Thursday, September 01, 2016

Where Have All the Evangelical Southern Baptist Women Gone?

Last month, The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention posted an article by Laura Thigpen that they had gotten from from her post on the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary's Women Life webpage. The difference in the separate postings is in the title. The original post on the SEBTS website is titled "The Voice of Evangelical Women." The ERLC's title is "Where are the Voices of Evangelical Women?"

I'm not going to address the article for the SEBTS Women's Life page. I understand why they need an article like this because of what happened in the conservative take-overs of the seminary 20 years ago.

But why would the ERLC even decide to post this article? Isn't their leadership the ones that were responsible for these very voices being silenced?

I will tell you that there are more evangelical women speaking out now than ever before. Thanks to blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and other internet sources, evangelical women have a voice--even if their churches will not allow them to step behind a pulpit or teach men. We are talking. It is just that no one listens. And if they do listen, we tend to get mansplained.

However, for those in the Southern Baptist Convention who are perplexed, here is what happened:

Once in Southern Baptist life, there were strong women leaders. They were in Southern Baptist Churches all over the world. They taught the Sunday School classes; the mission classes; they stood up and prayed during worship; and, yes, they sometimes preached (though it may have been called a speech or something).

In my own life, I was a Southern Baptist girl from the time I was born. I went to church every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. I was inspired by both the men and women in my church to seek out what God was calling me to do with my life. I went through Mission Friends, GAs, Acteens, and came to the realization that I was called to ministry--though it would be another decade before that ministry gift would be revealed. I did everything that I was supposed to do, but because I was female the SBC cut me out.

On the very Sunday after the "Baptist Faith & Message" was adopted in 2000. I left my SBC church and joined one that was affiliated with the more moderate Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. This was due to the one statement, "While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture."

And many other women left the SBC because of that very reason. There was no place for them. These are women poised to preach and prophesy, but there was no room for them at the SBC table. They were told to be silent or get out.

One day, I believe that the SBC leaders of that time will have to answer for what they did in silencing the voices of women.

So the ERLC is now asking where the evangelical women are. Did it ever occur to them that there is a reason that SBC evangelical women don't speak out? That there a reason that SBC membership continues to decline? It is selective amnesia at its best: they did it to themselves.