June 15, 2000: Southern Baptists Take a Hardline Approach

In case you missed it, the Southern Baptists are holding their annual confab this month in Orlando – home of the godless Walt Disney World – to affirm that women aren’t fit to be ministers.  It seems that through some kind of loophole, a hundred or so women got to be Baptist preachers and while I have been unable to uncover any evidence that any or all of them did a poor job, nonetheless they are toast.

The statement of belief to be adopted at the convention reads: “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”   So there!

But all is not lost.  Women are directed by the Southern Baptist Convention “to forsake resistance to the authority of their respective husbands and to practice willing, joyful submission to that leadership.”  This is where I begin to get concerned.  While I am Methodist, I fear that somebody in the leadership of my denomination will take a brief respite from trying to ordain gays and making all our hymns gender-neutral and adopt a measure similar to the Baptist.  If that happens, I am sunk.  After 42 years of marriage, to face the prospects of leadership in my household is a scary thing.  Does this mean that my wife in practicing “willing, joyful submission” to my leadership is going to make me balance the checkbook?  In order to do that, will I first have to learn how to write a check?  Will I have to make my own doctor’s appointments and then remember to show up when I am supposed to?  Will I have to deal with the exterminator and the trash collector and contractors who say they are going to come on a certain day to work on the house but never do?

I am also concerned for my son and my son-in-law.  I’d like to be there when they explain to their spouses that they are taking over and expecting said daughter and daughter-in-law to show a little “ joyful submission.”  If they are contemplating such foolishness, I would suggest they first remove all the frying pans in the house because there is no question that both are going to get a skillet across the skull.

In the meantime, I am frantically scouring the Bible looking for some authority to give back the leadership to my wife.  I don’t want it.

Speaking of the Bible, the Southern Baptist offer no apologies for their hard-line approach and say that their Report on Baptist Faith and Message is “thoroughly biblical. Every line is deeply rooted in the clear teaching of Scripture.”  If that is the case, then they have another loophole bigger than a bread box they need to close.  It seems that the Rev. Charles Stanley, senior minister of the 13,000-member First Baptist Church of Atlanta, recently got divorced.  According to the SBC,  “Marriage is a covenant commitment to the exclusive, permanent, monogamous union of one man and one woman, and thus it cannot be defined as a flexible contract between consenting human beings.”  I think that says that divorce is a no-no and that this would apply to Rev. Stanley.

However, I haven’t heard as much clamor that Stanley, a former president of the Southern Baptist Conference, should resign his post as I have about getting rid of women preachers.  Although I am confused over what looks to be a blatant double standard, I am certain that I will hear from those who will enlighten me on the subject.  It won’t be the first time.

During my tenure at the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, I heard quite often from those who opposed something we were doing in the most intemperate, harsh, mean-spirited language possible.  For a religion that is supposed to be built on Love Thy Neighbor, I could only assume that meant that the neighbor had to think like we think, act like we act and believe as we believe.

All of the furor reminds me of the story of the angel giving the tour of heaven.  As they would pass a cloud full of other angels, she would announce what denomination was represented.  Finally approaching one cloud of dour-looking angels, a tourist asked, “Who is that?”  “Shh,” admonished the angel, “Don’t let them see you.  They think they are the only ones here!”

Now, if you will excuse me, I am going to exert some leadership – assuming it’s okay with my wife.