The gist of Ms. Congdon’s article is that she believes submission cannot bring about maturity in the lives of women in the church. She relates most eloquently that her father
“wanted children badly but he didn’t want children forever. He was committed to raising me to be a fully functioning adult, confident of my abilities to maneuver through life and confident of my standing as an equal member of the human race” (Italics mine).Given this goal of fatherhood, Ms. Congdon implies any submission in the church would necessarily imply that childishness of the one submitting, and apparently, the fatherliness of the one being submitted to.
Again, her own words:
When women are denied equal authority, equal responsibility and equal voice, they are being treated like children and are denied adulthood in its fullest sense.She is arguing against patriarchy, which while undefined in the post, is clearly any view of differing roles for men or women, any view that would exclude women from leadership positions over the church as a whole. Modern-day complementarianism would clearly fall under this definition.
But does Ms. Congdon’s view – that submission restrains or retards maturity – conform to the biblical witness? I think not.
Paul clearly shows us that it is through submission to Christ that the church grows into maturity. It is when the church is not under submission that she remains childlike.
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16, ESV)Christ, the head, the one to whom the church submits, is the reason we are able to mature. Outside of his headship we, as the church, cannot grow into eschatological adulthood.
I believe one of the errors Ms. Congdon has made is associating submission within the church as between a child and a father, rather than between a wife and her husband. God does not want women to have childlike submission; he wants them to have wifely submission.
The very next chapter of Ephesians reveals this truth. Paul shares the “mystery” that our earthly marriages are actually a divinely authored play that theatrically present the really real relationship between Christ and his church. Again, marriages were created by God to give us a picture of the relationship that was ordained before time between Christ and his church. The true, real, permanent marriage is Christ and the church. Our marriages are a dim and passing shadow of that ultimate reality.
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. (Ephesians 5:22-24, ESV)
The scary reality is what follows this short passage. The husband, who while called to be head over his wife, which puts him in some authority over her, is then called to die to himself and serve her just as Christ served by dying for his bride.
It is in this earthly presentation of ultimate realities that I believe the egalitarian most misses out. The Bible teaches us that our earthly family was created to present the truth about our relationship to other believers (Mat 12:46-50), and that marriage presents the truth about our relationship to Christ. I am not a complementarian by desire. Before I was married, I was egalitarian, if not in name, in practice. As my small family faces trials the sinful side of me truly desires to abdicate my role as my wife’s head and instead “share” the responsibility of leadership. But to do that would be to lie about Christ and his church. And lie I do. But, I repent anew and strive by God’s grace to live up to the calling he has given to all men.
Likewise, a world without submission leaves us no model to understand not only the commands to submit to our elders, but also what our submission to Christ looks like. A world without submission presents a Christ without a church.
There is a lot more that’s going on in our submission and authority than who gets to call the shots. God has engineered an earthly drama to represent heavenly realities. Every part is important, even if every part is different.