Again, as I began my sermon, if you’ve been attending Alliance for any period of time, you likely know we are complementarian. Simply stated, that means we believe Scripture clearly teaches that men and women are equally created in the image of God – with equal dignity, purpose, and worth. But, we also believe God created men and women with different yet complementary roles. Such roles have nothing to do with superiority – simply roles for the proper functioning of the home and the church. Which means, among other things, men are called, even commanded, to lead their families and the church in a godly fashion. While counter-cultural, this has been the teaching of the church of Jesus Christ for millennia, and this church for the 45 years of its existence.
A couple months ago, I shared with you that our denomination, the Christian & Missionary Alliance, changed their polity regarding this position that troubled our elders. To summarize, while still allowing only men to serve as elders, they are now recognizing women to be both ordained and hold the title of pastor in the local church. This, the elders of ABF believe, is a significant step toward egalitarianism, which eliminates any gender distinction in the roles of men and women in the church.
Again, simply stated, this new position allows women to both teach and preach in the gathered assembly, that is, in church, and to exercise authority over men. We are troubled by this, for both the tenor of Scripture and the clear teaching of I Timothy 2:12 says otherwise. There, in writing to Timothy about how the church should conduct itself, Paul says, “But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.” That is, remain quiet in the areas of teaching and exercising authority. Men are to lead, women do not assume those roles, as Paul then explains a few verses later in giving the qualifications of elders.
For the reason of this significant change in polity, the elders of Alliance Bible Fellowship have voted unanimously to separate from the Christian & Missionary Alliance. We love the C&MA and their missions work and churches around the world. It has been a joy to be a C&MA church for 45 years – and I personally have enjoyed being a C&MA pastor for almost 30 years. So this decision was not easy, in fact, it grieves us. But seeking to be submissive to the clear teaching of Scripture, we have chosen to separate. To be clear, Alliance is the same church we were 2 months ago, and 40 years ago. It is not we who have changed, it the C&MA which has changed. I’ve said it this way – we have not left the C&MA, the C&MA which has left us. We mean no ill will toward them, nor is it our desire to disparage them. We will continue to love and pray for them as they seek to fulfill the Great Commission – our Elders simply believe it is going in a direction we cannot follow.
I know this may come as a surprise to some of you, but this has not been a quick decision, and our position has been made abundantly clear. Several years ago, the Elders wrote an expanded doctrinal statement that includes a brief statement of our commitment to complementarianism. Two years ago, anticipating this decision by the C&MA, we wrote a position paper on our Complementarianism. Both are available on our website – and a printed copy of the position paper is available at the Welcome Center.
So, what does that mean for us? It is not our desire to be independent, as if we are the only one doing it right. That is frankly arrogant – we don’t believe that. Rather, it is our desire to associate with other churches who are like-minded in doctrine and practice. So, pray for the Elders as we seek that association or fellowship of other like-minded churches. If you have any questions about this decision or better, our future direction and decisions, please feel free to talk to an Elder, which includes me. We are eager to continue our faithful journey together.
Let me finish by reading to you the last paragraph of the position paper we wrote a couple years ago: “In summary, we want the men and women of ABF, as coheirs of the gospel of Jesus Christ, to serve at every level of ministry in the local church, except those prohibited by Scripture. It is our desire to equip and encourage gifted women for ministry to fulfill the Great Commission, for the glory of God.”