Saturday, January 17, 2009

What Female Pastors and Pornography Have in Common

Ah, those wacky Southern Baptists are at it again.

"Over 100 Christian bookstores run by the Southern Baptist Convention have pulled from their shelves this month's issue of Gospel Today Magazine, which features a cover story about female pastors."

Ooh! Can't have the womenfolks thinkin' they c'uld be pastors or somethin'. That thar's men's work!

To add insult to injury, customers who want the magazine have to ask for it specifically, because it's hidden behind the counter. You know, in the place where secular book stores hide the pornography.

According to the story I linked to above, "The Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's second largest Christian denomination, officially opposes females serving as pastors. In 2000, the denomination overwhelmingly adopted a revised statement of faith that said the pastoral role should be restricted to men. "

The article goes on to say that, even though both men and women are gifted for work in the church, the pastoral role belongs solely to the men. Say this along with me, boys and girls - separate but equal. Those of you familiar with American history will recognize "separate but equal" as the phrase that justified decades of racial discrimination. African Americans were required to use separate facilities from those used by whites. They weren't denied access to water fountains, washrooms, and so on, they just had to use the crummy stuff while the white folks got to use the good stuff. Similarly, black folks weren't denied access to city buses, they just had to sit in the back seats because the white folks had first dibs on the front seats. Eventually, American jurists realized that the notion of "separate but equal" was meaningless; social separation inevitably entailed social inequality.

To look at this in ecclesiastical terms, the Southern Baptists believe that men and women both have places in the family of God, but that some places (leadership roles - surprise, surprise! Why not toilet cleaning positions and the like?) are reserved solely for men. Richard Land, a denominational leader, says that the church does not view women as subordinate to men and that women and men are all equal before God. It's just that women can't have authority over men because men have God-ordained authority over women (the Bible tells him so). I need hardly point out that, if one group has authority over another, then the groups are not equal.

To be fair, the Southern Baptist Church is not the only denomination that continues to practice gender discrimination. According to Wikipedia, "about half of all American Protestant denominations ordain women and about 30% of all seminary students (and in some seminaries over half) are female." This means, of course, that half of American denominations are still discriminating against women. The Catholic Church continues to bar women from the priesthood and several Protestant denominations have split over the issue of female ordination (some of those same denominations are now in danger of splitting over the issue of homosexual ordination).

Many churches, just like many Salvation Army corps, rely on women to crank the engines. Many church (and corps) programs would cease if women didn't run them. Here's what baffles me: why do women continue serving congregations and denominations in which the (almost invariably male) leaders believe (or behave like they believe) they are second-class citizens? And, lest the Salvationists among you get smug, I challenge you to cite more than a handful of token women in significant leadership positions in The Salvation Army. I'll go you one better - I'll bet that most, if not all, of the women you name will be single women officers. How many married women officers are holding substantive leadership positions? So, my question applies to The Salvation Army too: why are women still supporting an institution that treats them as inferiors? How long will they continue doing so? Many churches bemoan the fact that most of their men enter the front door as children and exit the back door as teens or young adults. In this age of deepening awareness of gender equality issues, I suggest that church leaders should examine the roles of women in their institutions (and in their theology). Otherwise, they may turn on the lights one day and discover that the women have followed the men out the back door.


Jenn said...

pastor with the porn? fabulous. i hope they don't plan on putting "coloured folk" on anytime soon. that could cause a real ruckus! btw - how do you post the book you are reading?

Joanne said...

Here, here!!!!! I have had this very conversation with many people in recent days......including people in significant leadership positions in the TSA. Although some will quote the names of some female officers who are "high up", as you state the majority are single women. I know only of one couple where she is an area commander and he is a hospital chaplain. My recent personal experience is that the TSA is looking backwards on this issue instead of being forward thinking as they may have been see in the past. It's something I struggle with at this point in my I want to be a part of a denomination that although they speak of equality, in practice, is that the reality?

Evie said...


When you're in your dashboard, go to the layout controls. There's something called Add a Gadget. One of the things they have there allows you to add an image. I've put "I'm Currently Reading" in the title slot. You can upload an image of the book from your computer or from somewhere online.

Evie said...


My experience is that SA leaders occasionally rest on their laurels. They think that just because the SA established forward-looking trends back in the day, that the organization is still doing so by default.

When one considers that roughly half of the officer pool is female, the number of female leaders is disgustingly low.

Barbara said...

This takes me back to our days in Barbados when we had a group of Christian Canadian friends ... most of whom are Baptist. The women were very strong women in every area of their lives ... even to the point of being aggressive, but put them around their husbands or talk to them about women being pastors, and all of a sudden they became these meek, submissive women. It was facinating.