The Southern Baptist Convention, the nations’ largest evangelical denomination, is facing a showdown for its treatment of women – and it could have a far-reaching impact on the church and the larger #MeToo movement that has rocked the secular world.
Next week, delegates are expected to decide on approving a resolution at the convention’s annual meeting in Dallas. The resolution would acknowledge that male leaders and members of the church have “wronged women, abused women, silenced women, objectified women,” throughout its history, NBC News reported.
“The #MeToo moment has come to American evangelicals,” Albert Mohler, president of the flagship Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote last month. “And I am called to deal with it as a Christian, as a minister of the Gospel, as a seminary and college president, and as a public leader.”
The convention comes amid several high-profile scandals involving allegations against prominent Southern Baptist leaders. Included are accusations and admissions of “inappropriate behavior toward women,” the report stated.
Beth Moore, a prominent evangelical teacher in Houston, wrote about the church’s abuse of women in an open letter last month.
Other women have also spoken out about their experiences in the Southern Baptist Convention. They take issue with the teaching that women must “submit” to their husbands and can’t become pastors nor teach men “in any official capacity,” the report stated.
During the second day annual meeting next week in Dallas, a group comprised mainly of Southern Baptist women plan to hold a rally outside the hall against what they call “the prevalence of abuse and its enablement within the Southern Baptist Convention.”
The protest represents a push for “reform of culture and for training of pastors and church leaders,” Cheryl Summers, one of the rally organizers, told NBC News.
The Southern Baptist Convention will also consider a resolution to admonish sexual impropriety and abuse, including “anyone who would facilitate or knowingly cover up such acts.”
The resolution asks the convention to confess that throughout the church’s history, men have “wronged women, abused women, silenced women, objectified women by ungodly comments and ungodly acts, preyed on women, left women unprotected, failed to report injustices and evils committed against women to civil authorities established by God and failed to act out of the overflow of the image of Christ,” the report stated.
In her open letter, Moore writes, in part:
The dignity with which Christ treated women in the Gospels is fiercely beautiful and it was not conditional upon their understanding their place.
About a year ago I had an opportunity to meet a theologian I’d long respected. I’d read virtually every book he’d written. I’d looked so forward to getting to share a meal with him and talk theology. The instant I met him, he looked me up and down, smiled approvingly and said, “You are better looking than _____.” He didn’t leave it blank. He filled it in with the name of another woman Bible teacher.
These examples may seem fairly benign in light of recent scandals of sexual abuse and assault coming to light but the attitudes are growing from the same dangerously malignant root. Many women have experienced horrific abuses within the power structures of our Christian world. Being any part of shaping misogynistic attitudes, whether or not they result in criminal behaviors, is sinful and harmful and produces terrible fruit. It also paints us continually as weak-willed women and seductresses. I think I can speak for many of us when I say we are neither interested in reducing or seducing our brothers.