Every Woman a Theologian
— On Being a Gentle Complementarian —
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Dear friend,
Before I get into today's email, a quick reminder: this Thursday (5.25) is the launch of our SUMMER COLLECTION at Every Woman a Theologian. The items in these collections are limited time (except for books) and often sell out over the weekend. Mark your calendars for the new line!
I sat quietly in my office trying not to eavesdrop on Josh's phone call a few feet away. I strained my ears, sipping my coffee in unadulterated nosiness. He'd been asked to offer feedback to a feature writer for an upcoming piece about Every Woman a Theologian. I couldn't help but overhear his response to a question about our marriage, ministry, and unique position as a co-working/co-homeschooling couple:
“When I came home to work with Phy I was asked by men in my life if I would be satisfied here. Phy is a strong woman and I think those men wondered if I would be okay with her taking a more [visible position]… 
"Yes, I want a voice. And I have that. But I don't need complete control… It does not make sense for us to set aside our God-given gifts in order to honor a certain framework. We have what Phy would probably call a “gentle complementarianism."
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Years ago I did a deep dive into the history of the terms and ideologies behind “egalitarian” and “complementarian". Essentially, complementarianism as a term arose in the 70s and 80s as a way to define a more conservative theology opposed to what was then called “biblical feminism”. Both terms were (and still are) on a spectrum in regard to their actual tenets. Biblical feminism was not just egalitarianism; in some ways it laid the groundwork for LGBTQ+ affirming theology that erased gender distinctions completely. But egalitarianism was not (and is not) universally affirming; some egalitarians simply define it as equal and interchangeable roles in church and home. Similarly, complementarianism has come to mean everything from patriarchy (e.g. Dale Partridge) to the kind of “soft complementarianism”  John MacArthur eschewed in his famous “Go Home” speech to Beth Moore.
One of the most important steps to both discernment and healthy theological conversation is definition of terms. When we don't understand the layers of meaning someone brings to a word we're likely to misinterpret what they're trying to say. This happens constantly in the egalitarian/complementarian debate, especially since the two views DO hold an incredible spectrum of theological belief. At this point they really aren't “camps” in the gender role conversation; they're more like nations housing hundreds of individual “gender role” tribes! And within those tribes, some people arrive at their conclusions exegetically (rightly dividing the text and its intended meaning) while others arrive at it eisegetically (reading their own negative experiences or biases into the text; this happens among both conservatives and progressives). Our job as astute, thinking, theological people is to hold both sides in cupped hands, understand them as well as their constituents, compare to Scripture, and through the guidance of the Spirit find a place to land - all while bearing the fruit of love, kindness, patience and self control (Gal. 5-6).
When Josh finished the call he came in my office to tell me about it. “I called it gentle complementarianism because I thought I remembered you describing us that way,” He said.
“I actually haven't used that term, but I love it,” I replied. And I do.
When I wrestled this issue out with the Lord several years ago, I could not come away with a consistent egalitarian interpretation. And I tried. I was forced to be consistent in my exegesis. If I viewed the “gender role” texts - and the holistic arc of Scripture - the way I do any passage, through the “Wesleyan quadrilateral” of Scripture first, then reason, tradition, and experience, I still could not force a conclusion other than the one I found. (And that is not to say my experience is king; the egalitarian position was too inconsistent in terms of the whole arc of Scripture for me to buy in).  I pored over church history, the primary texts, the Greek and Hebrew scholars who have divided the debated passages. And at the end I landed where I continue to land: Men and women are incredibly different. They are also incredibly similar. Their differences are God-designed, from how their minds and bodies function to their unique gifts in marriage. They are indeed designed to complement one another… a complementarity that translates to every culture, not just the western American ideal. Man was created first and commanded to build beauty and goodness. Woman was created as the ezer-kenegdo, the Helper and right-hand “man” fit to accomplish the mission. And when the two work in unity, in complementarity, no one is left behind.
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I've said before that a healthy complementarian marriage looks egalitarian. People have asked me: Why then be “complementarian”? Here's my answer: because, of the two, a gentle complementarianism - or perhaps better said a “Spirit-led complementarity” - is more consistent with both Scripture and church history. It was a Spirit-led complementarity that led John Wesley to promote women into leadership of his Methodist bible studies while holding to an orthodox sex ethic. It was Spirit-led complementarity that led the men of Israel to respect Deborah and Huldah as God's prophetesses. It was Spirit-led complementarity we see in Priscilla's ability to run a business with Aquila and correct Apollos' theology with her husband. These women did not become men, or man-like, to accomplish God's purposes. They didn't try to “usurp” a man's role nor were they put there because God – whose sovereignty somehow took a break? – “couldn't find” a man for the job.
They were given a position and had character to uphold it. But they did it in deference and honor. Because of them, I believe it is possible - and powerful - to live as a woman fully immersed in and embracing her femininity… while also immersed in and embracing the call of God. 
And my husband believes the same. What if it is possible to honor my husband, to defer, to grow in my ability to respect and love him well (and him, me), to teach, preach, and evangelize without sacrificing either, or both? I think it's possible, powerful, and - in my experience - peaceful.
A gentle complementarianism, by definition, can never control, domineer, or coerce unity. It is the act of choosing deference and honor; Josh honoring my leadership gifts while I honor his leadership “role”. 
You'll have to do your own wrestling and maybe you're land somewhere other than me - praise the Lord, this is not a core doctrinal issue. But it DOES affect where and how you minister, what your marriage looks like, and how you view your own role in God's kingdom. I've found great peace in this “gentle complementarity”. Maybe you will too.
For more on my breakdown of how and why women can teach, preach and evangelize within the complementarian framework, see my Women in Ministry highlight on Instagram.
Around the Christian World

Rev. Tim Keller died on Friday at age 72. Don't ask me how I'm handling losing both Dr. Stanley and Keller in the same month… but here are some articles about Keller's influence, pastoral style, and apologetic genius.
Are You Coming to EWAT's 
Big Event??
 If you're ready to attend the only theology conference in northern Michigan, we are READY to have you! We are adding some fun stuff to the schedule and already have three theological sessions and a live panel for your “Ask Anything Monday” in person! Plan to come with friends and share a hotel or Airbnb! Fly into Grand Rapids and drive in rather than fly into TVC or PLN, the closer airports! More details below.
My Five Faves

  • It's launch week for our summer collection (this Thursday!) and getting new products in is a HUGE fave for me. This time it's our four new Quick Theology books:
    • How to Walk by the Spirit
    • What is Biblical Repentance?
    • How Do I Know I'm Saved?
    • A Beginner's Guide to Prayer
    • Each of these is $6 in the shop, part of our QT series. Seeing them all laid out at the conference this weekend made me SO happy!
  • This sunless tanning mousse. If you self tan, this is the best out there IMO.
  • On my TBR list: Sally Clarkson's “TeaTime Discipleship”. You've heard me talk about mealtime discipleship with kids, and I firmly believe in coffee time discipleship with women! So I'm excited to learn from Sally yet again.
  • Also on my TBR for homeschool: Modern Miss Mason - on Charlotte Mason education (we do a classical + CM approach) If I ever finish War and Peace I'll be able to read these!
  • Lithos Kids NEW Pilgrim's Progress Part 3 + adult Pilgrim's Progress: these just came out and they are STUNNING! You may remember Lithos Kids… they released the Kingdom of God bible set we are using right now. Gorgeous covers and great storyline. My code is PHYLICIA10.
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At Home with Phylicia

A little glimpse of what's bringing us joy at home: routines, books, kitchen and home life.
  • What I got at Michigan's homeschool convention: We made it to the used curriculum sale before setting up our booth for the weekend and OH my word… what great prices and resources! I was a looking for some light resources for the summer. Here's what I got:
    • Alpha-Phonics: My friend Hali recommended this and I got the book and cards for $5.00. This is mainly to do some review with Adeline through the summer before we start All About Reading 3 in the fall.
    • Singapore Math 2A: Same as above, I'm trying this out with Addie through the summer - just a page or two a day. We currently use and love Math U See, but a friend of mine who has a degree in math said kids who stay in Math U See longterm can sometimes struggle to transition to the challenge of high school math. We're looking at alternatives.
    • Draw Write Now: I grew up with this little book and it's so sweet! I'll be doing this with Eva as her art this summer.
    • Sequential Spelling: A simple spelling book for Addie to practice a little each day.
    • Roller Coaster Writer Cursive: This was not at the conference; I bought it from Half a Hundred Acre Wood. It comes highly recommended.
    • Animal Ark series: This chapter book series set in a veterinary clinic was a fave of mine when I was 10-12 so I grabbed one for Adeline.
    • This free 2nd grade reading list from Memoria Press is what I'm using for Adeline through the summer as we continue improving her reading.
for the awakening,