Little did I realize at the time that there was a movement beginning in the far right of the SBC to exclude women from ALL ministry in the Southern Baptist Convention. Some believed then, and believe now, that any ministry conducted by women that involves 'teaching' men (over 12) or having 'authority over men' should be universally prohibited. The BFM 2000 was used as the basis for this removal of women from their God-called, Spirit-led ministries, even though the BFM only prevented women from serving as 'Senior Pastors'.
Illustrations of the Effects of the SBC Move Against Women
In 2004 Dr. Karen Bullock, a conservative scholar and acclaimed author, was removed from her position as Professor of Church History at Southwestern Theological Seminary. At the time, Dr. Bullock, a member of the SWBTS faculty since 1994, was one of the more popular Southwestern professors and also served as the Assistant Dean of the School of Theology. Dr. Bullock was removed from her position only because she was female. It is widely believed that Dr. Bullock delivered one of the greatest chapel talks (i.e. 'sermons') in the history of Southwestern Theological Seminary. The tape has since been removed from Southwestern's archives, but we intend to post the audio in the next few weeks. The pulpit from behind which Dr. Bullock spoke was eventually removed from Southwestern's chapel under orders of the new President of SWBTS Dr. Paige Patterson. Dr. Patterson explained to those he had remove it that it had been contaminated by a 'woman' preaching behind it. Though the rumor persisted that the historic pulpit had been taken out and burned, the truth is far less dramatic. It remains hidden behind stacks of supplies in a closet at the seminary's library, never having seen the light of day since its removal.
The forced exit of Dr. Bullock had been preceded in 2001 by the removal of Dr. David Crutchley from his position as the Dean of the School of Theology. Crutchley was the man that had recommended the trustees hire Dr. Bullock. In addition, Dr. Kenneth Hemphill, President of Southwestern Theological Seminary, was eventually forced out when he saw the handwriting on the wall. A Tenure Review Committee, formed by SWBTS trustees and VP Craig Blaising, opposed Dr. Hemphill's Presidential recommendation that Dr. Karen Bullock be granted tenure. Though Dr. Hemphill called his eventual departure an 'early retirement', it is obvious through his correspondence to the Tenure Review Committee that there was a sharp disagreement over the denial of tenure to Dr. Karen Bullock, and of course, Dr. Hemphill went to work for the Executive Committee in Nashville making for a very short 'early' retirement. When Dr. Paige Patterson was hired to replace Dr. Hemphill one of his first acts was to hire David Allen (who just happened to be the SWBTS trustee who chaired the board meeting at which Patterson was hired). The chairman of the search committee, Dr. Denny Autrey, was also elevated to a top post in the Patterson administration.
Of course, it is now a matter of sworn testimony that Dr. Patterson also orchestrated the removal of Dr. Sheri Klouda, the Professor of Hebrew in the School of Theology at SWBTS, solely because of her gender. Dr. Patterson says he believed he was simply fulfilling the wishes of the Southern Baptist Convention and the BFM 2000 'prohibition' of women pastors by removing Dr. Klouda. To believe this, you must overlook the fact that Southwestern itself trained Klouda in the Hebrew language, awarding her the Ph.D.. And for you to accept her removal as justified, you must agree with the statement that her being hired to teach Hebrew was 'a momentary lapse of parameters'. The real issue is that men who are now in charge at Southwestern don't want women around. As recently as the fall of 2006, a professor at SWBTS refused to allow three female Master of Divinity students to 'preach' with males present. All male Master of Divinity students were told not to come to the class the day the females were to 'preach,' and even the professor himself sent his wife to 'listen' to the women 'indulge in the exposition' of Scripture.
It has long been known that there have been attempts by trustees at the International Mission Board to remove any woman from a 'position of authority' within the organization. It is a known fact that there is not one female Regional Leader and that there are less than a handful of Strategy Coordinators at the International Mission Board who are female - and their positions are in jeopardy. In addition, there is no female on the Executive Team at the Administration Offices - except the secretary who is there to take notes. Not all IMB trustees have been involved with the effort to minimize roles, and maybe IMB Executive Staff should share the responsibility for the reduced role of women within the IMB, but I find it hard to fault them because of their fear of reprisal for going against trustee leadership desires.
In early 2006 I confronted a small group of male trustees led by Bill Sutton, the hunting friend of Paige Patterson, and Bob Pearle, the pastor of Paige Patterson, who were discussing how to remove the woman who was the acting Vice-President of the International Mission Board. I overheard a late night meeting between these men and another eight to ten trustees in the lobby of the hotel where we IMB trustees were being housed. This 'informal' caucus of men was discussing how to remove the Vice-President from her position and the steps needed to accomplish their goal. The sentiment was expressed that a woman had no place being in this particular position of authority. After listening to just a minute or two of their discussion I went upstairs to get a couple of friends to act as witnesses. I then came back down to the lobby and confronted the trustees. I let them know, in no uncertain terms, that not only was their meeting a violation of our 'Blue Book' which stated that during regularly scheduled IMB trustee meetings no trustees shall meet in 'caucus' sessions, either formal or informal, to discuss IMB business and that the opinions I had overheard expressed in that caucus meeting about women were a violation of Christian charity, not to mention Scripture.
The morning after the late night confrontation, I went to the female Vice-President and Dr. Rankin and told them that there might be a motion designed to either publicly humiliate or remove the Vice-President from her 'acting' position. I told them both that if it came in the plenary session, as I had heard discussed, to not worry - I would not let her be mistreated. It was in that particular January trustee meeting in 2006 that the motion came to move into Executive Session (closed doors). I was seated on the front row and asked the Chairman, Tom Hatley, why we were moving into Executive Session. He did not answer me, and so I turned to my friend Rick Thompson, pastor of Council Road Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, and said, "Rick, get ready, they are going after Wendy. I'm not going to let them. This could get heated.".
Once the doors were closed I heard the motion . . . "I move that Wade Burleson be removed from the International Mission Board for . . .". Rick and I looked at each other in disbelief and shock. Then I knew. The system established years ago for the appointment of trustees enabled our boards and agencies to be filled with only like-minded Southern Baptists who would elect trustee leaders that had a particular ideology. I don't know if it should be called 'Fundamentalism'...maybe not. One thing is for sure; in this closed system, no dissent or questioning is allowed. We must find some way as Southern Baptists to end our narrowness on certain issues or we are going to lose the blessing of experiencing the gifts and talents of the women in our convention who are filled with the love of Christ.
The Issue Is Not About Women Senior Pastors
In a convention where a macho President can carry shotguns onto the lawn of one of our seminaries and fire rounds at squirrels in trees (as happened last Friday), and in a convention that often resembles the soap opera 'Dallas' where gas wells are being drilled in the old RV parking lot to supplement seminary income (as it is at SWBTS), and in a convention where the indoctrination of future pastors includes the teaching that the only rightful place of women is in the home as a homemaker, and in a convention that continues to fund degrees in homemaking for women at institutions that used to be known for great classical, pastoral training, and in a convention that sometimes seems really scared to simply let the sisters function, it is time we took a very hard look at the direction we are heading. And, it has nothing to do with 'Senior Pastors' being women.
For a long while I have justified my participation in the Conservative Resurgence as a desire to keep our convention committed to the sacred, infallible word of God. I really did believe we were battling for the Bible. And though I could not see in the Bible where there was any direct 'prohibition' against women pastors, I was willing to let that slide because I am not personally bothered by the prohibition. To me there were more important matters, and I was not interested in making the removal of this prohibition an issue. However, now that I have seen that the SBC is moving further and further to the right by trustees adding ADDITIONAL restrictions and ADDITIONAL prohibitions THAT ARE NOT FOUND IN SCRIPTURE, I now know that something needs to be done and I cannot be silent. If it seems to you that I am advocating women pastors, you are dead wrong. I am speaking out because I am seeing the prohibition against women pastors as a smoke screen for other activities within the SBC that are both unjustifiable and illogical.
Women are being removed as SBC professors.
Women are being removed from the SBC classrooms.
Women are being removed from serving as SBC administrators.
Women are being removed as SBC strategic coordinators on the mission field.
All this under the justification that the BFM says women shall not be 'Senior Pastors'. What? How do the above positions fall under the category of 'Senior Pastor'? The BFM doesn't say women can't serve in these areas!
I have an observation: to remove women from being SBC professors, students, missionaries, and administrators, all because the BFM 2000 says they can't serve in those positions is as dishonest as someone acting as if the BFM 2000, the only consensus doctrinal statement of the SBC, prohibits people from serving as missionaries who pray in a private prayer language. Oh, wait, that's already being done.
Wake up people.
In His Grace,