Less than ten years ago, in 2013, Aimee Byrd wrote an article for Reformation21 called, “What’s the Difference Between Women Preaching and Women Blogging?” On the whole, the article is a thoughtful response to a reader who asks, ““Do you believe it is okay for a woman to think and write about theology, given she will also be read by men such as myself? If so, why is it not allowed for a woman to preach?”
Instead of dismissing the question, Byrd gives a helpful, complementarian answer about the importance of maintaining biblical distinctions between the role of pastor, which includes preaching and is limited to qualified men in the Bible, and other avenues available for engaging and teaching the Scriptures. In fact, she gives her answer from within what she explicitly calls “the complementarian camp”:
I’m not sure what background my commenter is coming from regarding the stance of women’s roles, but I have been upfront with the fact that I fall in the complementarian camp. There are many roles for women in the church, but Scripture makes it clear that the office of elder and pastor is not one of them (1 Tim. 2:12). Not only that, most men are never called to this position (1 Tim. 3:1-7). I believe God has ordained this for our good. I know that I have some very sharpening and wonderful egalitarian readers, but I do want to be clear about the platform I am coming from. With that said, I believe that if complementarians are serious about the distinctiveness of male and female roles, if we really do believe that women are created as helpers, then we above all should want to equip strong, theologically-minded, thinking women. This could be an article in its own, but I’ve got to answer the main question. Is there a difference between preaching God’s Word and reflecting on it, explaining it, writing about it, and even teaching it in a different setting? Yep. I would say that if done faithfully, we are talking about a difference between the authority of the Word of God and the word of man.
One might quibble over a word here or there, but on the whole this is a commendable response in line with what the Scriptures teach and the position outlined in CBMW’s Danvers Statement.
Byrd then goes on to write,
Could I compose and deliver a sermon-worthy exposition of Scripture that would enlighten those listening? Sure I could, along with many other women. But this is not our calling.
Again, this is a commendable response. Well, as they say, that was then, and this is now.
That Was Then, This Is Now
The reason Byrd’s article from 2013 is suddenly relevant today is because this week, in an apparent reversal from the position she once articulated, Aimee Byrd preached her first Sunday morning sermon:
— Joel Rainey. ن (@joelrainey) March 6, 2022
The church Byrd preached at on Sunday is Covenant Baptist Church in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, which according to SBC.net is a member church of the Southern Baptist Convention. This fact is particularly noteworthy because the SBC’s confessional statement, the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, contains the following complementarian clause on the office of pastor:
[The church’s] scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.
Over the past few years, the application of this statement has been a point of contention in the SBC, as several SBC churches have attempted to remain in confessional cooperation with other churches, under the BFM 2000, while ordaining women to the pastorate and allowing women to preach on Sunday morning.
In 2019, in response to this departure in some SBC churches, CBMW president Denny Burk wrote an article wherein he reasserts the complementarian position that the office and function of pastor is limited to qualified men. More recently Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and CBMW council member, weighed in on this practice:
Simply put, the only way to affirm women serving in the pastoral role is to reject the authority and sufficiency of biblical texts such as 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2. There is more to the picture, but not less. Furthermore, the Christian church in virtually every tradition through nearly two millennia in almost every place on earth has understood these texts clearly. In most churches around the world, there is no question about these texts even now. Furthermore, there is the testimony of God-given differences in the roles of men and women in the church and in the home throughout the Bible. The pattern of revealed truth is not hard to follow.
This is not a new teaching; some form of this is indeed the historic position of the church, and it is the position articulated in CBMW’s Danvers Statement:
In the church, redemption in Christ gives men and women an equal share in the blessings of salvation; nevertheless, some governing and teaching roles within the church are restricted to men.
But what is new is Aimee Byrd’s position on preaching, which was on display this past Sunday. How she squares her new position with 1 Timothy 2:12 is yet to be seen. As Andy Naselli pointed out in his excellent review of her 2020 book, 1 Timothy 2:12 is conspicuously absent from Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which she wrote as a trenchant critique of CBMW’s ministry. CBMW was formed in 1987 to help the church faithfully live out verses such as 1 Timothy 2:12, and to not ignore them.
After Byrd’s book was released, there were many complementarians who argued that Byrd’s book offered a helpful corrective to complementarianism. Even though Byrd herself said in the book that she is no longer a complementarian, some readers were still resourcing her book in order to reform complementarian applications of Scripture. But as some reviewers argued at the time, the position offered by Byrd’s book is a kind of way-station to egalitarianism. Even still, many dismissed these warnings as defensive or overblown.
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.
God’s Design Is Good
Nevertheless, the Bible’s teaching remains the same. God has created men and women with distinct but complementary callings. To be sure, both men and women are called to ministry. Women have spiritual gifts, and God intends for those gifts to be used for his own glory and to edify the church. Likewise, men have gifts, and God intends for men to use those gifts for the glory of God and the edification of the church. God’s beautiful but distinct design is something celebrated in Scripture, and it is something we must learn to embrace and celebrate as well.
Aimee Byrd’s book and now her preaching are not in line with what the Bible says about these matters. I hope and pray that complementarians at the very least will begin to see that.
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