Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World


Written by: on April 4, 2019

“What does the word ‘ordain-able’ mean? It literally means, ‘possesses a penis,’”…“It does not mean, ‘is currently in seminary, has graduated with an M.Div,” or master’s in divinity, “‘and has gone before a licensure committee.’”[1]

It’s no surprise that this week’s text by James R. Beck, Two Views of Women in Ministry, is controversial, emotionally charged and an important and relevant topic to discuss in today’s world.  Beck’s presentation of the subject via multiple counterarguments by both Egalitarians and Complementarians appears equally represented.  Some lay reviewers felt the writings were “too academic” and others found the writings interesting and relevant… “Academic in its approach, it is readable enough for the average layperson; and its call for respectful dialogue between those of different viewpoints is admirable, especially to a former “fighting fundamentalist” preacher’s kid like me.”[2]

Regardless of where you fall theologically (and we could discuss/debate our views for hours and probably not move from our positions), my goal in this particular dialogue is to raise awareness of the secondary danger of complementarian theology – gender violence.  In global terms, the United Nations defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”[3] This includes intimate partner violence (IPV), which, by definition, is the behavior of an intimate partner or ex-partner that causes physical, sexual, or psychological harm. “Such intimate partner abuse and sexual violence is most often perpetrated by men against women, with a 2013 WHO analysis reflecting the fact that, world-wide, almost one third (30%) of women who have been in a relationship have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from their intimate partner.”[4]  Research indicates Christian religious language perpetuates domestic violence in several key “Biblical” areas. The first area of concern is women’s submission and male leadership; the second focuses on the sanctity of marriage; and the third attaches the value of suffering to the virtue of forgiveness. Women in several studies cite language and concepts in each of these identified areas being used by their husbands and pastor(s) to support staying in the marriage regardless of being the victim of domestic violence.[5]  The connection between gender violence and complementarianism is not that Christian men are more likely to abuse, regardless of whether you are liberal or conservative, it’s that the Christian religious language is cited by Christian women as “language to accept abuse”.[6]

Of utmost concern and with bewildering persistence, nearly every “religious or philosophical tradition”, including Christianity, has perpetuated the distinctive superiority of males throughout history.[7]  The daughter of missionary parents and a Nobel Prize Awardee, Jenny Rae Armstrong was raised in Liberia. She writes, “See, it was in Liberia that I first witnessed the true ugliness of gender injustice, first understood that a tiny seed of pride and superiority dropped into the heart of a man would blossom not into a sheltering tree but into an ugly, invasive weed that choked . . . life . . . around it.”[8]

If you’re unsure of how “Christian speak” perpetuates abuse, let me share the story of a dear friend… “Sue”.  Sue is a Master’s prepared professional and devoted follower of Christ.  Her husband “Ted” was also highly educated.  Sue’s theology may be considered somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between liberal and conservative.  She married a fellow believer – someone whom she believed would be a spiritual equal, and espouse the values of being a loving, supportive mate.  It wasn’t long after their wedding that Ted began to struggle with mental health issues…and the psychological and physical abuse began.  Sue sought counsel from her church’s leadership (in which Ted was very active as a member and leader).  The church pastor quoted scripture and repeatedly shamed Sue for her desire to leave her marriage… “Divorce is Biblically forbidden”, “respect and love your spouse more”, “work harder to meet Ted’s needs”, etc.  The church leader victim blamed Sue and convinced her that God would be displeased by her desire to leave her marriage.  Consequently, Sue suffered years of abuse at the hands of Ted.  All because Christian leaders manipulated and misspoke Biblical language.  “In the context of violence against women, religious teachings and communities will play a role; they will never be neutral.”[9]

The Christian community needs to do some significant reflecting and evaluating on its role in marginalizing women through its abuse supporting language.  In this reflection, Christian leaders need to consider the following – religious beliefs, texts, and teachings can serve both as roadblocks and as resources for victims of violence – and religious texts and teachings should be examined and explored for new interpretations to minimize the roadblocks and maximize the resources for women.  Safety and security should be a basic human right for all people, women included.  “No woman should ever be forced to choose between safety and her religious community or tradition. She should be able to access the resources of both community-based advocacy and shelter and faith-based support and counsel.”[10]  So I implore Christian leaders, especially men, to carefully consider their language, narrative, and Biblical guidance when working with couples – especially when IPV is disclosed.

“Men who hit do so because they can…someplace they enjoy or need to humiliate another. There is no love in violence, only control and domination.”
― Na’ama Yehuda, Emilia

[1] https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/07/truths-table-gender-race/532407/

[2] https://www.cbeinternational.org/resources/review/mutuality/book-review-two-views-women-ministry

[3] https://www.mdpi.com/2076-0760/6/3/71/htm#B32-socsci-06-00071

[4] https://www.mdpi.com/2076-0760/6/3/71/htm#B32-socsci-06-00071

[5] https://www.mdpi.com/2076-0760/6/3/71/htm#B32-socsci-06-00071

[6] https://www.mdpi.com/2076-0760/6/3/71/htm#B32-socsci-06-00071

[7] https://www.campbellsville.edu/blog/invisible-power-culture-oppress-every-christian-needs-know-gender-justice/

[8] https://www.campbellsville.edu/blog/invisible-power-culture-oppress-every-christian-needs-know-gender-justice/

[9] https://vawnet.org/material/violence-against-women-and-role-religion

[10] https://vawnet.org/material/violence-against-women-and-role-religion

About the Author

Jean Ollis

14 responses to “Ordain-able”

  1. Jay Forseth says:

    Hi Jean!

    Wow, what an opening statement.

    Thank you for your thoughts on “gender violence” and I concur with you, it is NEVER okay. And thank you for your words on “Christian speak”. My heart breaks for Sue!

    And a solid closing. Well done!

    • Jean Ollis says:

      Jay, I have to admit I turmoiled a bit on the opening statement – but it was impactful and written by a Christian woman who was frustrated. Have you witnessed/served beside Christian leaders who have failed to support women or hold men accountable engaging in violent behaviors? From a men’s perspective, how do you address this as a leader?

      • Jay says:

        First of all, if it is illegal, we report it. We have safe houses to protect battered spouses. The whole thing is so messy, we understand that only God can unscramble scrambled eggs…

  2. Mike says:

    I don’t know what to say or think about your opening, so I will read on.
    Thanks for sharing the UN’s definition on gender violence. While we have laws in the US and many other countries for domestic violence, rape, and more there are many countries that provide little if any protections for their vulnerable at risk members of their populations.
    You have a lot to say about gender biased language in the Bible. Hum, I wonder if the Holy Spirit meant it to be biased? “God knows” Romans 8:28 bias I pray but sure I need a lot of help even grasping the right context there I’m sure. I know He is sovereign, all knowing, all powerful, all everywhere. I think I will trust the Holy Spirit on this one. I do agree with you on the very important point you made, everyone needs spiritual wisdom and discernment on how to interpret Scripture.
    I pray for you and our LGP8 team, please put on Christ as your armor of God. The battle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers that seek to divide God’s people, destroy their testimony, and ruin their close relationship with the Lord.

    Fight the good fight for social and spiritual justice.

    Stand firm,

    • Jean Ollis says:

      Mike, I have to admit I toiled on that opening but it was written by a Christian woman and it was impactful. You pose some great questions – and I know in your work you’ve been heavily exposed to violence – specifically gender violence. Have you witnessed Christian leaders not holding men accountable, yet shaming women? That is definitely not condoned by the holy spirit. Ideally violence would never exist in our world, but it does and the church needs to take a stand against it, as well as support women living it.
      I always appreciate you circling us back to the armor of God! Yes, I will armor up! Glad to hear you are back in the states!

  3. Well Jean, you definitely got everyone’s attention with your opening line. 😮 What a powerful post highlighting the potential damage some of the male headship Christian rhetoric can do to women and marriages. I know most complementarians would never support violence against women, but sometimes they don’t realize what the language, themes and messages convey. I also don’t think they realize the extreme offensiveness their position is towards strong, gifted female leaders. Glad you are one of those strong women fighting for other women. Blessings friend.

    • Jean Ollis says:

      Well…I put myself out there this week for sure! It’s hard to gauge my passion sometimes. Can’t wait to read your perspective. This week is your wheel-house :)!!!

  4. I was hoping you would tackle the issue of gender violence. Thanks, Jean. This is important stuff that must be discussed in the church.

  5. Dave Watermulder says:

    Thanks for this post, Jean! You really did a nice job of connecting the egalitarian/complementarian debate with some of the unforeseen outcomes that can happen. It seems like the words we use and way that we think end up in some ultimate way to lead to how we act– even if we didn’t think it would happen that way. Thanks again.

  6. Jason Turbeville says:

    Very good job at bringing insight into a horrible problem. I will say I have had only one woman come to me with her husband abusing her and using scripture to back himself up, the first thing we did was get her to safety and I went with a sheriff’s deputy to arrest the man (I went to try to bring stability to the situation). There is never any excuse for any abuse and you are correct in stating to many have used scripture to back themselves up. Thanks for shinning a bright light in a dark place.


  7. Dan Kreiss says:


    As I have done for all of the women in this cohort let me apologize for any misguided theology that you have had to endure and suggested that you were less than a complete child of God. I don’t understand the thinking but I know it exists and am afraid that I have perpetuated that at times.

    I believe that you are correct in stating that this issue has broader implications than simply permitting women in leadership. I think it does allow men to develop a false perspective of superiority. Though I doubt that any of the men in our cohort are abusers it is dangerous if we do not recognize the potential implications of taking and declaring a ‘conservative’ view in our platform of leadership.

  8. Shawn Hart says:

    Jean, though I may voice it a little differently, I actually agree that most of the things that have provoked the debate around role of women was probably first caused as a result of men that failed to understand that the Bible also instructed men by saying, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also love the church and gave Himself for her…” What was intended to be a mutual sharing of lives to form ONENESS, has been perverted by a history of hateful power-hungry men with little respect or love toward the women around them. That is evil. Though I may disagree about the role of women, I believe the command to show them love and consideration is fluid throughout Scripture. It is as necessary to talk against the aggressive man as it is to discuss other sinful behavior (and I preach against them as well).

    Just saying though; I get making a strong point; your opening statement did that. However, for the sake of communication, that quote could be construed as hostile and aggressive by pretty much any man…and maybe even Trisha who talked about being ordained in her post (awkward…LOL). One of the hardest parts of these discussions is not letting our emotions lead if we desire to make headway; I’m not criticizing…I’m speaking from experience. I would encourage a softer approach in the future if you really desire to have men listen to your message. And this was an important message for men to hear.

  9. Kyle Chalko says:

    Hi Jean, great post. thanks for your perspective on this. You bring up the really tragic side of gender relationships gone wrong, and the complemntarian theology gone wrong. so sad that those stories still happen

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