(Dis)functionally Complementarian

by Andrew Stephens-Rennie
6piperIn light of John Piper’s most recent bout of asinine, vitriolic insanity, I’m considering exclusively subjecting myself to the authority of women for the next year. Maybe longer.

No more male theologians. No more male bloggers. There’s too many of us anyhow. We’re always going on about something, and it’s all-too-often through the lens of a dominant, patriarchal culture.

Some of us, oh we apologise for it.

We apologise for the fact that we’re whiteish, middle-classish straightish men. And then we get back to the business of being the whiteish, middle-classish straightish men who, from time to time think about women.

We get back to the business of being the whiteish, middle-classish straightish men, who from time to time read Rachel Held Evans, or Julie Clawson, or maybe tune into Jamie the Very Worst Missionary for kicks. We might respect church-planting pioneers like Karen Ward or Nadia Bolz-Weber, for what they’re doing. Just don’t ask us to go hear them speak, or change who we read. Don’t ask us to learn from them.

Let me get back to my Tom Wright and Walter Brueggemann. Sit me down with Wendell Berry or Brian McLaren or Shane Claiborne. You know, the heavyweights. Oh sure, there are some of us enlightened egalitarian dudes out there. And we’ll react negatively against Piper’s statements, not least because he’s an easy target.

The two questions I’m left with go something like this: Have we changed? Are we willing to do so?

If change means more than making a little noise and milking it for a few blog posts, I don’t know what I’ll do. Because really, in the end, I want to go back to reading the good old boys. What women are doing good theology these days anyhow?

And who the hell is Ellen Davis?

A note to all of the whiteish, middle-classish, straightish egalitarianish males out there: it’s time to come clean.

As much as we rail against Piper, many of us, when it comes to our “teachability” are functionally complementarians. Take a snapshot of your bookshelf or blogroll. What’s the ratio of male to female authorship?

The patriarchy has a deep coercive hold on you too.

Andrew Stephens-Rennie on FacebookAndrew Stephens-Rennie on Twitter
Andrew Stephens-Rennie
Andrew is a writer, dreamer and organizer with a keen interest in developing leaders in faith, compassion and justice.

He currently serves as the Director of Missional Renewal for the Anglican Diocese of Kootenay on the unceded territories of the Sinixt, Syilx, and Ktunaxa nations. He previously served as the Director of Ministry Innovation at Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, BC.

Andrew is cofounder and contributing editor at www.empireremixed.com, and co-editor of "A Sort of Homecoming: Essays Honoring the Academic and Community Work of Brian Walsh" with Marcia Boniferro and Amanda Jagt.

14 Responses to “(Dis)functionally Complementarian”

  1. Jason

    Who the hell is Elizabeth Johnson?
    Who the hell is Sarah Coakley?
    Who the hell is James Cone?
    Who the hell is Willie James Jennings?

    • andrew

      Jason – Keep the names a-coming. There are plenty more whose voices we need to be listening to.

  2. rootedradical

    And who the hell is Fleming Rutledge?

  3. Mick Pope

    Trying best to read through the lens of your sarcasm. Of course in the end we should apologise for how we’ve been rather than who we are genetically. Thanks for the extra names. Rachel and Nadia are good. You forgot Sylvia BTW 😉 To be fair though, what’s the ratio coming out of the major publishing houses?

    • andrew

      Mick – Didn’t forget about Sylvia, just adding some names less referenced on this blog.

      As for the publishing houses, my question is, for whom should we seek fairness (or justice, for that matter)? What are the chances the publishing industry has been infected with patriarchal guiding assumptions too?

    • Rebecca

      The ratio in publishing in general is far more men than women, and in theology it’s probably more skewed. Women also tend to produce more collaborative works (in science and social science) so perhaps this is also the case in theology. This could mean that either men are smarter than women (unlikely), men have more time to write than women (perhaps), that men tend to hold more research v. teaching positions (definitely) or that people (including publishing houses) simply pay more attention to what men have written.

      • andrew

        Well said, Rebecca. There’s also the added delight in some parts of the Christian / Theological publishing world of women coauthoring with men for no other reason than to substantiate their voice.

  4. B. Walsh

    Who the hell is Sylvia?

    • andrew

      From what I gather:

      Dr. Sylvia C. Keesmaat taught Biblical Studies and Hermeneutics at the Institute for Christian Studies for ten years. In 2004 she left full-time academia to pursue her interests in sustainable living. Currently, she is an adjunct professor at the Institute for Christian Studies and at the Toronto School of Theology.

      She is also an instructor in the Creation Care Studies Program in Belize. Dr. Keesmaat is the author of Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire (with Brian Walsh, [2004]), Paul and His Story: (Re)Interpreting the Exodus Tradition (1999), and editor of The Advent of Justice (1994).

      She has also written numerous articles for both scholarly and popular publications. She is currently writing a book on the Epistle to the Romans, and preparing to write one on creation in the New Testament.

      Dr. Keesmaat lives on an organic solar-powered farm in Cameron, Ontario

  5. Rhondda MacKay

    Bravo! Good thinking.

  6. joshua m. walters (@TENDTHEEND)

    Brian, I tried to read only female authors/theologians for an entire year last year (http://videoaudiodisco.blogspot.ca/2012/03/project-28-year-of-female-authors.html). [<— this is my shameless attempt to boast in my efforts]

    Nevertheless, I found it incredibly difficult. I started off well for a few months and got through about 4 or 5 books but then found myself "needing" to read this guy or that guy for justifiable reasons. I found the female authors to be a bit more esoteric (which is OK because those are my blind spots as a white male), but it is certainly more difficult to find female writers on the more general topics than it is to find men. It's extremely difficult. Any ideas how to be more faithful to this process?

    Any desire to initiate a female-writers-only book club?

    • andrew

      Joshua – Shameless indeed! I haven’t yet started, probably because I still have a couple of other books I’m finishing (is that an excuse?). It’s interesting reflecting on this, especially since I, like, you, looked at my bookshelf and noted that it was weighted in a particular direction. I feel the need and desire to do this, and think your idea of doing so in community – some sort of book club – might be a good way forward.

  7. Beyond Egalitarian | Empire Remixed

    […] In my last post, responding to John Piper’s dehumanizing view of women, I mused about the benefits of subjecting myself to the authority of women for the next year. As I thought about what was in some ways a throwaway statement, the idea started to take shape and grab hold of me. The reality is that so much of what I read – especially theology – is written by men. And that has to change. […]


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