First And Second Order Issues

In an earlier post, I wrote about how difficult it is to serve in a denomination that you agree with 100% doctrinally. It’s possible that some can fully subscribe to the confessions of their respective denominations, but I doubt that many can do so with a clear conscience.

It seems then that unless one wants to be schismatic, there has to be some degree of latitude over second order issues. This raises an important question: what constitutes the difference between a first and second order issue?

I’m not sure.

One church in the US (don’t use Google yet!) thinks that male/female roles is a second order issue and allows members of the church to be either egalitarian or complementarian in practice.    

How sensible do you think this is?

What are the appropriate roles of husband and wife in a Christian marriage?
We affirm that biblical paradigm of a God-centered, agape-oriented covenant marriage relationship. We also recognize the disagreement among evangelical Christians regarding the nature of gender roles within marriage. Some believe the Bible teaches a timeless principle of male headship, where headship is defined as the model of servant-leadership exemplified by Jesus Christ. Others believe that the idea of male headship expressed in Scripture is a culturally-conditioned teaching, and that the ideal model of marriage is that of mutual submission and leadership by gifting, within an egalitarian relationship. We believe that, when guided by the principles of agape-love and servant-leadership, either model of gender roles in marriage can serve to foster God-glorifying covenant-marriages. To that end, we offer the following biblical challenge and encouragement.

  1. To those couples who follow the model of male headship: Husbands strive to avoid both self-centered control and worldly authoritarianism, and seek to exemplify the self-sacrificial servant-leadership demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ toward his bride, the church. Wives, strive to avoid both selfish independence or passive apathy in the marriage, and seek to exemplify the active, passionate submission that characterizes the church’s love for its eternal groom, Jesus Christ.
  2. To those couples who follow the egalitarian model: Strive to avoid a marriage characterized by indecision, and seek to lead and/or follow in the various areas of your marriage as God has gifted each of you. In all things, exemplify a heart-attitude of submission toward each other, after the pattern of self-sacrificial servanthood demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ toward our heavenly Father.

I personally think this is a sensible mediating position when there is no consensus on the issue in a congregation. What do you think?