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Biblical Womanhood, the SBC, and Alaska
Three things on my mind this week…
Hi friends. Sorry this newsletter is a few days late this week, but I’ve been on an Alaskan cruise and it was GLORIOUS!! At the advice of my therapist, I kept my phone off for almost the entire trip and it helped me stay present for the adventure. We had stops in Sitka, Icy Point Strait, Juneau and Victoria Island, BC. It really was the perfect combination of fun things to do combined with plenty of downtime to relax and rejuvenate. Here is a pic from our cabin balcony on the ship:
Stunning, right?? If you want to see more pics, go to my Facebook page where I did a full photo dump. The pictures really don’t do it justice, so if you have a chance to cruise to Alaska… GO!! It is truly breathtaking up there! 10/10!
Now on to other news…
THE SBC AND WOMEN’S RIGHT TO LEAD
The week before we left on our vacation, the Southern Baptists had their annual convention where they held firm in their decision to oust churches who allowed women to be part of their pastoral teams. Mega church Saddleback, founded by best-selling author and pastor Rick Warren is one of those churches. Warren showed up at the SBC convention and made an impassioned plea for Saddleback to be reinstated as part of the SBC. Warren even wrote an open letter to Southern Baptists, as well as an Apology To Christian Women in a series of tweets, explaining how after much deeper study on scriptures surrounding women leadership, he had gotten it all wrong for years. (Thank you, Mr. Warren)
Fern Creek Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky was another church that also appealed its ouster for having a woman pastor, the Rev. Linda Barnes Popham. Popham spoke before Warren, explaining that some SBC churches held views on Calvinism and other doctrine that she didn’t agree with but she would never vote to disaffiliate them. “I don’t agree with you (on those issues), but I don’t want to kick you out, because you are a part of the family, and we at Fern Creek Baptist Church love you very much,” she said. “We want to partner together to share the good news to the ends of the earth.”
However, Albert Mohler Jr., President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, spoke in favor of the ouster and said that allowing women to step into the role of pastor “is an issue of fundamental biblical authority that does violate both the doctrine and the order of the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Hmmmm….“Fundamental Biblical Authority”? According to whose interpretation of that??? The SBC’s, I guess. Anyway….
Apparently most of the delegates agreed with Mr. Mohler and like I mentioned earlier, they overwhelmingly voted to disaffiliate all eight churches who had women pastors now on staff. They even took it a step further and passed a new amendment stating churches must have “only men as any kind of pastor or elder as qualified by Scripture”.
I think they mean “as qualified by our interpretation of Scripture”. — There. I fixed it for them. Wink. ;-)
This makes me sad, but not surprised. The SBC has been plagued with sexual abuse scandals over the last several years, and along with it, a history of protecting itself, rather than protecting its victims. It feels like the system has become bigger and more important than the people. I know many, many lovely Southern Baptists, but the SBC needs to take a long hard look at why they are more concerned with preventing Godly women to teach than they are about the damage men in leadership have done to literally thousands of women and children. It is deeply troubling to me. When you hear so many victims asking for justice and the leaders at the SBC continue to ignore them, it just shows their lack of care and concern for those women and children. This patriarchal hierarchy sets the tone for ignoring women’s pleas for help within their system. I hope and pray that changes somehow, someday.
You may be like me and wonder why these churches would fight so hard to stay as a part of an organization that doesn’t want them in their fold anyway. I did a little research and apparently churches get benefits like retirement packages for their ministers, and healthcare coverage for their employees when they are a part of the SBC. Benefits that smaller churches could not possibly afford to offer their ministers and staff without the SBC backing. Obviously a Mega church like Saddleback doesn’t need their help, but Warren said he was fighting this fight for the smaller congregations. If a small church felt it was right to ordain a female minister, but couldn’t do so out of fear that they would lose their standing and financial help from the SBC, well - that is obviously problematic. Once again, this is a problem with churches being run like businesses. The money talks and has the power. People suffer when high control religions use bad theology to wield power over their congregations. And if there is anything that is clear to me these days, people are definitely suffering.
How can things change in these systems? I don’t have the answer. But it’s one reason I have removed myself from them for now. I can’t stay in a system that is supposed to heal people and yet is hurting and limiting so many. There has to be a better way.
On a related topic, I’ve seen a lot of discussion about what Biblical Womanhood is.
What is “Biblical Womanhood”???
Here is the definition on Wikipedia:
“Biblical womanhood is a movement within evangelical Christianity, particularly in the United States. It adopts a complementarian or patriarchal view of gender roles, and emphasizes passages such as Titus 2 in describing what Christian women should be like.”
You hear a lot of fundamentalists use the word “complementarian” more these days instead of the previously used term “patriarchal”. Remember how a few years ago Comcast got such negative press about how bad they were as a company (they were even doing skits about it on SNL) - so suddenly they changed their name to Xfinity—yet they were still really Comcast? Like it would fool us all into thinking it was a better company just because the name changed! LOL Anyway, that’s what fundamentalists did with changing patriarchal to complementarian. It’s the exact same thing - just new “branding”.
Several years ago, I was an active member of a large church here in Nashville and had been serving as part of the worship team for quite awhile. At one point, I was asked to take on a role as one of the Worship Leaders at the church. I was honored to be asked, but after considering it, I declined. Why? Because at that time I still believed that as a woman it was wrong for me to lead men in worship. I was taught in both Southern Baptist and Churches of Christ that I attended in my younger days that women could not lead or teach males over the age of 13. Women could be on stage in supporting roles only. I still hadn’t overcome the patriarchal hierarchy that had been embedded into my spiritual belief system so I turned down the offer to lead. I didn’t believe women had the right to lead in God’s Kingdom. Sad.
All that changed for me once I started studying and researching where that theology came from. Just like when I did a deeper dive into scriptures that seemed to condemn homosexuality, I found that the patriarchal hierarchy was unsupported as well. I don’t have the space here to walk you through all the steps I took to change my mind about what the Bible says about women leadership, but if you are interested in doing some of your own work around this topic, I’m going to list several resources for you at the bottom of this newsletter that you might find helpful.
I love this quote from Josh Scott. Just because someone holds a “traditional” view, does not make it correct. As Christians, we are called to find the truth in all things. And sometimes that means we have to be brave enough to challenge the traditional status quo. If something is true, it will hold water, even under the pressure of challenge. We shouldn’t be afraid to question what we have been taught. I’ve spent the last few years in “Questionville”, and trust me… the things that are true stay true.
My beliefs haven’t changed over the last few years because I suddenly decided to reject the authority of Scripture. My views changed because when I did more thorough exegesis on the Bible passages that I was told established gender hiearchy, I learned something new!
Some of you may be wondering what “exegesis” is. Well, I only learned that word a few years ago. I was reading a book by Francis Chan (I believe it was “Crazy Love”) and he explained that there were two ways of reading scriptures - either by exegesis or eisegesis. At the most basic level, exegesis relies on digging down to the original context of a biblical passage to determine that passage's meaning, while eisegesis uses things other than the original context of a biblical passage to determine that passage's meaning. In other words, eisegesis is when you pull out a scripture to back up an idea or belief that you already have. For instance, eisegesis was used for years to declare that slavery was ok. “Look! The Bible says here that slaves should obey their masters, so that must mean it’s fine for us to have slaves!” - WRONG. I also believe eisegesis has been used to prevent women from using their God-given talents to preach the gospel of Christ.
At this point, I feel the need to address the topic of biblical inerrancy. We’ve all heard the words, “Well the Bible says so, so it must be true!” Well, the Bible may be inerrant, but man’s interpretation of the bible isn’t. Therein lies the problem. We all have lenses through which we read the Bible. Those lenses can lead us astray. They can cause us to rely on the above mentioned eisegesis, which is never a good way to use scripture. Even if you believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, I think we have to take into account the errant translations of man.
I know some of you won’t agree with me on this, and I understand why. I used to feel the same way. However, if you are remotely open to the possibility that women’s roles in the church should be re-examined, I would simply ask you to dive into a few of the resources I list below and start praying over it. If many others have taken the time to study these scriptures and have come to a different conclusion, maybe… just maybe… you might find validity in what they have seen with new eyes on the subject. I’m so very grateful to the men and women who have put their findings together to help us all learn more about this, either in blogs, books, podcasts or sermons. For me, those include but are not limited to: Beth Allison Barr, Philip B. Payne, Sarah Bessey, David Perez, Rachel Held Evans, Josh Scott, Sheila Gregoire, Sarah Bessey, Brian McLaren, David Hayward, Nadia Bolz-Weber Pete Enns, and of course, Beth Moore.
I’ll just close by saying that doing this kind of work is hard. It would be much easier to just keep believing what I was told and not question it. As a white, cis-gender, southern woman, I was in a pretty comfortable religious bubble for years. But several years ago, the bubble burst and there was no going back in for me. Once you see these things, you can’t unsee, and trust me, there have been times I have wished I could go back because it was pretty dang comfy in those circles. Challenging what you are being taught is not comfy. But it’s the only way I know to go forward and salvage my spirituality. Now I’m beyond salvaging and I’m rebuilding a more beautiful spiritual life than I’ve ever had. I appreciate all of you who are on similar journeys and reach out to me with encouragement and support. It means so much. I only hope I can offer that back to you, here on this blog and in person if I can.
What do you think about the SBC decision or about women’s roles in the church??… or about Alaska?!?! Ha! I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments! Thank you!
Love ya’ll…. M
In her book, The Making of Biblical Womanhood, author Beth Allison Barr puts together a very compelling case on how patriarchy has formed the church’s stance on women’s roles in church. Her chapter on how Paul has been deeply misunderstood in his stance on women in ministry is worth the price of the book alone.
I’m currently reading The Bible vs Biblical Womanhood: How God’s Word Consistently Affirms Gender Equality by Philip B. Payne. He has surely done his research. I highly recommend.
Wild and Holy Women of the Bible: Prophets, Warriors, Harlots and Healers by my friend Sherry Cothran is a great book, highlighting some of the inspiring but overlooked women in the Bible. Many of their roles challenged the patriarchal views of society even back in Biblical times.
The Holy Post, Episode 569 w/ Nijay Gupta, author of Tell Her Story: How Women Taught, Led, and Ministered in the Early Church — They also break down the documentary Shiny Happy People on this episode. It’s a goooood one!
The Holy Post, Episode 457 w/Beth Allison Barr. Beth talks with Skye Jethani about her book, The Making of Biblical Womanhood, and they talk about complementarianism, biblical inerrancy and more. Ms. Barr knows her stuff.
Theology in the Raw, Season 2, Episode 1 - From Complementarian to Egalitarian: A Conversation about Women in Leadership w/Dr. Nijay Gupta
The Bible For Normal People, Episode 231 - Pushing Back Against Biblical Womanhood - hosted by Pete Enns and Jared Byas, special guest Beth Allison Barr
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