My name is Fabienne. I'm a woman. And I'm complementarian.

I've been complementarian for about six years now.

There. I said it.

Being a complementarian means that I believe men and women are made differently. I think we are designed for different roles to reflect different parts of the character of God.

As I recently shared, I think it's time to speak up. Because despite what some may think, this belief hasn't played out in being chained to the kitchen sink or pushed to the corner. Rather, I've seen women empowered and valued.

Common Misconception


When I first heard the conviction I now embrace, I'm pretty sure I wanted to throw up. And whenever the nausea passed, I was left with a nagging sense of embarrassment.

I believed the common misconception that to be complementarian meant embracing a destiny of sitting in the corner being docile and quiet. And I was embarrassed because I'm just not the quiet and docile type, and I couldn't help but notice that teaching, prophecy, and knowledge aren't always the most beneficial skills during the church bake sale.

Thank the Lord that I work for a church that demolished those misconceptions for me.

I work for a plurality of male leadership inside a complementarian church, and every single day I come to work in one of the most intellectually challenging jobs I've ever had. I manage strategic leadership in several areas, I am frequently asked for wisdom and counsel (which is crazy if you know me), and my teaching gift was not only identified by my male elders, it was developed and continues to be championed by them.

If not for their complementarian intervention, I wouldn't be close to the woman I was made to be.

If my complementarian male co-worker hadn't challenged me to go deep in theology and deeper in the Word I would still be shallow in my faith. If my complementarian male boss hadn't empowered me to make a difference in our staff, church, and nation, I wouldn't have joined the fight, found a voice and---God forbid---I might have wasted my life.

My leadership doesn't ask me to sit down because I'm a woman. They ask me to embrace my design because they believe the kingdom of God needs all types of image bearers.

Not JV


I'll be honest: when I first heard the invitation to lead in a "female" role, I heard a call to settle for the junior varsity.

When my pastors would ask me to dream about the training we need for the women in our church, I would hear them telling me to focus on the secondary crowd while they lead the real folks. They weren't delegating that task because it was less important; they delegated it because they believe that men and women are different, so I might have something to add to the conversation because of the way I'm made.

Women under my leadership struggled for a long time---not because the men in the church didn't value them---but because I didn't value them. I was too busy wanting to play in the male sandbox to see women right in front of me who desperately needed the very gifts and design that God placed in me.

I honestly think I fought for the right to do everything the guys did because in dark and deep places in my heart I believed that what they did was more valuable. I didn't believe that a stay-at-home mom was as valuable as a CEO. I didn't believe that emotional sensitivity was as valuable as an ability to direct and lead others.

What if part of the clamor to have access to male roles exists because deep down in our hearts we're the ones who don't think men and women are equal? What if we're the ones who think male roles are more valuable than female roles? What if we're the ones who believe the lie that if we get "stuck" doing ministry with women we won't have the power to influence or change the church?

As I've focused on developing women in our church I've learned a few things:

  • Women aren't dumber than men.

  • Women can go as deep theologically as men.

  • Women can be a part of changing the world.

  • Women are hungry for women to start taking them seriously.

  • My male complementarian leadership never thought otherwise. I did.

Fabienne Harford lives in Austin, Texas, where she works as the director of women’s training at The Austin Stone Community Church. You can find more thoughts from Fabs at fabsharford.com.

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