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Carter steps out of Southern Baptist camp

Interesting news item today about former President Jimmy Carter announcing that he is leaving the Southern Baptist church because of its stance on women. I don’t agree with everything Jimmy Carter believes, but I think he’s right on this.

You can read an article about it here.

The church’s views on women (which vary widely even within denominations) are a social justice issue. And Carter links the denomination’s position to further mistreatment of women around the world.

A lot of people don’t like Jimmy Carter because of his politics, his position on the Middle East, etc. But what do you think of this particular move?

In 2000 the Southern Baptists said no women could be pastors. Unfortunately, many Southern Baptist churches already had women pastors, and their seminaries are still taking the money of female students. Southern Baptist churches are allowed to be independent and  don’t have to follow their denomination’s rules, so many women continue to pastor churches affliated with the Southern Baptists.

At that time, Carter said he would continue to attend his Southern Baptist church, which donates about half of its mission budget to a more moderate Baptist group, but that he did not want to be associated with the Southern Baptist Convention. But this week, he issued a position paper explaining his views, and seems to be severing all ties with the Southern Baptists.

The New Testament has all kinds of examples of women who were leaders, deacons, teachers. (Phoebe, Priscilla, Junia, etc.). There is one verse that says a woman cannot teach a man. But do we really understand the historical context of that one verse? And what about other verses that show examples of women who do teach, or women who had churches that met in their homes?

What are your thoughts on this?

6 Comments

  1. This issue is a big one…it has never sat quite right with me that women cannot be “official” leaders in the church, yet they do have such influence in so many ways. However, I’ve never found any convincing biblical evidence that overturns the church’s position on this. I’ll be interested to read your thoughts and those of your blog readers on this, as my mind is not made up on this one.

  2. Linn,
    when you say “the church’s position”–which one, exactly? My church allows women to teach, be elders, leaders, etc. So which church’s position?
    and I think there is lots of biblical evidence for women to be leaders in the church.
    I recommend Scot McKnight’s book The Blue Parakeet on understanding the Bible, particularly as it addresses this issue.
    question to everyone–would you be interested in reading more on this issue here on this blog? More people have responded on facebook so feel free to come join the discussion over there as well!

  3. What do I think of Carter’s move? Not much. I do think very highly of Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He thinks Mr. Carter’s action was an exercise in public relations. I agree. Mohler goes on to write:

    “All this fits a pattern for which Mr. Carter is now well known. He simply rejects the texts in the Bible that clearly establish different roles for men and women in the church and the home. He dismisses these verses for the simple reason that he also rejects the inerrancy of the Bible.

    He may well be the world’s most famous Sunday School teacher, but over just the last several years he has publicly expressed his rejection of the belief that persons must come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ in order to be saved. He has also stated that his faith would not be shaken if Jesus did not perform some of the miracles attributed to him in the New Testament. His denial of biblical inerrancy is not merely theoretical — he actually operates on the assumption that at least some texts of the Bible are false, untruthful, malignantly oppressive, and thus untrustworthy.”

    ‘Nuff said.

  4. Brizo,
    thanks for joining in the conversation. I do agree that it seems odd for Carter to come out with this at this time. He responded when the SBC made a change to it’s official stance on women pastors back in 2000, but not sure why he made this statement now.
    Regardless of Carter’s motives, he brings up an interesting point.
    Carter may reject the bible’s innerancy (I don’t know, I can’t speak for him), but I believe in the Bible. But I also am a firm egalitarian. You have to look at the cultural context of those verses, and also at the Bible as a whole. There is only one verse in all of scripture that says a woman may not teach or have authority over a man. There are many examples of women who were leaders and teachers (DEborah, Priscilla, Phoebe, and others). You have to look at how Jesus treated women–with respect and dignity.
    A hierarchical view of men and women is incompatible with God’s vision for oneness is marriage, and unity in the church. If some members are valued more highly than others, it doesn’t take us long to get to the place where it becomes okay for those less valued to be abused by those who have “more” value. (See my most recent blog post).
    You can believe in innerrancy and still believe that all people are of equal value and that roles at church and home should be determined by spiritual giftedness, not gender.

  5. I appreciate the thoughts, Keri. I don’t equate men’s and women’s differing roles as placing a “higher value” on one gender or the other. In no way do I believe men are more highly valued and therefore can treat women without respect or dignity. That said, I’m a firm complementarian. We are all part of one body with different functions. Isn’t it great egalitarians and complementarians serve the same risen savior together?

  6. Brizo,
    I appreciate the respect, Brizo. And I agree–each of us is a part of the body, with different functions. I just think the different functions are based on spiritual gifting, not gender. But sincere Christians can disagree on a lot of different things–including this. Up to a point. My main concern is when complementarians take their views too far. Consider this information from the article I cited in another post:

    “Some conservative churches push submission teachings to an uncomfortable degree. In 2008, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Bruce Ware said that when male headship is challenged by women seeking to “have their way, instead of submitting to their husbands,” husbands may “respond to that threat to their authority” by becoming abusive. James Dobson argued in his marital therapy book, Love Must Be Tough, that abused women shouldn’t divorce but separate and try to change their husbands’ behavior. He also warned against women who bait men into abuse to gain the “prize” of bruises to display. In 2007, popular Pentecostal televangelist Juanita Bynum was badly beaten by her estranged pastor husband, Bishop Thomas W. Weeks III, during an attempted reconciliation meeting at an Atlanta hotel. Bynum made domestic violence a priority of her ministry after the attack, and was subsequently condemned as “an angry, out-of-control woman” by conservative radio preacher Jesse Lee Peterson.”

    I know you are as appalled by this twisting of truth as I am, Brizo. Women bait their husbands into abusing them so they can show off bruises? Excuse me? Dr.’s Dobson and Ware, and Bishop Weeks, are not only incorrect theologically, they are dangerous. And certainly, I don’t think they are winning many people (other than abusers who are looking to join a church) to Christianity.

    That said, I know that many men and women who hold complementarian views have happy marriages, and it works for them, because there is mutual love and respect.

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