An Overlooked Help: Church Discipline And The Protection Of Women -- By: Jeremy Pierre
JBMW 18:1 (Spring 2013) p. 12
An Overlooked Help:
Church Discipline And The Protection Of Women
Assistant Professor of Biblical Counseling
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Church discipline and complementarianism—having either one of these items on your church’s statement of faith will pretty much guarantee someone will label you authoritarian, but having both will make you seem downright medieval. If you mention either doctrine to people on the street, they may conclude you are part of a cult that monitored its members and allowed men to dominate their wives. Both church discipline and complementarianism are tender subjects because they highlight authority in particularly unsubtle ways, ways that make it easy for the mind to jump to its abuses. And to be fair, we have seen all too clearly the way authority can be so easily abused. History is rife with examples of it; contemporary fiction shows our great sensitivity to it; and many of us have experienced it directly. So this makes us nervous about any situation in which one person or group has the right to direct another person or group. Our impulse is to prefer what we think of as personal freedom.
But if we understand godly authority as the responsibility to direct those under it through self-emptying service, then we will practice church discipline in such a way that protects women from the abuse of ungodly authority. The godly authority of church leadership should, by powerful contrast, crush any ungodly authority by men in the church. No abuser will be comfortable in the kind of church that exercises godly authority.
I would like to contrast these two opposing versions of authority in order to demonstrate how consistent complementarianism and church discipline work together for the protection of women, children, and anyone who may be placed under ungodly authority in the church.
The Ungodly Authority Of Men
“I’m not sure I want you to rake our leaves. It might make my son mad.”
I was in our church’s neighborhood, standing on the front porch of an elderly woman. A group of us was walking the streets with our leaf bags and old rakes, knocking on doors. I respectfully told the elderly woman I didn’t understand what she meant.
“Shh. He might hear you,” she said with a tenuous glance over her shoulder. “Oh, alright. I think it’ll save him an afternoon of work.” So we got busy raking and bagging.
I was bent over stuffing a bag when I heard a human explosion. “What do you think you’re doing?” I turned to see on the porch a lumbering middle aged man, wearing sweats and a ve...
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