The Role of Women in the church and a “Beautiful Union”

Richard Burgess, 10.03.2023

The role of women (and correspondingly men) continues to be a big issue as evidenced by the way it has hit Twitter again this week.

Following a prerelease portion, then a chapter of the book, “Beautiful Union: How God’s Vision for Sex Points Us to the Good, Unlocks the True, and (Sort of) Explains Everything,” Twittersphere has been awash with concerned responses.

Expounding on Ephesians 5 where Paul talks about leaving and cleaving and becoming one flesh, Butler asserts that “Sex is an icon of Christ and the church” and that it is an “icon of salvation.” I wont go into it all here – there’s plenty out there on the internet to give you all the detail.

In sum, Butler reads into the passage something the writer never put there in the first place. He takes a metaphor and goes beyond the intended use of the author. Rather reminds me of some of the allegorising antics of some spiritual writers of old, except this is far more serious.

The problem is not only the sexualising of the passage along with its subsequent interpretation, but the conclusions it draws in overstating the role of a man and understating the role of a woman, something complementarians are prone to do. Once again, it’s made to fit and affirm a male dominated world, something Paul never intended.

Over the last few years I have been on a journey, a journey that has led me to believe in the full involvement of women at all levels in the church. Looking back, I now see things I didn’t see before because I was shut up in my own echo chamber of confirming voices – maybe you are? (Sometimes I’d look out and wonder, but then quickly close the door – maybe you do, but too afraid of what it might mean). One gets the impression the likes of Butler, and many others, are in that same kind of space. We need to pray for them and those who are impacted by their teaching.

You can catch something of my journey and growth in understanding of the role of women in my book Exploring the Role of Women in the Church. You can find it on Amazon.

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