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Theologian and author John Piper sparked debate after he stated he did not believe women should serve in leadership positions in parachurch organizations. Piper was speaking on his “Ask Pastor John” podcast when a listener reached out to him with the following question. The man stated he works in a globally well-known parachurch organization and that, “Recently, our leadership decided that all positions of leadership within the organization will be opened to women. This includes campus leadership, regional leadership, and national leadership. Women will be permitted to teach men from the Scripture, to be in positions of spiritual authority over men, to shape and correct doctrine within the organization, and to mentor men in their ministry roles. Previously, these positions of spiritual authority over men were reserved for men alone. The reason given for this change is that a parachurch organization is not the church. Therefore, the commands addressed to churches about the role of men and women in relationship to one another do not apply in this case.” The questioner then asked for Piper’s take on the situation. 

Parachurch organizations, as defined on Piper’s “Desiring God” website, are “Christian organizational structures that are not churches and are not necessarily under the direct oversight of a local church or an association or family of churches.” Such organizations often take the form of faith-based non-profits like Franklin Graham’s Samaritan Ministries or Christian health cost-sharing ministries like Christian Healthcare Ministries and Samaritan Ministries. Piper responded to the question, saying, “Well, that’s sad to hear to me, but it’s not surprising, and it’s not new.” He went on to add, “The position that the teachings of the Bible concerning sexuality have no bearing on human relationships outside the church or the home is naïve.” He went further to state that such a position was “culturally compromised.” “The world today is in free fall of denial that nature teaches us anything about what maleness and femaleness are for. And that denial used to be — back when I was in the early days of fighting these battles — that male and female personhood teaches us nothing about what God intended our roles to be. But now the denial is that our bodies, not just our persons, teach us nothing about what life should be as male or female,” he added later, noting the current controversies over so-called “gender-affirming care” that often involves the removal of healthy breasts and male reproductive organs. 

Piper pointed to 1 Timothy 2:12-14 for his reasoning, noting how Paul stated women are not to have authority over a man and that this was not just in ecclesiastical structures but is due to the very nature of creation where “Adam was formed first, then Eve,” and, “Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” Piper summed up his conclusion by stating that “I think Paul would say, ‘I have taught, Moses has taught, nature teaches that it goes against man’s and woman’s truest, God-given nature to place a woman in a role of regular, direct, personal leadership over men.’”

Egalitarian and complementarian views of the Bible have been brought into the spotlight lately after the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) reaffirmed its position that the role of pastor and elder is for men only and expelled two churches for having female pastors. Rich Stearns, President Emeritus of World Vision USA, took exception to Piper’s comments, tweeting, “Wow! So a women [sic] can’t even lead a domestic abuse ministry for other women, or a children’s ministry – or a youth ministry if there are any men (or boys?) under her authority? What a colossal waste of the giftedness of half the human race.” 

Allie Beth Stuckey, a popular apologist and political commentator, had an episode on her podcast this past May be entitled “Is My Podcast Sinful?” to discuss how to view her podcast given a complementarian view of the Bible. Stuckey referred to Piper in her episode, noting she does not agree with everything he says but that she aligned herself mostly with his views on complementarianism. She stated she did not believe the Bible prohibited women from speaking on “theologically complex” issues in some contexts. She contrasted this with what she called the “patriarchal view,” which “says that if a woman is to teach other women, it must be within the bounds of child-rearing and homemaking.” She wrote that “complementarianism is different from biblical patriarchy. We all have proper context and responsibilities for our gifts, but while we agree that women should not be pastors or teach in pastoral roles, we don’t see biblical support for the idea that women can’t be talking about academic theology publicly, generally speaking.”

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