Is Egalitarianism a Slippery Slope to LGBTQ+ Acceptance?


I remember when I was just starting to question complementarianism, when the world was black and white. The good guys were the Republicans, the anti-feminists, the Reformed, conservative, John Pipers. The bad guys were Democrats, secular feminists, progressives, and liberals, like Rachel Held Evans.

I wanted complete assurance that exploring egalitarianism would not lead me into the enemy’s camp. Egalitarianism, I was warned, was the tip of a slippery slope leading to horrible things like social justice, Episcopalianism, and the very gravest, the absolute lowest of all low valleys — LGBTQ+ acceptance.

Once you tumbled that low, you were lost to orthodoxy forever.

I want to address this particular fear head on — the idea that egalitarianism is one step away from embracing the LGBTQ+ community. While I do get a good laugh at my black-and-white world and the paranoia that resulted from it, I realize that’s still a present and legitimate concern for many people who, essentially, mark orthodoxy by how immobile one is against the siren call of LGBTQ+ acceptance.

The short answer is no, egalitarianism does not a LGBTQ+ ally make.

Prominent egalitarian groups like Christians for Biblical Equality and The Junia Project share marriage between one man and one woman as a core value: “6. God’s design for relationships includes faithful marriage between a man and a woman, celibate singleness and mutual submission in Christian community.”

Many of the denominations who celebrate women’s full participation at all levels of leadership also express the one man, one woman line. The Anglican Church in North America is one such faith tradition. Tish Harrison Warren, one of its female priests, recently wrote about the need for church oversight of female bloggers — particularly because prominent female leaders like Jen Hatmaker are espousing an LGBTQ+-affirming stance.

Another example is the Christian Reformed Church in North America, which views same-sex orientation as “a condition of disordered sexuality” that should not disqualify individuals from community acceptance. But, it affirms that, “Homosexualism (that is, explicit homosexual practice)…is incompatible with obedience to the will of God as revealed in Scripture.”

And the reason why these and other faith traditions and individual egalitarians can affirm women in all levels of leadership but declare homosexual activity as sinful is simple: they’re not the same issue, Biblically speaking.

Egalitarians who oppose homosexual behavior will talk about “the movement of Scripture.” There is no “movement” in Scripture toward accepting same-sex relationships, whereas there is great movement toward elevating women. Women serve in leadership in both the old and new testaments. Even in more patriarchal passages that seem to support a gender hierarchy (such as the household codes), the movement is not toward “putting women in their place” but rather elevating women to an equal level with their husbands.

Though it can and has been argued that Scripture is silent on monogamous same-sex relationships, or that the core principles of Christianity compel one to embrace the LGBTQ+ community, there isn’t the same explicit “movement” in Scripture toward LGBTQ+ acceptance the way there is toward women’s equality.

That would be, in a nutshell, the egalitarian differentiation of women’s equality with the LGBTQ+ movement.

Still, we all can think of dozens of friends or prominent voices who started out egalitarian but not affirming and then later allied themselves with the LGBTQ+ movement. I don’t have any hard statistics on it, but anecdotally, the egalitarians who are allies seem to outnumber the egalitarians who aren’t.

And here’s why: egalitarianism doesn’t automatically turn you into an ally, but it sure makes you think about becoming one.

I can’t think of any egalitarian who hasn’t wrestled with LGBTQ+ issues. Biblical movement aside, there are parallels between egalitarianism and LGBTQ+ issues that would move any ardent supporter of women’s rights — both want full equality and normalcy, both involve minorities, and both are misunderstood and maligned, particularly in the church.

As a woman whose motivations, salvation, and common sense get questioned because of my egalitarian stance, I’m far more sympathetic to minority groups seeking equal rights and understanding. I know firsthand how people use “the Biblical worldview” and “orthodoxy” to silence the legitimate pain and discrimination I’ve experienced. I’ve seen how women’s voices get ignored and explained away because it challenges long-held “Biblical” beliefs.

So when I’m tempted to write off LGBTQ+ complaints of discrimination, I remember the time when I experienced discrimination and nobody came to my defense. When I’m tempted to wonder if LGBTQ+ people are overly sensitive and milking their minority status for a political agenda, I remember when people called me overly sensitive and promoting a feminist agenda. When I’m tempted to doubt LGBTQ+ voices on their own experience because of this verse in the Bible or science or “common sense” or what if they’re deceived?, I remember when my pain, my experience, and my thoughts were real, true, and completely dismissed.

Add to that the church’s long, often abysmal record of hurting those most in need of support — and I know I’ve got a heck of a lot of listening to do.

That’s why, I think, egalitarians as a whole tend to strive for empathy and a listening posture with the LGBTQ+ community — and why many of them end up allies.

Here’s the truth: if you become an egalitarian, you’re guaranteed to come out with at least a more nuanced view on LGBTQ+ issues. Egalitarianism doesn’t roll you down an inevitable hill toward LGBTQ+ acceptance, but it does kick the door open for genuine soul-searching on the issue.

And I don’t say that merely as a comfort to people interested in egalitarianism but worried about falling down a slippery slope. I say that because listening to LGBTQ+ people, working through your own preconceptions of, well, everything, and wrestling with all the components that make these issues complicated — it’s no easy tumble.

In fact, I think understanding and/or accepting the LGBTQ+ community is an uphill battle — something that requires intentionality and effort.

(NB: In this post, I’m not addressing whether we should or should not accept the LGBTQ+ community and/or their lifestyles. It’s an important discussion that I do not feel qualified to lead or moderate, so I would appreciate if all comments stuck closely to the intersection of or divergence with LGBTQ+ issues and egalitarianism. Thanks.)

12 thoughts on “Is Egalitarianism a Slippery Slope to LGBTQ+ Acceptance?

  1. heather

    I don’t understand the movement of scripture argument. Things don’t get better for women in the bible. Paul is the absolute worst. I think you can go a long way towards being a moral human by just being in favor of everything Paul hated. It’s a sarcastic answer but there is truth to it.
    I think people who try to make arguments to get around the anti-woman parts of the bible but keep the anti-lgbt parts have to do a lot of mental gymnastics. How can you state, “Well , times have changed” for women and not everyone else?


    • Bailey Steger

      These are really great questions. There are absolutely negative things said about and done to women in the Bible (and just horrible things in general, especially in the OT), but Paul has been twisted by complementarians and patriarchalists to show him in favor of keeping women down, rather than elevating him. It’s not mental gymnastics to argue that Paul had a more favorable view of women than many of his time (even if he wasn’t a full-blown feminist).

      — He supports women in authority: Junia, who was honored as an apostle; Euodia and Syntyche, whom he says “contended at my side in the cause of the gospel”; Priscilla, who taught Apollos; the prophesying daughters of Philip; and many others.

      — He turned traditional household codes on their head. He called both husbands and wives to submit to each other and husbands to elevate their wives to equality (the true reading of Ephesians 5).

      — He only forbade the women at one church from speaking because they were uneducated, causing outbursts, and introducing false doctrine. He encourages women to pray in the public assembly in 1 Corinthians 11 and obviously supports women in leadership since he speaks favorably of the above listed women.

      If you look at the cultural and literary context of each passage used to silence women, you’ll find that patriarchalists have completely twisted them to keep women down. Having said that, the fight for women’s rights did not end with Paul, and there is certainly a remnant of patriarchy even in Paul’s thinking that needed to go. But that’s what I mean by “movement”: the groundwork was laid and the signs pointed towards women’s equality. Does that make sense??


  2. Gov. Pappy

    “I say that because listening to LGBTQ+ people, working through your own preconceptions of, well, everything, and wrestling with all the components that make these issues complicated — it’s no easy tumble.”

    And building on this, we should be making this “tumble”, no matter where we end up. Acceptance or rejection of anything based on some understanding of orthodoxy is a cop-out. We can’t remain afraid of our own journey, or a process of understanding that may take our whole lives, because peers call it a slippery slope.

    Aside, it’s interesting to me that they use the LGBTQ question as a bogeyman, and a litmus test of doctrine: Your egal doctrine isn’t judged by the biblical faithfulness or lack thereof in your theological framework, but by whether you end up on one side or another of a moral question which they’ve decided by *their* theological framework. Essentially, they’re just as guilty of appealing to “feelings” as they say we are – they’re holding so tightly to traditional positions (which also happen to oppress) that they can’t let themselves see possible truth.

    If fundamentalism taught me anything, it’s that trust in traditional understandings as such to combat error is to subject your faith to fear, and your life will follow. It’s advertised as an impartial devotion to truth, but functionally, you’re guided by the gatekeepers of your particular faction, who have decided what truth is.

    And well said. Especially the part about identifying with minorities. I have an acquaintance on twitter who is an African-American reformed comp pastor who has really started questioning and reassessing his “camp” because of their tone, stance, or silence on race issues, especially since many sold their soul for a certain presidential candidate. Wherever we end up on these things, following Jesus means identifying with the oppressed, and that’ll bring up the tough questions and choices.


    • Bailey Steger

      So many good points! YES, we absolutely MUST be willing to slip, slide, or fall headfirst down the LGBTQ+ “slope.” The lives and well-being of our fellow LGBTQ+ require even the layperson to have an understanding and a compassion rather than a bigotry and a total disregard for what they’re saying or experiencing. And nothing we do or don’t do should be controlled by fear.

      That is such an accurate observation of fundamentalism. It’s already been decided what is orthodox and what isn’t. It doesn’t matter if you pull a Martin Luther and say that you’re trying to faithfully read Scripture. That appeal to conscience and the authority of Scripture makes zero difference to the authority of “orthodox” tradition. I’m thinking of Jen Hatmaker right now, and the hell the religious establishment put her through even though she insists her views on LGBTQ+ issues were shaped by a careful reading of Scripture.

      Yeah. Just like this African-American pastor, my questioning and deconstruction came after experiencing sexism in the church. As much as discrimination sucks, I think it’s one of the only things that could have brought me out of fundamentalism. Sadly, my “compassion” for other people wasn’t strong enough to actually believe them when they cried oppression or discrimination, but when I felt it myself….that was a whole different story.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Jasmine Ruigrok

    Thanks for sharing these thoughts, I was interested to hear your stance on the issue. I think one of the biggest differences is that where sexual relationships are concerned, the Bible is pretty black-and-white on which ones are sin, and which aren’t. Not so with the capabilities/worth/rank of women. Whilst people will use “suffer a woman not to be in authority” to defend complementarianism, the Bible DOES have good examples of women in leadership, thus that scripture needs to have more context and nuanced interpretation. There are next to no Biblical examples of LGBTQ+ lifestyles, and none of the ones that may appear are portrayed in a favourable, aspiring light. Egalitarianism is not outlined as sin in Scripture. Homosexuality is. Whilst I am for individuals who may be part of the LGBTQ+ community in that I love and respect them, I do not believe egalitarianism means one must automatically champion their cause. That’s my two cents.


    • Bailey Steger

      To clarify, this article isn’t my stance on the issue, per se. I’m just sharing more of how egalitarians in general can view this issue and how the slippery slope argument is bogus. Everything you’re saying supports the classic “movement of Scripture view” that shows the slippery slope isn’t as slippery as one might suppose. ;)


      • Jasmine Ruigrok

        Sorry if it sounded like I was pegging your stance on the wrong issue. I was referring to the issue of egalitarianism and LGBTQ+ being generally lumped together by complementarians or fundamentalists (which is what you appear to be arguing against; the fact they are two separate issues. Did I get that right? I’m doubting myself now…). If my comment seemed out of line of your point, I apologise.


      • Bailey Steger

        Oh, no, no, no, don’t apologize!!! I thought you had interpreted this as my stance on LGBTQ issues. I was mistaken. You’re absolutely right: I do think they are two separate issues that have both similar and dissimilar thought processes, and I don’t believe in the complementarian/fundamentalist scare tactic that exploring egalitarianism automatically leads to LGBTQ+ acceptance. You understood me completely. :)

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Norm Erlendson

    I like your fair assessment of this issue which is too often decided by the slippery slope argument, which is especially persuasive to those caught in the trap of fear-based black and white thinking over the letter of biblical law. The appeal to the slippery slope is a threat and a dodge, not an argument, because it avoids wrestling with the real issue. Yet, on this issue there is a logic that naturally creates sympathy in egalitarians for the LGBTQ community as you pointed out. The logic is that women’s rights are human rights. The biblical principles (not laws), which affirm universal human rights and equality that led us to egalitarianism, also inspire us to treat others as we want to be treated. This is why I disagree with you that there is no movement in scripture toward LBGTQ rights, (as well as animal rights, and environmental rights). The letter of scripture always begins our conversations but is not meant to have the last word. The living and active Word for us is always Christ. The abiding promise of Christ to us is that his surrogate, the Spirit of truth, will continue to be our Advisor. The Spirit will teach and lead us into all truth, building upon the principles Christ has already taught. Eventually these principles will germinate in our heart causing yet more, unanticipated truth and light to dawn upon us generation after generation, all of it grounded in God’s love for the whole creation, until we attain the full measure of Christ in our hearts and minds.


    • Bailey Steger

      Thank you for this thoughtful comment! I just wanted to clarify that I don’t think Scripture has any *explicit* movement toward LGBTQ acceptance — i.e., there are no passages that explicitly talk about LGBTQ equality or show an LGBTQ person in church leadership or what have you. But I think the argument can be made, as you just have, that the larger principles of Christianity create a movement toward LGBTQ acceptance, just as, like you said, the larger story of Christianity informs one on any other social justice issue.


  5. villemezbrown

    I once again read your title and had an immediate reaction before reading your post that didn’t really pan out. In this case my immediate reaction was “Oh, I hope so!” You say you want comments to focus on the intersection between egalitarianism and LBGTQ support/acceptance. I’m not sure what to say about that. I think the reading of the Bible it takes to support egalitarianism is valid (obviously). I also think there is a perfectly valid reading of the Bible that allows support/acceptance of LBGTQ rights and individuals. So I don’t think there is so much a slippery slope as once you take that first step away from fundamentalism that means you don’t have to follow tradition in everything and let someone else tell you what scripture means and always trust the interpretation of others over your own, you free your mind to draw your own conclusions. Doing that opens the way for all positions to change, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they all will. I have to say I don’t buy the “movement” in Scripture argument. I don’t fully understand it, but if you are talking about from the Old Testament to the New Testament, I don’t think there is a clear path in either direction on either issue. The peak of tolerance and acceptance is probably Jesus and then Paul takes a step backward toward rigidity, authoritarianism, conformity, etc. in pretty much all areas.



    • Bailey Steger

      Yes, that is a good way of putting it: “Doing that opens the way for all positions to change, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they all will.” (Which is not necessarily a good thing.)

      I honestly don’t see much movement in the OT on women’s issues, either. There are several examples of strong women, but there’s no systemic change. From my study of the NT, though, I don’t think it’s fair to say that Paul takes a step backward toward rigidity, authoritarianism, etc., and I’ve spent quite a while studying the passages from both egalitarian and patriarchal/complementarian sides. I think he’s been completely misinterpreted by a lot of mainstream Christianity in all sorts of areas to support *their* rigidity, authoritarianism, and conformity. (For instance, Calvinism. Ooo, boy, did Calvinists COMPLETELY get Romans wrong.) Not that Paul would necessarily be marching in the Women’s March or joining the fight for LGBTQ rights, but I don’t think he’s intentionally moving backwards. I would agree that Jesus comes across as more tolerant, though.


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