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

Another Barrier Crossed

Women continue to make progress in Baptist life around the world–everywhere except the increasingly far-right and  cultic Southern Baptist Convention.  My friend Dan Schweissing reports that back on 01 March of this year, Margarita Campos became the first woman ordained to the ministry in CHILE.  See his full report here.  In the ’90s such firsts happened in Nicaragua, Cuba, and Bolivia.  At the turn of the millenium, such firsts happened in several Eastern European nations.  Meanwhile, a Southern Baptist “scholar” blames wife abuse by conservative Christian men on the supposed failure of women to submit to their husband’s “God-given authority” quickly enough. 

For the sake of my daughters, I rejoice constantly that, although I remain a Baptist from the (U.S.) South, I have long since ceased to be a Southern Baptist.  My daughters have grown up knowing that their mother is an ordained Baptist minister (and formerly a pastor), having a woman for a pastor, women as over half of the diaconate in the congregation.  They worship in a congregation of several racial/ethnic groups (at one time, we had 5 separate racial/ethnic groupings in the membership, though “whites” remain the numerical majority) and with out gay and lesbian Christians.  A congregation that works hard to be accessible to its members in wheelchairs and which contains a wide diversity of education levels. We have to let middle-aged white men like myself preach at least twice a year just so the children know that it’s allowed. 🙂

I just worry that they won’t be able to find many congregations like this when they go off to university. But the news from Chile suggests that things are changing all over the globe.  Hallelujah.

July 21, 2008 - Posted by | Baptists, sexism, women


  1. Good news, of course. Even so, the culturual perception of what we mean by church is seriously damaged by the hard right dispensationalists. I, too, appreciate that I go to a Baptist church much like you describe. My problem, however, is not that my children won’t find a church like that–but that it sometimes barely registers that the church they sit in on Sunday is any different than the ‘church’ they hear about in the media. I hear my 16 year old say things along the line of logic of not wanting a church to tell her what to think or about who will get into heaven or hell and I have to ask… where did she ever get that? Seriously? It was not at the only church she has ever attended. The challenge is not only to create a place for ourselves–but to change the culturual idea about church communities, to put a picture out that that churches like ours are not “alternative” or “funky” or “different” but rather, the real deal.

    Comment by Jeff | July 21, 2008

  2. I just worry that they won’t be able to find many congregations like this when they go off to university.

    The UK Christian scene has its hard-line conservatives but is overall a lot more moderate than the US. Nonetheless, your situation sounds exceptional, even for the UK. I reckon I won’t worship like that until the Kingdom comes.

    Seriously, I wonder if at some point you ought to prepare your girls for the fact that, in all likelihood, they won’t find this in college. I know they have some way to go yet!

    Comment by PamBG | July 21, 2008

  3. Well, Pam, I do prepare them. They visit other churches and, when they go to their grandparents or other relatives, they see the difference.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | July 22, 2008

  4. Michael,

    Your comment about Dr. Ware’s audio on Complementarianism is dishonest. He NEVER said that the reason why men abuse is because women are not submissive. He clearly stated that there were two sins that men could commit when a Complemetarian view is rejected in the home. One sin is for the man to acquiesce and not take on his God-given responsibilities (basically become lazy). The other sin is abuse.

    NEVER did he say the reason why women are abused is because they don’t submit. There is a huge difference between the two statements. And as one who claims to have taught logic, you should know this. And you actually should defend him against unwarrented attacks by those who wish to twist his words.

    I continue to be disappointed in those who wish to throw their brothers and sisters in Christ under the bus, rather than seek to expose those who desire to do damage to the Body of Christ by false accusations. It really is disheartening.

    Comment by D.R. Randle | July 22, 2008

  5. D.R., I read his remarks. He did call abuse a sin, but said that if the woman wouldn’t obey, the man had only two (sinful) options: abuse or “abdicating his god-appointed leadership.” This is simply justifying abuse and victime blaming.

    The sad thing is that the differences between the sexist patriarchy of a Bruce Ware and that of the polygamy cult in Texas are only differences of degree, not of kind.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | July 23, 2008

  6. Michael,

    He did not say, “if the woman wouldn’t obey, the man only had two (sinful) options.” That is flat out a false accusation. He clearly stated that sin manifests itself in two ways when the paradigm of Complementarianism is thrown out the window. That is far cry from your assertions. What you and others have done is taken his positive statement and his warning to men against sinning and turned it into him blaming women for their own abuse, which is clearly not his intention at all.

    And your comments on the complementarianism of Bruce Ware and the abusive cult of TX show your lack of discernment on this. Come on man, use some of that logic you claim to be able to teach. I fear you have lost your ability to actually think beyond your own biases. The situation doesn’t even come close to comparing, especially given that NO COMPLEMENTARIAN believes in arranged marriages or polygamy or pedaphilia. And I would like for you to show me one woman who was forced to marry a Complementarian associated with CBMW or Bruce Ware. These aren’t even apples and oranges – they’re apples and rocks.

    Ware actually does what you have failed to do, along with many others, and that is seriously try to exegete the Scriptures and look at them in light of Church History. Even early on, after Paul, Complementarianism was a forgone conclusion. As with your view on homosexuality, it appeals to the culture and thus it becomes your view. But from a historical perspective, this is clearly not the case.

    Additionally, when you look at the Biblical evidence you must either deconstruct the text to mean something that never is suggested in the Early Church Fathers, or you must try to make words like “kephale” mean what they don’t (as Catherine Kroeger tried to do and was shown to be false). I brought this up over on Dan Trabue’s blog, but you never answered me.

    So, it seems you must resort to trying to make guys like myself and Ware look extreme (like the TX cult) in order to make your point. But this is beneath the ethical grounds of logic, and you of all people should know this.

    Comment by D.R. Randle | July 23, 2008

  7. D.R.,

    The problem is that Dr. Ware argued that spousal abuse is a possible result of women rejecting their God-given roles.

    “And husbands on their parts, because they’re sinners, now respond to that threat to their authority either by being abusive, which is of course one of the ways men can respond when their authority is challenged . . .”

    Of course, that claim is absurd. What evidence did Dr. Ware cite supporting his claim that otherwise nonabusive husbands’ abuse is correlated to their wives refusal to
    submit to their authority?

    You claim that Dr. Ware never argues that female insubordination is the reason for abuse, because Dr. Ware claims abuse is only one of two sinful options. The problem is that Dr. Ware (without any basis) claims that female insubordination is linked/contributes to their abuse. In reality, women’s “insubordination” does not contribute to their being abused at all; the fault (and sole cause) lies with the man.

    So, although Michael exaggerates a bit, he is fundamentally right. Unfortunately there isn’t even time to discuss Dr. Ware’s “exegesis”…

    Comment by Danny | July 23, 2008

  8. D. R. Randle,

    Just out of curiosity, could you quote me one occurrence from Greek literature, outside the NT, where kephale means “leader.” Just curious.

    And how do you account for the fact that the interpretation of Gen. 3:16 dates back to about 1975. Can we call that traditional? I do not accept his interpretation of Gen. 3:16 as careful exegesis.

    Comment by Sue | July 26, 2008

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