Rob Bell’s Change of Heart on the Women’s Issue

Pastor Rob has a fascinating report on Pastor Rob Bell’s transition from a complentarian position to an egalitarian position. The story is titled “Engaged by the culture: Michigan megachurch goes egalitarian.” The article also narrates the story of Rob Bell’s role in changing his church’s constitution so that women would be permitted to serve as elders.A few things are troubling about this story and are in stark contrast to my previous post about Al Mohler’s change of heart in the other direction.

First of all, if this story is accurate, then Bell’s change was due at least in part to his reading William Webb’s Slaves, Women & Homosexuals. This book’s influence on Bell is troubling because at the heart of Webb’s argument is the idea that Christians need to move beyond the gender-ethic reflected in biblical texts such as 1 Timothy 2:12 so that they can realize the higher ethic of texts such as Galatians 3:28. In other words, Webb’s hermeneutic actually sets the Bible against itself. Some texts reflect an ultimate ethic (e.g. Gal 3:28), and others and inferior ethic (1 Tim 2:12). The Christian’s job is to be moving in the direction of the ultimate ethic, an ethic that may or may not be found in scripture. Thus Webb’s entire paradigm creates huge problems for the sufficiency and the authority of scripture.

Second, if this story is correct, then Bell has a less-than-orthodox view of the biblical canon. According to, Bell “belittled the process by which the canon of Scripture was decided upon by suggesting it was absurd that 300 men in some meeting could accurately tell us what books should be included.” If this is Bell’s position, then he is just a hop-skip-and-a-jump from Bart Ehrman and Elaine Pagels’ view of the Canon, a view that is decidedly sub-Christian.

Third, if this story is correct, then there are serious problems with the congregational vote that led to the change in the church’s constitution. For starters, the congregation never got to hear a thoroughgoing, biblical defense of the complementarian position. Moreover, members were made to feel that they needed to support what Pastor Bell wanted if they didn’t understand the issue. Also, when other members tried to verify the outcome of the vote with recounts, they were rebuffed.

I hope that Rob Bell will respond to the article because the charges made therein are very serious. We can only hope that Bell’s change of heart was not as ill-conceived as this article makes it out to have been.

(HT: Jim Hamilton)

One Comment

  • MJH

    A very late response to this post, but I do recall the article you are posting about. Thank you for continuing to say, “If this article was correct…” I emailed the author of the article several corrections and also know those from whom he received his source.

    The congregation did in fact have an opposing view (complementarian position) and if fact one that was very criticle of Pastor Rob Bell.

    The congregation was not made to feel that they needed to support the issue if they did not understand. A very respected Elder addressed concerns that people had and he laid out any number of ways a person could approach the vote should they be unclear in their own mind. These ways included why to vote both for and against.

    Rob Bell and the church will not respond to the article for what I think should be obvious reasons. This was and is an internal church decision and with the exceptions of a few local congregations such as Ada Bible and Calvary it ought to remain as such.

    Also, as a memeber of the church I was asked along with my wife to count the ballots. Those asking me to help only knew of my integrity and not my views. If they did know my views, which I did not share openly, then they would have known that I voted against. That being said, the vote count was very well handled and impossible to have been wrong.


Comment here. Please use FIRST and LAST name.