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CBMW's Latest Hit Job on Aimee Byrd
Have you ever encountered an ex-husband who keeps sending his ex-wife angry text messages and keeps complaining to wider family members about how awful his ex-wife is, how everybody should hate her and shun her, because, you know she left him? The fact that he did not treat her kindly is beside the point, she left him, and so she should never have to stop paying for it. Yes, it is sadly all too common.
Sorry if that triggers any women out there who have experienced this kind of harassment, but I find this analogy best explains the strange fixation that CBMW has with my friend Aimee Byrd.
Over at CBMW, Colin Smothers points out that Aimee Byrd once wrote an article for Reformation21 where she said that preaching sermons was not the “calling” of women, even if women can still be teachers in the world, church, and home.
The reason Smothers brings out this blast from the past is because Aimee recently preached her first Sunday sermon at Covenant Baptist Church in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Her flip-flop on women preaching is doubly worse because she preached in a Southern Baptist Church! This means that Aimee’s theological threat level has been upgraded from tribal defector to denominational saboteur!
Smothers is not content to leave it there, but points out that I, Aimee’s partner in theological gender crime, have committed the same treasonous offense of changing our minds about women and ministry and gender roles in the church. He states:
But that was then, and this is now. Now, Aimee Byrd has commenced a preaching ministry along the same trajectory as her book, which undermines the Bible’s teaching about the distinct callings of men and women. Her trajectory away from complementarianism continues apace. Where she lands remains to be seen.
One can’t help but note that Michael Bird, who co-hosts a podcast with Aimee Byrd, seems to have embarked on a similar trajectory around the same time. In 2012, Bird wrote a book wherein he affirmed male headship as “normative” and “indisputable.” Today, he disputes male headship and says he has changed his mind. He now identifies as an egalitarian.
Two things to note.
First, yes, people do change their minds! Some people go from being slightly to the right of John Piper to saying “spiritual gifts do not come in pink and blue.” Some people go from hard complementarianism to soft complementarianism. Check out the great book How I Changed My Mind about Women in Leadership: Compelling Stories from Prominent Evangelicals. Or else, you can read my own journey in Bourgeois Babes, Bossy Wives, and Bobby Haircuts: A Case for Gender Equality in Ministry.
Second, I want to say to Smothers. “Mate, how can you say American Complementarianism is good for women, when this is what you do to women!”
Is there is a version of American Complementarianism that doesn’t involve trying to make an example of a woman who leaves the fold like Putin ordering a hit on a Russian dissident and defector?
Surely there is a better way to be an American complementarian, without the deviant labeling, without the creepy fixation, and without sounding like a jaded ex-husband.
For instance … why not say:
Aimee Byrd preached her first Sunday sermon, a role we believe is fitting only for men. Aimee has gone to a different place in her views of women and ministry. We obviously disagree with her and cannot join her on the path she’s traveling. But we still pray for God’s blessing for her and that God would pour out on her the depths of his wisdom and the gift of discernment. We will always be happy to continue a conversation with Aimee.
To the complementarians out there, I wanna say, you can disagree with Aimee, offer a gracious critique, but the strange fixation is creepy, and the language is needlessly adversarial.
Note this: Smothers is not trying to change Aimee’s mind or win her back to the fold. Smother’s words are a warning for internal consumption, to the Jen Wilkin’s and Claire Smith’s, a warning to the women in his own complementarian tribe. In effect: “This is what we’ll do to you if you leave us or cross us.” To my complementarian friends, is this the image that you want to project, strength and certainty by keeping your own leading women in a state of perpetual fear?
To all you mangelicals out there, try being an American complementarian without being a bastard as you go about it. Seriously, it’s not hard. I know of several men who are complementarian but don’t act this way. To echo Smother’s own words, “I hope and pray that complementarians at the very least will begin to see that.”
You can read Aimee’s own response to Smothers here. Aimee didn’t leave complementarianism over exegesis, she left it because the complementarians are abject jerks. Listen to her own words:
She discovered that they hold the subjugation of women higher than orthodox trinitarianism. She found that they value Danvers over Nicene. They demand that she publicly answer questions made by anonymous men, or lose her job. They misrepresent her work in their “academic” reviews. They turn her out of her own denomination by enabling their leaders to openly revile her, leaving her unprotected and traumatized by the whole process of asking for help.
Otherwise, go out and buy a copy of Aimee’s new book, The Sexual Reformation, and leave a good review on Amazon!
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