*** DEBUG END ***

Reflections on gender complementarity

10 May 2013


From the Revd Martin Jewitt

Sir, - I read the Very Revd Dr Jane Shaw's article on sexual difference and gender complementarity (Comment, 26 April) with interest. Clearly, it is true that these concepts have been "imbued with political ideology from the beginning" and "have always been specific to context, and always will be".

In those observations, she retreats somewhat from her overstatements that these are "modern concepts, emerging in particular political and social circumstances in the West".

There is an arrogance in the tone of this article in its appeal to "real education" (calling into question the education of those who disagree) and what "historians of medicine have convincingly shown" (over-confidence in scientific evidence that may well be scientifically challenged). This reflects the arrogance that is pervading the difficult and sensitive debates about sexuality in process at the moment.

Dr Shaw does concede that there are some senses in which "sexual difference is true," but the article deals only with the ways in which this truth has been misused. It has to be true, at least biologically. Psychologically, the most important time of our lives for our survival is when our future depends on our mothers' carrying us in their wombs, and this must surely make an enormous diffence to how women understand the gift of life.

So, how do we deal with difference in relations between men and women, both generally and intimately? We either quarrel or we complement one another.

"Gender complementarity" may be a phrase that "our ancestors would barely have recognised", but I fail to believe that there is any human culture in which it has not been a factor in some way. Yes, it does appear in the Hebrew scriptures, not only in Genesis 2, but also in Genesis 1. When I have preached about it, it has not been to "blend it with old ideas about the subordination of women".

I am sure Dr Shaw is right in suggesting that "we need a history of marriage" in order to understand the abuses throughout history which have degraded women and corrupted men, and how the truths of sexual difference and gender complementarity have been misused to further those abuses; but let us not invent new myths that deny self-evident truths.

12 Abbott Road, Folkestone
Kent CT20 1NG

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Letters to the editor

Letters for publication should be sent to letters@churchtimes.co.uk.

Letters should be exclusive to the Church Times, and include a full postal address. Your name and address will appear below your letter unless requested otherwise.

Forthcoming Events

Green Church Awards

Closing date: 30 June 2024

Read more details about the awards


Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

tickets available



Festival of Faith and Literature

28 February - 2 March 2025

The festival programme is soon to be announced sign up to our newsletter to stay informed about all festival news.

Festival website


ViSIt our Events page for upcoming and past events 

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)