Posted in discernment, theology

Boundary Stones and Slippery Slopes: A discerning look at Jen Wilkin, part 2

By Elizabeth Prata

In Part 1 I introduced this three-part series with some of the things I enjoy about Jen Wilkin, and also discussed how I go about reviewing a nationally known teacher’s doctrine, teaching, and lifestyle. In this part I’ll take a look at Mrs Wilkin’s now-infamous menstruation eisegesis lesson, and in part 3 whether she actually lives out her insistence that she is a complementarian woman, and conclude part 3 with a look at what the Lord means when He says do not move the boundary stones.

In a follow up to these three parts of my discernment review, I discovered Wilkin’s lessons on “Redefining the Story of Rahab.” Ladies, any time you see someone, man or women, “redefining” anything from centuries-understood orthodoxy, be wary. Her Rahab lesson includes promotion of situational ethics, and some poor ethics of her own, but it gives me a chance to write about proper treatment of handling material. I’ll write that follow up essay soon.

The Menstruation Clip

A 2-minute clip of a video surfaced that showed Jen Wilkin teaching on a stage and talking about women’s periods. I then found a 16-minute clip of the same thing. After that I discovered the original, full video and its date. It was an hour long and it came from a 2017 Acts 29 US Southeast “Advance the Church” conference, General Session #2- Jen Wilkin. The title was “Women in Church Planting: Understanding women as central to the mission.” Wilkin’s session was aimed at a group of pastors and church planters. The audience was mainly males. She taught the men for 40 minutes and then sat down for a 20-minute Q&A afterward. She solely led the teaching (referring to the Bible few times, and I heard no scripture at all) and then Wilkin prayed over the men to close the session. A man interviewed her afterward.

The infamous part of the hour-long session included the following statement from Jen Wilkin:

I want you to think for a second of what the implications might be about the way that women understand the Gospel as a result of being embodied females. I apologize if this makes you uncomfortable. Women’s bodies, every 28 days, tell them a parable about the shedding of blood for the renewing of life. You don’t think that changes the way that we encounter the scriptures? Men only bleed when something is wrong. So what should we take from this as people who have opportunity to lead in the church? I think we need to ask two questions. We need to ask what do we need from women as a church? We need to ask what do women need from us? (26:00-)

My Response to Menstruation Clip

1. There’s something the 2-min clip and the 16-min clip don’t show. In watching the full video teaching, Wilkin bases her entire talk on the biology of men and women, avoiding the biblical/spiritual foundation. When she does refer to the Bible it is to present a different interpretation of the creation of humans in Genesis 2.

Wilkin explained that it’s important to understand the biology of men and women when you’re planting a church, and so you can use women in “visible leadership”. Looking at men and women through biology is “trans-cultural, not bound to any particular time or place” and this is why she said she chose to teach gender through biology.

The reason she discusses the roles of men and woman from a biological point of view (not a biblical point of view) is because, “It’s gonna get a lot less stupid.”

Sadly, when the roles outlined in the Bible for women and men are at variance with what Mrs Wilkin both teaches and practices, one must unhitch one’s foundation from the word of God, so it can more easily be manipulated to fit an agenda. Mrs Wilkin’s agenda is egalitarianism, or perhaps even feminism. I saw this again and again in every talk I watched. This hour-long session isn’t the only one I watched or listened to. Wilkin is extremely consistent with her message, and it is not a true complementarianism. It is extreme egalitarianism.

However, true women of the word know that the Bible is the only truly transcendent way to view anything, especially roles outlined for us from His word.  In Wilkin’s 2017 Acts 29 Advance church planting video linked above, what gets a lot more stupid, is when you try to force a biological eisegetical menstruation narrative to fit your agenda that women need to be visibly leading or else they’re not validated.

2. The second point I’d like to make regarding this menstruation video, is that if we are going to go the biological route, Mrs Wilkin is in error here also. She said men only bleed when something is wrong. (as if our menstruation gives us an extra advantage or something). Women’s periods DO show something is wrong. When a woman doesn’t conceive that month, the menstruation is the waste material of the uterus, unneeded and unused, dispensed with. Excreted like other water material. Let us not forget that women in Bible times were considered ritually unclean during menstruation. (Leviticus 15:19-30; Leviticus 20:18; Ezekiel 36:17; Isaiah 64:6).

3. Thirdly, Wilkin went on to discuss how women respond to the Gospel differently because we are ‘wrapped in female flesh.’ She makes women seem special because we have female flesh. However, the only thing our flesh tells us is that it is sinfully evil, and that we need something, someone to surpass it, transcend it, outside of us, to save it. Her stance reduces the power of the Holy Spirit to transcend gender, overcome sin, and renew flesh from death to life. She does not talk about this power. She talks only of biology.

3b. Viewing the Gospel through a lens of particular identity is a false vision. We are all sinful, we are all wrapped in flesh, we are all one in our evil depravity. Preaching that it is necessary to see the Gospel uniquely “as people wrapped in flesh of woman” tells us that the Holy Spirit does not and cannot uniquely apply the Gospel truths to our mind and heart. Not only does He, irrespective of socioeconomic standing, geographic location, origin, gender, or age, He DOES so. This is because He is transcendent, something feminist evangelicals like Wilkin apparently forget. She is preaching through human eyes, not Him via His word.

Wilkins’ solution to what she sees as a widespread issue within the church, that men have not related well to women in the church, nor used women well in their desire to serve, is to raise women to visible leadership positions. This is an egalitarian stance, and one that usually has feminism underlying it.

Other Quotes from the Video

Other Jen Wilkin quotes from the hour-long lesson follow. In the talks and videos I listened to, this same message was repeated since the earliest video I watched, 2014. She is not espousing her newly adopted stance nor is it an off day. It is foundationally who Jen Wilkin is and what she teaches.

One of the most important things that I do when I travel around the country and teach the Bible is actually not that I teach the Bible. It’s that I show up looking like a woman and teach the Bible. Because a lot of women see only men do that.” (32:55).

This was the saddest quote of all to me. It is a privilege to teach the word of God to women. It is a task which teachers will be judged more strictly. (James 3:1). It is a gift to handle His word and a delight to see women come alive with love for the Savior and understanding of who He is. However, by her own words, this goal is not primary in Wilkin’s life. It is first being a woman and by teaching, demonstrating to other women that Bible teaching is possible, even necessary. This is an agenda-driven life, it is not biblical submission to a calling or to His word. It’s quite telling that it is more important to her that women see her teaching the Bible than it is to teach the Bible.

And just where does Jen Wilkin teach? To men. More on this below.

“So you know how they perceive themselves as students of the Bible? They don’t. They see that as a passive learning environment taking in only what someone else says the text says. We need women in visible leadership places.” (33:15).

In the main, women are supposed to be passive learners, listening and learning quietly (what Wilkin means by ‘passive’). See this verse: Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. (1 Timothy 2:11). See this verse: women are to be silent in the churches. They are not permitted to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. (1 Corinthians 14:34).

Wilkin attributes women’s lack of discernment and willingness to follow untrustworthy female voices outside the church in various book authors, blogs, and speakers, to the fact that they don’t see women in “visible leadership” inside the churches. (paraphrased 34:30-35:10). If you think I’m overusing the phrase “visible leadership” just know that it’s about 10X fewer times than Wilkin used it in her talk.

“There should be a complementarian practice that so demonstrates the equal value and worth of women that no one questions it. If Deborah or Huldah were members of your church, would she have a place to exercise her gifts?”(36:30).

Lydia’s hospitality isn’t mentioned, Dorcas’ charity isn’t mentioned, Joanna and Susannah’s generosity in financial support isn’t mentioned, Anna’s single-minded devotion to Jesus isn’t mentioned, Lois and Eunice’s raising young Timothy isn’t mentioned. In Wilkin’s world, only the starring roles where service is visibly seen count for anything. Watch out, it’s feminists who usually misuse Deborah and Huldah as examples of ‘women power’.

“Because most churches are almost entirely male led, it is very hard for women to find advocacy and mentorship.” (36:40) Here, Wilkin makes a straw man argument. Of course churches are male led. They are supposed to be. Yes, some churches have not done a good job of using women in their giftings. But they have just as much failed to raise up good men in their giftings. Female mentorship is supposed to be women to women. (Titus 2:3). Wilkin says over and over the only meaningful gift is teaching or visible leadership, thus adding to the very problem she decries: lady, if you’re not leading, you don’t matter.

Hiring women to be on staff is one way to ensure the spiritual health of women. (paraphrased 37:50). “Women volunteer and volunteer and volunteer at the rate of a full time job until Jesus returns. Will you dignify her work? Will you show that the worker is worthy of her wages? Or will you presume upon her availability to do so? You know you have women in your church who work 3X as hard as the men that you are paying. When are you going to dignify that? And are you going to pay her less because she is not the primary breadwinner in her family?” (38:00-39:00).

Feminist talk. Yes, women have been taken advantage of for their willingness to volunteer. And men have not been taken to task enough for failing to work as much as they should in the home and in the church. But we don’t serve to get paid, that is not the goal. Glorifying God is.

I never heard Jen Wilkin say once that women submitting to their God-given roles is how to glorify God. I never heard her even say the word submit, and the only time I heard her discuss authority is to downplay it below.

What I want us to have is a recaptured vision of the church as a family of God. Too often within our churches we may speak the language of family but we operate as a single parent authoritarian home where the father makes the rules and the children all get in line.” (39:40).

Jen gives complementarianism a bad name here. The church and the home are male led, males are in authority. It’s God’s design. Jesus is the single parent authority who makes the rules. He is the authoritative Head of the church and his men are leaders and teachers of it. I never heard Jen Wilkin praise God for His hierarchical order once, not once. Instead she generalizes, goes to worst case, uses biology and culture as a foundation, and pushes for women to be paid teaching staff as the main validation of their gifting and even their being. She talks of men and women being “the same.”

“Jen has given us a gift today by coming into an environment of mostly males, male pastors at that, and speaking so honestly. Thank you.”(42:00) Acts 29 Advance the Church conference male host (I’m sorry, I could not find his name). Confirmation that Jen Wilkin teaches men.

Is Jen Wilkin a Complementarian?

Over and over Wilkin proclaims her complementarianism. It’s one thing to say you are something, another to live it. Does Jen live it? No. More in the next part.

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Part 1

Part 3

Follow up “Redefining the Story of Rahab”

Complementarianism defined

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Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.