On March 28, 2010 complementarian John Piper announced that he is leaving ministry for a time because of several issues of pride that were affecting his soul and had taken a toll on his relationship with his wife Noël . Below is what Piper has written about his issues and his next steps. It would be a good time to pray for John Piper. It appears that being a rock solid complementarian is not a guarantee that a happy and fulfilling marriage will ensue.
As you may have already heard in the sermon from March 27-28, the elders graciously approved on March 22 a leave of absence that will take me away from Bethlehem from May 1 through December 31, 2010. We thought it might be helpful to put an explanation in a letter to go along with the sermon.
I asked the elders to consider this leave because of a growing sense that my soul, my marriage, my family, and my ministry-pattern need a reality check from the Holy Spirit. On the one hand, I love my Lord, my wife, my five children and their families first and foremost; and I love my work of preaching and writing and leading Bethlehem. I hope the Lord gives me at least five more years as the pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem.
But on the other hand, I see several species of pride in my soul that, while they may not rise to the level of disqualifying me for ministry, grieve me, and have taken a toll on my relationship with Noël and others who are dear to me. How do I apologize to you, not for a specific deed, but for ongoing character flaws, and their effects on everybody? I’ll say it now, and no doubt will say it again, I’m sorry. Since I don’t have just one deed to point to, I simply ask for a spirit of forgiveness; and I give you as much assurance as I can that I am not making peace, but war, with my own sins.
Noël and I are rock solid in our commitment to each other, and there is no whiff of unfaithfulness on either side. But, as I told the elders, “rock solid” is not always an emotionally satisfying metaphor, especially to a woman. A rock is not the best image of a woman’s tender companion. In other words, the precious garden of my home needs tending. I want to say to Noël that she is precious to me in a way that, at this point in our 41-year pilgrimage, can be said best by stepping back for a season from virtually all public commitments.
No marriage is an island. For us this is true in two senses. One is that Noël and I are known inside-out by a few friends at Bethlehem—most closely by our long-time colleagues and friends David and Karin Livingston, and then by a cluster of trusted women with Noël and men with me. We are accountable, known, counseled, and prayed for. I am deeply thankful for a gracious culture of transparency and trust among the leadership at Bethlehem.
The other way that our marriage is not an island is that its strengths and defects have consequences for others. No one in the orbit of our family and friends remains unaffected by our flaws. My prayer is that this leave will prove to be healing from the inside of my soul, through Noël’s heart, and out to our children and their families, and beyond to anyone who may have been hurt by my failures.
By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org
Read the full statement here on Piper’s Desiring God web site.
The one thing that I noticed when I was doing research on the complementarian worldview was that the leaders who were the most transparent admitted that especially in the early years of their marriage, the complementarian lifestyle brought problems into their marriages. One popular preacher said that his wife felt like she was not a person. I am certain that I heard John Piper talk about problems like this in his marriage at one point and it is not uncommon for a woman to feel like she is so focused on lifting up her husband’s ministry that who she is as a person becomes vague. Does God really care about her or is her husband God’s main focus? The loss of personhood can be especially devastating when the children leave home since the complementarian teaching that the woman’s main calling in life is to be a wife and mother can leave her own individual gifts undeveloped or set on the back burner to support her husband.
While we may not agree with the complementarian view of marriage and ministry, we can be there to help complementarians when there are problems and failures from a male-only focused ministry and marriage. When women are held back from passionately pursuing ministry with the gifts that God has given them, the church will be hurt because we are all needed. If we give unrestricted authority to use’s gift to one spouse alone, pride is inevitably going to be a by-product. I believe that God is working today to bring the church into a more balanced position where all of His gifts are accepted no matter which vessel the Holy Spirit desires to use.