I'm a Complementarian Man With an Egalitarian Wife; Can I Pastor?

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As regular readers of this site know, I invite folks to write in their questions about personal ethical dilemmas. The way it works is this: read the question below, and let me know in the comments what you think I ought to advise him. Then I’ll weigh in in a little bit.

Dear Dr. Moore,

I am a young evangelical minister, currently serving as an associate pastor in a church. I believe God has called me to serve as a senior pastor. I read your Q&E commentary a while back about the doctrinally-divided couple wondering if they should marry. I’ve got a problem that may be similar, but I think is also quite different.

I’m committed to what some would call a “traditionalist” Christian view of gender roles. I believe a husband is to be head of the household, to be the servant leader of his wife (Eph. 5:22ff). I also believe, as the confession of faith of your denomination puts it, “while both men and women are gifted for service in the church, only men as qualified by Scripture are called to serve in the office of pastor.” I am what, I suppose, would be called in our contemporary evangelical lingo a “complementarian.”

I am married to a godly, loving, very gifted woman. She loves Jesus and knows his word. She’s also a committed feminist. By that, I don’t mean that she’s a radical or anything. But she is what some would call an “egalitarian.” She believes both men and women are called to the office of pastor, that women can teach men or do anything men can do in the church, and that husbands and wives are to “submit to one another” (Eph. 5:21), so that neither leads the home but decisions are made by consensus.

I am not wondering if she’s the right woman for me. First, we’re already married and, second, I wouldn’t have it any other way. She is the love of my life. My question is, can I serve as a pastor with this situation as it is? Must my wife and I have agreement on an issue that will be so directly relevant to how I preach, teach, counsel, and lead the congregations God calls me to serve? Will this be confusing to the people to whom I am ministering?

In or out of ministry? What should I do?

A Complementarian Man

Readers, what do you think? Advise this brother and sister in the comments below. Oh, and send me your ethical dilemma to [email protected]. If selected for Q&E, I’ll answer here confidentially.

Only when we see how lost we are, we can find our way again. Only when we bury what’s dead can we experience life again. Only when we lose our religion can we be amazed by grace again.


About Russell Moore

Russell Moore is Editor in Chief of Christianity Today and is the author of the forthcoming book Losing Our Religion: An Altar Call for Evangelical America (Penguin Random House).