Book Review: Embracing Complementarianism, by Graham Beynon & Jane Tooher


Graham Beynon and Jane Tooher, Embracing Complementarianism: Turning Biblical Convictions into Positive Church Culture. Good Book Company, 2022. 176 pages.


Embracing Complementarianism by Graham Beynon and Jane Tooher offers a refreshing breeze of timely wisdom to the hot debate about gender distinctions. In an age that has never been more confused on the topic, this book holds forth a powerful, biblical vision for church leaders to unashamedly embrace complementarity and intentionally create a church culture that celebrates God’s good design for men and women.

We found both the content and tone of this book to be kind, helpful, and saturated with sweet drippings of Scripture that encourage the reader to embrace God’s complementarian design, not apologize for it. This is especially poignant when our Twitter feeds are full of recent denominational banter about what women can and cannot do in church.


The book focuses on creating a healthy culture of complementarianism. (Just so that we’re working from the same definition, complementarianism is the conviction that Scripture teaches men and women are equal in value, dignity, and worth, but differ in role and function within the church and home.) But to assume the book narrowly focuses on assigned roles would be to miss much of the point.

The authors present a comprehensive picture of the beauty of gender distinctives, arguing that God’s design for his creatures maximizes his glory and our joy in a way that one gender alone cannot do. It was God’s plan that man should not be alone. To fulfill God’s purposes for humanity, both male and female would be indispensable. Beynon and Tooher avoid reducing the conversation to mere dos and don’ts; instead, they hold out the goal of a church culture that celebrates male and female togetherness. The secret sauce in the book’s successful portrayal of a difficult doctrine is its gracious and kind tone.

Embracing Complementarity helpfully situates the conversation in full view of our modern culture, where gender distinctions are at best confused and at worst under full assault. An overemphasis on individuality and the need for individual expression has permeated culture to a Judges-era conviction that each one can do what is right in his own eyes.

But it isn’t only the outside world that has fumbled God’s design for men and women. Many Bible-believing churches have feebly attempted fidelity in a variety of unhelpful ways, such as unnecessarily separating ministries by genders instead of allowing them to complement one another, focusing solely on the boundary lines between genders, and overemphasizing an individual following his or her own ideas of serving God. Well-intentioned churches can therefore be misguided, unhelpful, or weak on the topic.

This book responds: “Imagine if God’s design for men and women wasn’t something you were reluctant to accept or a little embarrassed about—but something you delighted in” (12).


Beynon and Tooher begin their argument from these stated principles:

  1. We accept God’s Word as good, right, and authoritative.
  2. We read and apply the Bible within our own culture.
  3. We hold this as a secondary but important issue.
  4. We respect people’s conscience in application.

The book begins by providing the biblical framework of men and women as necessarily similar, yet distinct. The authors show creation’s mandate from Genesis 1–2 is for men and women to fulfill their work together yet not in the exact same ways. They impress the need to recognize equality and yet honor differences to fully grasp the complementarian relationship God intends. To quote, “We must therefore long for our churches to be places that embody such equality. We say ‘embody’ here because it is not enough to say we’re equal or even to recognize that we’re equal; it must be lived out in our life together, embodied in reality” (45).

But even in recognizing differences, error can creep in. The authors outline both broad and narrow complementarianism and explain how Christians exegete various passages and apply the same conviction in different ways. As a result, the book offers a full-orbed picture of complementarity today in the church. They do not hesitate to criticize positions when warranted, but they do so charitably.

One particularly striking example was a brief discussion of the unconscious bias some men hold that women are inferior to men. Beynon shared that he once went ahead with a meeting for small-group leaders even though a couple female leaders couldn’t make it. “Then someone helpfully asked if I would have done the same if a few of the male leaders hadn’t been able to be there,” he said. “I’m honestly not sure what the answer would have been—but it was a penetrating and challenging question” (46–47).

Tooher gave another example of male leaders being thanked publicly on a mission trip, while women co-leaders went unacknowledged. They write, “In the church . . . we should surely have the humility to know we may be biased and not see it, and the generosity to think well of people rather than assuming the worst” (48).

Chapter 5, “The Goodness of Men Leading in Ministry,” was particularly refreshing. They hold out a vision of qualified men taking responsibility and exercising good authority, which in turn allows those under their authority to flourish and use their gifts fully.

The book offers a model for ministry where both genders cooperate and respect one another for their unique contributions. The authors provide a roadmap to creating a culture where complementarity is embraced: by teaching the congregation what the Bible has to say about gender, by modeling respect for one another, by providing opportunities for both men and women to use their gifts to serve, and by creating a culture of mutual support and encouragement.


Embracing Complementarianism is a helpful resource that should be read by pastors and lay leaders, both men and women in the church.

As women, we were deeply encouraged by how Tooher and Beynon thread the needle on this delicate issue. It’s well-written, easy to read, exegetically careful, and practically balanced.

Embracing Complementarianism is a course-correction for churches and leaders. The book made us delight in the roles given to us by God and long for churches around the world to embrace a culture that celebrates God’s good plan for men and women.

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For more on complementarianism, listen to Wheeler, Manley, Keri Folmar, and special guests discuss the topic in Season 3 of their podcast Priscilla Talk (Episodes 23–27).

Erin Wheeler

Erin Wheeler lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas, with her husband Brad and their four children. She is a member of University Baptist Church, where Brad serves as Senior Pastor.

Jenny Manley

Jenny Manley is a mother and pastor's wife in the Middle East, where she also spends time writing, podcasting, and serving the persecuted church.

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