And, ya know what? I know both complementarians and egalitarians who have a lot to offer on the subject of marriage—whose relationships are healthy, vibrant, and exemplify the love of Christ. And so rather than arguing about how to parse Greek verbs or what the heck being saved through childbearing actually means (uhh. . . what?!), I invited two friends to join in on this discussion of marriage for Today's Christian Woman.
First, I spoke with Trillia Newbell, the lead editor of Karis, the online women's channel for The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) and a consultant on women's initiatives for The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. I also talked with Jenny Rae Armstrong who is a curriculum author for Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE), creator of the "Equally Yoked" blog series, and who recently worked with CBE to train church leaders in Africa. I asked Trillia, who is complementarian, and Jenny, who is egalitarian, to share a bit of their own experiences and to help clear up some of the common misunderstandings often perpetuated about their stance on marriage.
Wimpy women and caveman-like tyrants?
"A really common misconception about the complementarian view," Trillia says, "is that wives are like doormats without brains, as if we're always saying, 'Okay, dear, I'll do whatever you say!' But I'm actually a very strong person."
Just as bad, in Trillia's opinion, is the misconception often perpetuated about husbands with a complementarian view of marriage. She laments the suggestion "that we're these wimpy women submitting to foolishness and our men are like cavemen, like tyrants, lording over us. That's just not how it is." Speaking from her own experience, she says, "My husband is a servant—a servant-leader."
Like Trillia, I bristle at this misconception, especially when people wrongly link complementarianism with abuse (or when people pervert Scripture to justify marital abuse). Abuse has no place—absolutely no place—in a complementarian understanding of biblical marriage.
I observed just the opposite in my parents' (complementarian) marriage, which has served as a powerful example for me. In my parents I've seen a marriage built upon mutual, sacrificial love; leadership expressed through servanthood and encouragement; respect expressed through kindness and honesty; submission that looks an awful lot more like teamwork; and a strong sense of valuing, honoring, and treasuring each other.