I have been blown away by the amount of sexual abuse happening in the evangelical church – particularly in local churches that are somehow associated with complementarianism and various forms of Christian patriarchy.
In all honesty, I started this blog because I wanted to see women in ministry get better jobs in the church and be treated as equals in “authority.” That was my “axe to grind” with complementarianism, but after diving deeper this past year, I am shocked at how the doctrine seems to be indirectly destroying lives in the Church that I love, as well as greatly hurting our Christian witness to the world.
Just yesterday I read the following:
Fellowship Bible Church of Brentwood TN, a proud member of The Gospel Coalition, is being sued due to their response to the rape of a 3 year old child by a volunteer teen in their youth program. This teen raped the child in a bathroom and pled guilty to aggravated sexual battery. So, this is not “he said/she said.” It happened. Here is the report from News Channel 5: Family Files Lawsuit After Sexual Assault of 3-Year-Old At Church (Source).
For those of you who are unaware, The Gospel Coalition (TGC) are “loud and proud” complementarians. This organization stands against sexual abuse, of course, but here is what’s disturbing – TGC has made a point to delete comments on their social media site that expose other organizations which they support that have sexual abuse case allegations (Source).
According to the 3-year-old child’s family representative and court documents, the child did not want to go back to church the next Sunday. When the parents asked why, the child told them what had happened. When the parents told the church what had happened, the church accused the child of making the whole thing up. The church later pleaded with the family not to file a lawsuit (Source).
What does any of this have do with complementarianism, one may ask?
Complementarianism strongly promotes “authority” hierarchies. A select few men are at the top (pastors and elders essentially). Below them are men in general (even teenage boys are sometimes given more authority than grown women). Below men are women. Below women are children. Yes, children are at the bottom. They are the least important.
How do I know this? Well, because I grew up in the evangelical church and was a children’s pastor for two years in the evangelical church. My team was made up of mostly women and teenagers. In general, children’s pastors normally make the the lowest salary among full-time church staff (even when their jobs are often most difficult).
Everyone knows that we put our money into what we value. The more money we put into something, the more we value it (Matt. 6:21).
Most children’s pastors are women. So while the good ole’ boys rise up to powerful positions in the Church, women and children are often an afterthought to the work of the “real ministry.”
Obviously, the Fellowship Bible Church was no exception, as the news report states:
The lawsuit alleged that the church did not adequately protect the children by not completing adequate background checks, not lining out policies and procedures, and not providing adequate training (Source).
When women and children are simply afterthoughts, the bottom of the power hierarchy, it is only a matter of time before they get abused by teenage boys and grown men – especially when these power hierarchies are given “biblical” and “religious” stamps of approval by both men and women in the congregation.
As I stated in my last blog post, complementarianism is only about 25 years old and is an American theology that has convinced thousands upon thousands of Christian women to lay down their spiritual authority in Jesus Christ to be governed by husbands, male pastors, and male elders.
The truth of the matter is that many complementarian/patriarchal churches and organizations are in the business of protecting very powerful men in both mega churches and small churches all over the United States. Who cares about a three-year-old child being sexually assaulted when we have mighty “spiritual pedestals” to uphold and tithes to collect.
Of course the TGC is going to delete comments that expose their own. They have a business to run and a theology to protect. Most of us have a business to run and a theology to protect, don’t we? Yet, I would be the first to lay down my blog and theology if I found it to be harmful to women’s and children’s lives.
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