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Topic: Complementarianism

On the State of Complementarianism in the CMA (Andrew Ballitch)

June 10, 2024
By Andrew Ballitch

Editor’s Note: The following article is part of a multi-denominational forum on the state of complementarianism and appears in the Spring 2024 issue of Eikon.

Q: What do you believe the Bible teaches about God’s design for men and women, particularly in the home and the church? How do you view the relationship between the Bible’s teaching on the proper order of the home and the proper order of the church?

A: The opening chapters of Genesis present men and women as designed by God with distinct, yet complimentary roles. This includes male headship in the home, headship that the New Testament extends to the sphere of the church as well. Proper male and female roles and functions in the home and church are both grounded explicitly in creation by the biblical authors. Headship means that leadership, provision, and protection are all primarily the responsibility of men. Women are to come alongside in submission with an emphasis on helping and nurturing. This in no way implies inequality or a hierarchy of importance. Nor is it a commentary on gifting or ability. Rather, it reflects what God intended for his glory and human flourishing and how he intended both the creation mandate and great commission to be fulfilled. Sin, of course, distorts what God declared good and sinful people rebel against his good purpose. 

Q: What limits, if any, do you believe the Bible places on women serving in the church?

A: The Bible reserves the office of elder, with its unique teaching function, for qualified men. Paul makes this argument in 1 Timothy 2:11–15 from creation itself. He forbids women teaching or exercising authority over men, which are two overlapping categories. “Teaching” in the pastoral epistles is the authoritative transmission of truth, in this case, the specific exercise of authority. Authority in general is entrusted to elders. Only men are to hold the office of elder, therefore, only men are to teach authoritatively in the church. And the church is the gathered assembly, the congregation, the collective local body of Christ. It is when the church is gathered that the Word of God is publicly proclaimed with the authority of the elders and only qualified men are to preach in this setting. Apart from this, women are free and ought to be encouraged to use their gifts, including the gift of teaching, for the edification of men and women and the building up of the body as a whole.

Q: How would you evaluate the fidelity of your denomination as a whole and its member churches individually regarding the Bible’s teaching on men and women?

A: The Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA), as a denomination, has moved away from biblical fidelity on the roles of men and women in the church, while individual churches exist on a spectrum. At General Council 2023, delegates voted to extend ordination to women and to decouple the designation “pastor” from the office of “elder/overseer” and allow local churches to decide whether to use the title “pastor” for women. This position has been officially referred to in denominational circles as “soft complementarianism,” because women are not allowed to hold the office of elder, which due to C&MA polity precludes women from holding the position of lead or senior pastor as well. That said, women can perform any function, including preaching during gathered worship, under the oversight of elders. Some C&MA churches are upset because the 2023 changes are not seen as going far enough, some are excited and see the changes as representative of where the denomination is, others are ok with the change because local churches are not being asked to do anything they don’t want to do, and still others are extremely concerned about what the changes mean for biblical authority and hermeneutics in the denomination. So there are C&MA egalitarians, complementarians, and everything in between at the local level. 

The complicating factor is that the C&MA is a kind of hybrid between presbyterian and congregational ecclesiology, and every church is required to have a reversionary clause in its bylaws. Licensing and credentialing of ministers and property decisions in the case of a reversionary event are administered by elected district level committees, with unofficial influence from the National Office. Without getting any further into the weeds, it is not as simple as letting individual churches decide what to do with the title “pastor,” at least not for those with convictions about the Bible’s teaching on men and women.

Q: What direction would you like to see your denomination head regarding the Bible’s teaching on men and women?

A: I would love to see my denomination adjust course back to faithfulness to the Bible on these issues. The C&MA, at least officially, had always held pastor/elder/overseer as a single New Testament office reserved for qualified men. Our legacy of gospel preaching churches and great commission work is a stewardship many of us are burdened to protect and see continue. This is the heart behind the 1:9 Alliance (, an initiative born out disappointment over General Council 2023, concern over the troubling trajectory it brought to light, and a longing to keep people in the family and pulling in the right direction, even if that means going against the current right now. The changes made at Council were a wakeup call across the board. For those who pushed them and the National Office that facilitated them and promises that there is room for everyone in the new arrangement, it has become painfully clear that these are not merely policies and procedures that can be tinkered with without consequence, instead they represent fault lines between mutually exclusive ecclesiological positions with deep theological underpinnings. For those of us on the other side, the changes revealed maladies of which the debate over complementarianism is only a symptom and the urgent need for renewed engagement in the denomination. My prayer is that the Lord brings the C&MA out of this current moment of adversity more committed to the authority and sufficiency of his Word and more focused on his mission than ever. 

Andrew S. Ballitch (PhD, SBTS) is Associate Pastor of Preaching and Ministries at Westwood Alliance Church in Mansfield, Ohio (CMA).

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