Gender Equality in Evangelicalism
The issue of women in Evangelicalism, specifically, the Southern Baptist Convention, is making waves in the mainstream press as well as the religious press. Dr. Paige Patterson, whose ill-advised remarks about a woman in a domestic violence situation blew up the interwebs, is back in the news with his defiant insistence that he has never condoned abuse, has counseled women to separate from abusive spouses, but has never counseled divorce.
At The Wartburg Watch, Wade Burleson prints more of Dr. Patterson’s words that show his view of women even more clearly. In 2006, Dr. Patterson terminated a professor of Hebrew at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (despite his promise not to do so) because she is a woman. Under oath, he stated that she was terminated for “drawing her own conclusions about scripture.” He then also states that he does not believe that a woman should not have any authority over a man. He clarifies that he means in the church, but goes on to say approvingly that, “The Bible does say in the Book of Isaiah, that it is something of an indication of a wicked society when women rule over them.”
The Atlantic has picked up on this story and rightly notes that it is a concern that a man who looks down on women this much is giving the keynote sermon at the Southern Baptist Convention next month. The SBC has faced its fair share of issues in the last few years, including the Confederate flag issue, White Nationalism, and the loss of membership. But, the role of women affects at least half of the denomination’s members. It’s one thing to have complementarianism (the concept that men and women have different roles) as part of the Baptist Faith and Message, but quite another to display downright misogyny, which is what Patterson and, by not responding, other denominational leaders are displaying.
But women are not just taking it this time. Beth Moore, a popular Bible teacher, has written about her experience as a teacher in Evangelicalism. She teaches only women, but has still dealt with more than her fair share of sexism. And, the women of the Southern Baptist Convention have now written an open letter to SWBTS, demanding that Paige Patterson be removed from his position.
And we are again back to the fact that many Evangelical leaders are engaging in sexism. They do not believe that women have the same status as men - certainly not in this world, and subsequently, not in front of God.
But that’s not what God says! From the very beginning, God created man and woman with the Imago Dei (Genesis 1:27). Jesus treated women with great respect, particularly for the culture in which he was residing. Jesus allowed women to sit at his feet to learn with the men. Mary and Martha were among his dearest friends. And he chose a woman to appear to after his resurrection. God certainly does not hold women in low regard!
God loves men and women equally and he calls us to do the same. The Great Commandment - Matthew 22:37-39 "Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’" -gives no quarter for sexism. We are to love without reference to the other's sex. As usual, everything comes back down to love.
Evangelical men, you have to do better! Your wives and sisters are waiting. Your daughters are watching.
1. I was raised Southern Baptist, but now attend an Evangelical Free Church. I'm holding on to Evangelicalism by my fingertips.
2. I am an egalitarian which means that I believe that the Bible teaches that men and women were created equal and that our roles and gifts are distributed without reference to sex. (i.e. I'm totally cool with women being pastors, elders, truck drivers, etc. and with men being stay at home dads (as Patrick was for 10 years), nurses, day care workers, etc.) People who are complementarians believe that men and women were designed for separate roles in the home and church, and often in society. They usually believe in men being the head of the churches and homes; thus, this view is actually patriarchy. They claim that women are as valued by God as men.