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The Accidental Complementarian

Twice my husband left me. The first time, he moved months ahead of our family to attend Chicago's most prestigious business school. I was pregnant with our third child. The second time, he moved months ahead of us to Toronto, accepting what we both considered an irresistible career opportunity. I stayed behind with the five little ones—and the responsibilities.

Our arrangement could illustrate the burden of complementarian theology. Men are imagined leading in their marriages and churches, fleet-footed after their dreams. Women are pictured trailing behind, bedraggled with the demands of self-sacrifice. I sometimes can't help wondering if the stereotypes are true.

Yet they aren't the full truth, and misunderstandings about complementarians abound. At a recent women's conference, I heard a speaker describe her egalitarian upbringing, saying it wasn't until college that she recognized the breadth of theological difference on this issue.

"I was shocked. And to be honest, I was heartbroken. It had never occurred to me that in this day and age, so many people just like me were being sidelined," she said. Her implication? Complementarianism was theology that should have gone the way of the dinosaurs. Like me, the closet complementarians in the room may have sensed the muting of their voices in a circle designed to celebrate them.

When my husband and I graduated from Wheaton College, we married as committed egalitarians. I did not vow to submit on our wedding day. My husband and I both believed that male headship was a sign of the curse (Gen. 3:16).

But somewhere over the years, our ideas changed. Maybe our egalitarian confidence eroded, slowly and imperceptibly, in our complementarian ...

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The Accidental Complementarian
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In the Magazine

March 2014

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