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Monday, May 7, 2018

Supporting Beth Moore

Well, friends, not to chase another rabbit, but after my last post about the troubling statements by a seminary President down in Texas, Southern Baptist Bible teacher, Beth Moore, wrote a very telling blog, and I just can’t let it go without adding my comments.

Click Beth's name for the link to the blog, if you would like to read it yourself.

My first experience with Beth’s teachings was years ago, when some friends and I used one of her books in a small group Bible study.  There was good material in it, but I was also aware that there was some lack in her comments regarding Greek usage.  Reading her blog, I now have a better sense of WHY that was lacking, which was that she had to pursue her learning on her own, since within her denomination there were not women being taught, apparently, at the seminaries.  I know that a few years ago, when the Southern Baptists split and a new group called “Cooperative Baptists” arose, the role of women was one of the key issues that the Cooperatives were protesting. 

I find it odd that Beth was unable to attend a seminary if she wanted to, as one of my dear friends (now deceased) actually graduated from Louisville Southern Baptist Seminary way back in the early 1900’s!  I want to offer some kudos to Beth for not remaining silent, but daring to challenge the Southern Baptist (and other ultra-conservative) groups for their attitude about women. 

My denomination, American Baptists, have ordained women for many years and have many ordained women in the denomination….although there is still progress to be made in terms of whether or not some of our churches are open to their leadership.  But many churches are supportive of women in ministry.  

In fact, one of the things that impressed me when I first came to the church I currently serve was that their board of deacons includes both men and women, which is very scriptural if you examine the texts carefully.  

Beth points out the various women who are honored throughout the New Testament, but there are others.  Some of the ultra-conservative churches interpret the gift of prophecy to mean preaching, which would be problematic for them if they read their New Testament, because the book of Acts describes four daughters of Philip who were prophets and quotes a promise in chapter 2 that announces that both sons and daughters would prophesy when the Holy Spirit comes!  In Luke, Anna is listed as a prophet, and the Old Testament has a number of women described as prophets as well.  I don’t know how someone reconciles not allowing women to attend seminary or preach, and yet believe that preaching is the biblical role of a prophet…which was a role clearly practiced by women THROUGHOUT the scriptures!

Beth is correct that many in very conservative circles (but not all evangelicals or all conservative Christians) tend to treat women as second class, although don’t be so na├»ve as to think it only exists in conservative circles, or among Christians.  Making women second class citizens has not always been the case with the Christian church, despite claims to the contrary.  In fact, one of the hallmarks of the New Testament and early church was the opportunities afforded women and the elevation of their status in society!  However, that perspective has often been hijacked by men who refused to see women as equal partners created by God.  It is interesting to note that, in the Creation story, God is described as creating humans in his image…male AND female…because, of course, God is NEITHER, and both perhaps.  A close reading of scripture shows many places where not only masculine, but also feminine characteristics are used to describe God (such as his acting “as a hen gathers her chicks”).  It is also worth noting that it is a foolish mistake to take the grammatical masculine pronouns referring to God and apply male gender to God as a result!  Even Jesus’s use of the term Father is about relationship and roles within the Trinity, rather than gender.  God is far beyond what we know as male and female!

I am sure Beth will experience even more abuse now that she has spoken out, but I also believe that because she has had the courage to work within a system to help bring change, she has earned the respect that gives her the platform through which her speaking out carries much more weight than it would have earlier in her life and career.  At the same time, the truth of what she says should carry weight just on the merits.  As a white male, I am always troubled when other men denigrate women or treat them in abusive ways, because it negatively impacts the kind of friendships I am able to have with those women as well, and also creates a poor impression of the rest of us who happen to be Caucasian males.  (I feel the same way when I hear about racist white men, too.)

I would like to add one thing that Beth only alludes to in her blog.  In those environments where women are demeaned, devalued and denigrated, both abuse and divorce are higher frequency.  It is NOT a healthy way to live, for the men or for the women!  Beth is right to attribute it to a sinful attitude that leads to the way they interpret scripture, for people can twist scripture to justify almost anything if they try hard enough.  Even Satan twisted scripture’s meaning when he tempted Jesus. 

Beth, if they reject you down there, feel free to come join our churches in the ABC/USA…we aren’t perfect (and neither is anybody else), but we are a lot further down the road than what is happening in that environment.  But remember, as I said in my last blog, and I appreciated Beth pointing out, it is wrong to paint churches and denominations with a broad brush (or races or genders for that matter).  Beth recognizes that there are those who have treated her differently than the misguided people who call her heretical.  All too often, as the old saying goes, people throw out the baby with the bathwater.  I have always treasured a comment by Roger Breland of the musical group Truth, who many years ago said, “the church, with all of its problems, my friend, is still the best thing that ever happened to this old world.”  Education, feeding the hungry, fighting for abolition of slavery, caring for orphans and starting medical facilities are but a few of the many ways Christianity has impacted our world for the good, and we need to be able to not allow ourselves to become single issue critics. 

My prayers are with Beth as she takes her stand for something she should not even have to say in a church that is truly following the teachings of Christianity.  I encourage you to hold her in your prayers as well. 

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