Godly complementarians and "Elvis has left the building"

Godly complementarians and "Elvis has left the building"

With all the hostile name-calling tactics against egalitarians rampant on the internet, godly, peace-loving complementarians may wonder what they can do in their current position to bring peace amongst the body of Christ. I am glad you asked. Below are my recommendations on how you can bring peace to the body of Christ and support godly women teachers without compromising your own conscience:

  • When a godly woman is asked to speak publicly, do not discourage her or put her down for using her God-given gifts. Give her the opportunity to use her gifts for the benefit of the body of Christ by quietly and without a disrespectful show of superiority, leave the building so that others will receive the benefit of her teaching. When those who are complementarian and who have a weaker conscience regarding hearing the truth from scripture from the mouth of a woman have left the building, the rest of the body of Christ will be free to benefit from the teaching that God has for them. It is never right to stop a woman from teaching the truth of God’s word. It would be a respectful and godly thing to leave the building yourself so that God gets the glory and your conscience is not hurt. This is a godly “Elvis has left the building” peace-making effort.
  • When a godly woman is preparing to give a bible lesson do not ask that woman what she is allowed to do by God, ask yourself rather what you are allowed to hear. If your conscience is bothered by hearing godly teaching coming from a sister in Christ who has been commissioned by God as a teacher, then do another “Elvis has left the building” exit. In doing so you will not disturb those who are ready and willing to hear the truth of God’s word from one of God’s gifted teachers.
  • Ask yourself why the church has practiced stopping gifted women teachers from teaching the truth from scripture rather than a much simpler plan of allowing men with weak consciences to leave in a respectful manner? Why do some men sit up front when a woman is scheduled to speak in a church or a chapel and then get up in protest and walk out in an act of arrogant superiority? Is this godly? Does this please God? Or should these men rather choose not come to the chapel in the first place or choose to sit discreetly at the back in a respectful manner and then quietly leave before she gets up to speak? Would it not be a godly and peace-loving thing by respecting their sister in Christ and respecting Jesus who has accepted and gifted this godly teacher by quietly and discreetly making their exit? Why do some men make a show of disrespecting women rather doing a humble and discreet “Elvis has left the building” exit?
  • Pour over scripture and look throughout the Old Testament and then search through the new testament looking for a reason as to why God treats men as second class citizens and keeps part of his gifts away from them? Why would God give 100% of his gifted teachers for the benefit of women in the body of Christ, but then hold back 50% of his gifted teachers from benefiting men? Search carefully through scripture to determine for yourself why God is so prejudiced against men that he gives them only half of his best gifts for their benefit?
  • Apologize to women that you have disrespected and treated with disdain because they have freely offered their gift for your benefit. Ask God to forgive you for your attitude. Ask God to change your heart so that you will allow yourself to encourage, love, respect and appreciate every godly Christian bible teacher that has had the courage to continue teaching after being mistreated, scorned, rejected and hated by their brothers in Christ.
  • Finally, pray for your sisters in Christ and ask God to help you to be a peace-maker and an encourager of their gifts and support their courage to use their gifts for the benefit of the body of Christ whom Christ also died for.

For more information about the dual use of the term “Elvis has left the building” click here. You will then need to determine if you are one who is to stay or to go.

Anyone have anymore respectful things that a godly complementarian can do to encourage his/her sisters in Christ?

41 thoughts on “Godly complementarians and "Elvis has left the building"

  1. Cheryl, thank you for this. I don’t know how many will listen but I pray that they will.

    What I have NEVER understood is how we think the ‘teacher’ or ‘preacher’ is the message and has the authority. The WORD has the authority and the teacher is only the messenger. If the teacher is teaching truth, then it applies to everyone. If the teacher is not, then it applies to no one. It is the TRUTH of the WORD that is important. Not the conduit (messenger) that God uses. I really do believe that most churches have it backwards. And if we got that part right, women teaching would not be an issue anymore. Only the truth would be the issue.

    I say this because we are elevating preachers to a Pharisee status. And I pray we will, once again, focus on the Holy Priesthood and understand that every true believer is a ‘minister’.

  2. I heard an egal. male teacher mention this of a non-egal male; when a female taught; he simply was not there when he knew she would be teaching and if something happened where she would teach that was not planned, he left quietly. I immediately had respect for the non-egal male. It did hurt the female as she knew what was going on, but it was a lot better than making a scene. He acted on his conscience, but worked to preserve the peace.

    A few other ideas that might help, for those in either camp:
    1. Be humble and see that one MIGHT be wrong. I am a sinner, altho redeemed, and it is possible to deceive myself due to selfish motives so that I think I am right but am wrong.
    2. Believe the best about another, instead of the worst.
    3. Ask for clarification.
    4. Do not lump together other debates in the body of Christ; let each debate stand or fall on its own merits.
    5. Pray for the other. And give the other room for God to work, faith is not so much about winning as loving. (This is one I struggle with all the time.)
    6. IF another offends you, go to them one on one, follow the procedure in Matthew 18.
    7. If it is clear you cannot have unity in the faith, endeavor to maintain unity in the Spirit. Acknowedge the other as a believer at the very least, unless it is a salvation issue that is debated.
    8. Realize that the body of Christ is about unity in diversity, as each is conformed to Christ, and not necessarily conformity with each other.
    9. See where you can agree with another.
    10. If a man cannot in faith learn from a woman in some format (e.g., pulpit), perhaps he can in another, for example, one on one or small group (ala Priscilla and Aquila with Apollos). Be willing to go the extra mile for those “weak in the faith” without necessarily identifying which of the 2 is “weak”.
    11. Be respectful, loving, and helpful.
    12. Know when to be quiet. When you start to repeat, it may be time to let go and let God.
    13. Realize that some in the other camp may have “trust issues” with those in your camp, so maintain the highest integrity.
    14. In everything, honor God.

  3. Lin,

    Well said and good thinking! I too have long believed that it’s God’s word that carries the authority, and not the teacher. When we elevate the gift of teaching to an “office”, we might as well return to the Levitical ordinances and rely once again on the blood of heifers and goats along with a priestly caste to represent us to God.

  4. Most people don’t know that the word “pulpit” or “pastorate” is not in the NT. And that the word “tithe” only appears in reference to what has been done away with (and that the “church” is NOT the “storehouse”, and that tithes were of INCREASE of property, not cash salaries, etc.). And that ordination simply means “set apart for a purpose”, not the giving of a title to a graduate of some school.

  5. One thing that might make a complementarian think…. if both men and women will judge angels… in other words both men AND women are above the angels… then if a man won’t listen to teaching from a woman, then to be consistent, he should do an “Elvis leaves the building” when an angel from God comes to him, no?

    Also, if it is the vessel that God is concerned about over and above His message, then God should have chosen a man to rebuke Balaam… but He uses his donkey.

  6. Lin,
    You are so right in that it is the word of God i.e. the message that has the authority and not the teacher. What has always puzzled me is how some speak about the “pulpit” as if it is some godly thing that has authority. There is no “pulpit” in scripture just as Paula points out. Does it not show our humanity when we refuse someone access to the “pulpit” when there is nothing about a “pulpit” in scripture? I think that we have gone way past scripture in our trying to have a hierarchical rule of one person over another in the body of Christ.

  7. Don,
    I LOVED your list! #10 especially touched me. If we consider that someone is the weaker brother we are not to treat them rudely or in an unkind manner. We can have grace towards our complementarian brothers who still have a conscience that is not as strong as ours on disputable matters. I would just ask that our complementarian brothers do the same if they think that we are the weaker “brothers”. They may feel their conscience pricked by being taught by a woman, but if they feel that they are the stronger ones because of this conscience and we are the weaker ones, they should treat us in an especially kind way giving full opportunity for us to serve God in every way possible for the benefit of the body of Christ. Paul said:

    Romans 14:4 Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

    If a complementarian believes that a woman is teaching the right things to the wrong people, they should pray for the woman and treat her in a compassionate way knowing that she too belongs to Jesus and we will give an account for our treatment of our brothers in Christ.

  8. Greg,
    Good points about the “office” and the thoughts about taking us back into the Old Covenant.

    It is always good to remind us that we take some things for granted and do not test them by scripture.

    That was quite a funny about “Elvis has left the building” when another underling comes to give us a message. Very sharp wit, but that’s my son!

  9. Wonderful, insightful and right on the money. I’m posting a link ASAP. And Lin, that is a key principle isn’t it? It is the Word of God that carries the authority..well said!

  10. 4. Do not lump together other debates in the body of Christ; let each debate stand or fall on its own merits.

    This is one area that I have to work hard at not to be personally offended. Because of my views on women, automatically, it is assumed by many that I believe homosexuals should be ordained and that I hate men. It is also assumed that I am liberal in my doctrinal beliefs. Nothing could be further from the truth. As a matter of fact, a huge issue with me is the watered down preaching in churches that tickles ears instead of the full Gospel which convicts hearts.

    I am stunned at how quickly people label me as a liberal because of this ONE issue.

  11. aaaah Cheryl’s son is in the building. How cool. 🙂

    Ryan wrote: “Also, if it is the vessel that God is concerned about over and above His message, then God should have chosen a man to rebuke Balaam… but He uses his donkey.”

    I always loved God’s humor in that.

  12. Hello,
    I was referred to this site by someone on another blog/forum and am finding things interesting here. I am a complentarian (probably would be considered a “moderate” one) who actually thinks the list you wrote was wonderful and right on target. Right now, I’m engaging in working on your fourth point though I was unaware of that before I came over here to look. 🙂

    I’ve begun studying the role of women in the church as laid out by Scripture and am looking for other counselors in this search. I appreciate all the sources listed here and at CBE and they are very helpful, but so far, have been unable to find older, more “traditional” sources. Is there anyone here that may be able to help guide my search? BTW – I absolutely love the calm, respectful tone of this blog even when people disagree! 🙂

  13. Sandy,
    I am so happy that you stopped by!! I speak for myself but I think I can speak for most people here when I say that we love our brothers and sisters in Christ even if they disagree with us on the women’s issue. Our tie together in Christ is far greater than any disagreement on the secondary issues of faith. You are very welcome in this place and I invite you to participate as much as you would like in the community here because the emphasis is on unity and Christ-likeness while we lift up women in ministry.

    I am sure that there will be some who will have good things to give you regarding how God views women in the OT. If you haven’t read a series of four articles that I did on “Does God have one unique law?” I encourage you to follow the links to the articles because they tie in with the Old Testament since the basis of the law and what is and isn’t allowed has its foundation in the OT. Also I think you will find the articles thought-provoking if nothing else. Part one is here:
    Part two here:
    Part three here:
    and part four here:

    My expertise is more on the hard passages of scripture regarding the question of whether a woman is allowed to teach the bible for the benefit of the entire body of Christ. During my two year research project, I felt that the weak area that hadn’t been sufficiently dealt with and needed some work was in answering all of the problem areas in these hard passages that still had some contradictions that needed answering. When the passages that “seem” to restrict women are dealt with decisively in context, then all the other wonderful passages on scripture that had already been adequately dealt with by others would stand strong on their own.

    I look forward to having others put their two cents worth in for Sandy’s benefit.

  14. tiro3,
    Yes it is nice that my son Ryan stops by here occasionally. He is mostly an “Elvis has left the building” kind of guy not because he is not an egalitarian, but because of his very busy career and apologetics ministry. He does come by once in a while to crack me up! (Guess where he gets his sense of humor from? 😉

  15. Thank you for the warm welcome. I agree that this is not a salvation issue and so, as sisters in Christ, we can accept differing points of view. I know that I for one am fallible and am always searching for the Biblical foundations for my beliefs and not just tradition. 🙂

    I have begun working through the articles you’ve linked and am indeed finding them thought provoking. Thank you for leading me to them. I’m also still searching for the older scholars as well. I’m sure there must be some out there as I have found that older, more conservative denominations have had women ministers such as the Waldensians and the Mennonites, so I’m not giving up. 🙂

  16. Sandy,

    I, too, continue to search the sites and sources for other groups who have held longer egalitarian traditions. I suggest you examine the Salvation Army site, Quakers, and Free Methodists. I have found some especially good things on the Free Methodists’ site per their beliefs on women in ministry and in marriage. Free Methodists have a good little booklet called ‘Is There Room for the She in Shepherd?’, by David W. Dendall and Karen Strand Winslow. Also a paper called ‘Women in Leadership in the Bible’ by Brock Hoyer (the Free Methodist church in Akron, Ohio, mailed me both of the former publications), and ‘We Are All One in Christ’ by Dan Sheffield (this on the Free Methodist site) from the Light and Life magazine, August 1997 ;; 24-27. Search their sites for more. I am egal, by the way. but connected to very vocal comps.

    What responses have some of you to the belief that comps have shared with me that it is not about heirarchy but about separate though equal areas of responsibility, if you will? It seems to me that the man’s area, spiritually, always includes everything in a woman’s realm of reponsibility, but not vice versa per these comps. It is then pointed out that Christ was equal with God but submitted to Him while on earth, and this is supposed to pave the way for the equivalent submission teachings for women. (from Phillipians)

  17. What responses have some of you to the belief that comps have shared with me that it is not about heirarchy but about separate though equal areas of responsibility, if you will? It seems to me that the man’s area, spiritually, always includes everything in a woman’s realm of reponsibility, but not vice versa per these comps. It is then pointed out that Christ was equal with God but submitted to Him while on earth, and this is supposed to pave the way for the equivalent submission teachings for women. (from Phillipians)


    I was in a blog that went on for hundreds of posts about that very thing. But you point out the main issue: that no matter how terms are defined and tweaked, the bottom line is that men wind up with no restrictions and women have borders around their gifts, borders drawn by men and not God. And egals of course see this as intrinsically unequal, that is, hierarchial, while comps insist that “separate but equal” can be defined as “he orders, she obeys”. This seems to be the point of impasse.

    But they step even farther over the line in drawing much more analogy from the Father/Son relationship than is warranted by scripture. When Paul spoke of the Christ/Church mystery relating to husband/wife in Eph. 5, the context tells us it was about unity and being “one flesh”, not about hierarchy at all.

    And besides, Christ is the model for both men and women. His human submission to God was an example for everyone. But comp. wants to have its cake and eat it too. They want only men to relate to how Christ rules over the church, but only women to relate to how Christ submitted to the Father.

  18. Truthseeker,
    I can’t speak for all comps but only for me. I agree that the Phillipians passage is used wrongly by some comps but not all of us. It clearly teaches that we are to esteem others better than ourselves and to look to the intersts of others but there is nothing there that would apply to the roles of men/women or husbands/wives. An easy reading of the passage makes it clear that it is meant for all Christians as an example. The idea of a hierarchy between men and women is a common misperception and causes some to be more likely to read their own agendas into Scripture passages.

    I agree that many times, comp does end up giving the men all privileges and restricting women. I do not believe that corresponds to God’s Word. If that were true, then why would God give me a brain? 🙂

    Yes, I also read Eph. 5 to mean unity in the Spirit and do not see a hierarchy even implied. The very first injunction in the chapter tells us to walk in love.

    I know that many comps would disagree with me as many people have differing viewpoints on Scripture. I am a complementarian in that I do believe in complementary roles. I’ve always believed that women should not be ordained as bishops/elders but that is what I’m researching now. I want to make certain that what I believe is Scriptural and not just tradition. I’ve been coming out of a very fundamental background and so have been working through each issue one by one to determine what God’s Word truly says and not what man says.

    One thing I’m just beginning to learn now that I’ve started using the internet is that many believe the comp vs egal issue to be a matter of salvation. I’m not sure how that came about but then I’m the first to admit there is a great deal that I don’t understand. 🙂 I believe that salvation is more a matter of Jesus crucified, dead, and raised again for our sins and not about the roles of men and women.

    Blessings to you

  19. Hi Sandy,

    I know a lot of comps who’d call you a “radical feminist” just on the basis of what you wrote here! 🙂 I only wish they all had your attitude. And I wholeheartedly agree that this should never be a salvation issue.

  20. Sandy,
    Honestly, I would just like to give you a hug!
    You said:

    “One thing I’m just beginning to learn now that I’ve started using the internet is that many believe the comp vs egal issue to be a matter of salvation.”

    This is something that have been working hard to dispel this myth. There are so many who see women as sinning against God for merely using their God-given gifts for the benefit of the body of Christ without prejudice. This is so divisive and I believe that it hurts our dear Lord Jesus very much. I personally lost a dear friend who turned against me because I believed and practiced a non-prejudicial approach to giving out God’s gifts for the benefit of anyone that God’s brings in my path – both men and women. I was treated with anger for a very long time and called nasty names and I still stuck around. The final straw came when I realized that there would be no peace because they actually saw me as being a big sinner, one who was unrepentant and someone who was hurting the church by my unrepentant sin. Since I stopped trying to make things work, I am being treated as if I don’t exist. It is an unloving and divisive thing to see those who disagree with you on this secondary issue of doctrine as enemies of the faith. If I could help others from being treated this way, I would do everything I could. Perhaps the church will again experience persecution and this will drive us all together again.

    I wish you well on your journey. It was an adventure for me as I journeyed to where I am today.

    Thanks for your input! Good going!!

  21. Paula,
    I’ve never thought of myself as a radical feminist before but find the thought quite funny. 🙂 Thank you!

    Consider me offering the holy hug of Christian sisterhood to you. I’m so sorry that you were so hurt over this disputable matter. One of the things that causes me to long for the return of our Lord is the promise that we will all see clearly and there will be no more divisiveness over these disputable matters!

  22. Sandy,
    Hug accepted! 🙂 You know that is another reason why I love the people who come here. They are respectful and hugable!

  23. Welcome Sandy,

    I too spent many years in a rigid fundamental regime. The parallels between rigid fundamentalism and Islam (social structures) are striking. I am so glad to be unshackled from all of that. About 3 yrs. ago I began reading the writings of Katharine Bushnell on legitimate Biblical textual criticism. About a year ago, I chanced across Cheryl’s site here, gave her dvd’s a fair hearing, and had an epiphany: What I had been taught about gender roles and hierarchy won’t stand up to the rigorous scrutiny of scripture as its own lens. I’m not here to convince you, convert you, or analyze you. I’m only suggesting that you do your own homework and decide for yourself what God’s word says, and not what someone says it says.

  24. Greg,
    Thank you for the kind welcome and encouragement. I agree that there are many similarities between fundamentalism and Islam especially in regards to the treatment of women.

    “I’m only suggesting that you do your own homework and decide for yourself what God’s word says, and not what someone says it says.”

    Yes, exactly. That’s how I’ve been working my way out of fundamentalism. I believe that for most of us, that’s the only way because, after learning that we have been misled in these matters, it’s difficult to trust anyone else – only God’s Word.

    I’ve been working on this for a few years and now feel ready for other counselors whether or not I agree with them in totality. It gives me different perspectives and will ensure that I not slide into any wierdness on my own. 🙂 I went back to get my graduate degree from a well-known conservative Christian university and I so appreciate their wisdom on this. They teach clearly to never be afraid to hold others’ thoughts up to Scripture as long as Scripture remains the final authority. It’s matter of trusting God more than man for me.

  25. Aw, thanks pink!

    Don: **&#()($* I wasn’t hugging the tree, I was, um, holding it down.

    Greg: “The parallels between rigid fundamentalism and Islam (social structures) are striking.” They certainly are! Look at this “message”: (video link)

    Whether it’s a joke or not, that kind of “hermeneutic” is actually used by a lot of people. But here’s actual, serious, Islamic teaching: Islam Monitor.

    They’re all Pharisees as far as I’m concerned.

  26. Paula #34,

    Highly entertaining if nothing else (the fundamental preacher). I have no problem whatsoever with colorful Elizabethan idioms (KJV), in fact I use them quite often myself when i get ****** off; but I promise, scout’s honor, not on this blog! The problem I have with this type of preaching, is that it drives many from the cross instead of to it.

  27. Very true, Greg. That such “preaching” gets out of any seminary is bad enough, but the harm it does to the Body of Christ is going to come back on the heads of such people.

    I am sorely tempted to ask the guy why he doesn’t have a beard. Is he trying to look more feminine? Doesn’t his KJV tell him not to cut the corners of his beard?

  28. The only position I have ever heard defended biblically is the position that the only position withheld is that of pastor (Bishop or overseer of a church):

    1Ti 3:1-2 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. (2) A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife…

    There seems to be no other restrictions, such as Sunday school, special music, missions, etc.

    That said, I’ve seen some unjust bashing of “fundamentalism.” I graduated from one of the largest conservative Christian colleges in America. They had female missionaries come in to speak about their missions and female singers perform during services. The self described fundamentalist church I go to currently is no different.

    Islamic fundamentalism = Christian fundamentalism? For the record, whenever I’ve heard the ‘notorious’ verse “wives submit yourselves to your husbands…” I’ve heard the following verse preached. “husbands, love your wives even as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it…”Ephesians 5:25.

    In Islam, women are considered property, to be used and treated like dogs. Any preacher teaching this is not doing so on biblical grounds, and thus is not adhering to the “fundamentals of the faith” from which the term fundamentalist was coined.

  29. Michael,

    Welcome to our blog/community! Sorry that my posts took on a pejorative tone regarding “fundamentalism”. The term originally started out as a manifesto of the non-negotiables, or fundamentals in Christendom, such as virgin birth, blood atonement, and the stuff historically affirmed in the Athanasian and Nicene creeds of the early church fathers.

    Gradually, and over time however, Christian fundamentalism began to include other ideologies and belief systems, all based on “inerrancy” and what many call a “plain reading of God’s word”

    I came out of one such mega-church here in Southern Cal. that is KJV or NKJV only, and whose leadership structure is strikingly similar to a large Mosque with an Imam as uncontested authority. Dissent is not tolerated, nor is study outside of approved parameters encouraged.

    Here it’s different, it’s sorta like the Rhode Island Anne Hutchinson fled to after she got booted out of Massachusetts. No John Winthrop here, and best of all, no protestant inquisition. Be welcomed!, you will always be treated with respect and dignity, regardless of your belief system.

  30. Hello all,

    This is some great info for those who have a problem with women teaching! I’m going to put these tips on my website.

    Hope all is well with you Cheryl, I’ve been so buzy with school. Keep up the great work for Our Lord & Saviour!

  31. Hello Michael,

    Welcome,Greg Anderson said it the best. This is a nice site and with lots of Christ Love here. Check out all the issues and posts you will learn alot about scripture! Bye and God Bless from one Michael to another (Smile).

  32. #37 Michael,
    That is wonderful if your church does not discriminate against women Sunday School teachers! The hard-line position, though, is that women are not allowed to teach the bible in their home or in the church (including as a Sunday School teacher) if they are in the position to be teaching the authoritative word of God to men. If they merely facilitate discussion, then they are allowed to do this.

    My question has always been why God would discriminate against men in this way? Why would God hold back some of his gifts from the benefit of men yet allow women to benefit from all of the gifts of God? There was no holding back of the gifts of God from men in the OT, so why should there be in the NT? These questions must be asked and answered so that we can consider the hard passages of scripture on the women’s issue in context instead of taking them out of their context as “proof texts”.

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