Christianity,  Theology/Bible

Some reflections on a church that has recently embraced egalitarianism

Last night I watched Pastor Pete Briscoe give his rationale for leading his church to welcome female elders to their leadership structure (see above). Briscoe pastors Bent Tree Bible Fellowship, a large congregation in the metro area of Dallas, Texas. His sermon amounts to a recitation of long-standing egalitarian readings of scripture. I admire that Briscoe and the elders made a public presentation of the decision and their justification for it. They have laid their cards on the table, and that is a good thing. But I still think their reasoning is flawed on many points. I am not going to give a point-by-point rebuttal. That would go beyond what is feasible in a single blog post. I would simply highlight three concerns that I think are salient in this particular case.

1. Briscoe and the elders say that they intend to be a “conservative” church that maintains a tenacious commitment to the inerrancy of scripture. That is something to be thankful for. There are many who join feminist readings of scripture to a more explicit repudiation of the Bible’s integrity and authority. Briscoe and the elders do not wish to do that. Still, whether they realize this or not, the theological rationale for their decision is at odds with a commitment to the Bible’s authority. On this point, I think Lig Duncan has well said:

The denial of complementarianism undermines the church’s practical embrace of the authority of Scripture (thus eventually and inevitably harming the church’s witness to the Gospel). The gymnastics required to get from “I do not allow a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man,” in the Bible, to “I do allow a woman to teach and to exercise authority over a man” in the actual practice of the local church, are devastating to the functional authority of the Scripture in the life of the people of God.

By the way, this is one reason why I think we just don’t see many strongly inerrantist-egalitarians (meaning: those who hold unwaveringly to inerrancy and also to egalitarianism) in the younger generation of evangelicalism. Many if not most evangelical egalitarians today have significant qualms about inerrancy, and are embracing things like trajectory hermeneutics, etc. to justify their positions. Inerrancy or egalitarianism, one or the other, eventually wins out.

Obviously, I am thankful for anyone who expresses a clear commitment to inerrancy. But that does not negate the very real concern about the hermeneutical principles that they have embraced.

2. Briscoe and the elders rely heavily upon William Webb’s trajectory hermeneutic. If you are unfamiliar with this, here it is in a nutshell. Webb argues that the Bible’s ethical position is often one of development, moving from an inferior ethic to an ultimate ethic. On this view, our goal is not merely to discern the ethical position of scripture but the ethical trajectory of scripture.

That trajectory suggests that we might reach an ethical ideal that is better than what is reflected in scripture itself. An example of this would be slavery. The Bible endorses slavery, but we now know that was wrong. So we reject slavery even though the Bible endorses it. Likewise, the Bible may teach male headship in marriage and church leadership, but we now know that was wrong. So we reject male headship even though the Bible clearly teaches it.

This way of reading scripture is precisely the kind of thing that Duncan warns about. It is a hermeneutic that teaches readers to treat their own notions about justice and fairness as more advanced and developed than that of scripture. In short, it teaches readers to stand in judgement over scripture. It’s a hermeneutical approach that militates against the Bible’s integrity and authority.For a more extensive treatment of Webb’s work, you should read the reviews by Tom Schreiner and Wayne Grudem. Grudem concludes his review this way:

I believe [Webb’s work] is a deeply flawed book that fundamentally contradicts the Reformation principle of sola Scriptura because it nullifies in principle the moral authority of the entire NT and replaces it with the moral authority of a “better ethic,” an ethic that Webb claims to be able to discover through a complex hermeneutical process entirely foreign to the way God intended the Bible to be read, understood, believed, and obeyed. Because a denial in principle of the moral authority of the NT commands is at the heart of the whole system, and because the system denies the historical accuracy of the creation account, I do not believe Webb’s “redemptive-movement hermeneutic” should be accepted as a valid system for evangelicals today.

Many evangelicals sounded the alarm about Webb’s work 15 years ago. Those concerns have not diminished at all after these many years. No church is served well by a hermeneutical approach that undermines the authority of scripture, and that’s what Webb’s work does.

3. Briscoe says that he wants Bent Tree to be a place where people can agree to disagree over this issue. He even cites a conversation with Darrell Bock, a member who disagrees with the elders but who also says it is not an issue worth dividing over. I think this point of view is mistaken. At the end of the day, a church will either ordain women pastors or they won’t. There’s no middle ground on that question. You may have people in the church who hold a complementarian position, but their views on the issue have no standing at all where male headship is denied in practice. Furthermore, if the hermeneutical issues are as serious as I have indicated above, then it would be a matter of faithfulness for Christians to contend against such teaching. Mark Dever has written prophetically on this point:

It seems to me and others (many who are younger than myself) that this issue of egalitarianism and complementarianism is increasingly acting as the watershed distinguishing those who will accommodate Scripture to culture, and those who will attempt to shape culture by Scripture. You may disagree, but this is our honest concern before God. It is no lack of charity, nor honesty. It is no desire for power or tradition for tradition’s sake. It is our sober conclusion from observing the last 50 years…

Of course there are issues more central to the gospel than gender issues. However, there may be no way the authority of Scripture is being undermined more quickly or more thoroughly in our day than through the hermeneutics of egalitarian readings of the Bible. And when the authority of Scripture is undermined, the gospel will not long be acknowledged. Therefore, love for God, the gospel, and future generations, demands the careful presentation and pressing of the complementarian position.

If these concerns are valid (and I believe they are), then the issue would definitely be one worth dividing over.

There is much more that can and should be said about this, but I will end here. I’m glad that the elders at Bent Tree have stated their views so clearly and have opened up a public conversation. Although I disagree with them, I hope and pray the best for Bent Tree. I think the elders are mistaken on this one and would do well to reconsider what the Bible teaches. If all sides are committed to the authority of scripture, then perhaps we have some common ground upon which to persuade one another. The issue is certainly important enough for us to try.


  • Jason Owens

    I’d actually like to see a point by point rebuttal so hopefully you have time to put one together.

    In fairness it should also be mentioned that a multi-page paper was written and provided to the members expanding on information that wouldn’t fit in the time permitted.

    I actually see Pete’s aim and approach as an attempt to contextually harmonize the texts commonly seen as divisive between the egalitarian and complementarian view points. I’m not even sure Pete would label himself or our church as either egalitarian or complementarian.

    • Christiane Smith

      Hi JASON,
      those terms . . . are they seen as dichotomous totally?
      Or are there times when circumstance, such as the physically or mentally debilitating illness of the male spouse, call for an accommodation where a wife must begin not only a care-giving role, but also a role that may ask her to assume responsibilities formerly handled by her husband ? I see this happening among acquaintances who are the ages of my husband and myself, and some have adjusted to the changes, and some are having real problems adjusting to their new reality.

  • Steve Potts

    Sometimes it matters what the battles are that one is in. Stalwart inerrantists like Roger Nicole and Millard Erickson (both egalitarians) were standing for inerrancy at a time when evangelicals were especially in turmoil over the issue (in the 1970s and 80s). They were building bridges with other inerranitists and the issue of gender was not their focus. Neither would have been likely to compromise on inerrancy despite their egalitarian views because of their experience in the conflict over inerrancy. However, for those who assume inerrancy and are in a conflict with the culture over gender issues, the egalitarian hermeneutic could have a significant corrosive effect. In WW2 America was allied with Russia against the Axis powers. But the danger posed by communism wasn’t as obvious until later in the cold war years (not to equate communism with egalitarianism, though on second thought…).

  • Steve Potts

    By the way, I really appreciated coming to the “Driven by Truth” worldview conference at Southern Seminary in March! Great job to you and everyone who spoke!

  • Chris Taylor

    Only disagree with one statement. The concept that such a move will ‘eventually and inevitably’ lead to issues with the authority of the Bible seems to indicate that Pastor Duncan doesn’t see egalitarian readings as already being a problem.

  • James Brown

    Bill Gates and Microsoft have given us Microsoft Dos 1.0 thru Windows 10. They’ve never produced the final and perfect version; despite their best effort.

    But I believe GOD, being perfect, got version !.0 right the very first time or He’s no more transcendant than Bill Gates.

    To think that God’s word requires an update is to ultimately impugn God; His knowledge and His foresight.

  • buddyglass

    Re: being worth dividing over. Is this issue special, or is it worth dividing any time a congregant finds himself disagreeing with a particular teaching in his church?

  • John

    A response from Denton Bible… My church nearby.

    Many of you have heard or will hear about the decision that Bent Tree Bible made recently to officially embrace egalitarianism or to embrace doctrinally the equality of women as preachers and elders. The historic position of the church has been the equality of all Christians before God as His divine children but distinctiveness in the sexes as to the divine roles. If not, Christ and Paul were bad delegators of authority as only men assumed leadership positions. In the past few years as the pressures of feminism and liberalism have encroached upon the pulpits this historic position has been set aside. Usually it was among the more liberal denominations, but of late, it has become that of what were regarded as fundamentalists. Many know of a few years back of Irving Bible’s landmark decision to embrace women as pastors. A church who has in their past the biblical fundamentalism established by Toussaint and Swindoll. Bent Tree Bible in Carrollton has flirted with this issue for years, but now they feel safe to publically embrace it. How do we perceive this?

    In the third century the Roman emperor Diocletian demanded that churches ‘turn over’ their Bibles. Some churches held on and went through great persecution. Others turned them over and gave their Bibles to the world. The term for the ones who turned them over was called traditores which means “those who hand over.” The term became a proper name in the word Traitor. A traitor is one who hands over his Bible. The action is an injury against all Christianity, because the issue of women pastors and elders is not an issue of gender, it is an issue of biblical inerrancy. The gender roles are not based in scripture on culture; they are based upon creation (I Tim 2, I Cor. 11). Bent Tree now stands on a slippery slope. Theirs are failed arguments that have been dealt with for years. The equality of men and women in Christ does not cancel out all the Bible says of male and female distinctiveness. There are all sorts of moral standards that can be abandoned because of “culture” as opposed to the clear teaching of Bible. Egalitarianism is simply the first. It is a slippery slope indeed.

    I know many of the folks at Bent Tree and enjoy them as brethren. In this however, we must say, “hither you shall proceed and no further.” We grieve at those who have handed over their Bibles to the cacophony of the world.

    In this house, in this council, we shall stand on the scriptures and their literal interpretation. Be comforted. We are safe at Nottingham and 380. Next year we are about to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation who’s watch word was sola scriptura. Here still we shall stand.

    • Ben Carmack

      Dear John,

      Thank you for your and your church’s witness. Sexuality is the confessional issue of our time; it is the area where our faith is tested most. Stand firm and fear God rather than man.

      Love in Christ,

  • kevinlphillips

    Pete Briscoe grew up in an egalitarian church with his parents Jill Briscoe and Stuart Briscoe championing the egalitarian cause. It is easy to see how their influence has affected his theology.

  • Steven Slaubaugh

    Denny, thanks for sharing. It is good to see that you care much for the integrity of the church and the importance of Scripture. I have just a few comments, though, on your blog:

    1. Although Briscoe’s church upholds a high view of Scripture, you seem to suggest that different interpretations on women’s roles in the Scriptures is reason enough for the church to divide. I find such a quick resort to division problematic, though, since in John 17 Jesus prays to the Father that the church would be one, so that the world would know the one true God. A vital part of our witness as the church is the unity we show in our witness – particularly the essentials (very briefly, that God, as Trinity, has revealed himself to us through Jesus Christ, who has made a way for us to worship God fully in spirit and truth). Our witness to the world is very much hurt by divisions in the church. If the world sees a divided church, they will see a divided witness as well. I think that the church is more like a family than a club, meaning that even if we disagree with one another on some issues and even hurt one another, as a family we do not abandon one another; and it is not like a club where members come and go and create new clubs as they please. Although dividing is often done for the sake of defending a truth that some find absolutely essential to the witness of the Gospel, it seems to denigrate the church’s witness: division in the church leads to divided Christian witness in the world and the world questions which one of these many denominations holds the truth about Christianity’s message. A public displaying of the church’s unity is very important to our witness – a witness which is not achieved by saying that unity lies merely in the invisible church.

    2. As a seminarian who has spent much time studying the Bible, I find it difficult to understand how one can affirm the inerrancy of Scripture while honestly considering the composition of the Bible, the intentions of the author and the intended readership, and the redaction which occurred over several centuries for each text. The Spirit has most definitely guided this process, but the Bible also bears traces of humanity with it. To affirm inerrancy, I feel, is to uplift the divinity of the Scriptures at the expense of the human process of writing, composition, and audience of each particular book. God uses ordinary people to transmit the message of the Scriptures, and God brings it to us today to witness to God’s faithfulness in the OT, through Jesus, and now through the Holy Spirit. The Bible is still absolutely necessarily to understand who God is, what God desires for us, and how we are to live, yet a doctrine of inerrancy is not needed to affirm that God has, through the Word, spoken to us in these ways.

    • Christiane Smith

      Hi STEVEN,
      your comment was thoughtful and moving . . . I can see that you have thought deeply about preserving unity, so much so that I would guess you are responding to Our Lord’s own mind and heart. . .
      Division seems to have the upper hand these days as an acceptable way of ending any diversity that makes people feel challenged and uncomfortable, but I am glad to see that there are evangelical people out there who have another perspective that represents a longing for peace between brothers in Christ.

      There must be seminaries in the evangelical world too that seek to form their students ‘according to the mind of Christ’ . . . and I can find some hope that Denny is a part of that since he allowed your comment here to be printed so that your perspective might be better understood by those who have not fully considered other options besides ‘division’ over certain issues.

      • Steven Slaubaugh


        Thank you for your response. I concur that Denny cares about ecumenism in the church. That was very perceptive of you to note. It sounds like you are Catholic from other comments on this stream. I really appreciate the Catholic tradition and have learned so much from it! I have learned to place my own history, as a Protestant, within the larger framework of the Catholic tradition, considering this tradition provided vital doctrines on the Trinity, the incarnation, and great work through scholars such as Augustine, Aquinas, Julian of Norwich, and many others. Furthermore, I find the Catholic emphasis on beauty (as seen in your churches) provides me with a sensory experience of God’s presence with us. I hope Protestants and Catholics can continue to work towards further unity, as I’ve seen done in various efforts during the last 40-50 years.

  • Christiane Smith

    when people speak of ‘submission’ and ‘subordination’, of ‘complementarian’ and ‘egalitarian’, from an ‘in-house’ perspective, then folks from other Christian traditions begin to get confused about what IS being said and what IS being implied

    To be honest, the description of ‘complementarian’ in the conservative evangelical world is not at all recognizable to me . . . it is a VERY different kind of complimentarian relationship than the complementary concept of husband and wife that we have in the Catholic sacramental marriage where women and men are seen as equal partners in the marriage, serving one another.

    Sometimes I have to get past how terms are used in order to understand better what people are saying and meaning when they say it. This is not easy.

    • Ben Carmack

      Dear Christiane,

      You wrote, “To be honest, the description of ‘complementarian’ in the conservative evangelical world is not at all recognizable to me…”

      The difficulty is that even feminists acknowledge some sort of complementarity between the sexes. The more extreme types may deny any complementarity but most do. After all, when a feminist wants a baby, she knows she will need a man…

      The real question is *how* the sexes complement one another. How do we deal with authority? How do we make sense of the world God gave us (natural revelation) and the Word God gave us (special revelation)?

      Thankfully we do have a word that helpfully explains the biblical and evangelical doctrine of sex: patriarchy, literally “Father rule.” All Christians, as Dr. Russell Moore helpfully observed a decade ago, are patriarchalists of some sort when they pray “Our Father.” We also confess patriarchy when we say the Creed, “I believe in God the Father Almighty…”

      God is the Father from Whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth gets its name. (Eph 3:15). Our condemnation is in our father Adam, who sinned against God in the garden, and our salvation is in Jesus Christ, the God-Man or New Adam. Federal headship in Scripture is normatively male–the male represents and speaks for the female. This pattern is so obvious in Scripture you’d have to be blind to miss it.

      God has vested authority in man by making Adam first, and then Eve. Woman may not teach or have authority over man because of the Creation Order of Genesis. I don’t say this, but St. Paul said this under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

      Anyone who denies the Fatherhood of God is a heretic full stop. Ask C.S. Lewis. Anyone who denies the clear words of St. Paul concerning Adam and Eve rejects the authority and inerrancy of Scripture full stop. The issue is always faith and obedience. Will we believe God or not? Will we obey God or not?

      Hope that helps.

      Love in Christ,

      • Christiane Smith

        Hi BEN,
        thank you for responding . . . I have never seen the natural complementing of men and women as something that places men in a position of ‘authority’ over women, but rather as a gift of God enabling humankind to take part in His Creation by having been given a role in reproducing our humankind as a species. It is God Who gives life to all living. It is God Who gives a soul to each living human person. We are, as reproductive beings, a part of something far greater than ourselves in this work of giving birth to new life.

        As for the status of women in Our Lord’s life, I would say that their place is honored. Ben, my own Church understands complementarian roles as mutual service to one another out of love, not because of the ‘authority’ of one person over another subordinate. These roles are ‘giving’ and ‘sacrificial’, not because they are mandated, but because the way of selfless love is to want the good of the other for the sake of the other, as modeled by the Lord Christ Himself. In this way of complementarian living, the humility of the husband before God is not tempted. And the dignity of wife if regarded as honorable in that the Lord of Life is her Lord as completely as He is mutually honored by her husband.

        My Church has no women priests. But we have great teachers who are women and some are included in the Doctors of the Church. We also have in my Church a special name for the woman who was sent to announce the Resurrection to the Apostles: Mary Magdalene is known in my Church as ‘the Apostle to the Apostles’.

        BEN, we see things differently. That makes it hard sometimes for me to understand your views of complimentarian roles, and I am grateful for your comment, as it helps give some insight into the differences and the similarities that exist and must be recognized and respected by those of my faith as something meaningful to you. God Bless.

        • Ben Carmack

          Dear Christiane,

          You make reference to the teachings of “your Church,” with regard to complementarian roles “as mutual service to one another out of love, not because of the ‘authority’ of one person over another subordinate.” I understand “your Church” to be the Roman Church.

          It’s hard for me to take this seriously because the Roman Catholic Church has a clearly defined hierarchy that exercises authority over the laity. A great deal of power is centered in Rome in the Pontiff himself, who, I understand, has authority to appoint ALL bishops.

          It would be a slander against Rome to say that she holds that priests, who alone may perform the Mass, are inherently superior human beings to the laity who cannot. Yet it would also be wrong to say that priests, in terms of authority, are equal to the laity. The laity may not perform the Mass. A priest can. The laity may not hear Confessions and pronounce Absolution. A priest can.

          The distinction is wholly one of authority, but not one of personal worth. As human beings, priests and laity are equal before God. In terms of authority, the priests God will hold more responsible than those they teach. Authority is responsibility in God’s economy. Teachers face a greater judgment.

          Society cannot function without authority. I can’t pull you over for speeding, but a cop can. I am obligated to submit to the cop, but the cop’s life is not worth more than mine.

          Professors aren’t superior human specimens to their students, but only they grade papers and give assignments–students cannot do these things. Professors teach; students learn. Professors rule, and students submit.

          You believe in authority; we all do. The problem is that we do not believe in authority in our sexual relationships because we love our sin more than we love God. God calls us to repent of our disobedience and obey His commands concerning sex, among them are the commands that 1) woman may not teach and have authority over men, and that 2) man is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church.

          Love in Christ,

      • David Hayes

        Ben, a few points by way of reply:

        Egalitarians (and I am one) do not deny a complementarity between men and women. One of our fundamental principles is that men and women need each other, in all areas of life. But the belief called complementarianism has an entirely different focus, namely that there is a gender-defined hierarchy which grants authority and leadership to men alone. We reject this totally.

        Our views are grounded in scripture, as complementarianism is not a valid reading of the Bible. It requires a selective approach that ignores the inconvenient bits. We see this in your comments.

        For example, whilst God does reveal himself as father, you forget that he also reveals himself as mother (Isaiah 49:15 and many more). If male and female are both created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), that must mean that God also has female attributes, otherwise motherliness is not of God.

        Similarly, male headship is not normative in the Bible – look at Miriam, Deborah, Ruth, Esther, Huldah, for example. And God chose women to represent him and witness to the resurrection. You can’t ignore these.

        And surely the increasing order of creation must imply that woman, created after man, is superior, just as man is superior to the animals? That’s the logical conclusion from the creation order!

        Male headship does not have to be read into the passage you alluded to, 1 Timothy 2:11-15. Paul is concerned about untaught women taking over. He relates this to creation as God only told Adam not to eat the fruit. Eve sinned because Adam didn’t properly teach her God’s ways, so if women teach in church before they have properly learnt the faith, sin could similarly result.

        To respond to your concluding comments, egalitarians do not deny the fatherhood of God. But by your logic someone who denies the motherhood of God is similarly a heretic, so I hope you don’t deny that. And an egalitarian reading of St Paul has nothing to do with denying his teaching or rejecting the authority and inerrancy of Scripture. As Scott McKnight recently commented, there is “absolutely no consensus about 1 Tim 2”, so your suggestion that this is “clear” has no foundation. Your climax is a typical piece of arrogant rhetoric which claims that anyone who disagrees with you is disagreeing with God. Such manipulative tactics are totally inappropriate as a way of stating your case and I pray that you will refrain from them in future.

        • Ben Carmack

          Dear David,

          I’ll let you have the last word on the points you raise, aside from your final paragraph. I suspect what you say in your final paragraph gets to the heart of our disagreement.

          In “The Bondage of the Will,” Luther said to Erasmus (his debate opponent) that Christians should glory in assertions. He writes later on that tumult and conflict are the means God uses to establish His truth. When defending orthodoxy, we should rejoice when we encounter stiff opposition, harsh words or persecution.

          I mention Luther’s thoughts because I can imagine few notions less palatable to me, you or other postmodern people today. Today certainty has been equated with arrogance. Assertions are bad; suggestions are good. Maybe is good; must is bad.

          Egalitarianism hurts the sheep. Pastors, elders, seminary professors and Titus 2 women who fail to rebuke it will see the souls under their care harmed. Feminism is at the root of so much evil today. Sexuality is the place where Christian orthodoxy is tested most.

          It is not arrogant to identify egalitarianism as disobedience to God. Rather, it is a mark of humility and obedience. It is love for the sheep. To rebuke feminism/egalitarianism is an act of faith–though the world laughs, those who walk by faith will be vindicated in the end.

          I don’t know you, and I’m making no statement as to your standing with God. My only hope for you is that you too would learn to walk by faith in this area.

          Love in Christ,

  • Dee Parsons (@wartwatch)


    I attended Pete Briscoe’s church, Bent Tree Bible Fellowship for about 7 years and my husband and I became quite close to him. It will come as no surprise to you that I concur with Pete Briscoe’s stance on elders as well as pastors. What has not been as well known is that Pete has long had a wonderful associate pastor who is a woman. Joanne Hummel is now the pastor of the Carrollton campus.

    Joanne, as well as Pete, had a profound impact on view of gender roles in the church precisely because they are conservative in their view of the Bible. Joanne and Pete have good minds and take the Bible very, very seriously. I know that you do not believe that such a thing is possible but I can assure you that it exists in this particular church.

    As I left Dallas, I will always remember what Pete told me. “Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t teach.” And I have not.

    Pete demonstrates something that I believe that is lacking in today’s hard line theologians and pastors. He, along with Joanne, are loving leaders who well demonstrate the practical application of servant leaders. As for the issue of humility-this is one guy who gets it.

    I though you might like to hear from someone who attended his church and knew Pete quite well.

  • Eric W.

    This is heartbreaking and painful to watch. So many misuses of scripture to drive toward a point that they’re not even remotely speaking to, to arrive at a justification that has no real biblical foundation. Looks good to an undiscerning audience trying to weave it all together, but it results in outright disobedience of clear biblical commands. Hard to swallow claims to affirming inerrancy while at the same time saying “that doesn’t mean what it says.”

    Appreciate you Dr. Burk. You deal with this more graciously than I would.

    • David Hayes

      Eric, I am an egalitarian. But I would be very interested to know what you feel is problematic about the video. I’m genuinely interested, because I always want to make sure that my beliefs are in line with scripture.

  • David Hayes


    Thanks for your willingness to continue the conversation on your blog. So please let me respond.

    Your first point draws on a quote from Ligon Duncan, a Presbyterian, which I felt was rather curious. The very same arguments that Duncan uses against egalitarianism are regularly employed by Baptists like yourself to reject infant baptism, namely that it takes a lot of “gymnastics” to circumvent the Biblical link between belief and baptism. I am sure you have criticised pedobaptists in this way many times.

    Duncan has produced some fairly creative theology (see ) to justify the practice of sprinkling babies. In a video with Thabiti Anyabwile (see ), he explains that Presbyterians have carefully thought about their beliefs on baptism from a Biblical standpoint. He says that they are as equally committed to sola scriptura as Baptists are, but have simply come to a different conclusion.

    Great! So why the double standards? Why aren’t pejorative terms like “gymnastics” used about arguments for pedobaptism? It seems that both of you are unable to accept that it is legitimate for any evangelical, who is totally committed to the Bible, to study it at length, and arrive at an egalitarian conclusion.

    In your second point, I believe you have seriously misrepresented Pete Briscoe. I listened to his talk in full and made notes. I also read the leadership statement from his church. Trajectory theology (which Duncan also mentions) is not something Briscoe heavily relies it. It occupies just one of nine points in his sermon, and a fraction over one page (out of 24) in the statement. It could be removed without affecting the overall conclusion. It is the only thing that is remotely questionable, and hence I am not surprised that you have exaggerated its role. The rest of the material is extremely solid. The main hermeneutic used by Briscoe and his elders to justify egalitarianism is not the trajectory of scripture, but the standard historical-grammatical approach, focussed on understanding what the Bible meant to the original readers.

    Your final point seemed to be along the lines that gender roles are a central matter, one that results from cultural compromise undermining the authority of scripture, and it will lead to abandoning the faith. But Briscoe himself said that he has held egalitarian views at least 25 years. He has had an unwavering commitment to the authority of scripture and the preaching of the Gospel throughout that time. I am sure this will continue into the future, as he made it clear that his doctrine is shaped by the Bible, and nothing else. I used to belong to a denomination that started ordaining women almost 100 years ago. It didn’t go off the rails as a result. There is simply no evidence that evangelical egalitarian theology results in negative consequences.

    Let me finish with three suggestions:

    Firstly, this whole topic seems to be one where grace is lacking on the part of the complementarians. Duncan and Anyabwile hold opposing views on the contentious subject of baptism, yet were able to discuss the subject in a gracious manner, appreciating the common ground between them, and the sincerity of the other’s beliefs. Their brief talk was a model of good disagreement. Likewise, Briscoe didn’t speak ill of complementarianism. Yet here we see three different complementarian leaders (Burk, Duncan, and Dever) who all use negative and disrespectful language about egalitarianism, viewing it as a dangerous threat. So let me make a call for more grace on the part of complementarians.

    Secondly, I hope and pray that complementarians will study egalitarian theology in its best expressions. At the very least, hopefully they will come to appreciate that it is a legitimate viewpoint, and some might even find themselves convinced by it 🙂

    Thirdly, the article called for a public conversation. Articles online are a poor substitute for personal contact. A discussion or debate with Pete Briscoe, some complementarians, and an audience, would be a good starting point. Are you up for it, Denny?

  • Jeff Sylvester

    “You may have people in the church who hold a complementarian position, but their views on the issue have no standing at all where male headship is denied in practice.”

    Welcome to my world. As an Egalitarian who has been in complementarian churches for years, I’ve been there. But I’ve learned that breaking bread in the Christian community and placing Christ above these secondary doctrines is more important. Perhaps we can even learn from one another and grow.

    (I know, I looked for an egalitarian church- what I was able to find were not acceptable).

    Breaking away from a church is a terrible, traumatic thing. It must be done sometimes, but I would say only in the most extreme circumstances. When your community revolves around the church, you are losing quite a bit to leave. I’d hesitate greatly before taking a man to task, especially publicly in a blog, for deciding to choose community over a secondary doctrine.

    • Christiane Smith

      One wonders that if people can feel free to respond to their own consciences rather than stay in community with those who place secondary doctrines above Christian brotherhood? The ties of family and friends are great. The pressure to conform in secondary and tertiary matters of doctrine are non-negotiable under a leadership that demands loyalty to it’s ‘authority’. For those who are very old and very young, and for those who may not have the strength to leave what no longer respects their integrity . . . these people remain, and their lot is patience and long-suffering, and hope for better days . . .

      for these vulnerable people, some will stay and try to fight the good fight against what crushes the life out of a community of faith where diversity has been banned, and they do it for love of those they cannot leave behind easily . . . I suspect the pain of this must be great for those who harbor integrity within themselves, but bear great love for the community they have known as a ‘family’. Very sad, this.

  • dr. james willingham

    Sadly, I find that Dr. Burk does not reply to some with whom he disagrees – not even when they send a personal communique. Hardly, a Baptist practice which believes and teaches persuasion as the only means of converting a person to another view point.

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