Saturday, June 29, 2019

Alexander Hamilton, Dr. Cooper, and False Reality

I'm reading the excellent book Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, the biography which serves as the basis for the Tony-award winning music Hamilton, for which Chernow served as historical consultant.

There's a story from the life of 19-year-old Hamilton in Chernow's book that made me laugh out loud, but it serves as a classic illustration of how events in your life are viewed through your prism of perception.

Before I get to the anecdote, think about your life for a moment.

Your perception is your reality.

Author Gregory Berns states in his book Iconoclast, “Perception is the brain’s way of interpreting ambiguous visual signals in the most likely explanation possible. These explanations are a direct result of past experience."
You have a filter or a prism in your mind that colors what you see and experience.
A glance away can be interpreted as a cold shoulder from a friend, a shoulder which may actually be warm toward you. 
Words spoken with passion by a friend or co-worker are interpreted as anger, an emotion that may not be present in the speaker.
An attitude you "pick up on" in your spouse may trigger a negative response from you, puzzling the one who knows you best. 
Your real world is your perceived world.

And sometimes you make poor decisions because you're living in a false reality.

Boston Tea Party, December 16, 1773
Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant from St. Croix, entered King's College (now Columbia University), New York City, in the fall of 1773. The Boston Tea Party occurred in Boston on December 16, 1773, Hamilton's first semester at King's as an eighteen-year-old. In the Boston Harbor, American Colonists revolted the against English Parliament by casting barrels of English tea overboard. The Americans were enraged at the Tea Tax, and showed their outrage by throwing the tea overboard shouting the phrase "no taxation without representation."

Tensions increased between the American Colonists after the Tea Party. Those Americans desiring Independence as a country (called Patriots) were opposed by those colonists who were loyalists to England (called Tories). Some English politicians who served in the English Parliament at London wished to destroy the city of Boston as punishment for the Tea Rebellion and "turn it into a modern Carthage."

On July 6, 1774, six months after the Boston Tea Party, collegian Alexander Hamilton went to The Commons (now City Hall Park) and climbed a "box" to speak to the crowd which had gathered. The Commons regularly hosted impromptu political speeches, debates, and news, and New Yorkers gathered regularly to keep informed. This was Hamilton's first public speech.  He started slowly and quietly, but words began to flow more quickly and passionately as Hamilton eloquently defended the Patriots of Boston and stated his logical, legal, and civil arguments for American Independence.

After listening to nineteen-year-old Hamilton's stirring speech, the crowd began to whisper "It is a collegian!"

That speech marks the beginning of Hamilton's meteoric rise as one of American's Founding Fathers.

On April 19, 1775, less than a year after Hamilton's speech, British soldiers killed 8 colonists at Lexington and 2 more at Concord, and the American Revolutionary War began.

Hamilton was still a student at King's College when the War began.

Dr. Myles Cooper
The President of King's College, Myles Cooper, had been known as the most vocal Tory in New York. Dr. Cooper despised the rebels who wished to throw off English authority, and he made known his opposition to American Independence as often as possible.

In December 1773, President Cooper had admitted the autodidactic Hamilton into King's College as an "exception" to the typical college entrance requirements.

For that grace and for other reasons, Alexander Hamilton looked on President Cooper "as a father to me."

But Alexander Hamilton's vocal support of the American Patriots which began on July 6, 1774, and continued through his erudite essays published in the King's College newsletter caused President Cooper to wrongly believe Alexander Hamilton had become his enemy. 

That was Myles Cooper perception, and thus his reality.

Which leads us to the anecdote of how false reality can harm you. Five days after Lexington and Concord, an anonymous pamphlet appeared in New York blaming Myles Cooper and four other "obnoxious gentlemen" for the deaths of American Patriots in Massachussets. Listen to Ron Chernow recount what happened next (emphasis mine).
On April 24, a huge throng of patriots, some eight thousand strong, massed in front of City Hall. While radicals grew giddy with excitement, many terrified Tory merchants began to book passage for England. The next day, an anonymous handbill blamed Myles Cooper and four other “obnoxious gentlemen” for the patriotic deaths in Massachusetts and said the moment had passed for symbolic gestures, such as burning Tories in effigy. “The injury you have done to your country cannot admit of reparation,” these five Loyalists were warned. “Fly for your lives or anticipate your doom by becoming your own executioners.” This blatant death threat was signed, “Three Millions.' A defiant Myles Cooper stuck to his college post. 
After a demonstration on the night of May 10, hundreds of protesters armed with clubs and heated by a heady brew of political rhetoric and strong drink descended on King’s College, ready to inflict rough justice on Myles Cooper. Hercules Mulligan recalled that Cooper “was a Tory and an obnoxious man and the mob went to the college with the intention of tarring and feathering him or riding him upon a rail.” Nicholas Ogden, a King’s alumnus, saw the angry mob swarming toward the college and raced ahead to Cooper’s room, urging the president to scramble out a back window. Because Hamilton and Troup shared a room near Cooper’s quarters, Ogden also alerted them to the approaching mob. “Whereupon Hamilton instantly resolved to take his stand on the stairs [i.e., the outer stoop] in front of the Doctor’s apartment and there to detain the mob as long as he could by a harangue in order to gain the Doctor the more time for his escape,” Troup later recorded.
After the mob knocked down the gate and surged toward the residence, Hamilton launched into an impassioned speech, telling the vociferous protesters that their conduct, instead of promoting their cause, would “disgrace and injure the glorious cause of liberty.” One account has the slightly deaf Cooper poking his head from an upper-story window and observing Hamilton gesticulating on the stoop below. He mistakenly thought that his pupil was inciting the crowd instead of pacifying them and shouted, “Don’t mind what he says. He’s crazy!” Another account has Cooper shouting at the ruffians: “Don’t believe anything Hamilton says. He’s a little fool!” The more plausible version is that Cooper had long since vanished, having scampered away in his nightgown on Ogden’s warning.  
Hamilton likely knew he couldn’t stop the intruders, but he won the vital minutes necessary for Cooper to clamber over a back fence and rush down to the Hudson. Afraid for his life, Cooper meandered along the shore all night. The next day, he boarded a man-of-war bound for England, where he resumed his tirades against the colonists from the safety of a study. Among other things, he published a melodramatic poem about his escape. He told how the rabble—“a murderous band”—had burst into his room, “And whilst their curses load my head / With piercing steel they probe the bed / And thirst for human gore.” This image of the president set upon by bloodthirsty rebels was more satisfying than the banal truth that he cravenly ran off half-dressed into the night. Cooper never saw Hamilton again and wept copiously when England lost the Revolution. He could not resist grumbling in his will that “all my affairs have been shattered to pieces by this abominable rebellion.”
Chernow, Ron. Alexander Hamilton (p. 63-64). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
"Don't mind what he says, he's crazy!" Dr. Cooper had yelled about the man trying to save him.

Dr. Cooper's false reality almost cost him his life.

May God grant us all the grace to recognize our perceptions are sometimes wrong.

Let's keep an open mind.

Let's not judge motives in others, for we can't know motives.

Even when the "actions" of others seem to indicate one thing, always believe the best about others (I Corinthians 13:7).

In the end, our good and loving God is in control, and to trust Him means we have the wisdom to know that our perceptions are not always our reality.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Fannie Longfellow's Death and "God Is Not Dead"

Fannie Longfellow (1820-1861)
On July 10, 1861, Frances Elizabeth "Fannie" Appleton Longfellow died from complications of an accidental fire in her home at Cambridge, Massachusetts.

While combing the hair of her three young girls (Alice, Allegra, and Edith) on Tuesday evening, July 9, a self-lighting phosphorous match fell to the floor, sparking a flame that caught Fannie's delicate muslin dress on fire. 

Screaming, Fannie ran into the study where her husband sat at his desk.

Startled, Henry Longfellow immediately jumped to the aid of his burning wife, pulling a throw rug from the floor and wrapping it around Fannie. Henry threw his wife to the floor and sought to put out any unsuffocated flames using his hands and face. 

House servants came with buckets of water, but it was too late.

Fannie suffered fatal 3rd-degree burns over her entire body.

The mother of five and wife of the greatest American poet of his day survived through the night. She remained in a conscious state due to the effects of the ether given to deaden her pain. Early in the morning of July 10, 1861, Fannie fell asleep and died.

I have in my possession an Appleton family letter from July 1861 that describes in vivid detail the intense pain Henry Wadsworth Longfellow suffered in the aftermath of the fire.

The burns he received on his hands and face prevented him from attending his wife's funeral.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
It took months of healing before Longfellow could use his fingers to write poetry.

Never again would Longfellow be seen without his signature beard, grown to cover the disfiguring scars on his face.

It took even longer for Longfellow's emotional wounds to heal.

Tasked with raising his six mother-less children, Henry depended on his sister for help those first few months, but he determined to spend as much personal time with them as possible.

Longfellow particularly sought to comfort his three girls, describing them in 'The Children's Hour' as "grave Alice and laughing Allegra and Edith with golden hair."

The painful aftermath of Fannie Longfellow's death precluded Henry's productivity as a writer and poet.

Henry published Tales of a Wayside Inn in the spring of 1863, a work he'd mostly finished before the tragedy two years earlier. Friends helped him bring it to completion.

To compound the sorrow, Charles Longfellow, Henry's 18-year-old son, walked out of the Longfellow house on Brattle Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, without so much as a good-bye, early in 1863. Charles went to the train station and joined the Union Army against his father's wishes. Henry didn't even like to hunt game, and he'd vocally opposed his son's desires to join the army.

Within a few short months, word came that Charles had been severely wounded on the battlefield. Henry and another of his sons took the train to Washington, D.C. where they picked up Charles to transport him home to Cambridge. They found Charles at the train station, paralyzed from the waist down due to battlefield injuries.

The ride home to Cambridge that Fall of 1863 was somber.

Christmas Day

A few weeks after bringing Charles home, on Christmas Day 1863, Henry wrote his first poem since his wife's tragic death 30 months earlier.

Henry's motherless six children gathered at the Longfellow home, with the now paralyzed nineteen-year-old Charles lying in his bedroom.

57-year-old Henry Wadsworth Longfellow sat at his desk in the very study where he'd suffered disfiguring burns attempting to save his wife's life in July 1861.

The church bells in Cambridge began ringing that Christmas morning.

Christmas carols, old and familiar carols, the bells played.

Henry Longfellow pulled out a quill, ink, paper, and began to write.
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet
The words repeat
'Of peace on earth, good-will to men!'
And in despair I bowed my head;
'There is no peace on earth,' I said;
For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
'Of peace on earth, good-will to men!'
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
'With peace on earth, good-will to men.'
He entitled his seven-stanza poem Christmas Bells.

You know it as I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.

A few years later Longfellow's poem was put to music and turned into a Christmas, and the modern version sung by Casting Crowns is one of my favorites.

I love the carol because of these three lines: 
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail.
It's difficult to see how the "wrong" in this life which produces envy, hate, fights, wars, injuries, deaths, scars, and all sorts of pain can actually fail when it looks as if it now prevails.

But Jesus has indeed come.

It’s His job to ensure wrong ultimately fails and right prevails.

He’ll finish what He’s started for “the gates of hell shall not prevail.”

Monday, June 24, 2019

A 10 Fold Challenge to Prove Female Subordination

In 2007 I warned the Southern Baptist Convention that we were in the midst of a sexual abuse crisis that needed addressing and correcting. 

Now we are in another crisis. 

Certain Southern Baptists leaders have a deficient, unbiblical view of women. In short, some SBC men believe SBC women should keep silent and submit to male leadership. 

In 2030, this crisis will be over as well. 

It just takes the SBC a little while to correctly interpret the sacred and inerrant text. 

Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian is a biblical scholar who understands what the sacred text teaches about men and women. 

With a hat-tip to my father, Paul Burleson, I present to you Dr. Bilezikian's challenge to prove female subordination to men from the Bible. 

Open my eyes that I may see
Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me.
Place in my hands the wonderful Key
That shall unclasp and set me free
Clara H. Scott, Hymn

The purpose of this challenge is to prompt Christians to grapple with biblical facts rather than to accept traditional assumptions about female roles. What is at stake is not the role of women as much as the definition of the church as authentic biblical community. Is it possible for a local church to aspire to define itself as biblical community when more than half its constituency is excluded from participating in the most significant aspects of its life?

In the course of history, the church has often lost its way. For instance, during a thousand years, the church forgot something as crucial as the way of salvation and replaced it with methods of salvation by works that never worked. The biblical teaching was finally recovered by the Reformers just a few centuries ago.

Likewise, many present-day Christians believe that, along the way, the church has lost its own definition as community and replaced it with false definitions that reduce it to the status of institution, establishment, hierarchy, corporation and programs. This challenge provides an incentive to help Christians rediscover for themselves the biblical definition of the church as God's community of oneness.

To anyone who might be tempted to think that this challenge is a feminist plot to subvert the traditional church, it should be pointed out that feminism is a quest for equal rights and equal power. A basic premise of this presentation is the exact opposite, the belief that the Bible requires all Christians to pursue relationships of mutual submission and of reciprocal servanthood.

An effective approach to tackle this challenge would be to go through this document one page at a time, to check the references with an open Bible at hand, and to search the Scriptures in order to supply the requested references. The challenge is to let the scriptures speak for themselves and to come away with how you see one of the great needs of the modern church.

1. The Challenge

Cite a text from the creation account in Genesis 1 and 2 that enjoins or entitles men to exercise authority or leadership over women, or that designates men as "head" or "spiritual head" over women.

The Facts

There is not a hint, not even a whisper about anything like a hierarchical order existing between man and woman in the creation account of Genesis, chapters 1 and 2. In fact, the exact opposite is clearly taught in these two chapters. Both man and woman were made in God's image (1:26-27) and they both participated in God-assigned ministries without any role distinctions (1:28).

The creation order established oneness, not hierarchy (2:24). The first indication of a hierarchical order between man and woman resulted from the entrance of sin into the world (3:16). The subordination of women to men was not part of God's original design. It resulted from the violation of God's creation order.
The use of the word "helper" for the woman reinforces the relation of non-hierarchical complementarity that existed between the man and the woman prior to the fall (2:18). In the language of the Old Testament, a "helper" is one who rescues others in situations of need. This designation is often attributed to God as our rescuer. The word denotes not domesticity or subordination but competency and superior strength (Ex. 18:4; Deut. 33:26, 29; Psalm 33:20, 70:5, etc.).

According to the text, the woman was instrumental in rescuing the man from being alone and, therefore, from not being yet the community of oneness that God had intended to create with both of them (Gen. 1:27.) As "helper," she pointedly enabled him to become with her the community that God had intended to establish through their union.

The word "helper" is used specifically in this context of God's deliberation to create community (2:18). The biblical text becomes violated when the word "helper" is wrenched away and lifted out of this specific context to be given other meanings that demean women by reducing them to the level of "complements" or docile conveniences created to improve the quality of male life.

In the account of the created order within which every relation of authority is carefully spelled out (1:26, 28; 2:17), there is not the slightest suggestion of a structure of authority existing between the man and the woman. Instead, the explicit evidence provided in those texts describes both as participating cooperatively in reflecting the image, and both fulfilling jointly the tasks of rulership and dominion without the necessity of a structure of hierarchy between them.

2. The Challenge

Cite a text from the Bible that assigns women subordinate status in relation to men because Adam was created before Eve.

The Facts

In the first chapter of Genesis, the sequence of creation moves, in increasing levels of sophistication, from material things to plants, to animals and, finally, to humans. According to chapter two, the process culminates with the creation of the woman. Obviously, chronological primacy was not intended to denote superior rank. No such lesson is drawn within those two chapters from the fact that the man was created before the woman.

In 1 Corinthians, chapter 11, an argument is presented for women to wear a head covering during worship. It is based on the differences in status between men and women that derive from the fact that man was created first (v. 7-10).

But, according to the same text, all those considerations have been decisively swept aside "in the Lord," that is, in the Christian community (v. 11). In the new covenant, both men and women are in a relation of originative interdependence since men must recognize that they owe their existence to women just as the woman was made from man. Only the primacy of God as creator of all has significance since all things come from him, including both men and women (v. 11-12). As a result of this leveling of the ground "in the Lord", a covering is not even required of women since their hair is their covering (v. 15).

The ministry restrictions exceptionally placed on women in 1Timothy, chapter 2 are not based on the creation order. They are drawn from the temptation account. No conclusion is made in the text from the fact that Adam was formed first except for the one lesson that Adam was not deceived but Eve was and she became the first transgressor (v. 13-14).

Adam had been instructed about the prohibition relative to the tree directly from God while Eve was not yet in existence. For this reason, of the two, she was the one less prepared to face the tempter. He was present during the temptation episode but he remained silent (Gen. 3:6). Despite this disadvantage, she boldly engaged the tempter and she became deceived. This illustration from the Genesis temptation story has nothing to do with assigning all women of all times a subordinate status in church life. It was cited in this epistle to make the point that untaught and unqualified individuals should not aspire to teaching functions or to positions of leadership. They should first become quiet learners (1 Tim. 2: 11-12).

3. The Challenge

Cite a text from the Bible that defines the headship of Christ to the church as a relation of authority or of leadership.

The Facts

The New Testament defines the headship ministry of Christ to the church as a servant relation designed to provide the church with life and growth. This headship is never presented as an authority or lordship position.

Eph. 1:22-23. Christ is supremely and universally sovereign, but as head for the church, it is not said that he rules over it. Instead, he provides his body with the fullness of him who fills all in all. He causes the church to grow and flourish.
Eph. 4:15-16. Christ as head provides the body with oneness, cohesion and growth. This is a servant-provider role, not one of rulership.
Eph. 5:23. Christ is head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior. His headship to the church is defined as saviorhood which is biblically defined as a servant, self-sacrificing function, not a lordship role.
Col. 1:18. Christ is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead. As its head, Christ is the source of the church's life.
Col. 2:19. Christ is the head from whom the whole body grows because it is nourished by him. He is servant-provider of life and growth to the church.

Obviously, Christ is Lord of all and therefore Lord of the church. But never does the New Testament define Christ's relation to the church as its head in terms of lordship, authority or rulership. As head to the church, Christ is always the servant who gives the church all she needs to become his radiant Bride. So is the husband to his wife (Eph. 5:25-30), within a relationship of mutual submission (v. 21).

The word "head" used figuratively in the English language refers to boss, person in authority, leader. It never has that meaning in New Testament Greek. There are hundreds of references in the New Testament to religious, governmental, civic, familial and military authority figures. Not one of them is ever designated as "head."

Even Christ, as "head" of all rule and authority, remains their original giver of life and fullness (Col. 2:10; 1:16). Similarly, Christ was never called "head" of the church until after his crucifixion, the supreme expression of his servant ministry as the giver of new life.
Whenever Christ is described as "head" to the church, his ministry is that of servant-provider. Similarly, as head to his wife, a husband is a servant-provider of life, of fullness and growth, not one who exercises authority over her.

4. The Challenge

Cite a text from the Bible that makes men head over women, or a husband head over his wife.

The Facts

There is no such statement in the Bible. The text in 1 Corinthians 11:3 is often cited as establishing a top-down hierarchy:

God over Christ--- Christ over man--- man over woman.

However, this biblical text must be radically dismembered and its components reshuffled in order to produce such results. The untouched biblical sequence is totally different and it does not present a hierarchical structure:
Christ, head of man--- man, head of woman--- God, head of Christ.
The teaching in this text concerns the concept of "head" as giver of life. In creation, Christ (as the Word, John 1:3) gave life to man; man to woman (as she was taken from him, Gen. 2:21-23); and in the incarnation, God gave life to Christ (Luke 1:35). This understanding of "head" as "provider of life" is consistent with the immediate context which deals with the significance of origination (1 Cor. 11:7-12).

The meaning of "head" as servant-provider of life in this text is also consistent with the headship passage in Ephesians 5:21-33. There, the church is described as being subject to Christ in the reciprocity of servanthood because Christ as head is also servant to the church as its Savior and as the source of its welfare. Saviorhood in the New Testament is not a lordship role but one of self-sacrifice in radical servanthood.

Likewise, the wife is servant to her husband as she submits to him because the husband is servant to her in radical headship as he gives himself up for her as Christ did for the church (v. 25-30).

Both the general concept of headship in the New Testament and this passage of Scripture are infused with the notions of mutual submission (v. 21) and, therefore, of reciprocal servanthood. Such biblical teachings reduce the imposition of hierarchical relations between husbands and wives to irrelevance, if not to abuse in their relationship.

5. The Challenge

Cite a New Testament text according to which men are given unilateral authority over women or are permitted to act as their leaders.

The Facts

Once the fall shattered the God-given oneness between man and woman, they both faced a dysfunctional relationship. The woman was warned that, because of the disruption of the fall, the husband would rule over her (Gen. 3:16). Oneness would turn into abuse. But no mandate was ever given to the man to claim this rulership over the woman.

There is no allowance made in the New Testament or license given for any one believer to wield authority over another adult believer. The pledge exacted from brides in an older wedding ceremony, "Wilt thou obey him...?" had no biblical warrant.

There is no text in Scripture that enjoins wives to obey their husbands. The call is for mutual subjection (Eph. 5:21). Both wives and husbands must relate to each other "in the same way" as slaves submit to their masters (1 Peter 2:18; 3:1, 7 NIV) in order to follow in the steps of Christ, their supreme example (2:21).

The New Testament singularly cites the case of Sarah who obeyed her husband Abraham (1 Peter 3:6). Sarah's case was cited in full knowledge of the fact that Abraham pointedly obeyed his wife just as often as she obeyed him, once even under God's specific command (Gen. 16:2, 6; 21:11-12).

Christians are solemnly forbidden by their Lord to establish among themselves structures of authority similar to the hierarchical systems that prevail in secular society. Those who aspire to attain such positions of leadership must, instead, become servants and slaves of those over whom they wish to wield authority (Matt. 20:25-28).

Leadership is always defined in the New Testament as shared leadership. In church life, leadership is a team function entrusted to a plurality of persons such as elders. These act as servants who have recourse to the exercise of authority only exceptionally when required to do so because of disciplinary or crisis situations and then, only corporately.

In marriage, husbands and wives are bonded in a relationship of non-hierarchical complementarity within which each partner brings to the union his or her leadership gifts in a structure of shared leadership. (For resolving biblically situations of decisional impasses, see Bilezikian, Beyond Sex Roles, pp. 212-214).

6. The Challenge

Cite a New Testament text that exempts husbands from being mutually submitted to their wives.

The Facts

Male rulership has prevailed since the time of the fall. For Christians, the new covenant in Christ should reverse this situation to the original goodness of the created order, from rulership back to the reciprocity of oneness (Matt. 19:4-5).

Submission to Christ requires of believers that they submit to one another (Eph. 5:21). According to this text, where there is no mutual submission, reverence for Christ is wanting. Because the newness of the Gospel calls for new relationships, a paradigm shift has occurred that requires of Christians, including husbands and wives, to be in mutual subjection.

Since the practical expression of subjection is servanthood, this means that both husbands and wives are servants to each other. But perhaps in order to overcome the ruler legacy that men have inherited from the fall, it is additionally specified that Christian men must also love their wives to the point of Christ-like self-sacrifice for their sakes (v. 25-30).

For this precise reason, in the only New Testament text where the word "authority" is used (in verb form) to describe husband and wife relations, husbands are not exempt from coming under the authority of their wives. A Christian wife has exactly the same authority rights over her husband as a husband has over his wife (1 Cor. 7:4).

In this text, the Scriptures teach specifically that a husband has no authority over his own body but that his wife does. (Interestingly, the NIV has considerably softened its translation of this challenging statement). In fact, decisions that affect their marital relationship may not be made unilaterally by either husband or wife (v. 5). They require the agreement of both parties. They both have equal say in the matter since either of the two may veto the proposed course of action.

Thus the New Testament requires that, beginning with the most personal expression of conjugal life, the one that emblemizes par excellence the union of man and woman, relationships be controlled jointly and that decisions be made by consensus with the involvement of both partners on a basis of equality. This call to mutual subjection and to joint participation in the exercise of authority strikes at the very foundation of any authority claim of husbands over wives. 

7. The Challenge

Cite a biblical text according to which men are favored over women in the distribution of spiritual gifts, including those that qualify believers for ministries of leadership.

The Facts

In the garden, Adam and Eve were jointly entrusted with the dual responsibility of populating the earth and managing the environment (Gen. 1:28). The two mandates were committed to both of them without any role differentiations on the basis of gender. In order to fulfill this command, the man and the woman must have brought their best abilities to the accomplishment of both tasks in a relationship of equal partnership, best defined as non-hierarchical complementarity.

On the day of Pentecost, Peter gave the inaugural speech that marked the beginning of the life of the church universal. The very first statement he made concerned the consequences of the new availability of the Holy Spirit to all believers. The outpouring of the Spirit promoted both men and women without differentiation to the ministry of prophecy (Acts 2:16-18), a function that was regarded as one of the highest ministries in the life of the church (1 Cor. 12:28).

Consistently, the New Testament declares that all the members of local churches are endowed with spiritual gifts by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 12:4-8; 1 Cor. 12:7-12) without any mention of women being excluded from such ministry roles.

Furthermore, the text teaches that no individual has the right to excuse oneself (v. 14-16) and that no one has the right to exclude someone else from doing ministry (v. 20-22).

On such premises, all may prophesy (14:31), and both men and women may lead in worship through prayer and the spoken word (11:4-5) such as the four women who prophesied in the church of Caesarea (Acts 21:9).

In this light, it is evident that the statement in 1 Corinthians 14:33-36 forbidding women to speak in church has nothing to do with women exercising their spiritual gifts. In this passage, the Apostle was dealing with a different issue that did not concern the exercise of spiritual gifts. He was actually opposing, by quoting their words derisively, abusive church leaders who were intent on excluding women from active participation in the life of the church. (For a commentary on this passage, see Bilezikian, Community 101, pp. 86-89.)

8. The Challenge

Cite a biblical text that exclusively disqualifies women from exercising church leadership ministries.

The Facts

The one passage that is ultimately adduced to claim that the New Testament prohibits women to teach or to have authority over men is found in 1 Timothy 2:11-15. However, the same section of Scriptures imposes similarly restrictive leadership and ministry prohibitions on men. According to it, a man's family status provides the indispensable credential for his ability to lead the church (3:4-5, 12). The only men who may aspire to positions of church leadership, which include the ministries of teaching and managing the affairs of the church, must be married ("husbands of one wife"), and have children who are submissive and respectful, and who are believers (Titus 1:6). According to this text, ability to manage family provides indispensable proof of ability to manage the local church.

Such requirements disqualify from service not only women, but also all men who are single; all men married but childless; all men married but who have only one child; all men married but who have children too young to profess faith; all men married but who have one unbelieving child or children; all men married and whose children are believers but not submissive; all men married and whose children are believers and submissive but not respectful.

These exceptionally harsh and restrictive requirements are all the more amazing since the New Testament favors singleness for both men and women as preferred status to do ministry (Matt. 19:11-12, 1 Cor. 7:25-35), and since the New Testament emphatically requires the total utilization of all available spiritual gifts in the ministries of the church, regardless of marital status or gender.

Of course, the Scriptures provide an explanation for those apparent contradictions. The singularly restrictive structure of ministry prescribed in 1 Timothy and Titus was established as a remedial measure for churches that had fallen into a state of terminal crisis. Its underlying principle of restricting ministry in sick or immature churches to few leaders of proven managerial competency is relevant today to churches that find themselves in similarly extreme situations. However, the prevailing New Testament model of full participation of the total constituency in the ministries of the local church applies to healthy churches (See Bilezikian, Community 101, pp. 82-128).

It should be sternly noted that, for the sake of biblical consistency and integrity of practice, churches that insist on keeping women out of ministries of leadership on the basis of the prohibitions of 1 Timothy 2, thereby make themselves accountable to keep also men out of the very same positions on the basis of the similarly restrictive provisions stipulated in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, and listed above.

9. The Challenge

Cite a biblical text that prohibits the ordination of women to church ministry positions.

The Facts

The evidence indicates that women were entrusted with the ministry of the Word in New Testament churches. There were female prophets (Acts 2:17-19; 21:9), female teachers (Acts 18:26; Titus 2:3), female church leaders (Rom. 16:1, 3-5; Phil. 4:3; Col. 4:15), and even a female apostle by the name of Junia (Rom. 16:7).

There is no text in the Bible forbidding women to be ordained because, according to the New Testament, all believers without exception are ordained by God to do ministry on the basis of their spiritual gifts (Rom. 12:4-5; 1 Cor. 12:7, 11; 14:31; Col. 3:16; 1 Thess. 5:11, 1 Peter 4:10-11). In fact, those very ministries that are traditionally viewed as requiring "ordination" carry only a supportive role according to the New Testament (Eph. 4:11) while the executive part of the ministry, the works of service that build up the body of Christ, belongs to the "non-ordained" people of the congregation (v. 12).

The practice of ordaining select people to hold positions of authority in churches should be viewed as an ecclesiastical tradition rather than as a biblical prescription. Thus, Paul and Barnabas were already among the recognized prophets and teachers of the church in Antioch when they received the laying on of hands, not to make them prophets or teachers but to commission them for a short-term sub-ministry (Acts 13: 1-3). It was their recognized spiritual gifts as prophet/teacher that had validated their ministry, not the subsequent laying on of hands.

This New Testament practice of the laying on of hands can hardly be associated with the current practice of ordination since Timothy received it twice, one at the hand of elders (1 Tim. 4:14), then from Paul himself (2 Tim. 1:6). In both cases, the purpose was the impartation of a spiritual gift, not the recognition of the ministry deriving from it as is the case with ordination as currently practiced (see Bilezikian, Community 101, pp. 155-161).

Since the institution of ordination is traditional rather than biblically prescribed, there can be no valid objection raised on scriptural grounds to women being ordained. According to the New Testament, all believers, without exception, are ordained by God to do ministry on the basis of their spiritual gifts.

10. The Challenge

Cite a biblical text according to which the differences between manhood and womanhood warrant hierarchical relations between Christian men and women.

The Facts

The organization of the Christian community is never described as a gender-based hierarchy in the Scriptures. To the contrary, it is the doctrine of the community of oneness that sets the norm (Matt. 19:4-6; John 17:11, 20-23; Acts 4:32; Rom. 12:4-5; 1 Cor. 12:12-14; Eph. 4:4-6; etc.).

The practical implementation of this oneness is summarized in Galatians 3:28: racial distinctions (Jew/Greek), class distinctions (slave/free), and the gender distinction (male/female) are declared to have become irrelevant to the functioning of Christian communities. The compelling mandate for this radical restructuring of community is given as: "for you are all one in Christ."
Proponents of female subordination often insist that this oneness, which transcends race, class and gender differences, is limited to the inclusion of new believers in the community through justification and baptism (Gal. 3:24-27, 28; 1 Cor. 12:13). However, Scripture prohibits limiting the principle of non-discrimination taught throughout the New Testament merely to entrance of converts into the community.

The New Testament emphatically declares that the same oneness, which transcends differences of race, class and gender as a condition for entering the church, is also the driving force that energizes the constituency of the local church into the performance of its ministries. This oneness pertains to the functional life of the body (Rom. 12:4-5). The same oneness sustains the corporate use of all the spiritual gifts invested in it by the Spirit for the performance of the ministries of the local body (1 Cor. 12:11-12; Eph. 4:4-8, 11).

Oneness is always defined in the New Testament as the basis for participation of all in the ministries of the local church. Oneness and ministry are inseparably linked in the biblical text. Therefore, the declaration according to which there is no male or female because we are all one in Christ is a ringing mandate for all to participate in church ministry functions without raising the gender difference as grounds for discrimination.
"The Scripture absolutely forbids racial, class and gender discrimination by reason of the oneness of the church as a body. This oneness is consistently defined in the New Testament as full participation of the total constituency in the ministries of the church. This and other teachings of Scripture rule out gender-based hierarchy as a structure for biblical oneness."

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

"Headship" Is Either the Design of the Creator or a Description of the Curse and It's Really That Simple

Wade and Rachelle Burleson teaching on Sunday morning
The Bible is a collection of many books with one theme. 


In Genesis, God brings Creation into a perfect existence.

But throughout history, beginning at the Fall, mankind corrupts Creation's order

In the Scriptures, God reveals His purpose to redeem man and to restore Creation to its original state (eg. Paradise Restored).

In Revelation, God finishes His restorative work by bringing mankind and Creation back to their original purpose (eg. redemption).

The way man and woman (Adam) was at Creation is the way man and woman (Adam) will be in the New Creation.

At the time of Creation, the Bible says:
So God created man (Hebrew: Adam) in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)
"Male and Female" compose the biblical definition of "man" and together reflect the "image of our Creator" (Imago Dei).

What God designed for the male and the female in the Creation is what God intends eternally for the male and the female in Paradise Restored (Heaven). 


Some Christians believe God designed the male to be "head" over the female. The male's role is “protector, provider, and defender.” The female's role is "helper, encourager, and supporter."

The male should always have control and lead and the female should always be in submission and follow.

That's the way God designed it, they say, at Creation.

The female "usurped" God's design of male "headship" by "coming out from under the authority of the male" and listening to the Serpent herself (Genesis 3:1). 

That's why, they say, a female should "never teach men" or "be in authority over man" (I Timothy 2:11-12). 
Eve blew it, and anytime a woman acts like Eve by imitating “the God-created authority of a man,” then ladies (listen up, Beth Moore), you blow it like Eve.”


Other biblical Christians, like I, believe that God designed the male and the female to both have authority over Creation (coregency) and gave to both males and females the equality of essence ("both together are Man”), and God made them both in His image.

So a person can only understand the full-orbed image of God when seeing both male and female together relating to each other in equality. 

Creation is about the equality of the male and female. 

Unlike biblical patriarchs or even secular feminists,  some Christians believe that the Bible teaches God designed co-functionalism between males and females and that the concept of "headship," "control," and "authority over" is a description of the curse after the Fall, not God's design at Creation. 

After the Fall, say these co-functionalists, men and women began fighting each other for control. 

Patriarchalism (men rule) is as sinful as matriarchalism (women rule); both want control over others. 

God intended at Creation for males and females to co-rule Creation and to serve one another. 

Christian adherents to "headship" and the co-functionalists both believe that God will restore Creation.

What God intends in Genesis, He restores in Revelation.

Notice the similarities between the first two chapters of the Bible ( (Genesis 1-2and the last two chapters of the Bible (Revelation 21-22) .


  1. In the beginning (1:1)
  2. God created the heavens and the earth (1:1)
  3. Let there be light (1:3)
  4. The darkness He called “night” (1:5)
  5. The gathered waters He called “seas” (1:10)
  6. God made the two great lights (1:16)
  7. He also made the stars (1:16)
  8. Subdue [the earth]. Rule over (1:28)
  9. Tree of Life (2:9)
  10. A river watering the garden (2:10)
  11. You will surely die (2:17)
  12. Or you will die (3:3)
  13. A man will. . .be united to his wife (2:23-25)
  14. Shown a garden into which sin entered (3:6-7)
  15. Walk of God with man interrupted (3:8-10)
  16. Initial triumph of the Serpent (3:13)
  17. Cursed. . .cursed (3:14, 17)
  18. I will greatly multiply your pain (3:16-17)
  19. God banished him (3:23)
  20. He drove the man out of the garden (3:24)


  1. I am. . .the Beginning and the End (21:6)
  2. I saw a new heaven and a new earth (21:1)
  3. God gives it light (21:23)
  4. There will be no night there (21:25)
  5. There was no longer any sea (21:1)
  6. Does not need the sun/moon (21:23)
  7. The Morning Star (22:16)
  8. And they will reign forever (22:5)
  9. Tree of Life (22:2)
  10. River of the Water of Life (22:1)
  11. The free gift of the Water of Life (22:17)
  12. No more death (21:4)
  13. The bride of the wife of the Lamb (21:9-10)
  14. Shown a city into which sin will never enter (21:27)
  15. Walk of God with man resumed (21:3)
  16. The ultimate triumph of the Lamb (20:10; 22:3)
  17. No longer. . .any curse (22:3)
  18. No more. . .pain (21:4)
  19. They will see His face (22:4)
  20. I saw the Holy City (21:2)

It's evident from the Bible that what God intends at Creation, He restores in the New Creation. Grace is God at work; He reverses the curse. What were men and women like before the curse of the Fall? 

For those who say God designed men "to rule over" women, to be "the head" of women, and to always lead women, I have three questions for you:

1. If at Creation God designed the man to be the “head over” the woman and to have “authority over” her, then is it God’s intention for men to be the “head over” women for all eternity and for men to have “authority over” women in heaven? If not, why not?
2. Jesus prayed, "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." If you understand that those who believe the Bible teaches co-functionalism (co-regency) is God's design for males and females from the beginning, then you must accept that any attempt to bring equality to men and women (God's original intention) into the earth now, just as Jesus prayed, is an attempt to glorify God and live according to the pattern of the New Creation.
3. Jesus explicitly taught in Matthew 23:8-11 that His people are to reject the world's system of top-down governance by declaring, "It shall not be so among you" (Mark 10:43). "The greatest among you shall be your servant" (Matthew 23:11).  Which system of thought -  "headship" or co-functionalism - allows a Christian to be obedient to Christ's command of servanthood to all and to avoid the idea that one is to have rulership, control, or power over anyone else?

More to come... 

Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Russell Moore of 2007 and the Russell Moore of 2019 Illustrates Baptists Can Change Our Minds

Dr. Russell Moore speaking at the 2019 SBC
One of the more remarkable moments in the 2019 Birmingham Southern Baptist Convention occurred during the question and answer portion of Dr. Russell Moore report from the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).

A young man asked Dr. Moore about a comment that Russell had made in 2007 that indicated he believed a woman should never "teach a man" or "preach to men."

The young man read Moore's 2007 quote in full, then asked:
"Is this still your position on women preaching in the church?"
Dr. Moore gave a lengthy response that included these words:
"The idea that we are listening too much to women in the Southern Baptist Convention is not an idea that makes very much sense to me right now."
Later, Dr. Moore stated:
"That was the Russell Moore of 2007 and this is the Russell Moore of 2019. 
Social media has been on fire over this issue. It's similar to the controversy that ensued in 2007 when Dr. Sheri Klouda was terminated from Southwestern Seminary for teaching men Hebrew.
Some think that their belief in weak women and warrior men is biblical. 
Some think that the promotion of declarative men to "teaching positions of authority" and the prohibition of deceived women from "imitating the authority of a teaching elder" is biblical. 
Some think that their views that men are always in control as they lead, defend, and fight while women are always in submission as they follow, receive, and acquiesce are biblical. 
Those who think these things about women have made one huge mistake.
They believe that their interpretations of the Scriptures are inerrant and authoritative rather than in the inerrant and the authoritative Scriptures with a humble awareness that they could be in error in their interpretations of it.  
The argument against the increased role of leadership from women in the Southern Baptist Convention on social media goes like this:
"This should never happen!" they cry. "We who believe the Bible must stick to what the Bible teaches! The Bible teaches women should be silent and submit to the authority of men." 
The Southern Baptist who are restricting women from positions of servant leadership and corporate instruction never give pause to consider if they are actually wrongly interpreting the infallible, authoritative Scriptures.

I believe any Bible teaching that refuses to acknowledge Spirit-gifted, God-called, Christ-honoring servant leaders of humble character - regardless of gender - is a gross misinterpretation of the infallible and authoritative Scriptures.

Of course, I can fellowship and cooperate with those who disagree with me in the SBC.

Change is coming soon in the SBC to reflect a more biblical approach toward women. The Southern Baptist Convention may even have a female President sooner rather than later.
But if Baptists believe the Bible, how can Baptists change their minds about what the Bible teaches?
 How can Russell Moore and others change their views on what the Bible teaches about women? And, yes, he has changed his interpretation of the sacred text.

Russell Moore believes, like I, in the authoritative and inspired sacred text. We are inerrantists.

But we realize Baptists don't always get it right in terms of interpretations.

That's our history as Baptists.

Let me show you what I mean with a quick history of Baptists changing our minds.

Baptist Pastors Receiving No Salary

Elijah Craig (1738-1808), was one of the most well-known Baptist preachers of his day. He was influential in the Baptists of Virginia helping to adopt the First Amendment of the United States. Elijah later served as pastor of the large Crossing Baptist Church (Kentucky). Elijah is said by one historian to have “played a vital role in communicating the views of the Virginia Baptists to the new state government."

Elijah Craig wrote a book entitled A Few Remarks on the Errors That Are Maintained in the Christian Churches of the Present Day (1801). In it he wrote:
"Pastors…are precluded by the Scriptures from receiving any compensation for their services...”
Well, I would expect that out of the 8,000 Southern Baptists pastors present at Birmingham last week, the vast majority of them will be glad that Baptists have changed our position on what the Bible teaches about paying pastors.

But there's more...

Baptist Drinking and Distributing Whisky

Baptist Pastor Elijah Craig made his living to support his wife and six kids by inventing Kentucky Bourbon, a corn liquor aged in charred barrels, and selling it to the general public.

Elijah Craig Bourbon, produced since 1789 in the distillery Baptist pastor Elijah Craig named Heaven Hill, is still available for purchase around the world.

This past year (2018), Elijah Craig Bourbon was voted America's best bourbon.

What? I thought the Southern Baptist Convention has always deemed the sell and use of alcohol to be a sin? No. Not even close.

In 1796, the Elkhorn Baptist Association, a Kentucky association (constituted in 1785), ruled that "denying a member church membership because he sold intoxicants was unjustified." It was not until 100 years later (1886) that the Southern Baptist Convention began passing resolutions against alcohol.

So Southern Baptists have changed our minds on paying pastors and drinking whiskey.

But there's more.

Baptists Smoking and Selling Tobacco

Add caption
The first Baptist church which called Elijah Craig to be their pastor, the Blue Run Baptist Church, met in a tobacco farm shed. That's right. All the members smoked tobacco and sold it to make a living - including their pastor.

Baptists in Elijah Craig's day smoked and chewed tobacco, drank and sold whiskey, and wouldn't pay their pastors a salary.

But there's more.

Baptists Giving Grief to the Government

It was while plowing his field in 1768, that Baptist pastor Elijah Craig was arrested and imprisoned for seventeen days for preaching “schismatick doctrines.”

Contrary to many modern Southern Baptist leaders who believe national government and the church should be one and the same, Baptist pastor Elijah Craig advocated that government and the church should always be separated. Government officials imprisoned him.

But apparently, the prison couldn’t keep Elijah from preaching. Baptists gathered outside the jail, and this Baptist pastor named Elijah Craig preached the gospel through the bars of his jail window. Consequently, the authorities built a high wall around the prison to keep people from hearing.

Eventually, Elijah Craig was released to go back to his whiskey and tobacco business - and to preaching the gospel.

But there's more.

Baptists Seeing Slavery as Scriptural

Baptist Pastor Elijah Craig and the members of his congregation needed people to work their tobacco fields, char their bourbon barrels, and carry their fermented corn (bourbon) to the market.

Southern Baptists for decades believed that holding slaves was not only biblical Christianity, they also preached tens of thousands of messages on the evil of abolition

Of course, we've changed our minds...once again. 


Nobody has ever accused me of holding back from speaking my mind, so let me summarize this little history lesson and bring it back to 2019 and the Southern Baptist Convention's imminent change on its patriarchal views of men and women. 
"I'll not believe a Southern Baptist pastor cannot change his mind about what the Bible teaches about women until I meet a Southern Baptist pastor who receives no salary, who smokes tobacco and drinks whiskey regularly, who refuses to identify with any political party to the point of prison, and who can introduce me to the slaves he keeps in his house."
Until then, I'd encourage Southern Baptist preachers to stop the shallow sanctimonious sermonettes on restricting women from leadership roles and teaching roles.

Maybe it's you who is missing the actual teaching of the Bible on women.

The history of Baptists and the changes that have come our way indicates I know of what I speak. 

Friday, June 14, 2019

A Fixation on Authority Is a Sign the Spirit Has Left

Attending the "For Such a Time As This" rally (6/11/19)
Photo: Jon Shapley, Houston Chronicle / Staff photographer
It's been my privilege this week to be a small part of the reform that is beginning to take place within the Southern Baptist Convention to help stop an epidemic of sexual abuse. 
Some of the stories I've heard shared this week, many for the first time, are fuel for my soul. It gives me the incentive to keep doing everything I can to bring down power bases built on fraudulent authority. 
Predators prey with power. Abusers are armed with authority. If one wishes to end abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention, one has to strike at the root of the problem.
Many SBC men and leaders think that they are the "head" over women, that men "rule over" women and children, and that pastors "rule over people." 
It's the ugly disease of male patriarchalism.

Traveling home from the airport this week, my friend Jeff VanVonderen called me. Jeff is the author of The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, Families Where Grace Is In Place, Good News for the Chemically Dependent, and a host of other superb books. Not to mention, Jeff is the star of the award-winning show Intervention.

He wanted to know how the Convention went. I explained to him the crisis of sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention. Then Jeff asked me this question:
"Do they understand that child sexual abuse and sexual assault crimes against adults all have at their root the sin of power, control, and "authority over."
I told Jeff I'm doing all I can to tear down the unbiblical doctrine of spiritual authoritarianism and bring back the biblical doctrine of humble servanthood in Christ's Kingdom to the leadership of the SBC.

What follows is the biblical antidote for any man infected with the venom of authoritarianism by the bite of the power viper.
Men and women are equal in Christ's Kingdom. Spirit-gifted men and women of humble character can both be servant Kingdom leaders. 
If you are able to prove the concepts of power, authority, and control OVER OTHERS is not biblical, then you stop abuse cold in its tracks in the Convention that says it believes the Bible. 
The Apostle Paul writes in Galatians 3:27-28:
"All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
Paul is emphatic that there is no room in the body of Jesus Christ for racial distinctions, no room for class distinctions, no room for gender distinctions. To forbid a woman to serve, read, lead, or teach (when men are present) is twisting the gospel of freedom in Christ into a gospel of bondage by gender. To restrict a Holy Spirit gifted and empowered woman from edifying other believers through the free exercise of her Spirit given gifts is to resist the Holy Spirit Himself--and qualifies as a very foolish act indeed.

An ancient Jewish prayer from the Hebrew Siddur (prayer book) went like this: "Blessed are you, Hashem, King of the Universe, for not having made me a Gentile. Blessed are you, Hashem, King of the Universe, for not having made me a slave. Blessed are you, Hashem, King of the Universe, for not having made me a woman." "Hashem" was a Jewish name for the one true God, a name used by Jews in the days of Christ.

The same spirit ancient Jews possessed that caused them to believe that only men were created to lead, rule and serve and that women were born to receive, follow, and help men who lead, is the same spirit now at work in more than a few evangelical leaders. Interestingly, the rise of the Siddur coincides with the glory of God departing the Temple of Jerusalem in the days of Ezekiel (see Ezekiel 10).

Jewish Temple worship continued, but it was during this Spirit-less intertestamental time period that you have the rise of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and other male-only Jewish orders that were constantly focusing on male "authority," male "leadership," and male "power."
A preoccupation and fixation on authority (whether it be conservative patriarchalism or liberal feminism), is a sign that the Spirit of God has departed. Jesus Christ explicitly forbids any one individual assuming authority over other adults in the Christian community (Matthew 20:20-28). In fact, after describing the imperialism of political rulers and the authority fixation of religious rulers, Jesus said to his disciples ... "It shall not be so among you" (Matthew 20:26).

I would propose that any portion of the body of Christ that is placing emphasis on male leadership to the exclusion of female leadership (or vice-versa) is void of the Spirit of God.

The New Testament covenant of God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ totally turns the world's concept of authority on its ear. The world is concerned about position, power, authority, prestige, control, and ruling over others. Jesus Christ teaches His followers to serve, to love, to express their spiritual gifts to their fullest for the good of others, and to never fear what any person in so-called "authority" can do to them because "All authority ... has been given to Me" (Matthew 28:18). There is to be a mutual equality, respect, and submission within the home between husband and wife (Ephesians 5:21-33).

There is to be a mutual equality, respect and submission of men and women toward one another in the body of Christ based upon the gifts that the Spirit gives to each male and female believer who has been baptized into Christ (Acts 2:15-21Galatians 3:28). References to the churches' teaching ministry and other gifts are found in Romans 12, I Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4 and not one of those passages excludes females from being recipients of any one of those gifts. Let me say that again in a different way. The gifts of the Spirit are never differentiated on the basis of gender in the New Testament -- ever.


Wade Burleson is a writer, avocational historian, and teaching pastor at Emmanuel Enid, Oklahoma. Burleson was twice elected President of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and served as a trustee for the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

A Fresh Pastoral Perspective on the Changing SBC

Photo: Jon Shapley, Houston Chronicle / Staff photographer
If one has never been to the Southern Baptist Convention, the best way to describe the experience is "the world's largest business meeting run by parliamentary rules." 

There are enormous exhibit halls attached to the Convention arena where any agency, educational institution, or business affiliated with the SBC can set up booths to pass out more information.

The SBC is also like a family reunion.

Just like dysfunctional families, there are some members that love to see you, and others that you can tell wish you'd skipped the reunion.

I love all the SBC family, even those who are unbiblical, illogical, and ultimately detrimental to the cause of cooperative mission work. I no more want them to leave the SBC than I want people to leave my church.

But I never cater to people in my church whose actions are without grace. They are always welcome to teach whatever they believe the Scripture to say, and nobody's threatened at our church (especially me).  We realize that gentle persuasion and "the ability to give an answer for the hope within you" is the only way you convince people of what's true.

So, with that said, I always love meeting new people.

I met Kendra, a young student at UAB who was at her first Convention with her mother. She is a reader with a keen mind. She's read things that I and others have written about the changing SBC, and she and her mother were so encouraged, they decided to join a Southern Baptist church in Birmingham.

When the staff of the church asked her what she wanted to do with her life, Kendra said, "I want to be a missionary!" 

The response from the male pastoral staff member was, "You'll make a great missionary's wife!" Kendra asked me if that's the attitude of most in Southern Baptist churches.

I assured Kendra, "No! Keep reading. Keep studying the Scriptures. God's call on your life will send you to places that patriarchal people may not like, but you answer to Him, not them."

Other stories could be told, but I want to focus on just one.

Travis Collins is the pastor of FBC Huntsville, Alabama. He is leading FBC to do some very creative ministry work locally and missions work globally. He and I have connected through the Internet, and he came to this year's Convention and we were able to share a lunch and sit through one of the sessions. Travis wrote a column reflecting on Tuesday's sessions of the 2019 SBC.
I just spent a fascinating day at the Annual Meeting of the SBC in Birmingham.  And I’m more encouraged about the Southern Baptist Convention tonight than I was this morning. 
I’m encouraged because I believe the SBC is getting serious about addressing and eliminating the scourge of sexual abuse in the Church, and is going to call out those Southern Baptist congregations that are enablers of abuse.
I’m encouraged because I witnessed a conversation about race on the platform of the Southern Baptist Convention gathering, the honesty and depth of which I never thought I’d witness.
I’m encouraged because I know there are lots of Southern Baptists who are tired of the male hierarchicalism that has dominated the SBC for three decades and believe God intends for men and women to serve as full partners in ministry.  Oh, I know those Southern Baptists aren’t in the majority. 
Yet. I’m encouraged because I spent a big part of the day with Wade Burleson, an Oklahoma Baptist pastor whom I consider a friend.  An out-spoken, plain-spoken, well-spoken guy who is the most skillful at declaring “The Emperor has no clothes” than anyone I ever have met.
I’m encouraged because I attended a dinner event celebrating Graffiti, a Southern-Baptist-related congregation and community ministry in New York City.  Graffiti is a group of folks who represent the best of Baptists—doing real ministry on the streets (not just pontificating about it) and ushering people into a transforming relationship with Jesus.
Maybe I’m just nostalgic for the good ol’ days, when Southern Baptists made us feel (even if I was a bit na├»ve), as missionaries to Nigeria, that our service was more important than who was elected President of the SBC. 
But today I was glad that a large portion of our church’s mission dollars go to the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Travis Collins
Pastor, First Baptist Church,
Huntsville, Alabama
More and more people in the SBC are understanding things like Travis Collins.

Brighter days for the SBC are ahead

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Sex Abuse in the SBC and Taking Steps To Stop It

Sexual abuse survivors in a meeting after Tuesdays SBC
This 2019 Southern Baptist Convention, which is the 40th anniversary of the 1979 Houston SBC which began what some call the Conservative Resurgence, will go down in history as the Stop Sexual Abuse Convention.

In 2005, my first year as a trustee of the International Mission Board, I discovered that the SBC had a patriarchal power problem. Men in denominational leadership were doing everything they could to exclude women from leadership,  from teaching others Gospel truth, and from doing anything that "imitated the authority of a male." I won't take time to recount the issues, but you can read about them in Hard Ball Religion.

It didn't long for me to see there was a massive sexual abuse problem in the SBC. Power trips typically end in twisted trysts of sexual submission.

Sadly, rather than approving my recommendation to create a sexual abuse database in 2007 to track the patriarchal power problem in the SBC, it took the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio News-Express in 2019 to jolt the SBC into action.

At least things are now moving.

The Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, under the leadership of Russell Moore, has zoomed to the forefront of the fight to stop sexual abuse. The ELRC has published some superb materials called Becoming a Church that Cares Well the Abused. Every Southern Baptist Church should take advantage of them.

That said, the International Mission Board did not mention the problem of sexual abuse on the SBC mission field in their report to the Convention. To be fair, on May 29, 2019, the IMB published on their website the preliminary sexual abuse report that the law firm Gray Plant Mooty released. The preliminary sexual abuse report contained specific recommendations for the IMB to prevent any further sexual abuse cases on the mission field.

We had a wonderful IMB commissioning service at the Convention, but the Southern Baptist Convention has a moral obligation to put in the official record what is needed to reverse the curse of sexual abuse within our respective agencies.

The IMB made a wise choice  by using outside counsel to investigate past history of the IMB’s handling of sexual abuse cases and to recommend specific steps the IMB can implement to prevent sexual abuse on the mission field.

I made a motion to put into the Southern Baptist Convention's Offical Annual the specific steps the law firm Gray Plant Moody recommended that the IMB take.

According to the platform, SBC "legal counsel" advised them against such an action. After the session, I had a cordial but heated exchange with the Southern Baptist Convention’s legal counsel. They said the International Mission Board decides what they wish to report out to the SBC, and we can't make them report anything.

That’s wrong.

It's our (the SBC's) report, and we can do anything we desire with it because WE (the SBC) place it in our Convention Annual three months from now. The SBC needs in “the official record" what the IMB must do (according to Gray Plant Moody). The SBC legal counsel gave the Convention bad legal counsel, mostly because they don’t understand parliamentarian rules, the SBC annual and archives, and they didn’t take the time to understand the motion I made (a simple phone call would suffice because they had my cell).

We (the SBC) has every right to put into the official record the following sixteen recommended steps for the IMB:
1. Create a new full-time position to oversee prevention and response efforts. This new senior staff member would have a broad range of responsibilities, including overseeing training, receiving reports of child abuse or sexual harassment (including sexual assault), and overseeing the investigation process;
2. When IMB receives a report of child abuse or sexual harassment (including sexual assault), involve outside legal counsel with expertise in this area to provide advice throughout the process;
3. Continue the current practice of using a forensic psychologist with expertise in interviewing children to conduct investigation interviews of children.
4. Adopt protocols for consistently reporting allegations of child abuse committed by IMB personnel or others affiliated with IMB to U.S. government authorities, even when there is not a legal duty to do so.
5. Adopt protocols for reporting allegations of child abuse to foreign government authorities;
6. Revise policies and trainings to make clear that in addition to personnel’s obligations to report suspected child abuse internally to IMB, personnel also have the option, and sometimes the obligation, to report directly to government authorities;
7. Report every known incident of alleged child abuse by IMB personnel or others affiliated with IMB that has not previously been reported.
8. Revise the screening process for employees to more thoroughly screen for concerns related to child abuse or sexual harassment (including sexual assault);
9. Provide increased training, incorporating additional content, for expanded audiences, and with greater frequency. Topics should include child safety, sexual harassment, sexual assault, and domestic violence, as well as more frequent age-appropriate education for children of IMB personnel to help children recognize and report abuse;
10. Implement a consistent, centralized process for screening volunteers including effective oversight from IMB personnel;
11. Modify the investigation process to use trauma-informed interview techniques and a trauma-informed approach to weighing evidence;
12. Adopt additional policies to enhance the resources and support available to victims during and after the investigation;
13. Publicize IMB’s current reference policy to encourage employers considering working or partnering with former IMB personnel to contact IMB to receive accurate information;
14. Encourage reporting to IMB leadership when individuals are aware that perpetrators are working in a position that would provide access to children following the end of their affiliation with IMB;
15. Adopt a clear process by which IMB will provide affirmative safety warnings when individuals report to IMB leadership that perpetrators are working in a position that would provide access to children following the end of their affiliation with IMB;
16. Implement overall changes to policy and practice aimed at eliminating or reducing barriers to reporting and strengthening IMB’s prevention and response efforts.
These actionable steps to prevent sexual abuse within the International Mission Board should have been reported out and placed into the official record of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Legal counsel said "No."

We live in a crazy day when the SBC legal counsel says "no" to our Convention placing into the official record of the Southern Baptist Convention sixteen steps of action recommended by a legal firm (Gray Plant Mooty), an action plan paid for by the International Mission Board, and made public on the IMB website.

Talk is cheap.

The Southern Baptist Convention messengers are charged to hold accountable the independent agencies of our Convention. I will be back next year to make sure we have a report from the IMB that tells us if they have actually taken the steps Gray Plant Mooty recommended.

Now, off to the Convention to see if we're going to continue to promote patriarchal power plays by limiting the "functions" of a pastor to males only.