The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is the biggest Protestant denomination in the US, descending from Baptists who settled in the American colonies in the 17th century. The southerners broke away from their northern brothers and sisters in 1845 over the issue of slavery.
Supporters of slavery then, they are supporters of misogyny now. Last week, delegates to the SBC’s annual meeting in New Orleans approved an amendment to their constitution that their churches must have “only men as any kind of pastor or elder as qualified by Scripture.” To go into effect the amendment must be passed again next year.
The Convention had already moved to allow only men pastors; this expands the rule to cover any leadership role for women. Five churches with women as pastors have already been ejected with more to come. Included is the prominent Saddleback Church in Southern California, one of the denomination’s largest. The edict could affect as many as 2,000 churches with women pastors.
The reason for the new assault on women is apparently a fear of encroaching liberalism. Women, in the fevered minds of Baptists, are more susceptible to the temptations of tolerance just as they are more susceptible to sin.
The feared advance of liberal values—the beginning of the end of the Baptists’ preferred world—presumably began with the end of segregation, if not the abolition of slavery. They have in recent years had a bad run. Segregation outlawed, women gaining equal rights, followed by gays who are even allowed to legally marry, and now trans people are demanding their place in the sun.
All this creeping liberalism, it seems, is aggravated by allowing women to lead. The rot has to be stopped, the weaker sex purged from leadership.
This regression takes place at a time when Americans’ church attendance is in decline, dropping below 50 percent last year for the first time in eight decades. In 2020, less than half said they even belong to a church.
In 2017 a survey of young adults between 18 and 22 found that 70 percent of those who had attended church regularly for at least a year in high school had stopped attending church regularly. One of the top reasons was that church members seem to be judgmental or hypocritical. That would certainly include a majority of the SBC.
One woman pastor, Linda Popham of Fern Creek Baptist, intends to stay on as long as her church, now ejected from the Convention, will have her. Of the constitutional amendments, Pastor Popham observed, “There are those people in power now that believe their interpretation of God’s holy word is the only way to interpret it. So I don’t know what they’re going to do when we walk through the gates of heaven together, ’cause they can’t kick us out there.”
Incidentally, the Canadian Baptist Ministries says its members have ordained women since the 1940s and will continue to do so. The Reverend Leanne Friesen, executive minister of the Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Quebec, said “We are thankful for our women pastors and leaders who faithfully serve in our family of churches and make a difference in their communities.” Amen to that.
The Rev Friesen sounds a note of enlightenment in contrast to the medieval attitudes of her fellow Baptists in the SBC. How profoundly sad that such blatant misogyny still finds a welcome home in this the 21st century.
As an Albertan I wonder what they would think of a place where the leaders of both the government and the opposition are women.