It’s no secret that evangelicals are deeply divided in their view of women’s roles in society. Differing interpretations of the Bible’s teaching on a woman’s status, especially as it relates to marriage and ministry, have sparked sharp disagreements among Christians who want to be faithful to biblical doctrine and denominational tenets while navigating modern expectations.
The debate has even inspired competing theological schools of thought: complementarianism versus egalitarianism. Both perspectives confess the essential equality of men and women as persons created in God’s image. However, complementarians believe the Bible sets clear limits on women’s leadership roles, while egalitarians advocate for women’s full equality in the church.
In our Christian battles over women’s roles in the family, church, and marketplace, can our complementarian and egalitarian perspectives coexist? Can Christians of good faith support each other and serve God together in the midst of this tension?
On August 23, CT’s Big Tent Initiative convened a group of influential Christian women for a spirited online discussion featuring voices from both sides of the complementarian/egalitarian divide. “The vision for this webinar is to encourage women and men with real examples of how friendship can help us bridge numerous divides,” said webinar host Nicole Massie Martin, who joined CT this year as the ministry’s chief impact officer.
Martin, an ordained minister, shared the virtual stage with author and CT board member Lauren McAfee for a conversation about their differences (McAfee holds to a complementarian view) and about where they find agreement (they’re both devoted wives, moms, and church volunteers).
“There have always been theological differences about how women should serve in the church,” said Martin. “But behind the scenes, women from various perspectives have been celebrating and supporting each other, overcoming the traditional divides. As we open up about these friendships, there’s a chance we could discover the tools to help us deepen relationships across other divides for our good and God’s glory.”
Joining Martin and McAfee were a diverse panel of teachers, preachers, and scholars including Trina Jenkins, Susie Owens, Lilly Park, and CT associate editor Kara Bettis Carvalho. Learn more about the panelists below, and watch the video recording of the webinar above.
Trina Jenkins is the chief ministry officer and devoted senior pastor’s wife at First Baptist Church of Glenarden in Maryland. She and her husband, John K. Jenkins Sr., are the proud parents of six children and seven grandchildren. She has a BA in sociology from the University of Maryland and an honorary DDiv from Truth Bible College in Jacksonville, Florida. She preaches and teaches at churches and other widely attended events throughout the US and Africa, training Christian women to reach their full spiritual potential.
Lauren McAfee is the founder and visionary of Stand for Life. She is also director for ministry investments at Hobby Lobby and previously worked for Museum of the Bible. Lauren is the author of several books, including Beyond Our Control and Created in the Image of God. She has an MA in pastoral counseling and theological studies, as well as a ThM, and is currently pursuing a PhD in ethics and public policy with Russell Moore as her supervisor. She and her husband Michael live in Oklahoma City and have two daughters, Zion and Zara, through the blessing of adoption.
Susie C. Owens is an evangelist, author, radio host, and co-pastor of Greater Mt. Calvary Holy Church in Washington, DC, with her husband, Bishop Alfred A. Owens Jr. The Owenses’ international preaching ministries have taken them to churches and events around the world. Susie did her undergraduate studies at Bethel Bible Institute and Brooks College before receiving an MA in religious studies from Howard University School of Divinity and a DMin in African American leadership from Fuller Theological Seminary.
Lilly Park, PhD, serves as associate professor of biblical counseling at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. She joined the Southwestern faculty in 2020. Her research areas include theological anthropology, marriage and family, and cross-cultural competencies. Lilly is the author of numerous articles and essays.
Kara Bettis Carvalho is an award-winning journalist and associate features editor at Christianity Today. She earned her master of theology degree from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and has served in staff and lay leadership roles at her local church. Among the many stories she has written for CT, last year she wrote about “Scottish Complementarians Who Teach Women to Preach.”
Nicole Massie Martin is the chief impact officer for Christianity Today, an adjunct professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and the author of two books, Made to Lead: Empowering Women for Ministry and Leaning In, Letting Go: A Lenten Devotional. A nationally recognized speaker, Nicole earned a BA from Vanderbilt University, an MDiv from Princeton Theological Seminary, and a DMin from Gordon-Conwell. She resides in Maryland with her husband, Mark, and their two daughters.