June 18, 2020

Revivification of Spin

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Big word “revivification”. Big word, easy to understand.  It means revive.  Bring something back from the dead.

And that’s exactly what the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals podcast Mortification of Spin has done, it has revived the very thing it always proudly announced it was killing: Spin.

Spin. Ah spin, the beloved refuge of politicians and rogue businessmen. The podcast was against all things spin, calling out bulldust and hypocrisy left, right and centre.

And now? The Alliance has decided that it has had to spin – at a washing machine cycle level of spin – the reason for cutting its female presenter and writer from the podcast. And in doing so it’s lost at least one listener (me), and I suspect a heap of others.

The podcast title of course is a “spin” on the John Owen classic book The Mortification of Sin, about how the Christian puts sin to death. It’s a staple read for conservative and Reformed Christians of a bookish ilk.

The podcast is hosted by crusty Carl Trueman – a church history professor from England now living in the US; Todd Pruitt, an erstwhile Presbyterian pastor who, in my opinion is something of a lightweight and acts as the Karl Pilkington to Trueman’s Ricky Gervais.

And then the magnificently named, and well thought out (and widely published) Aimee Byrd.  Her first book Housewife Theologian was all about how being a housewife can indeed by theologically rich and deep in terms of vocation.  Good on her for writing it.

And how cute eh? Todd and Carl were always referring her to the Housewife Theologian, as if there wasn’t some intended irony in the title.  And they also played up the big joke of her womanhood, a joke she kinda played along with.

Though I would have to say they all laughed just a leeetle bit too much and too long about the woman jokes. It reminded me a bit of that scene from Goodfellas.

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Laugh, laugh, laugh.  My how we laughed. They all laughed because as Aimee knew, these two blokes had her back.  Had her back in a blokes’ world. A blokes’ theological world within a blokes’ world.

Well no one’s laughing now. No one is having a giggle over the fact that Aimee Byrd, Housewife Theologian, is being told to go and do the dishes like a quiet little thing.

Aimee’s crime? To write a book called Recovering From Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. 

Well, actually that’s not her crime. The book itself is a conservative – and complementarian – response to the book Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Super savvy trick there: add one word and you get a totally different book!

But not a totally different theology.  Aimee’s aim was to gently call out some of its blind spots and excesses. All from a complementarian perspective among complementarian brothers and sisters. Right?


Her real crime was to refuse to answer nine questions – nine questions from unnamed askers of questions (though I have since found out there was a named conduit through whom these came) – addressing their concerns in her book. Aimee herself has said that the book was not intended to answer everything about sex and gender.  But don’t let me speak for her, go read her response here.

Amazon’s promo of the book says this:

While evangelicalism dukes it out about who can be church leaders, the rest of the 98% of us need to be well equipped to see where we fit in God’s household and why that matters. Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is a resource to help church leaders improve the culture of their church and disciple men and women in their flock to read, understand, and apply Scripture to our lives in the church. Until both men and women grow in their understanding of their relationship to Scripture, there will continue to be tension between the sexes in the church. Church leaders need to be engaged in thoughtful critique of the biblical manhood and womanhood movement and the effects it has on their congregation.

The key seems to be the 98% thing.   As someone involved in paid ministry, it’s easy to get lost in the professional argument.  Aimee pitched it elsewhere, bringing in the rest of us and our roles.  Here is what Aimee has said in response:

While church officers have a distinct authorization in teaching and ruling, brothers and sisters who hear the word of our Groom are authorized as a priesthood under this ministry to testify Jesus to one another. As integral wholes, the voices of men and women together are fruitful and dynamic. What story behind the story might your church be missing by reducing a woman’s contribution to a hierarchal list? What corresponding strength do your women have to offer?”

Am I being too generous with Aimee on her position? Is she trying to smuggle in egalitarianism for the other two per cent who are in paid ministry? Surely that would be the charge, if there is one.

Now after a nice little private dust up, in which Aimee gets carpeted, the Directors of the Alliance organises her to leave for and their statement says they “will strive to be gracious upon [her] exit.” 

I mean, why start now? If you haven’t got grace in the bank you can’t take it out for a cash payment.  Sounds like you’re going to have to strive fairly hard.

Cue vested interest:  I was quoted on the Mortification of Spin podcast by Aimee, over the whole The Crowded House abuse scandal, and Julie Roys, a tireless and fearless seeker of truth has been on that show, exposing bullying behaviour across the church among the likes of James MacDonald and Mark Driscoll.  Why would the likes of Roy – who has been bullied and abused by graceless men ever go on that podcast again?

And how, down the years, Todd and Carl gasped in horror at the outrageous hypocrisy of those unaligned and, – only slightly confessing when it suited -, evangelical types whose theology flopped around in the breeze.

Unlike them. Unlike the pair of them, oh and The Housewife Theologian.  Todd and Carl were made of sterner stuff and would never pull out spin to justify a bad decision.  After all, they belonged to confessing churches that had a safety brake on all that sort of stuff.

Except this time.  When told of the decision to axe Aimee, a comment by ACE (since deleted) said that they were “at ease” to continue the show. At ease?  What does that even mean?

And I feel at ease to never listen to it again. Completely at ease.

It’s hard enough being a complementarian these days, without this sort of stunt. It makes me wonder what sort of patriarchy those deep in the US heartland are creating. And what are they creating it for? And who are they creating it for.

I have a daughter studying theology. When she pushes back on the inconsistencies of this, do I point her to spin? Or do I point her to the sin of what has happened to Aimee Byrd?

I also have a wife who is health professional, who neither considers herself a housewife nor a theologian, but has a practice that every year sees plenty of people including many suffering from the juggle of keeping the ministry machine going. Ministry suffers from sin, but it sure suffers from spin too.

Doubtless I am giving my initial reaction, and there will be some sober, dependable types out there who will now proceed to school me on “the real problem with Aimee’s book”. that I clearly can’t see.

Well, given the scholarly Carl, and the eager Todd couldn’t see a problem with it, up until now that is, you’re going to have to be as scholarly as Calvin, and as eager as that Labrador puppy the neighbours just bought that always pees on my lawn, to convince me that this was not simply a hatchet job from hyper-complementarian men who have no skin, but plenty of spin – and sin – in the game.

Do I feel at ease like Carl and Todd do?  I certainly do not!  It’s pure and simple spin and I hope their podcast withers and falls off the vine. It feels like listening to Queen without Freddie Mercury.  I for one, won’t be listening.

And do you hear that noise? That rustling and scratching sound?  It’s the sound of the Spin Zombie being revived and digging itself out of its grave.

Here’s an idea lads, confess your spin to one another, – and to Aimee publicly – and so fulfil the law of Christ.




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