What does complementarian ministry look like? We chat to Lisa Boyd and Bruce Morrison of St John’s Cathedral, Parramatta, about the ins-and-outs and ups-and-downs of working as a team.
Who’s on the team at St Johns and what is Lisa’s role within that?
Bruce: We have a diverse staff team! Ken Tang oversees our Chinese ministry; Michael Safari our Persian ministry; and David Yung (David Ould from 2018), Ronaldo Sanchez, Lisa Boyd and I oversee our the English-speaking congregations. Ronaldo also oversees our youth and Deanne Hamwi is our children's minister. We have four administrative and support staff.
Lisa: My primary role is training and equipping the women of the English-speaking congregations, mainly through one-to-one discipleship, Bible study groups and the public teaching of Scripture at larger gatherings of women. I’m also involved in a ministry to refugee mothers and their children, caring for people in crisis situations, and contributing to staff discussions about day-to-day parish life and broader issues of vision and mission.
Bruce, you appointed Lisa in 2010. Were you looking to employ a woman in particular?
Yes, certainly. I knew that a woman would bring a different perspective on all manner of issues. There are also various situations where women need another woman's help and counsel. Most of all, we needed someone who could teach and train women as disciples of Jesus, equip them for ministry, and provide a model of attractive and effective complementarian ministry.
What benefits have you seen from having men and women working together on staff in a complementarian way?
Bruce: As well as Lisa, we have three female support staff and a female children's worker. They keep us men grounded in all manner of issues—not just issues that particularly relate to women. I think it’s fair to say everyone's view is respected quite irrespective of gender. Lisa and the other women bring their own experience and maturity to the discussion, irrespective of the topic. Their 'femaleness' is just one aspect that adds to the richness of their contribution. Another significant benefit is that the congregations see complementarian relationships worked out in practice with genuine mutual respect and Christian love. That commends the biblical model. Consequently, over a period of time many tensions have been relaxed. Nobody has anything to prove. Men and women can just work together for the gospel.
Lisa: At St John’s, there’s always been an expectation that I’ll be involved in planning and direction decisions. There’s great benefit to this, not so much because I particularly advocate for women, but more because I and the other women on staff offer female perspectives on issues that arise. God has wired men and women differently and so there is much to be gained from listening to one another and appreciating the nuanced ways in which we‘re different.
Another benefit is that the work of teaching is shared between men and women. In Titus 2, Paul instructs older women to take responsibility for teaching younger women. It is a great blessing that I can be set aside to teach and train women in a way that would be very difficult for my male counterparts to do due to relational and time constraints.
What potential difficulties are there?
Bruce: In a complementarian ministry, a female won't pastor a congregation and usually they won't head up one part of a portfolio style of ministry. If you didn’t think there was real value in teaching and training women, and in having men and women work together in gospel ministry, this might seem like a significant opportunity cost. But we think the value of these things make it worth structuring our ministry team this way. Also, a female staff member may absorb relational tensions in a way that men may not, and that can require sensitivity from the senior pastor. Finally, in our case, Lisa has been around longer than some of the male pastors. In a sense, she is senior to them. And yet regarding her involvement in the congregations, she works under their oversight. That dynamic needs to be understood and care needs to be taken that all ministry staff are respected appropriately.
Lisa: Another potential difficulty is that since ministry life is busy, we don’t always have sufficient time to reflect creatively about how we might practically express our complementarity. In the midst of busyness, we can sometimes err on the side of conservatism, not making the most of our women because we don’t have time to think hard about how to utilise their gifts.
Bruce, when have you particularly appreciated having Lisa on board?
The question here is where to start! So much ministry at St John's (and in other churches) has come out of one-to-one discipleship time with Lisa. I don't believe a male person could have done that with these women. There have also been numerous occasions where women have come to us in difficulty, often concerning their marriages, and Lisa has assisted in ways that would have been very difficult, if not impossible, for me. Neither could I have ever gotten 50 to 100 women reading the Bible together in pairs. I just wish I could achieve that with the men! But one thing I've appreciated most has been the way that Lisa has lifted the view of women's ministry so that there’s an expectation of being challenged by the Scriptures to serve Christ.
Lisa, what have you particularly appreciated about working with Bruce?
Early on, Bruce expressed that he wanted the women’s ministry to be an integral part of church life. Rather than being a niche group, relatively independent of the main ministry, he wanted it to be a training ground for women to prepare them to serve in the church and beyond. This has been a great encouragement and has shaped my approach, making it less event-based and more discipleship driven.
Another thing I’ve really appreciated about Bruce is his genuine delight in celebrating the gifts God has given those around him. It’s one of the main reasons he’s such a good leader—his strong gospel focus is unimpeded by ego. He actively seeks out men and women who have strengths in areas that he may not, and equips and encourages them to excel.
Our thanks to the ACR online for their partnership in releasing this article.
Bruce Morrison and Lisa Boyd are part of the team at St John’s Anglican Cathedral in Parramatta, Sydney. Bruce is the Senior Minister and Lisa is an Associate Minister.