Embracing Complementarianism (Book Review)
A welcome addition to the thinking on how complementarianism can be put into practice for the flourishing of the church.
In recent years there have been a wealth of good books which have explored complementarianism. They have helpfully unpacked the relevant passages of scripture that point to the conviction that men and women have been designed by God to be equal and distinct.
However, finding books that encourage churches how to put this doctrine into practice has been hard to come by. Therefore, Embracing Complementarianism by Graham Beynon and Jane Tooher is a welcome addition.
Complement, don’t separate
In the book, Graham and Jane encourage churches positively to embrace complementarianism carefully and wisely. They are particularly keen that churches think through how men and women can complement one another in ministry, rather than separating men's and women’s ministries.
They say, “if a church has mainly separate ministries, it can be hard to see how the contributions of men and women combine to give an outcome that is greater than the sum of its parts”.
I found the chapter on “Understanding Ministry” especially helpful in stretching my thinking on the breadth and depth of church ministries that women can be involved in. They remind us of the importance of viewing the church as a body where each part has a vital place in ministering to one another.
They challenge us to see ministry as broader than Sunday preaching, vital as that is. We need to see women as essential co-workers in the cause of the gospel, rather than helpful extras. The extensive range of ministries open to women “must not be simply permitted but pursued if the body is to grow as it’s supposed to.”
Who is this book for?
If you are not a convinced complementarian, then this book is not necessarily for you. There are other books which lay out the biblical principles in greater depth.
However, it does show the blessing and joy of complementarianism in practice and the picture of a church where everyone’s gifts are valued as men and women work together. And for that reason, I would encourage you to still consider reading it.
For churches and church leaders who hold to a complementarian position and want to ensure men and women are flourishing within their churches, I would highly recommend this book.
Whether you have an established women’s ministry or not, it would be really useful for a staff team and eldership to work through the book together. In their concluding chapter, Graham and Jane remind their readers that “elders lead on this issue because they have ultimate responsibility for shepherding the flock by teaching them what is right from God’s word and guarding them against false teaching.”
Thinking through biblical convictions that shape our church life and ministry amongst men and women is an essential part of forming a healthy church culture and a key responsibility of those in leadership.
How complementarianism is embraced will be different across churches. There is no expectation that all churches will look the same or encourage women and men in the same way.
However, Graham and Jane winsomely encourage us to see the necessity of taking the time to engage with this issue, not only for the flourishing of everyone in the church but more importantly to see God glorified as men and women serve him together.
You can order a copy from The Good Book Company for £8.49 (RRP £9.99).