A native of Southern California, I attended a gender-hierarchical church for four and a half years that reflected teachings and practices promoted by John Piper, John MacArthur, Timothy Keller, Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and Promise Keepers. This church was a Calvary Chapel and the members referred to themselves as “complementarians” because they believe that men and women complement each other in their giftedness. However, their definition of complementarity is gender-hierarchical; that is, men practice the leadership and decision-making roles while women practice the caring, administrative, assistantship, and some “leadership” roles that are always under the authority, permission and supervision of a male. In short, “complementarians” believe that men lead and women assist.
While in the Calvary Chapel, I was a leader in the small groups ministry and questioned the church’s and denomination’s position on the prohibitions imposed upon the women regarding certain leadership positions. I also questioned their biblical interpretations for these prohibitions. I saw and heard first hand their patriarchal practices and biblical explanations—biblical distortions, more like it—to support their theology and practice. I also saw first-hand their efforts to correct their theology and practice to minimize the cruelty and misogyny toward women and become more pro-women yet remain gender-hierarchical. Indeed, the attempt to do both is an oxymoron, a common ambiguity among well meaning patriarchalists.
Such corrections typically were made only after someone, such as an egalitarian or a more progressive hierarchical-complementarian, pointed out the damaging aspects of their theology and practice. As much as I appreciate the church’s efforts to be “nicer” to their women, they remain adamant to maintain their patriarchal structure. My experiences in the Calvary Chapel led me to vow to never set foot in another gender-hierarchical church. However, and to their credit, I did find the people at Calvary Chapel to have a kind and generous heart toward the poor, the hurting, and the lost.
Willow Creek Community Church
When work brought me to Chicago I became a member of a satellite of Willow Creek Community Church. Willow Creek was founded on egalitarian principles. In fact, one of the co-founders also co-founded Christians for Biblical Equality, which is the leading egalitarian and evangelical international organization that promotes equality and mutuality among men and women in the home and in the church.
However, when I arrived in 2007 I quickly noticed that many people in my church—among them also included staff, senior leaders, teachers and pastors, both men and women—would speak and act more like gender-hierarchicalists than egalitarians. I noticed patriarchal practices and teachings identical to the ones I encountered in the Calvary Chapel by the “complementarians”. That is, I noticed teachings and practices that contain the same ambiguous (oxymoron) traits. And just like in the Calvary Chapel, here in my church I do find the people to have a kind and generous heart toward the poor, the hurt, and the lost, which is a trait I admire about both churches.
Purpose For My Website
On this website I write articles on my observations and experiences as an egalitarian living among patriarchalists. I post articles about my experiences with patriarchalists such as when I attended the Calvary Chapel . I also post articles about my experiences in my current church, Willow Creek, which is a church founded on egalitarian principles but has in recent years experienced a slithering influx of patriarchalism from both the New Calvinists and the emergent.
In recent months, I have made observations of efforts to rid the patriarchal serpent from our church. I am extremely grateful to Willow Creek for those efforts. I consider myself an outside consultant whose services are offered freely and voluntarily in the effort to continue to combat patriarchy in our church and restore it to its egalitarian foundation. Some of the patriarchal teachings and practices in our church are clearly unintentional and subconscious, while others have been obviously subversive, and some cannot be distinguished as unintentional or subversive due to limited information. Whenever possible or known, I point out if a specific patriarchal teaching or practice is unintentional or subversive.
The merging of egalitarian or pro-women principles with patriarchy has produced confusion and ambiguity as to what constitutes egalitarianism. Based on my own observation, experience, and study coupled with the wisdom of fellow egalitarians on the subjects of egalitarianism and patriarchy, I write articles in my website with the intent to discern, distinguish, address, and challenge the hurtful, patronizing, ambiguous and deceptive patriarchal teachings and practices—whether unconscious and unintentional or intentional and subversive. I invite readers to comment on my articles for the purpose of dialogue on how we, together, may continue to challenge patriarchal principles and practices and to promote the gospel from scripture’s intended egalitarian lens.