I noticed a Twitter lovefest this morning. A lot of tweets were coming from Christian leaders and pastors regarding Owen Strachan accepting the position of Executive Director at the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW).
If you are unfamiliar with the CBMW, let me fill you in. Here is the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood’s purpose:
In 1987, a group of pastors and scholars assembled to address their concerns over the influence of feminism not only in our culture but also in evangelical churches. Because of the widespread compromise of biblical understanding of manhood and womanhood and its tragic effects on the home and the church, these men and women established The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.
In opposition to the growing movement of feminist egalitarianism they articulated what is now known as the complementarian position which affirms that men and women are equal in the image of God, but maintain complementary differences in role and function. In the home, men lovingly are to lead their wives and family as women intelligently are to submit to the leadership of their husbands. In the church, while men and women share equally in the blessings of salvation, some governing and teaching roles are restricted to men.
So, essentially, these men believe they have the gender and womens/mens roles thing all figured out and want to help make sure that all churches are on the same page – because, in their opinion, feminism, confusing gender roles, etc, are destroying the church. You can read more on their page, Why We Exist.
Their core beliefs can be found in the Danvers Statement which came from a CBMW leaders conference in Danvers, Massachusetts in 1987.
There’s much more to report on CBMW, but I want to move on to the point of this post. I found it interesting that when watching my Twitter feed, the primary people giving shout-outs to Owen are members of the Gospel Coalition. Albert Mohler and Ligon Duncan were two men who publicly defended CJ Mahaney when he took a leave of absence from Sovereign Grace Ministries to look at his issues. Keep in mind, CJ Mahaney is currently part of a lawsuit brought on by families of sex abuse survivors who are suing for failure to report, mishandling abuse, etc. (Source) (Ligon’s statement is quoted in part here.)
In this post, I would like you to keep in mind the perspective of abuse in the church and what we have seen as far as the church’s response to emotional, physical, spiritual, sexual abuse that women sometimes face.
Owen Strachan published an article today discussing his new appointment, Beginning Work at the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood.
In the second paragraph we read:
CBMW is an organization that has had a major impact on my life and theology. I trained directly under leading complementarians Bruce Ware (former CBMW president), Al Mohler, and Mark Dever.
I remember Dever’s name clearly. During CJ Mahaney’s leave of absence as president of Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM), he took refuge in Mark Dever’s church, Capitol Hill Baptist Church. If memory serves, CJ was allowed to preach at Dever’s church. CJ has preached there once a year for the last 10 years. They have a long-standing relationship. I have read from various sources that CJ would never have allowed any of his pastors to leave while they were under scrutiny. CJ got a free pass with Dever. Some of CJ’s allegations involved spiritually abusive practices and not handling abuse situations properly. When is it acceptable for a pastor to hide at another and not humbly face his congregation amidst a trial?
Here is more from Strachan’s response to his new position:
I learned about the Bible, the gospel, and God’s good design and plan for men and women. Complementarianism, it turns out, is all about the flourishing of God’s people. It is about filling the joy-giving roles God has scripted for men and women.
I want to be completely transparent here. Before I started the first blog, I had no idea what complementarian or egalitarian meant. These were foreign words to me. The word is so foreign, it is not even in my dictionary and every time I type it, my spell check underlines it for me. As I have been studying abuse and observing patterns of abuse in churches, paying attention to the kinds of churches where there is abuse, I am noticing the pattern that abuse often times occurs in churches which hold to the very strong complementarian viewpoint. How did I discover this? These churches have been speaking the “complementarian” word loudly so I couldn’t miss it. Their strong stance on the subject compelled me to figure out what the big deal was with this complementarian word.
The key men from whom Strachan has learned this complementarian viewpoint deem this issue to be very important in their churches For example, for a time (I’m not sure if this is still part of the membership process), if you wanted to become a member at a Sovereign Grace Ministries church, you would need to sign a covenantal agreement saying you adhere to the complementarian viewpoint of men/women roles. (Somewhere I have a copy of an older SGM membership covenant.) This obviously is very important to them and has become a primary doctrinal issue for many churches.
CBMW was co-founded by Wayne Grudem and John Piper four decades ago. I have learned a great deal from both of these men and consider them forefathers in the faith.
Well, this is very troublesome to me. Piper led us all to believe four years ago that women should endure some forms of abuse for a season and a smacking for an evening rather than telling her to report the crimes to civil authorities. Now, some four years later (and countless internet discussions, angry e-mails), Piper has “clarified” his statement, offering no apology whatsoever. If Owen considers Piper a forefather in the faith and a man he has learned from, I am concerned. This kind of teaching that Piper taught some four years ago and obviously a standard by which he held to much longer than that, minimizes the value of women to that of an object. There was no mentioning of reporting abuse to authorities. I’m wondering if dogs in Piper’s church might have fared better under abusive situations. Would Piper’s folks report animal abuse to SPCA or appropriate authorities?
With regard to Wayne Grudem – if you have not read this article on Wayne Grudem’s 83 Biblical Rules for Gospel Women, this should be eye-opening for you. I’d like to know what Strachan learned from Grudem? That it’s okay for women to teach a deaf man or people in a foreign country, but not men in her own church? Does Strachan agree with Grudem’s Biblical rules he states in his article: But What Should Women Do in the Church? (Seriously – does that title sound uplifting to women? NOT!) Yes, I’m concerned.
Moving along, Strachan adds:
We will continue to promote God’s wise and life-giving plan for men and women.
This is a revealing statement. Strachan along with so many of his contemporaries believe that the Biblical roles of men and women is a primary Gospel issue. This is important to note.
These are critical times for our public square, and CBMW needs to have a voice in these discussions, both for the sake of our Christian witness and for the equipping of pastors, churches, and individual Christians who face a culture shifting from traditional mores.
This shows how strongly these folks believe their interpretation of the “biblical” roles of manhood and womanhood must be adhered to. They want to be the voice of influence in our churches.
A few notables have offered words in support of Strachan’s new position:
From Russell Moore (Russell Moore, Chairman of the Board, Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Professor of Christian Theology and Ethics, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Senior Vice President for Academic Administration and Dean of the School of Theology, SBTS):
“Owen Strachan is a bright and energetic young thinker, brimming with wise ideas about the next stage of CBMW’s mission. I’m excited about the road-map he’s laid out for us and look forward to the future.”
JA’s thoughts about Russell Moore’s thoughts: what kind of “wise ideas” does Owen have to offer? Do we really need someone’s wise ideas or what God’s Word says?
From Wayne Grudem (Wayne Grudem, Research Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies, Phoenix Seminary, author of this nonsense, co-founder of CBMW, past President, current Board member, Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood), we read the following quote:
“Owen Strachan brings a wealth of knowledge about theology and evangelical history to his new leadership role with CBMW. He is a wise and gifted communicator who seeks to honor Jesus Christ in all that he does. I expect that Dr. Strachan will be used by God to significantly increase the impact of the ministry of CBMW.”
JA thinks we’ve already read enough of Grudem for one blog post.
Bruce Ware (Bruce A. Ware, Professor of Christian Theology, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, past President, current Council member, Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood) has this to say:
“Owen Strachan combines a creative mind, clear-sighted vision, adept reasoning, winsome wit, and deep commitments to orthodox theology and a complementarian vision. The living expression of this vision within his own home is healthy and life-giving for his wife (my daughter) and children, and his longing for others to see the wisdom and goodness of God’s ways make him an excellent new leader for CBMW and for the complementarian movement more broadly.”
JA’s note: I was not aware that Bruce was Owen’s father-in-law. I’m sure it must help to have the same Biblical men/women role convictions at the big family dinner table – much less family drama. And notice this phrase, “complementarian movement.” Take note, this “complementarianism” business is considered a movement. Remember, this is a modern word and CBMW wants this to be a movement within churches.
Mark Dever (Mark Dever, Senior Pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, DC, President, IX Marks Ministries, and co-founder of Together for the Gospel) says:
“Owen Strachan is wise and winsome, articulate and involved in thinking through the Scriptures, and the world we live in. I am thankful for this stewardship that God is committing into his hands.”
Did you notice this is the second use of the word “winsome” used by men giving accolades to Owen.
The Merriam-Webster’s definition of winsome: generally pleasing and engaging often because of a childlike charm and innocence. I just wanted to make sure we’re all on the same page here.
Here are the winsome words of Ligon Duncan (I had to try out that word for myself), Senior Minister, First Presbyterian Church (PCA), Jackson, Mississippi, USA John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary, President, The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood:
“The work of CBMW is just as important as and perhaps now even more challenging than it was when the organization was founded. The culture has moved even further away from the Bible’s teaching on marriage, gender, and biblical manhood and womanhood. Sadly, the culture has taken many churches with it. At this strategic moment, I am especially enthusiastic and grateful to have the privilege of working alongside Owen Strachan, a dynamic young scholar, in promoting the Bible’s vision for manhood and womanhood in the home and church.”
Could it be that the culture is moving further away from the Bible’s teaching on marriage and gender because of the way the church as a whole has handled marriage/gender? Could it be that the culture is showing a direct response to the unhealthy ways in which the church has failed their own? I can’t help but be reminded of the literally hundreds of comments on various news article about my defamation lawsuit. Many people commented in support of me, even atheists, acknowledging painful experiences they had dealt with or observed at their churches.
Again, I want to emphasize that my understanding of biblical roles of men/women is not something that I have personally resolved. I thought I understood it years ago, but in the process of spiritual abuse and especially in light of the Patriarchal influence my family has experienced, I am taking a closer look and have yet to fully make an opinion on what I believe to be the biblical stance.
Would it be wise to adopt the definition biblical role models of men/women from church leaders who have left abuse issues regarding men/women go unchallenged? I think not. I will dig much deeper and go to many sources. However, I will state that the woman I admire most, a missionary who had 8 children and was a missionary in Africa for 35 years, was in a complementarian marriage. Her marriage was beautiful. I also know several other couples who would say they are complementarian and their marriages seem to work well. Regardless of which side of the camp I eventually end up on, the following issues still remain troublesome to me. I will recap them below:
1. I am greatly disturbed by key CBMW and Gospel Coalition men (ie, Mohler and Duncan) who have defended CJ Mahaney publicly without checking into mishandling of abuse cases. It seems they defended their friend first, rather than seeing if there has been any truth to the survivor blog stories that have been expressed for years. It would have been better to have not commented at all about CJ. Will they apologize if they were wrong?
2. It seems to me that CBMW is making the gender/biblical role issue a primary doctrinal issue. The Bible does not say that a woman must submit to her husband in order to be saved. Could their time be better served by showing men how to treat women, providing better care for support for marriages, etc? I think so.
3. Why is it that primarily men are speaking up on this submissive woman issue? Where are the voices of women?
4. It seems that some who have spoken loudest about this issue also seem to be confusing issues of sin and crime. This leaves women in a dangerous predicament and subject to more abuse because of non-action on the part of church leaders. For example, in SGM churches, we have read countless stories of abuse in which church leaders failed to report to civil authorities. When you connect the dots, this raises red flags. If these men are now saying that abuse must be reported, we need to see results of that.
I will be watching these folks at CBMW, you can be sure.