This is the first article in a series on this topic. To read Part 2, click here. To read Part 3, click here.
The Call to Empower Women
The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is facing a critical turning point that revolves around the role of women in the church and denominational life. Recent comments have been made about “empowering” women in the SBC. Russell Moore (President of ERLC) tweeted on May 23, 2018 the following:
There would be no Southern Baptist Convention without Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong. We desperately need a resurgence of women’s voices and women’s leadership and women’s empowerment, again. It is way past time.
— Russell Moore (@drmoore) May 23, 2018
Russell Moore believes there needs to be a resurgence that involves a shift regarding how we both view the role of women in the convention along with a changing of the guards where women are appointed to positions of power. He appears to be in sync with J.D. Greear who is expected to be the next SBC President. Greear tweeted on May 5, 2018:
Thank you, Beth! Hoping that we are entering a new era where we in the complementarian world take all the Word of God seriously–not just the parts about distinction of roles but also re: the tearing down of all hierarchy & his gracious distribution of gifts to all his children!
— J.D. Greear (@jdgreear) May 5, 2018
The comments cause me to wonder what type of roles would “tear down the hierarchy” and constitute “empowerment.” Earlier, Phillip Bethancourt (Executive VP of ERLC) tweeted about “encouraging signs in the SBC since #MLK50Conference.” In his list was the appointment of the “first trustee chairwoman” at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Therefore, could choosing a woman for a position of authority that has been historically held only by men be an example of “empowering” women in roles that “tear down the hierarchy?” Amazingly, it took a short time for the discussion to move from the seminary trustee boardroom all the way to the top of the SBC leadership structure.
On June 2, 2018, Dwight McKissic, a Sr. Pastor and prominent voice in the SBC, posted on his Facebook page the following:
If I thought Beth Moore would accept the nomination or be agreeable to being nominated, because of her qualifications and the current context the SBC finds herself in… I would nominate her for SBC President. The SBC is a parachurch organization – not a church. Therefore, there is absolutely not one Bible verse, or SBC constitutional bylaws prohibitions, nor any BF&M 2000 prohibitions against a woman serving as SBC President. Tradition, sexism, fear and other non-biblical factors would probably prevent any woman… from being elected President of the SBC.
Not only was I shocked by his readiness to elect a woman as president, I was further stunned by the charge that any opposition would be rooted in “sexism” and other unbiblical reasons. However, I continued to see others who shared McKissic’s sentiment. Therefore, I tweeted out the following statement on June 4, 2018:
It’s likely that in a few years, complimentarianism will have lost all its meaning in the SBC. We already have @pastordmack & others suggesting @BethMooreLPM be nominated for President. I led my church out of BGCT when they did that & I’ll do same if SBC goes this route. #sbc18 https://t.co/M59A5wb81f
— Tom Buck (@TomBuck) June 4, 2018
I was amazed at the level of opposition to this statement. It is typical for SBC Presidents to both preach at the convention and at churches throughout their tenure. Surely, the SBC has not come to accepting women preaching to men. This position that had been normal in the SBC for 150 years was being publicly mocked and called “unhealthy.” What had transpired that would bring about this swift and radical change in the SBC in such a short time?
The Impetus Behind this Call
If one wants to understand the reason for the speed at which this discussion is moving, simply consider the fact that Beth Moore’s name was inserted into the conversation of “empowering” women. The aforementioned tweet of J.D. Greear was addressed specifically to Beth Moore in response to her article surrounding the accusations of abusive treatment of women in the SBC. There Moore gave her own story of the mistreatment she had experienced throughout the years.
(Let me be clear that any abusive treatment of women is abhorrent and has no place among Christians. What is important is our response to such abuse.)
Russell Moore’s tweet above was also responding to this situation. Both he and Greear believe a good response to this tragic revelation of abusive treatment of women should be the empowerment of women to high positions of leadership. In like fashion, Dwight McKissic suggested Beth Moore be nominated to the top of the leadership structure. In other words, the answer to the wickedness of oppressing women is to give them the highest positions of power and authority in denominational leadership.
Such an answer is completely out of step with the history of the Church since its founding in Acts 2. The historic view of the Church regarding the roles of women were not established to oppress women. In fact, women are greatly valued in Scripture and viewed as holding critical roles in the discipleship of the church to train younger women and children (Titus 2:1-10). The Church has always believed in what is today called “complementarianism,” which is the biblical idea that males and females are equal as they both bear the image of God, but they have differing complementary roles and responsibilities in marriage, family, and religious leadership. Therefore, the reason women are forbidden to teach or hold positions of authority over men is not that men are superior to women, but because God has not designed for women to function in such roles. Although this has been the historical position of the SBC, there is a redefinition taking place in order to broaden the umbrella.
The reality is that complementarianism is in the process of being redefined. J.D. Greear teaches that women can preach even in the church. He will likely be elected the next President of the SBC and has already called for “a new era” of complementarianism. I believe under the leadership of Russell Moore and J.D. Greear, this is the resurgence likely coming to the SBC.
What is ultimately important is what the Bible teaches on these matters. Does the Bible forbid a woman to teach and exercise authority over men in the home and local church? Would she be allowed to function in such a role in the denomination? Lord willing, I will answer that question tomorrow.