Friday, May 31, 2019

Dr. Mohler, May I Introduce You to Bertha Smith?

Miss Bertha Smith
Dr. Al Mohler, the erudite President of Southern Seminary tweeted earlier today (May 31, 2019) that the Southern Baptist Convention has "reached a critical moment."

He tweeted that there are "open calls (in the SBC) to retreat from our biblical convictions on complementarianism."

In other words, Dr. Mohler seems concerned that women are now in leadership roles around the Southern Baptist Convention, in Southern Baptist churches, and in Southern Baptist entities.

Dr. Mohler tends toward exaggeration for the sake of illustration, just like most of us who speak or write for a living. I'm sure it's unintentional on his part.

But I do like to recount anecdotes to Dr. Mohler from Southern Baptist history to help cure him of his denominational dementia.

So Dr. Mohler, may I introduce you to Olive Bertha Smith? Those of us who knew her or had the privilege of hearing her preach the Word affectionately called her "Miss Bertha."

Al, I would invite you to listen to her preach via the wonder of the Internet at one of our Southern Baptist Churches.

Miss Bertha died in 1988 at the age of 100. Unless you weren't paying attention to Southern Baptist Convention life in the decades before you became President of Southern Seminary (1993), you will surely remember that Miss Bertha preached the Word of God in hundreds of Southern Baptist Convention churches during her lifetime.

Ben Cole messaged me that he has a box of "hundreds of SBC church bulletins where Miss Bertha is the Sunday morning preacher."

But today you tweeted:
"We have reached a critical moment in the Southern Baptist Convention when there are now open calls to retreat from our biblical convictions on complementarianism and embrace the very error that the SBC repudiated over 30 years ago. Honestly, I never thought I would see this day" 11:14 am - 31 May 2019
Really, Dr. Mohler?

I realize that some who read your tweet might actually think you are representing a historical fact, and the readers of your tweet might not understand that Twitter is a tool that transforms tomorrow rather than a mirror that accurately reflects the past.

You are as old as I am, and you probably listened to Miss Bertha teach us the Word of God in a church, or from a Southern Baptist Convention platform.

There are some great lessons in our mutually shared SBC history

It would be worth your time to read the 1979 letter I've scanned and attached (below). It's written by Southern Baptist evangelist Jack Taylor. He, Dr. Russell Dilday (President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1979), Dr. John Earl Seeling (Vice-President of Southwestern Seminary in 1979), and my father, Paul Burleson (Pastor of Southcliff Baptist Church, Fort Worth, Texas in 1979), as well as dozens of other leading Southern Baptists in 1979 were raising $100,000 to install Miss Bertha on the faculty at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to serve Southern Baptists pastors in a fully endowed Chair of Prayer.

Our Southern Baptist Convention leaders in 1979 wanted Miss Bertha to teach our Southern Baptist preacher boys how to talk with God. 

Dr. Mohler, when you say "I never thought I would see this day!" - people like me will take you back to 1979 and introduce re-introduce you to women who preached, taught, and guided men in the Southern Baptist Convention.

What Beth Moore is doing today in the SBC - teaching men and women in our Southern Baptist Churches on Sunday morning from the platform - has been going on for a very long time in the Southern Baptist Convention.

It takes books, not tweets, to accurately reflect the past 50 years in the Southern Baptist Convention, and a book with a better historical context of the SBC is coming this Christmas.
You and I both believe the Word of God is infallible and inerrant.
You and I both believe that Jesus Christ is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life."
You and I just disagree on the history of the SBC.
We've seen this day before.

It's biblical. It's beneficial. It's beautiful.

More to come...


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Wade, for setting the record straight and for your willingness to stand up for your convictions among your SBC brothers. What an encouragement!

Julie Cook said...

Wade, your courageous voice is like a healing balm to your sisters in the SBC. I’m praying diligently for my SBC brothers to reconsider their stance on women in ministry.
Clear the path for us, my brothers. I’m watching and praying. God’s will be done.

J k brown said...

Thank you for the history lesson....I am not sure that Dr Molher does know that the convention has this broad history. He seems to want only one view to be known and allowed? I spent 36 years as an SBC pastor and I found our history to be much broader than Dr Mahler seems to know. It should not be narrowed!

Anonymous said...

“The secret of victorious living is through faith in the crucified and risen Christ and by union with him in that death and resurrection.” (Bertha Smith)

Anonymous said...

" And by faith (s)he still speaks, even though (s)he is dead."
(a paraphrasing of Hebrews 11:4)

Bob Cleveland said...

Something strikes me as curious.

Paul knew well how to give specific instructions as to how to conduct our churches. See 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 for details about that. So .. where are the specific instructions not to let ladies speak or teach in any church?

I don't know of any, but I confess I'm 81 and may not remember ...

Kelley Kimble said...

I have been considering leaving my SBC church over this issue. That is, until the other night when I had a chance to talk with some of my young brothers in Christ who give me hope for the future of SB men.

Paul Burleson said...


I had the privilege of hearing Miss Bertha many times as we shared several conferences together as two of the key note speakers. One of the conferences was in Denver where I, she, and Tom Elliff, were the three speakers for the meeting. On one particular night Tom began the evening session with a message, then Miss Bertha spoke and I was to follow her with the concluding message.

Miss Bertha was unusually anointed that night and exceeded her time limit by so much that were I to bring a message it would have put us late into the evening. So, instead of preaching, I did what I knew the Lord intended me to do, I called us to a response to HER message with the alter being FILLED with people praying. It was a mountain top experience.

The next night it was the same order and the same thing happened with the very same outcome. The rest of the conference I was asked to be the lead off speaker. [I’m not sure but what Tom arranged that with his gracious spirit.]

But my point really is, Miss Bertha DID NOT give a testimony, she DID NOT bring a devotional, she “preached the Word in power.” The SBC, historically, has been blessed by women, anointed by the Spirit, sharing the Word of God. It may not have been mainstream, but it was of God, from my perspective.

Anonymous said...

"Miss Bertha was unusually anointed that night and exceeded her time limit by so much that were I to bring a message it would have put us late into the evening. So, instead of preaching, I did what I knew the Lord intended me to do, I called us to a response to HER message with the alter being FILLED with people praying. It was a mountain top experience."

grace upon grace :)

beautiful comment, Paul Burleson!

Rex Ray said...

This link tells a lot of history of Southern Baptist.

“ Albert Mohler, an architect of the Conservative Resurgence.”

“Al Mohler was appointed president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1993 and "hailed as a hero of SBC fundamentalism.”

If I remember correctly, Al Mohler and Paige Patterson wrote a letter to the IMB demanding that no women should have a position that gave them authority over men.

Derick said...

Of course, you know that much of the attacks against Mohler in the early days were over the issue of women Pastors. Mohler was attacked at Southern by people like Molly Marshall and others who believed he should not be President because of his view on this issue. Of course, Mohler knew women preachers existed and was used by the liberal SBCers as the poster child as the problem in the SBCs. Mohler's comments were clearly bemoaning that after the fullness of the resurgence that we are fighting this again. No one who lived through the 90's in the Southern Baptist Convention would think Mohler was unaware of women preachers. Rather, Mohler felt that once the complementarian side won, the issue was resolved for at least his generation.

Rex Ray said...

When IMB President, Rankin, received the demand from Mohler and Patterson that missionary women should not have a position over men, he was astonished and said,

“Why everyone of us believes in “inerrancy”.

You see, at that time if you believe in inerrancy of the Bible, you belonged to the ‘in crowd’ like those accepted in Germany at one time that put their arm in the air and said, “Hail Hitler”.

In 1978, 335 people met in Chicago and wrote ten pages defining the word “inerrancy”. Paige Patterson and his wife, Dorothy were two of them.

I’ve written before that due to friction and heartache “Inerrancy” should go back from where it came from; the smiling lips of the devil.

Christiane said...

Hello REX RAY,

it always seemed to me that 'inerrancy' really meant 'my personal interpretation is never wrong'

I think the whole 'inerrancy' brand detracted from the sacredness of the written Word. I would hope that if any one word could be descriptive of the Scriptures, it would be 'Sacred'.

Rex Ray said...


I like your interpretation of inerrancy: (my personal interpretation is never wrong) :)

Paul is my favorite writer of the New Testament. (Many are called but few are chosen.) I think of him as my father once told me: “Rex, you’re always right, but when you’re wrong, you’re dead wrong.”

I’ll post this comment I just made to Victorious on another post asking for an explanation of Paul’s statements.

“…The head of every man is Christ, the head of every woman is man.” (1 Corinthians:11:3 NLT)

“…man is made in God’s image and reflects God’s glory. And woman reflects man’s glory. For the first man didn’t come from woman, but the first woman came from man. And man was not made for woman, but woman was made for man…for this reason, …a woman should wear a covering on her head to show she is under authority.” (1 Corinthians11:7-10 NLT)

MPB said...

The problem is not that the SBC is leaving orthodoxy behind; the problem is that Mohler left *Christianity* behind years ago. He might use terms like "Christ" and "Gospel," but he and his have made those mere code-words for patriarchy, and never fail to choose patriarchy where it and the teachings of Christ are in conflict. The SBC hasn't backslid; Mohler just started an entirely novel religion and now expects the entire SBC to follow his new cult.

Unknown said...

This is my first attempt at commenting on anything for a long time.
I’ve listened to Al Mohlers podcasts and though he seems to focus on a few topics, and I wish he would diversify a bit more I think he is right on.
I’ve heard that he and a few other well known theologians are credited with turning out more Reformed Baptist Pastors. I am very glad to hear that and therefore I support his position in the SBC.
As far as women being allowed positions above men not being biblical, it is obvious that anyone objecting to that does not believe the Bible is the Word of God. God’s
laws do not change nor does His Word.
If we all white out what we don’t like in the Bible we would have left the trend of today in society which is in a tailspin straight to hell.

MPB said...

So when are you going to stop paying no attention to the bits you don't like, "Unknown?"

Ken F said...

"it is obvious that anyone objecting to that does not believe the Bible is the Word of God."

Isn't Jesus the Word of God? The fact that there are thousands of denominations who cannot agree on what the Bible says suggests that maybe our individual interpretations of the Bible could be suspect. I have read/heard many good arguments on this topic from various perspectives from very well educated people that lead me to believe that Al Mohler is probably incorrect on this topic.

Christiane said...

Hello KEN F

Jesus is 'the Logos' of God

It always astonished me just how much 'bible worship' went on and I did not know it for sure UNTIL people turned against Our Lord as 'the lens through which all Scripture is to be interpreted'

after that happened, came 'the rules' to put women down and raise men up

after that happened, came the abuse of women like Dr. Klouda

and after that, came the further abuse of victims of rape by 'authority' figures, to the shame of the SBC and eventually, when he was exposed, the dismissal of a 'leader' in disgrace for saying words so inappropriate I cannot repeat them concerning a young woman who was victimized and came to him for help

IF Our Lord's Words are set aside and the words of others in sacred Scripture seen as 'of the same value', we can get some strange 'interpretations', taken out of the context of 'The Word' Who Is Our Lord, Jesus Christ. And then, Christ's laws are broken and people are hurt and you end up with 'inerrancy' meaning simply 'whoever is in power says what the Bible means' and boy howdy to people seeking power walk away from the Royal Law of Christ in pursuit of something they 'justify' as 'the Bible says'.

When Our Lord is not the CENTRAL FIGURE of Christian attention, you can bet others will step to claim 'authority', but they cannot, not in the end, justify before Our Lord that they used 'the Bible' to break the Royal Law and to harm innocent people.

thanks for listening . . . my ranting is emotional, but therapeutic, when I see just how deep the wounds go in the SBC, and thank God Wade will not abandon it, nor will he stop speaking out for the sake of the victims of abuse.

Christiane said...


we may see things differently, but I can agree with you that as a 'writer', St. Paul's love chapter in Corinthians is absolutely stunningly Christ-centered and a great testimony to how the power of God to change Paul from someone who participated in stoning St. Stephen Martyr could be 'transformed' and 'awakened' to write such an inspired chapter so dear to Christian hearts in the whole Body of Christ. :)

Paul said...


Can you explain to me how this helps your argument? It's pretty well known that when Dr. Mohler came to Southern Seminary to be the president, there was a 'cleaning of the house' so to speak. What makes us think that Dr. Mohler would have been a signer of the letter you scanned from 1979? It was those kinds of things that Dr. Mohler did away with was it not? And it's those sorts of things that he is looking to prevent as well. Therefore - this is a weird angle to pursue.

Every blessing in Christ Jesus to you

Callie M said...


The story about Miss Bertha is so encouraging! I love to read about "Christian Heros" (who I think would whole heartedly reject that title), but I've never heard anything about her! Josephine Skaggs is one I learned about from your blog, too and was awed by how the Lord used her, and even just thinking about her having such a prominent role at the SBC in that era. Its wild to think that women had more freedom to use their gifts during their generation than in mine. I wish you would write a book about these women. This is history we need to know!

Scott Shaver said...

The issue of whether or not women, along with sons and daughters would prophesy is settle both in Old Nd New Testaments. No make or female in Christ with regard to proclamation.