In our church, we have women who chair committees, serve as trustees, teach men in Sunday School classes and have had women teach from the pulpit. We do not have women "pastors" or "elders" at our church - for we have chosen to abide by the BFM 2000 confessionally - but unlike others, our church would have never chosen to make that issue a test of Southern Baptist fellowship and cooperation. Though I personally would not lead our church to hire female pastors or elders, we believe in giving freedom in this area to other churches because we see the possibility of interpretive differences regarding I Timothy 3 and we feel deeply that it is ultimately a local church decision.
I have said publicly that I would not personally lead my church to hire a female pastor, would not be a member of a church where the senior pastor was female, and I have no problem personally with the BFM 2000* on this issue. However, I am honest enough to say that my discomfort is personal and cultural — and not Biblical.
Yesterday a Texas Southern Baptist pastor challenged me regarding my comment. Pastor R.L Vaughn's tone was gracious as he wrote in his blog . . .
I certainly respect your feelings of personal and cultural discomfort. I have some things that make me personally uncomfortable as well. But, that being said, if we realize it is just that personal discomfort, don’t we have some obligation to change our comfort zone? Some have made comparisons of the female pastor issue to both slavery and segregation. What if we inserted those into the statement — 'My discomfort (with ending slavery) is personal and cultural — and not Biblical' or 'My discomfort (with integration) is personal and cultural — and not Biblical
Vaughn continues in his post - switching to the third person . . .
Burleson is representative of what some people think on the issue. Others believe that having or not having female pastors is a Biblical rather than a personal & cultural issue. In several blogs I've read online, folks have compared the female pastor issue with past issues like slavery and segregation. Wade Burleson himself made the comparison in the thread from which I am quoting. My point is that one can't have it both ways. If you want to compare keeping women from being pastors to keeping slaves, then perhaps you should react the same way to both. Wouldn't that be consistent? (emphasis mine)
Mr. Vaughn asks a great question. In fact, he goes to the very heart of the issue.
Has there ever been a time that Southern Baptists spoke forcefully, eloquently and passionately in support of the institution of slavery? Have Southern Baptists ever defended slavery from a perspective of trust in, and standing upon, the inerrant and infallible Word of God? Mr. Vaughn acts like this has never happened in the SBC. He implies that anyone who supported slavery -- just as anyone who supported "women pastors" - is doing so based upon "cultural" biases or preferences and is ignoring the clear teaching of God's Word. Pastor Vaughan acts as if any argument supporting slavery would have to be both ludicrous and incredible.
Enter Basil Manley.
This 19th century Southern Baptist pastor, President, author, and theologian preached a message at First Baptist Church, Charleston, South Carolina in April of 1837 entitled Duties of Masters and Servants. Shawn Ritenour presented a scholarly paper at the Austrian Scholars Conference at Auburn, Alabama in March, 2002. Dr. Ritenour writes of Basil Manley's message:
Manly’s arguments justifying the institution of slavery (were based) on the Scriptures.
In the sermon 'Duties of Masters and Servants' Manly first presents a Biblical justification for the existence of the institution of slavery and then exposits on the regulations God places on both masters and servants. In doing so, Manly uses as his primary text, Ephesians 6:5-9 which exhorts, “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord and not to men: Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same
shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.” He additionally draws upon an impressive set of passages taken from the entire breadth of Scripture, including verses out of Genesis, Joshua, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Job, the Psalms, Proverbs, Malachi, Matthew, Luke, I Corinthians, Galatians, I Timothy, Titus, James, I Peter, and Philemon.
In defending the institution of slavery by appealing to Scripture, Manly aligned himself with the bulk of Southern Christian thinkers. Many of the arguments put forth by Southern clergy, including Baptists, were rooted in the doctrine of the infallibility of Scripture.
Allow me now to issue a call for intellectual honesty and consistency among Southern Baptists . . .
(1). Some Southern Baptists in the 1800's used the infallibility of Scripture to justify the institution of slavery and accused anyone who disagreed as liberal.
(2). Some Southern Baptists today use the infallibility of Scripture to justify prohibiting women from teaching men or holding a position of authority over men and accuse anyone who disagrees as "liberal."
Anyone see the consistency?
(1). Some Southern Baptists in the 1800's were not convinced the Scriptures supported the insitution of slavery, but personally supported slavery for personal and cultural reasons and did not harbor animosity toward those on the other side.
(2). Some Southern Baptists today are not convinced the Scripture prohibits women from teaching men or holding positions of "authority" over men, but personally support the prohibition of women pastors for personal, cultural and "confessional" (BFM 2000) reasons, but do not harbor animosity toward those on the other side.
Anyone see the consistency?
I agree with Mr. Vaughn's call for consistency.
What is needed is an intellectual honesty of where we Southern Baptists have been, where we are now, and where we may be in the future. To say we have erred does not compromise one's belief in the sufficiency and infallibility of the Word of God.
We Southern Baptists are people who believe in the inerrant Book - with a history of seemingly errant interpretations.
That is both honest and consistent. And when we have that attitude we won't be quite as smug and uncooperative as we would be without it.
In His Grace,