Now that Southern Baptist leaders are embracing the idea of a woman leading this nation, will they rethink their rejection of the idea of a woman leading their congregations?
In an online interview with Christianity Today’s Sarah Pulliam, the SBC’s Richard Land — who said he is “ecstatic” about the selection of Sarah Palin as Republican candidate for vice president — threw holy water on any notion that a woman he considers qualified to lead the free world can lead him in prayer and worship.
“The only restrictions we find in Scripture are, that for whatever reason women are not to be in charge of a marriage and women are not to be in charge of a church,” explained Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “That has nothing to do with governor, or senator or the House of Representatives, or president, or vice president.”
It has a lot to do with the men who took control of the Southern Baptist Convention in the 1980s. Previous Southern Baptist faith statements set no gender limits on the office of pastor. In fact, it wasn’t until 2000 that the Southern Baptist Convention voted to amend its Baptist Faith & Message to include this line: “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”
“The Bible is clear in presenting the office of pastor as restricted to men. There is no Biblical precedent for a woman in the pastorate, and the Bible teaches that women should not teach in authority over men,” Dr. Paige Patterson, a former SBC and seminary president, explained in 2000.
Of course, there are countless Christians (men and women) who believe these biblical ‘restrictions’ have been misinterpreted, and are no more applicable than biblical ‘restrictions’ on eating pork, selling your daughter into slavery or resisting evil.
The SBC’s current gender restriction was based on short verses from I Corinthians and Timothy, including this line in I Cor. 14:34: “The women should keep silence in the churches.”
In his analysis of the 2000 Baptist F&M, former Baptist seminary president Dr. Russell Dilday said this and other verses are open to interpretation: “The word ‘silence’ used here means ‘be silent in this one instance.’ In verse 30, the same word is used for men who are to keep silent when another is speaking. Some conservative believe the passage means wives are not to correct their husbands publicly in church. This is Paul’s way of preserving the marriage relationship.”
The new Baptist F&M has plenty to say about marriage, too. Another year 2000 amendment: “A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation.”
What’s a governor and married mother of five to do?
It always has amused me that there seems to be only one fundamental on which the male leaders of conservative Roman Catholic, evangelical and pentecostal Protestant, Mormon, Orthodox Jewish and Muslim denominations all agree: A woman cannot lead their congregations or denominations.
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, yes. The Right Rev. Margaret Thatcher, no. President Mary Robinson, yes. Rev. Mary Robinson, no. Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, yes. Imam Benazir Bhutto, no. Prime Minister Prime Minister Golda Meir, yes. Rabbi Golda Meir, no. President or Vice President Sarah Palin, yes. Pastor Sarah Palin, never.
How do these guys keep a straight face? How do they explain this to their American daughters: “Honey, in America you can grow up to be anything you want, except the pastor of our church.”
After Palin’s selection, it will be interesting to see how they explain this double-standard to American voters.