Thursday, January 19, 2012

I've made up a new -ism

Theologian Steve Holmes has written a very persuasive blog which argues that our Baptist Ecclesiology means that we cannot be complementarians, because theologically the two are mutually exclusive.

It cannot have escaped your attention that I am a feminist so when I read an article like this from someone like Steve it makes me cheer. I would also like to make a claim to be a Youthist.  If you don’t recognise this term, it’s OK, I just made it up, so let me explain myself.  A Youthist is not is guilty of ageism; this is where someone is discriminated against because they are a certain age, usually old.  A Youthist is to ageism as a feminist is to sexism.  It’s about identifying a group that is discriminated against and speaking out with and for that group.

 I would like to re-read Steve’s article with a youthist lens, and make the same arguments for inclusion of young people in church life.  If we take seriously our Baptist ecclesiology then we have to be open to receive from young people.  We need to really listen to young people, to be ready to have our faith shaped by them, and also to give them this responsibility for us and the church that Steve speaks of.

Steve argues that our Baptist polity means we have a responsibility to watch over one another, to sometime take authority over one another, and to submit to one another.  He argues that we have a very flat structure, with Jesus as the head and the rest of us as equals.

There are those who might want to argue against this.  They might argue that it isn’t right that young people should have authority over their elders; there is biblical teaching about the role of parents and children.  Yes there is, but complementarians use similar arguments about the role of women.  They might argue that young people can’t understand well enough yet, or don’t know enough; again complementarians have argued that women don’t have the mental capability to lead.  In addition, since when has mental capability or otherwise been the measure of how someone can be involved in church; there has never been an IQ test as part of baptismal preparation.   

Others might take a more positive attitude, but temper it by saying that it would be alright, as long as the young person is a baptised member.  My question would be: “Do we make this distinction between men in the church, or between women?”  Even complementarians don’t argue this.

Steve claims that if our Baptist ecclesiology is right, then we can’t be complementarian about the role of women in church life, and I would want to make the case that we therefore can’t be complementarian about the roles children and young people are allowed to take, are encouraged to take.  

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