Complementarian vs. Egalitarian (pt. 3) – Egalitarian

Posted on October 11, 2012 by


Egalitarianism…weeeeooooo!! More fun!

(see the first two of the series here:

Part one: The beginning

Part two: Complementarian)


Egalitarian means “equal”…itar…ian…

Well, “egal” means equal in french. And the main idea behind this –ism is that we are all made equal and have equal standing before God. Period. Definite article.

While they acknowledge that we are gifted differently, and there are specific callings on people lives that come with specific responsibilities, they also state that these gifts and callings have an equal possibility of being given to all people with no stipulation of gender, race, social standing, etc.

The term “egalitarian” was first used in 1979 and is French in root. With focus on gender roles, it espouses that there are no gender specific limitations in regards to roles in the home, the church, and wider society.

The egalitarians also use the creation account as a basis for their belief in the essential equality of gender.  They point to men and women both being made in the image of God, to their equal access to God in the pre-fall garden, and their shared call and exercising of dominion over the earth. (Gen 1:26-28,  5:1-2). They also point out that the word “helper” (ezer), used in Genesis 2:18, to refer to the woman is mostly used in reference to God and can’t be used as an example of intended female subordination.

In the New Testament egalitarians place equal emphasis on the call for wives to submit to their husbands and for husbands to sacrifice themselves for their wives. They say this mutual submission and deference for the other is a call to equality. Eph 5:22-31

Their “key verse” could be Galatians 3:28. “…there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” This sets up the way that they interpret the rest of scripture. particularly passages such as  Gen 1:26-282:18202:21-233:65:1-221:12Matt 20:25-2823:8Mark 10:42-45John 1:12-1313:13-17Acts 1:142:1-2118:2621:9Rom 5:12-218:14-1716:1-712-1315Phil 4:2-3Col 4:151 Cor 11:2-1612:7,1114:3115:21-222 Cor 5:17Gal 3:1326-285:1131 Peter 2:9-104:10-115:2-314:33-361 Tim 2:9-15Rev 1:65:10.


Historically, there are some accounts of Women leaders and teachers in the early church. These are both biblical and extra-biblical. Two examples of biblical accounts; in the teaching/correction of Apollos Priscilla is listed ahead of her husband which shows prominence in the topic being discussed, like teaching.(Acts 18:26) And Acts 16:40, interpreting that text as the church meeting in Lydia’s house giving her some inherent leadership.

After the third century with the church establishing a hierarchy and a more codified government structure we don’t hear much of women becoming church leaders outside of a rare instance.

This remained until the 1800’s when the Quakers expressed a clear egalitarian stance and allowed the ordination of women.

Every century since then has seen an increase in the denominations that ordain women elders and ministers.


In the home this plays out in a rejection of gender role stereotypes where the husband must work and provide income and leadership for his family and the wife must care for the home and the children. It is completely acceptable for women to work and be the driving force, including spiritually, in the home, while the man can be main caregiver for the children and provide support for the wife.

In the church this comes out through having women teachers, elders, and pastors/ministers. And having men be under the teaching and direction of women leaders and teachers, which complementarians would take issue with at many levels.

As with all things egalitarianism is a spectrum. From the churches that let women teach but not preach, to female pastors that lead large international ministries and lead their homes financially and spiritually.

Next…. The Other View

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