When I shared that I would be attending The Gospel Coalition National Women’s Conference, my friends asked for my notes before I even left. First of all, this illustrates that my friends know me well. I am a note taker. Second, my friends know that my notes are good. It isn’t because I have a keen ability to key into the important things that are being said. Not at all. It’s quite the opposite. I write everything down. Like, everything. I came home with well over 100 pages of notes. There was a distinct moment, about half way through the conference, I realized I may not have bought a large enough notebook.
I do this style of note taking for 3 reasons.
1) I’m generally overwhelmed with information, and I can’t always detect what “the point” is. Writing it down allows me to reflect on it later, when my head isn’t so clogged with thoughts and information.
2) My memory isn’t as good as it used to me (thank you Hashimotos). If I don’t write it down, I’ll forget it. Writing it down helps me commit it to memory. Sometimes the full information, sometimes all my memory catches is a brief synopsis but tags in my head “you wrote that down in the blue notebook from the conference”. I can almost always find that information I can’t remember.
3) I believe that God can use the same notes I took today, ten years from now to tell me something else. I don’t perceive any information as invaluable. It may not matter or make sense today, but 10 years from now… it very well could.
So, on to the conference notes… that my friends are so eagerly awaiting. Let me assure you, I am not posting 100+ pages of notes here. I’m going to give out some highlights, things that jumped out at me when I looked back over the notes. If anyone would like more specifics, I’m sure we can work something out. 🙂
I am going to also be providing these notes in installments. So, consider this: Installment 1: The Pre-Conference. I’ll then move onto the Main Conference,The Workshops, and finally my overall review of the conference itself, as a whole. I’m going to be working on these as I have time. So I make no promises of the notes being posted on a set schedule. I may knock out a few in a week, or it may take me a few months. Also, several of the speakers have their own website and blogs. I am going to try and link as many as possible, as they are excellent sources of information on a variety of topics. I encourage you to seek them out. Others may not have blogs or websites, but have written books. I will do my best to link to pages that list those books, so that you can seek out great reads.
INSTALLMENT ONE: THE PRE-CONFERENCE – Male and Female, He Created Them
The pre-conference was basically a “bonus” for those of us arriving early. It wasn’t exactly related to the main conference theme. But the information was valuable, none the less. It was broken up into three sessions. The first was a panel made up of men & women (Don Carson, Tim & Kathy Keller, Kathleen Nielson, John Piper). The second panel was made up of all women (Trillia Newbell, Kathleen Nielson, Noel Piper, Jenny Salt, Carrie Sandom). Both panels were handled in question/answer sytle, where the third session was a topical presentation from Don Corson.
First things first, the panel were all in agreement on their “complimentarian” beliefs. This falls between the idea of “egalitarian” and “patriarchal”. Big words, I know. I had to look one of them up during the conference to ensure I knew what they were talking about. Smart phone, for the win. Egalitarians, in short, believe that all are created equal, “have equal responsibility to use their gifts and obey their calling to the glory of God; and are called to roles and ministries without regard to class, gender, or race” (wikipedia). Patriarchals, in short, believe in very distinct gender roles. They believe “that God has ordained a specific family order, and that this family order must be followed. The husband leads, the wife submits, and the children obey. (patheos.com). Complimentarian falls somewhere in between. It agrees with egalitarian beliefs that we are created equal before God to use our gifts as God has called us to, despite class or race. However, when it comes to gender it bends slightly toward the patriarchal side. The complimentarian belief is that we are created equal but different. Equally valued, equally purposed, equally important, equally loved. Different roles and responsibilities, that compliment one another. It supports biblical submission, that the man is the head of the household. However, it doesn’t fall to the extremism that patriarchal Christians can take. It doesn’t support abuse or even dictatorship in the home. It doesn’t even imply that certain tasks are for the men, and other for the women. One of the speakers shared how when his father was away at work, his mother filled the role of his father in his absense. She would fix things around the house, mow the lawn, discipline and train the children, take care of the finances, etc. However, upon his father’s return, she would return all of those duties back to him. He was given back his authority, and frankly she was given a reprieve.
I can relate to this, especially during certain times of the year, when my husband is working 12-14 hour days, 13 days in a row with only a single day off before he starts over again. Military wives can relate to this when their husbands are away on deployment. Too often when they return home we can still try and run the roost because we are accustomed to it. We need the reprieve of handing it back over, and they need it too! And, it’s good for our children to see that changing of the guard. He isn’t just a man who pays the bills, he leads the family.
What I also appreciated about these sessions was that all of the speakers had a very clear definition of what “biblical submission” is, and what it isn’t. This is a subject that can spark a lot of controversy. Biblical submission is a mutual relationship where the wife submits to her husband’s leadership… not the wife becomes the husbands doormat. In return the husband loves his wife, like Christ loved the church… by willing sacrifice. Christ sacrificed his very life for the church, and husbands should be willing to die to self for their wives. In this mutual relationship of submission and love, we have a wife who has her feelings, wants and desires considered. She is allowed to voice her opinions to her husband, and he considers them in his decision. But ultimately the final decision (and accountability for that decision) rests on his shoulders. The wife is not cast aside, while her husband runs the home like a dictatorship. A great line from the women’s panel said “Men often see leadership as authoritarian, but that is wrong. Leadership is sacrificial”.
Between the panels they related that the idea of husband and wife are wound throughout scripture, from Genesis through Revelation. They confirmed that while these roles are biblically supported, they are not salvation issues. However understanding this “equal, but different” complementary relationship will create a ripple effect that impacts how you read scripture. No one gender is better or worse, but have different gifts by the very nature of their gender. John Piper referred to his mother as “omni-competent”, clarifying that biblical submission is not competence based. It’s not about what you CAN do, but what you SHOULD do… what God has called you to do.
This complementary relationship isn’t a “women’s issue” because it is important to the husband, and the children whom it is modeled before. So while yes, women should be invested in biblical submission from the standpoint of their responsibility … so too, should the husband. Don Carson very strongly implicated that men do not know enough & should learn more about what REAL biblical headship looks like.
And, what I thought was FANTASTIC about the panel… was that they addressed what this looks like in the life of the single man, or single woman. If you are not married, there are still applicable lessons here for your relationship with the church. As a single man, are you stepping up into leadership within your church? Mentoring? Leading a study? Women, are you submitting to the authority of your Pastors (please do not read that in any sort of way that supports abuse of position, or that women should be silent in the church)? Are you stepping up and mentoring, leading studies, helping with the children’s ministries, etc?
The panel was also very clear that these relationships are not hard lined, but flexible. We can allow denominational differences to try and say “the way our church does it, is the right way”…. and we can do it personally by saying “the way my family lives this, is the right way”. But that is simply not true. This mutual relationship of Biblical Submission (wife) and Biblical Headship (husband) is going to look very different from home to home. It will not look the same in the home of a deployed soldier and a full time missionary.
Biblical Headship (husband) puts the weight of the burden on the family on his shoulders. He is accountable before God for every decision he makes for the family. It’s not a power trip, it is leadership. He doesn’t rule from over you, he leads from the front lines of the family.
Biblical Submission (wife) is beautiful and she is pleased by his leadership when it is well. And, while the panels didn’t say this, I’d add in… when he is wrong, God honors her for her obedience to His word and protects the family from his errors and helps them recover.
From the women’s panel, Carrie Sandom referenced that 70’s feminism taught us that we, as women, can do anything a man can do… in fact, even better. However, God promises us even BETTER when we are in alignment with HIS WORD, HIS DIRECTION, HIS PLAN. In fact, we are seeing more and more women abandoning feminism and returning to the word because they were lacking satisfaction in the “equality” that feminism brought.
In the Complementarian Christian churches you will not find a woman as Pastor, they believe this is a role God clearly defines for me. However, they do not discount the role of women as teachers and leaders. In fact, Completementarian Churches strongly support their women’s ministries, because “the ministry of women to women beautiful and connects in a way men can’t”. It is within these ministries that God uses our gifts and talents. This is where our gifts of administration, stewardships, leadership, organizaton, etc all SHINE just as equally as our ability to create, nuture and love. We have a goal to encourage and shape women, to grow in godliness, understand the gospel, and teach other women and to make these things happen we have to be able to organize and prepare. Either on our own, or paired up with someone who compliments us. Where one is weak, the other is strong.
Equality. Diversity. Unity. Order. – It’s all biblical. Found in the Word. It’s not a single topic, but woven throughout.
We need to be grounded in the word to fight against the culture that is changing around us. We need mentors who have wisdom to share. We need to be studying the word alone, but also with others. We need to be involved in ministry work, somewhere… somehow.
The ladies panel was very adamant that there should be a role in the body for everyone to serve. That while yes, some women want recognition, most really just want to feel needed. They addressed some of the benefits and difficulties of women working in ministry with men, which really supported the idea that we are indeed made equal, but different. We see things different, process things differently, and respond differently. I’m going to save some of these bits for a future post.
The women’s panel wrapped up their portion with 3 key things we can do to encourage strong biblical leadership… model it in your marriage, speak respectfully about your church leaders and pray for them & your relationship with them.
Don Carson’s presentation (3rd part of the pre-conference) really deserves it’s own space. So, I will be writing on that next. It really goes into detail about “Complimentarianism” with scriptural support. I am HOPING, that I can save my fingers and your eyes, and that in the next few days they will have the video from the pere-conference on their website. Then you can watch it for yourself. 🙂