender-related" books as "undeclared", the compromise is clear.