Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

The SBC Grows Even Stranger

Just when you thought some Christian groups couldn’t get any weirder and farther from biblical faith, come the highlights of this year’s Southern Baptist Convention (a denomination I once called my own).

  • Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Ft. Worth, TX will now offer a degree in homemaking for pastors’ wives. I know. This sounds like a fake news story for The Onion or a routine on Saturday Night Live. But truth is stranger than fiction and this one is stranger than snake shoes, folks.
  • The SBC continued its call for an exodus from public schools for homeschooling. They openly proclaimed a plan to bankrupt the public school system. If I comment on this, I will lose my temper and say something that will get me in trouble.  Let me just say how much I appreciated my own public school education, how much I love volunteering to assist the debate team and Quick Recall teams at my daughter’s public middle school, and how proud I am to belong to a congregation where the Youth Minister and Children’s Minister are also both public school teachers and that several other public school teachers are members.  If your congregation would like to help support our vital public schools, click here. Shutting up now, before I start cursing.
  • Showing the results of poor education, the SBC passed a resolution denying the science which shows  global warming/catastrophic climate change.  Be here next year when the SBC proclaims that the world is flat, the earth revolves around the sun, and 2 +2=5.
  • There is (shock, shock), another power struggle going on in the SBC.  It is not between progressives (or even centrists) and fundamentalists, as when progressive and centrist (i.e., traditional Baptists) in the SBC struggled during the ’80s and early ’90s to keep fundamentalists from taking over the Convention. They/we failed. But some conservatives in the SBC are struggling to keep the convention from becoming even more rightwing and cultic.  But, significantly, this group has not challenged the militaristic Bibles being published by the SBC’s publishing arm or other blatant forms of idolatry.  So, I see these “young reformers” as rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
  • Finally, in a show of nationalist idolatry, the SBC was addressed by a sitting U.S. President who thanked the SBC for partisan political support. (These are the heirs of martyrs for religious liberty and church-state separation?)  The SBC has previously been addressed by the non-churchgoing Ronald Reagan and the Episcopalian George H.W. Bush.  Significantly, no Baptist president, whether Truman, Carter, or Clinton, ever attempted to influence the work of the convention with political pressure in that way.

In other Baptist news, Ruth Graham, late wife of evangelist Billy Graham, has passed away at the age of 87.  Although I sometimes admired and at other times strongly disagreed with her husband, I always believed that Ruth Graham was a very gracious woman whose Christian witness shown through loudly.  Rest in peace, Christian sister.

All this bizarre, cult-like, behavior coming from the largest Protestant body in the U.S., gives non-fundamentalist Baptists even more reason to present the world a different face at  January’s celebration of the New Baptist Covenant.


June 15, 2007 - Posted by | Baptists


  1. Oh my, such news from the convention. And the question is, what will Southwestern call this degree — an MRS?

    And of course who will teach the class? Since they don’t allow women on faculty anymore — or at least faculty to teach men? Will this be taught by the President’s wife?


    Comment by Bob Cornwall | June 15, 2007

  2. Bob, you only think you’re joking. But, yes, Dorothy Patterson, wife of SWBTS Pres. Paige Patterson, will teach the new degree program. I don’t know if they’ll try to get Martha Stewart, too. Can’t you see thousands of pastors’ wives proudly displaying this degree in their homes?

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | June 15, 2007

  3. This story gets even stranger yet! A preliminary websearch indicates that Mrs. P holds a Th.M. from New Orleans Baptist Seminary and a D.Min. from Luther Rice and has made contributions to study Bibles, some of which might . . . er, um . . . be read by MEN.

    See http://www.bible.org/author_bio.php?author_id=144

    I guess she’s not your mother’s home ec teacher!

    Comment by haitianministries | June 15, 2007

  4. My question is: Why is the SBC even passing any kind of resolution on global warming? Since when is that even the purpose/place of the SBC? I suppose this part of the proud tradition of “We’re allowed to make scientific statements, but we’ll be darned if any ol’ scientist is gonna inform us about Creation.”

    Comment by Josh McManaway | June 16, 2007

  5. I’m not sure which of the points in this post is most disturbing.

    In my initial read I was most powerfully struck by the attack on the public school system. I, too, am a product of public schools, and my mother is a retired public school teacher. I firmly believe that rather than representing a threat to the Christian faith, participation in public schools can actually be a great benefit.

    First, it exposes the Christian student to a wide variety of opinions, teaching them that they live in a plural society. This encourages both the kinds of constructive mission work that dialogues with and learns from others, and a kind of critical self-examination of one’s own faith. Faith that refuses to be self-critical isn’t faith at all, but rather a sort of cheap belief that constantly fears the disruption of doubt.

    Second, and perhaps a great deal more important, the public school system at its best serves as a way out of poverty. It is the only way that the children of the poor have any hope of gaining an education. Lord knows that most private schools – especially so-called Christian schools that began as an end-around to desegregation – have no interest in breaking the cycle of poverty.

    I could go on and on, but then I’d be taxing the “keep it brief” doctrine of the comment policy. Suffice it to say that the attack on public schools disturbs me. But, then again, so does everything else here, and I think that they’re all related.

    Comment by Sandalstraps | June 16, 2007

  6. I really hesitate to ascribe cult status to any organization. But I have to agree with you on this one. What in the world is up with the SBC?!?

    Comment by Maiden | June 16, 2007

  7. Maiden, thanks for dropping by. I am not claiming that every Southern Baptist is cultic. Thousands are not. I am talking about the bizarro nature of the bureacracy and leadership post-1979 and, especially, post-1992, after all of us “liberals” had been purged from the SBC.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | June 16, 2007

  8. Hmm… somehow I am not surprised by the SBC attitued on science and public schools. Often I have found most religious based homeschooling a form of social segragation to keep their children from being around people and topics they consider “undesirables”, not all mind you, but most of the people I have met who homeschool their children.

    However, the degree program did kind of throw me for a loop. I mean is it going to come to the point where if a pastors wife doesn’t take the course, or doesn’t want to take the course, she will be ostracized? Or will this become required study for SB women? I dunno, seemes a lot like home ec with religious study thrown in. Also interesting to see if this could become transferable for a Masters program.



    Comment by dancingmoogle | June 16, 2007

  9. Thanks for the post. I found your site on Technorati as I was looking for reactions to the resolutions passed at the SBC this year. Sad times, huh?

    Comment by Jeremy | June 16, 2007

  10. Yes, Jeremy, I would find it sad for any faith-group to go so far off the beaten track. When I left the SBC for another Baptist group, I tried to “shake the dust from my feet.” But I can’t. Not entirely. I spent too many years as a Southern Baptist to not care what the Convention keeps doing to itself. It is especially sad to me that the current groups of “reformers,” whom the SBC leadership and their supporters deride as “neomoderates,” are so far too the Right that, just a few years ago they would have been considered fundamentalist. And THEY are the semi-reasonable ones! There are no real progressives, or even centrists, in the SBC anymore–and that is very sad.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | June 16, 2007

  11. “neomoderates?” Dude, I thought that ABCUSA was screwed up – I guess it’s nice to know that we’re not the only screwed up Baptist group…

    Comment by wezlo | June 17, 2007

  12. I just told my wife about the golden opportunity to earn her very own degree in homemaking for her life as a pastor’s wife. She clawed the sofa, dropped her book, and hasn’t stopped swearing yet.

    I guess the only SBC we’ll be dealing with is the one that manages our phone line…

    Comment by Doug Hagler | June 19, 2007

  13. I’m a little disappointed. I thought that 10 years after I was gone, they’d have a little less to fuss about. Shows how important you and I were Michael.

    On the Homemaking degree, would I list that on my resume if I were applying for a pastorate and would that go before or after I listed that my wife plays the piano?

    Comment by T Leuze | June 20, 2007

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