Pope Francis, Owen Strachan and others, discuss “complementarity.” Does it mean the same to all?
Yesterday, Owen Strachan, President of Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW), reported on an international colloquium sponsored by Pope Francis who invited leaders from around the world to discuss complimentarity: “Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists and Hindus are among those representing 14 faith traditions from 23 countries (Source).
From Strachan’s article:
Right now in Rome, the Catholic Church is holding an international colloquium on a very important, and highly controverted, subject: sexual complementarity. The title of the gathering is Humanum Colloquium, “The Complementarity of Man and Woman: An International Colloquium.” The colloquium’s focus is on the institution of marriage . . .
As the President of the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, this event warms my heart. I often find that CBMW is a lonely voice promoting complementarity, the idea that the sexes fit together and become one as the fulfillment of our distinctiveness. God created man and woman, not any organization. Procreation depends upon complementarity. The future of the human race depends upon complementarity. If men and women do not come together, they cannot produce children, and humanity will die (Source).
I had to read it twice. In the use of the word complementarity above by Strachan, he seems to be using it in the same way I read in articles from Catholic news sites and from the words of Pope Francis, promoting traditional marriage of man and woman and producing children. I can roll with that.
The title that was given this gathering of religious leaders used the word “complementarity.”
Here is the title again:
Humanum Colloquium, “The Complementarity of Man and Woman: An International Colloquium
Let’s read what it says on the website promoting the event:
The Complementarity of Man and Woman: An International Colloquium is a gathering of leaders and scholars from many religions across the globe, to examine and propose anew the beauty of the relationship between the man and the woman, in order to support and reinvigorate marriage and family life for the flourishing of human society.
Witnesses will draw from the wisdom of their religious tradition and cultural experience as they attest to the power and vitality of the complementary union of man and woman. It is hoped that the colloquium be a catalyst for creative language and projects, as well as for global solidarity, in the work of strengthening the nuptial relationship, both for the good of the spouses themselves and for the good of all who depend upon them.
The Colloquium is sponsored by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and co-sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Family, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity (Source).
STOP, HOLD ON, WAIT one cotton pickin’ minute!!!!
Complementarianism is the pet word of Owen Strachan, John Piper, Wayne Grudem, and all of the folks who promote and endorse CBMW. Yes, part of the word has to do with husband and wife and producing children as was mentioned both by Strachan in his recent article and the informational summary of the event. But for CBMW, it goes far beyond that:
Is Pope Francis using the word to show husband’s male headship and authority over wives, in extra-biblical terms indicating what women are permitted to do and not permitted to do?
Does Pope Francis’ meaning of the word complementarity mean that women will be submitting to all men in the new creation (see my article on this topic and note that it is hosted on the CBMW website)?
Does Pope Francis’ meaning of the word complemtarity mean he is in alignment with Wayne Grudem’s 83 (extra-biblical) rules for women (Wayne Grudem is a co-founder of CBMW)?
Or is Pope Francis talking about a different kind of complementarity and Strachan is taking advantage of the opportunity to jump on the coattails of this widely publicized and international event to promote a word and teaching he so loves?
I don’t for a minute think Pope Francis would endorse Wayne Grudem’s 83 extra-Biblical rules for women or the other ideas espoused above. In a large majority of the world, women must work in order to survive. For some in Strachan’s camp, the idea of women working outside the home endorses Feminism.
Folks, Strachan’s article could be very confusing to those who are trying to make sense of “complementarity.” I’ve searched high and low and can find no indication that Pope Francis endorses the extra-Biblical rules that define the word complementarity in the same way as Strachan and his friends at CBMW.
It would seem that Catholics would understand their pope and the meaning of his words. Take a look at excerpts from the Catholic News Service article, Pope says defending traditional marriage is matter of ‘human ecology’:
Pope Francis called for preserving the family as an institution based on marriage between a man and a woman, which he said is not a political cause but a matter of “human ecology.”
“The complementarity of man and woman … is at the root of marriage and the family,” the pope said Nov. 17, opening a three-day interreligious conference on traditional marriage. “Children have the right to grow up in a family with a father and mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity.”
Pope Francis said that “marriage and the family are in crisis. We now live in a culture of the temporary, in which more and more people are simply giving up on marriage as a public commitment.
You see, Pope Francis is in agreement with CBMW’s foundational issues of marriage: that marriage is between a man and a woman as husband and wife (as opposed to same-sex marriage families). He talks about the cheapening of marriage and I think most of us can agree that we have seen lack of commitment in couples to stay married when the going gets tough.
But that’s not the whole of CBMW’s message. In addition to man being married to a woman, they place an emphasis on hierarchy within the home, male headship. Here’s more from the Catholic News Service so you can see the difference in meaning:
The pope also stressed that the complementarity between male and female does not necessarily entail stereotypical gender roles.
“Let us not confuse (complementarity) with the simplistic idea that all the roles and relations of the two sexes are fixed in a single, static pattern,” he said. “Complementarity will take many forms as each man and woman brings his or her distinctive contributions to their marriage and to the education of their children.”
And there you go. The pope is keeping it defined to solely marriage as husband and wife with gifts, but there is no mention of hierarchy.
Pope Francis said Christians find the meaning of complementarity in St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, “where the apostle tells us that the Spirit has endowed each of us with different gifts so that — just as the human body’s members work together for the good of the whole — everyone’s gifts can work together for the benefit of each.”
That sounds beautiful to me!
“To reflect upon complementarity is nothing less than to ponder the dynamic harmonies at the heart of all creation,” the pope said.
Interestingly, Owen Strachan’s friend, Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore, was also invited to attend, and in his article, Why I’m Going to the Vatican, he explains:
… I am willing to go anywhere, when asked, to bear witness to what we as evangelical Protestants believe about marriage and the gospel, especially in times in which marriage is culturally imperiled. In this colloquium, we come not hiding our distinctives behind some general and abstract faith, but we come to it speaking from our distinct confessional traditions to this issue. It’s an issue I believe God has revealed in the universe around us (Gen. 1-2), and that he has explained in the mystery of Jesus Christ (Eph. 5:32), which is why it is of such importance.
Russell Moore’s speech mostly discussed God creating male and females, and how that design works to further the Gospel, but he did quickly dabble into what he typically endorses, male headship. You can read his transcribed address here. But for the most part, it seemed that Moore stuck on track with an agenda of promoting traditional marriage of a husband and a wife.
Take a look at another Catholic source, Vatican Insider, as they describe complementarity. There’s no hierarchy here, folks, in fact, notice the word mutual:
The union between man and woman is complementary not because it forms a complete whole in itself, but because it illustrate [sic] show both are a mutual support to one another on the path toward the Creator. The birth of a child is the demonstration that this union is not just about the two people in it. The union of two people, the act of becoming one flesh, is expressed through the creation of a child through this union, when two people come together. So complementarity also means abundance, the creation of something new. (Vatican Insider Staff)
Some may wonder if I am attempting to promote Catholicism in this article by defending the Pope and Catholic publications. Not at all. I am pointing out that it’s important to understand meanings of words used in context. This event was sponsored by Catholics who used the word complementarity. If Strachan is going to jump on the bandwagon and report on this important international event where religious leaders from around the world are discussing marriage and complementarity, it’s important that he uses the word in the way in which it was intended. Owen Strachan’s use of the word always includes male headship. As far as I have seen, Pope Francis has not made any mention of hierarchy.
I think Mr. Strachan made an error when writing his article in not clearly identifying that his version of complimentarity does not align with Pope Francis’ use of the word. In fact, because of the word “mutual” above, I’m surprised Mr. Strachan hasn’t spoken out against it. It sure sounds pretty egalitarian to me.
- Speakers at the colloquium.
- Adrian Warnock breaks down complementarianism, patriarchy, and egalitarian in understandable terms.
photo credit: Aldo Risolvo via photopin cc
127 thoughts on “Does Pope Francis’ Use of the Word “Complementarity” Mean the Same as When Used by Owen Strachan or CBMW?”
Barb: Thanks for that definition. It is expressed clearly, but is not a simple definition, as many of the words used also need definition in order to fully understand it. This is not a criticism, merely an observation that the reader wil also need to know what is meant by those words, i.e. “justice”. Thus I think it is a good definition to begin to understand it.
Also, thanks for taking my comment re:feminism at face value. I have asked a fair number of women if they are feminists, and if so what it meant to them. I only had one claim the label, but with a lot of qualifications. It seems that there are many who perceive the term to have been exemplified by Friedan, Mackinnon etc. and thus want no part of it.
Some thoughts on Barb’s definition of feminism: I would substitute the word “establish” for the word “restore.” It is not possible to restore what has never been established.
I agree with Keith when he points out that justice needs to be defined. Subjective perceptions don’t count for much, if anything. A prevailing party in a Court proceeding may celebrate the great justice they have won, while the losing party in the same proceeding may be absolutely convinced that they are the victim of a great miscarriage of justice.
I suggest that a good definition of justice is found in the Golden Rule. If I treat another person as I would like to be treated I have acted justly, assuming of course that I am not disordered. A sadist does not get to defend their mistreatment of others by the Golden Rule.
Insofar as we are applying the Golden Rule (whether or not as the standard of justice), complementarians and patriarchists fail the test. Unless of course they are disordered such that they take sadistic pleasure in being relegated to an inferior status, as well as to inferior roles, based upon their gender–in which case the Golden Rule does not apply.
I suppose that, even in applying the Golden Rule, we must avoid subjective perceptions. Something like a reasonable, well adjusted person standard must come into play. Which brings us back to Jesus.
Gary W wrote: “A prevailing party in a Court proceeding may celebrate the great justice they have won, while the losing party in the same proceeding may be absolutely convinced that they are the victim of a great miscarriage of justice. ”
Welcome to my world, Gary.
Except that in your world, Tim, I suspect that it is the rare matter in which a party receives everything they think they deserve, and even to the extent they are satisfied with the result, they are likely to resent the high price at which victory was achieved.
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Keith, you said “I don’t know what [feminism is, so I cannot answer your question”].
The classic definition of feminism is: The radical idea that women are not doormats.
I can only hope that helps your obvious confusion.
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Zooey: My “obvious confusion” is merely an honest desire to understand what the term means, particularly when used on SSB.
“It seems that there are many who perceive the term to have been exemplified by Friedan, Mackinnon etc. and thus want no part of it.”
How did Friedan exemplify it? You have lost me.
If there is one thing I know for sure is most folks are woefully ignorant of history. Every wrong in history OVERCORRECTS itself at first. In the Feminine Mystique (which I read in college long after it was published) Friedan talks about things which are now seen as silly by most women because things actually changed.
There WAS a real disconnect for educated surburban women in the 1950’s/60’s. Technological advances made their lives much more comfortable and there was more leisure time to ask “who am I” questions. This was a huge change from their mothers depression and WW2 years. Just the improvements on the washing/drying machines freed up a lot of time.
They were educated and bored as any educated man would be in the same situation. How many women do you know today who don’t have to work in some capacity. they are women of high wage earners for the most part or they live in serious dire straights to not have to work. That is a result of economic conditions. And the women who go into professions NOW don’t see themselves as “feminists” because of what went on before them they are not taking into consideration.
My mom was always bringing some widow from church home to my dad to try and help her because when her husband died she could not access their bank accounts, etc. This was the early 70’s! It was considered HIS account and he had to give her special permission by way of signing a card for her to access it even after his death it was not considered her money. She had to wait for probate. This used to make my dad flaming mad that men treated their wives like children and the laws did not see it as her money, too.
The big gains in equality came in the form of financial considerations. So for all the banging on about being a housewife— it took a change in laws for that to be seen as “equal” and you can thank the feminists for that.
“I suppose that, even in applying the Golden Rule, we must avoid subjective perceptions. Something like a reasonable, well adjusted person standard must come into play. Which brings us back to Jesus.”
I remember well the “reasonable man” arguments coming into play during the time sexual harassment laws came into play back in the 80’s. Boy did that create some cognitive dissonance. I used to tell my clients to think of it as professionalism and basic manners. Of course, that movement overcorrected itself at first, too. Most of our clients were implementing training on sexual harassment because their insurance companies required it after some HUGE settlements made the news.
A woman should be able to go to work and be treated as a professional whether she was a lawyer, secretary or a mopping the floors. As the floors need to be mopped and those that do it well need to be respected for it. If there was one thing I would chide some of my more oblivious staff about– was walking right through a mess the janitorial staff was working to clean up as if they were not there. I cannot tell you how many times did this in Hotel training venues. That is not sexual harassment but it is the same underlying principle. Some people are not as important and what they do is not as important simply because of who they are and what they do for a living.
Lydia: I did not follow up with them.
Re: The doormat definition, it would follow that all decent people are feminists?
“Lydia: I did not follow up with them.”
That is too bad. In my experience the people who have a negative view of the word is because they view it as matriarchal without realizing it. They do not view it as mutual.
It is just like how poll questions are asked to get a specific result.
“Re: The doormat definition, it would follow that all decent people are feminists?”
Do decent people want women to have the right to vote? To get equal pay for an equal job done? Those are historical feminist positions.
“It seems that there are many who perceive the term to have been exemplified by Friedan, Mackinnon etc. and thus want no part of it.”
Keith, I was basing my answer on what you said above. Did they mention Friedan or did you? How would you know what it meant if you did not discuss it them? Did they say they are not feminists like Friedan or did you assume it? I am totally confused about your “not following up” as an answer.
Hi Julie Anne, I’m happy to see someone addressing the complementarity term used by the Pope. From looking at the list of speakers at the Pope’s Colloquium, they all come from denominations and faiths that are patriarchal and/or complementarian in practice and theology, so it is doubtful, in my opinion, that the conference will accomplish much, aside from giving The Council fodder for their hungry complementarian mill.
Rev. Dr. Richard D. Warren (Rick Warren) said some relevant things about marriage using his well mastered technique of infusing a mix of basically good stuff with a sly dose of rat poison. Ever read a rat poison label? It’s 98-99% good stuff, and it is the 1-2% that kills the rats.
Along with helpful tips on getting their message out, that marriage is important for the family and society–which it unarguably is–Warren focused in on the sexual aspect of marriage. At one point he stated that television and movies feature a lot of sex and mostly out of the context of marriage, therefore he recommends that T.V. and Movies feature married sex–tastefully of course (shades of Mark Driscoll?). Unreal. My answer to that is why do Christians need to be watching sex on T.V. and movies at all?
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Remember Mark Driscoll? Piper Flutterhands down by the river?
A lot of these MenaGAWD are obsessed with SEX SEX SEX, and preaching about it this way gives them a Respectable Porn Fix to spank off their obsession. Or when preaching against it, a way to self-medicate (like recovering alcoholic Billy Sunday’s Christless sermons against Demon Rum) and/or make sure since THEY’re not allowed to have it, Nobody Else Can.
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Going to the complete total opposite but just as extreme.
Communism begets Objectivism.
In feminism, this overcorrection expressed itself in taking Male Supremacy and turning it into a funhouse mirror image better called Female Supremacy than Feminism (with a lot of One True Way Ideology attitudes — again, like Communism and Objectivism).
Successful child molesters and abusers don’t just groom their prey, but also groom adult third parties to discredit the victim in advance and/or cultivate allies if anything puts them in danger of exposure.
Successful pedos, abusers, and sociopaths of all kinds are masters at camouflaging what they really are. We only hear about the ones who slipped up and got caught.
Let’s take what Owen Strachan said at the beginning of his speach as a good sign. ‘I often find that CBMW is a lonely voice……………………….’ I gather from that that most people do not agree with their interpretation of Scripture.
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We can only hope.
That combined with the comment above which seemed to suggested that celibacy causes pedophilia-
I don’t think celibacy causes pedophilia, or that self professing Christians are more likely to be pedophiles than other groups.
In all the news articles I’ve read about pedophiles over the years, it’s that they go looking for groups or situations where children are.
They want access to children, and what better ways for them to do that than to join schools – as janitors or teachers – or in places where there are children and the people tend to be too trusting and naive – such as Christians in churches.
I read about a year ago a guy who worked as a puppeter (spelling?) who hosted a kiddie TV show, and he turned out to be a pedo. Another guy who was a pedo who was in the news worked as a clown, and he was hired to work at kid’s birthday parties as a clown. You have adults who join Boy Scouts and stuff because that’s how they get access to kids.
Maybe the pedophiles figure that churches have lots of kids around – plenty of prey for them to choose from – and that if it’s a church that calls for celibacy from its clergy, they figure they can pretend to be a celibate clergy person, as it can serve as a cover if they fondle children.
I gotta say as a celibate adult, I do get really irate over the suggestion that celibacy causes pedophilia, and that idea does unfortunately come up regularly in almost every online discussion I see about pedos in the church, or Roman Catholic priest child sexual abuse cases.
Check the comment area under any article about priests who molest kids, and 90% of the time, you will sure enough see some joker say, “If they didn’t require priests to be celibate, this would never happen.”
Oh really? Please explain all the stories I see of married Baptist (or married Methodist, Pentecostal) preachers who are arrested for child molesting.
The Bible itself demands celibacy of all unmarried people, clergy or no (fornication is referred to as being a sin in several biblical passages and is presented as sin in the Old Testament), so I also find it very weird if or when Christians of all people assume that celibacy creates pedophilia.
If celibacy created pedophilia, I doubt God would have demanded it of all single adults, but he does.
That is an interesting observation.
Another blog did a story several months ago that CBMW is no longer receiving as much money as it once did, but that CBE (gender egalitarian group, the opposite of CBMW) is raking in more and more funds. (I think Julie Anne may have also blogged about this once months ago?)
So, donations to CBMW have been going down, but donations to the opposing side’s group is going up.
Just looking up a few related terms in a search engine brought up these pages:
CBMW Goes Big–$30,000 Matching Donation Drive
May 29, 2013 – It’s very exciting for me to announce that CBMW is launching a $30,000 matching donation drive. In recent weeks, we’ve had a major donor …
Doubling Down: CBMW’s End-of-Year Giving Campaign …
cbmw .org/ …/news…
We have had two friends of CBMW offer to match donations up to $10,000. We’re thrilled at this ‘soft match’ offer and hope to meet our goal through your …
No better time to donate to CBMW than right now! | Denny …
www. dennyburk .com/
May 29, 2013 – The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) is an evangelical organization that produces resources and conferences that …
And (from 2010):
The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood Website Is Now Down, But Will It Be Back?
Daisy, I think Wartburg Watch had an article comparing the financials of CBMW and CBE. However, I couldn’t help but notice the frequent fundraising from CBMW as it came from both Strachan’s personal Twitter account and the various CBMW accounts (one for women, another for men, and then a general CBMW).
I found Wartburg Watch’s article.
Celibate Christian adults don’t need to have sex crammed down their throats than they already do, married sex or not. What is wrong with preachers?
Why doesn’t Rick Warren advocate celibacy, and commend single celibates out there? We celibates get zippo support or shout outs from secular culture or from churches.
Not only are many of these Christians obsessed with sex, sex, sex (as HUG was saying), but they are mighty fixated on marriage, marriage, marriage. Do no single adults past the age of 30 exist in the universes in which these preachers reside?
On a bit of a tangent. I’ve read going back to my teen years, and I’ve heard on Christian televised programs, preachers who sell and market chastity by telling younger people if they hold off until marriage to have sex that married sex will be great, and it will happen every single night! That was what I heard repeatedly as a teen and into my twenties.
Then I turn around as an older adult I see letters to “Dear Abby” from married adults who are not having sex for months (or even years) on end (they want sex but their spouse does not), and I see articles discussing sexless marriages in some Christian columns.
So maybe Rick Warren, if he is so keen on having TV depictions of marital sex, can advocate for having married couples on TV where one person in a marriage wants sex but isn’t getting any, because the spouse doesn’t want any, or has health issues and cannot perform, or is a military person sent to serve in Afghanistan and cannot. If he wants to push it, let’s keep it real.
You said, tastefully of course (shades of Mark Driscoll?).
Except Driscoll was crude when talking about sex, and he advocated some very racy sex acts involving non-standard orifices for hetero couples, shall we say, as well as other sex acts that most hetero folks don’t usually perform. But I kind of see what you mean.
Julie Anne said,
It’s funny you should mention that, because when I did a web search for it for the post above (I used two or three different phrases), a few Tweets about it came up under one search. I’ll see if I can find it again.
Here is one:
Daniel Akin on Twitter: “CBMW Is Going Big – $30,000 …
twitter.com/DannyAkin/ status/ 339806603505180672
May 29, 2013 – CBMW Is Going Big – $30,000 Matching Donation Drive | CBMW | The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood …
Denny Burk on Twitter: “No better time to donate to CBMW …
May 29, 2013 – Dismiss this message. Twitter. Search query. Search Twitter … No better time to donate to CBMW than right now! @CBMWorg …
Lydia00: I was just thinking back on conversations I have had with a variety of women over some period of time. I don’t necessarily remember them verbatim, so I cannot state with certainty who mentioned what names, but I did not really follow up with the different types of feminists/feminisms. There appears to be a wide variety of thought.
<blockquote.Not only are many of these Christians obsessed with sex, sex, sex (as HUG was saying), but they are mighty fixated on marriage, marriage, marriage.
Daisy, you should know by now that “marriage” is Christianese for “getting laid”, with all the accompanying expectations and baggage. Just in Christianese it involves virginity, a ring, and a church.
This sort of bribery is especially insidious to young males, who are probably getting an unofficial sex education by osmosis. Bribing them to “save themselves for marriage” by promises of Swinging From The Chandeliers Barn Burning Dynamite Marrried S*E*X 24/7/365 is going to generate a lot of VERY unrealistic expectations, and is a setup for wife abuse. He’s going to come into his wedding night expecting his virgin bride to switch from Virgin Unto Death to My Personal Porn Star, fulfilling EVERY built-up fantasy from all those months to years of waiting NOW!
(For a RL example, look at Plumbing-Supply-Line Pearls’ account of HIS wedding night.)