Rethinking Complementarianism

Sydney Anglicans, Orthodoxy and Gendered Inequality

In: Religion and Gender
Rosie Clare Shorter Western Sydney University School of Social Sciences and Psychology Australia Liverpool, NSW

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Complementarianism, that is, Christian teaching focusing on men’s leadership and women’s submission as an ideal pattern of relationships and gendered behaviour, has been identified both as a boundary marker with little lived currency and as a contributing factor in instances of intimate partner violence. This contradiction raises a question; does complementarianism have little felt effect or does it have significant—and violent—social consequences? In this article, drawing on Scott’s analysis of Secularism as discourse I consider complementarianism as a religio-political discourse. Through analysis of published church material and stories gathered through interviews with parishioners and church staff, I explore how complementarianism is constructed and implemented in the Sydney Anglican Diocese. I argue that complementarianism is not a distinctively Christian theology, but a discourse, or story, told in community which constructs orthodoxy and both creates and limits gendered and religious identity.

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