Egalitarianism Is More Than a PR Statement

Are churches moving to an egalitarian model truly embracing female leadership?

Imagine that it’s a Sunday morning and a church is getting ready to announce its transition to an egalitarian model and commit to include women in pastoral leadership. The leadership gathers behind the stage to pray and review their communication strategy before the service begins. The pastor who will be sharing the news from the pulpit paces, with a burning question filling his mind: How will the congregation respond to the announcement?

The months leading up to this day proved to him that on matters of women in ministry, his congregation was not of one mind. Yet he is convinced that embracing an egalitarian approach is the way forward for his church, so he gathers his strength, steps into the auditorium, and delivers the news.

The statement goes well, all things considered. The congregation doesn’t cheer, but no one boos or walks out the door—and that feels like a win. Everything seems to be under control. The service ends without much tension, and the pastor along with the rest of the leaders breathe a sigh of relief.

This, of course, is an imagined scenario. But it’s not vastly different from what happens in reality when previously complementarian churches transition to egalitarian models: Oftentimes the people involved in the process are so exhausted from all the work it took to move the church to an egalitarian ministry philosophy that changing the church’s official statement on women seems to be the victory, the destination at the end of a long road, when it is just the beginning of an arduous journey.

Every church handles this process differently. What’s undeniably true in all situations is that no matter how careful and intentional a church might be in its approach to this transition, …

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