Responding to comment storm

Just before I went away for Greenbelt I wrote 42: My principled wife and it has provoked more comments (32 before I added one) than anything I have written before (I think, not keeping proper records here).

In many ways the comment thread has worked well, the end results of the discussion have been good. But I wanted to respond to some of the points and this way should work out clearer.

So starting with Peter and the first comment.

  • This is a serious issue (how we handle injustice), in relating it to facebook I was being somewhat light hearted and attempting some humour.
  • We do need to make a very big distinction between whether someone is a "facebook friend" and our Christian behaviour to them. People mean a variety of things by facebook friend and for many it is a form of status and currency within that community. Our Christian love is neither of those things. The gospel mandate for inclusion and love is not up for sale. Everyone is welcome to share in communion wherever I am and anyone who shares in communion with me would automatically be considered a facebook friend by me. Gospel trumps facebook every time and in every way.
  • See 42: Baptism for my position on Baptism and Holy Communion.
  • I do not believe that I do (or intend to) show Facebook friends more or less love than anyone else. The gospel tells me to love God first and then my neighbour (which specifically includes my enemies and specifically makes no mention of Facebook friends as having any special status when it comes to love).
  • I do not believe what I do around facebook (or pretty much anywhere else in my life, certainly not on the internet) is private and can be separated from the public face of my work (see past posts 42: Public visibility and 42: Ministry before theology). Ministry like Christianity is holistic for me, so it affects every part of my life. My inconsistencies and failures are indications of my sinful nature and attempting to hide them is dangerous for me and the Church I serve. I therefore do think (at least a little) about the impact on my ministry of those on my blogroll and those who are my facebook friends. I do not guarantee anything or make any promises but I do think that my own reputation (not that I worry about that except as it affects my witness to my Lord) can be affected by my links, so yes I will consider these public issues when considering facebook friends.
  • As for who should be a facebook friend. I am absolutely not interested in competition. I am only interested in having as facebook friends people with whom there is some connection (which I record in facebook). Yes that does include people I have not met physically, but then I have been used to virtual friendships for over 20 years. Some things will count heavily as reasons for connecting as friends, key among them is Methodism but also my hobbies such as cycling and technology.
  • I now have more than 42 friends anyway due to invitations that I had already sent out and which people I know have accepted – the mention of keeping to 42 friends simply appeals to my sense of humour.

Tim, I always like to be told that I am preferring the words of Jesus, sounds a good place to be, wish I spent more time there in reality.

Next Suzanne, I will be blogging about a wonderful talk by Lucy Winkett at Greenbelt (talk not yet online at point of writing) called "Martyr, virgin, mystic, wife", in particular at the end Maggi asked a question which relates to your point. Essentially nobody can tell you which battles you should fight, fight where you can and don’t be guilty about not fighting where you can’t. But recognise that there is still a battle to be fought and it is not men that are the enemy, it is injustice and lack of freedom. The fight is for liberation for all humans.  Oh yes and Suzanne’s Bookshelf: World Vision and Gender Equity is a good post about this important issue.

Peter, the talk I have mentioned earlier by Lucy Winkett points out that in many fields, including technical, equality is a long, long way off (she gave examples of judiciary, politics & business, and of course religion which is the only place where inequality is actually legal in the  UK). Facing discrimination is very tiring and hard work, it is not something that anyone should demand of another. Only Suzanne can and should decide which battles she should fight and the same applies to me and you. That is especially the case when it is a battle that we do not face.

Peter, As a minister I know there are certain people in certain congregations who give me the shakes, I know how much more they know than me on theology. Generally, they are very loving. But this is not about discrimination, it is about my own inadequacy (or potentially about their lack of love if they do not help me).

Suzanne, I love the idea of symbolically carrying around a sick bag when in the company of certain people. Could be a powerful statement. Maybe we could add it to the wear black on Thursdays campaign.

Sally, thanks.

Adrian, since when do we judge "tolerance and respect" by facebook friendships? Or for that matter how does it demonstrate "tolerance and respect" to accept or support the putting down of other people?

Now as for this inferior business. I have tried to make this point before and both Pam and Suzanne have made it better than me in the past (but you ignored them both, hence thinking as inferior QED). It is not and cannot be up to you to judge whether your actions make women feel inferior. You cannot do that, I cannot do that, no man can do that. Only women can judge whether complementarianism and male headship does that to them, in that way the evidence is clear.

Yes we can be friends through theological differences, but friendship cannot be forced and nobody should feel they have to accept another’s friendship, especially if in doing so they feel they are supporting views that they do not accept. Even more especially if they feel that the views attempt to make them inferior (which only they can judge). Of course even if they choose not to be friends they are not released from the demand of Jesus to love (a great chaplain, Rev Kenneth Stevenson, when I was at University used to joke "Dave, it is a good job we are not called to like each other but only to love each other").

I also go with Pam’s theological concerns about the hierarchy you are imposing on the trinity.

Oh and how many ordained women do you have on your friends list so far? How many do you link to and show tolerance and respect for their views? What about lay women with theological and technical qualifications that are far greater than either you or I have?

Suzanne, at least in my book Grudem has been thoroughly dis-credited as a reliable source. There are two key people who have done that for me. You and Ann Nyland. From what I have seen in both cases first there is a stage of ignoring the person, then attacks in response which have been ad-hominem, aggressive and very unpleasant. We have seen all of this on Adrian’s blog, but we go back to the "well I don’t think they should feel hurt or attacked view" which is unacceptable.

Pam, yet again you write what I am thinking better than I do. Please stop, it is very frustrating :-)

Tim, I think Pam & Suzanne trump you on the comparison between men ordained or baptised in different traditions and gender inequality.

Now I reject that being a friend on Facebook is a way of expressing God’s love and that by rejecting such a friendship is damaging the gospel for the good of my dignity. I also reject competition for the most number of facebook friends as serving the gospel. I do not believe that Facebook friendship is any evidence of loving enemies, not that it should be considered evidence of working towards an ability to love those enemies. Nor do I accept that rejecting a Facebook friendship could be considered making someone an enemy. I know that neither Jane or I consider the person in question an enemy.

I think that some of the key differences between facebook and real life are made by Tim, Pam and Suzanne. I certainly don’t feel that the two can be equated.

Adrian, you have seen Pam’s writing before, in comments on here that you chose not to respond to, just as comments by Suzanne and others that you have moderated on your blog. I am sorry but simply saying you do not think women are inferior will not cut any ice. I don’t hate you for your position, but I cannot support a position that I believe (and see some of Suzanne’s comments and recent posts to see documented evidence) damages people. Stating that some people are happy with complementarianism does nothing to reduce the damage done to all the women who are not (and especially those who are not free to say so). I have seen and pastored women who have been incredibly hurt by complementarian beliefs. It is not imaginary. Would it have been OK to ask Martin Luther King Jr to simply get along with those who denied equality? What about Desmond Tutu and Apartheid? Of course I am not saying all complementarians oppress women, but IMHO the system of thinking does and some complementarians DO oppress women.


One thing I would like to add to this discussion is this: no one should
be allowed to teach submission without also teaching that a husband is
to love his wife as Christ loved the church and to daily make
sacrifices for her. (see Eph 5)

What type of God would make the safety, health & welfare of 50% of human beings totally dependent on the other 50% being reliable at loving as Christ does? Given that Jesus suffered and died at the hands of people who failed to love that way do you think he could be so un-loving as to put married women at the mercy of their husbands, what ever those husbands do?

Are you seriously telling me that the best that God could come up with for women is something that statistics show is so flawed?

You may not condone the behaviour, but complementarianism makes women vulnerable, encourages the Church to hide problems, often blames the woman for failing to submit and rarely holds the man accountable. If this were Gods plan then it would work to bring life- it does not hence QED.

Wow that was a marathon session.

5 thoughts on “Responding to comment storm

  1. Suzanne

    Thanks for responding Dave. I am not on Facebook because my kids told me it would be uncool if I was their friend, or if I was a friend of their friend, or even a friend of a friend of a friend. There it is.
    I do not think that I am anti-male, I am certainly not perceived that way in my workplace. This is a very specific issue, not a general complaint.
    I felt that this was a safe place to speak out and I only think of Peter, Tim and Pam as being encouraging – that’s it.
    I still don’t think I would go to a conference where there were a significant number of headship type males in attendance – I would not feel on par. Maybe when I am old and gray.

  2. Adrian Warnock

    Dave, On this issue we just talk past each other. I really don’t know what else I can say. It seems to me that you are saying you do not believe that Ephesians 5 is God’s word to us today, but I am probably misunderstanding you. I think that it is most unfair of you to brand everyone who disagrees with you on a point of theology as basically mysogynists. As far as facebook is concerned I agree – its not a competition, and people are entirely free to friend or not friend whoever they like.

  3. Dave Warnock

    I do not believe Ephesians 5 justifies male headship today. I do not believe that Ephesians 5 requires us to believe that women and men are not equal. I do believe that egalitarianism is a soundly biblical concept and a more accurate reflection of the ministry and teaching of Jesus.
    I have not called anyone a misogynist. I have certainly not required that people agree with me. But I do state my understanding that women and men are equal and that both complementarianism and male headship are wrong. Twisting that to say I am calling people misogynists is inaccurate.
    If we want to talk about unfair then let us talk of the women who have suffered as a result of male headship. How many women do you think Jesus feels should suffer at the hands of men because of Ephesians 5?
    I do believe that many people who do believe in male authority over women do so from good intentions and that they do not hate women. That does not change the fact that male authority has been identified in studies as being dangerous to women.
    I do say and think that requiring submission by women to men does result in women feeling inferior. It is inevitable. We would not deny that about colour of skin. I do not believe that men can with integrity say to women “you should not feel inferior because I am telling you that you are not equal”.

  4. Suzanne

    I don’t see this as an adequate response to the issue of either domestic violence, or the subverting of the wife’s gifts to the husband’s goals.
    Nor do I see any willingness to recognize how much misrepresentation of scripture is involved.
    I really don’t see that you are in any way prepared to interact on this subject, which i find surprising given your professional background. If you don’t stand up for you fellow human being, who will?
    As I said I wish no punishment on you, nor do I see that my staying away from a tech conference where headship males predominate, is in anyway intolerance. I think it is a blessing all around.
    I wish you well, but I wish, in general, that there were women from your group to interact with or exchange views on the scriptures with.
    It makes me very sad that women would concede to Grudem’s stereotypes when they are even in scripture.

  5. PamBG

    What type of God would make the safety, health & welfare of 50% of human beings totally dependent on the other 50% being reliable at loving as Christ does?
    Dave, I think you’ve just summed up a lot of what I think on this issue in this one question. You said it better than I could. Thank you. And stop it. :-) :-)
    It’s interesting how a tradition that puts a high premium on the ‘doctrine of human sinfulness sets up a system that depends on men acting in justice and righteousness most of the time.


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