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Gender Matters for new student organization at Univ. of Northwestern – St. Paul

October 5, 2007

A number of like-minded students at University of Northwestern – St. Paul, an evangelical Christian school in St. Paul, Minnesota, formed a complementarian organization called the Gender Matters Task Force.

Earlier this year, a number of like-minded students at University of Northwestern – St. Paul, an evangelical Christian school in St. Paul, Minnesota, formed a complementarian organization called the Gender Matters Task Force.  GMTF holds regular meetings and events that promote the traditional biblical view of gender roles in the home and church. Zach Tarter, a junior who is the starting quarterback on Northwestern’s football team, leads the group.  A social studies education major, Tarter plans to attend seminary after college with the aim of serving in local church ministry. Tarter’s sister, Courtney Tarter, is a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a regular contributor to Genderblog. Courtney was instrumental in the founding of GMTF.  Genderblog interviewed Zach Tarter on the new organization.

Genderblog: Obviously, complementarianism is not without its opponents on college campuses, so how has the Gender Matters Task Force been received at Northwestern?

Tarter: Last semester we weren’t very prominent until Dr. Jim Hamilton spoke in April. We did not get a whole lot of feedback from the students, which we feel is due to the lack of concern about gender issues. On the other hand, the administration has provided more feedback. After Jim Hamilton spoke, we were told of a new policy at Northwestern that no longer allows chapel speakers to address gender issues; nor does it allow outside organizations to promote events regarding the issue that will take place on campus. Fidelis actively promoted an event in February featuring Dr. Russell Moore and planned to do so again with an event next semester, but from our understanding of the policy, they won’t be able to do that. (We are not completely clear on this policy yet, so I could be off on the technicalities.) Ultimately, the administration is more concerned with the issues we’re raising than the students.

Genderblog: What is the environment at Northwestern with regard to gender issues? Is there any hostility toward the complementarian view?

Tarter: Most students don’t view this issue as a big deal. Most of the students on campus probably lean toward the complementarian view, but don’t live a complementarian lifestyle. There is a minority of students who are vocal egalitarians and are hostile when the complementarian viewpoint arises. On the other hand, most of the administration seems to lean toward the egalitarian side, with some being neutral, and yet others who are complementarian. Unfortunately, from my understanding, those who are vocally complementarian face quite a bit of persecution.

Genderblog: What types of functions does the organization sponsor? Are you planning to publish a newsletter, e-publication or something else along those lines to promote GMTF and its views?

Tarter: As previously mentioned, we sponsored an event last April when Jim Hamilton came. Courtney and a student set up a women’s study on biblical femininity for this whole year and we thought it was such a good idea that we are working on a men’s study once a month in which we will bring in a male complementarian to speak on Biblical masculinity. We do not yet have a newsletter or anything like that, but that’s a good idea! We will soon have information on facebook, which has become an Internet information center for college students. Yet, I know little about this task because I am out of the Facebook loop. As of right now, we are still brainstorming ideas to promote the truth of Scripture in regards to this issue.

Genderblog: Why do you see gender roles as such a critical issue facing the church?

Tarter: Simply stated, we see gender roles as such a critical issue because the Bible is clear that gender roles are a critical issue. We firmly feel that if Northwestern continues to base their understanding of gender roles on feelings and experience and not the Word of God, then they will do so in all issues of the Bible. The Gospel is at stake any time the Bible is not regarded as the ultimate authority, and unfortunately, it is not the ultimate authority at Northwestern on issues of gender.

Genderblog: Regarding your own passion for complementarianism, when and through what means did you become convinced of the crucial nature of God’s teaching on gender?

Tarter: I always knew that women shouldn’t be pastors because of my parents’ biblical teaching. But I did not really look into it until Northwestern stated that they did not take a stand on the issue during chapel in 2005. After that, I did a speech on women in ministry in my speech class, but I don’t think I grasped what it meant to be a man and truly lead. It wasn’t until right before my wedding that I understood what it meant to lead. My wife became aware of sinful aspects of my life only days before our wedding. Through multiple conversations with my dad and pleading with Christ did I realize how to truly lead in our relationship. Since then, I firmly feel that the Lord has been teaching me what it means to be a man through my marriage more than any other aspect of my life.

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