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The Southern Baptist Convention contra the ideologues.
This is quite helpful for the point I made in my post about Bill Gothard, the Duggars, and evangelicalism. This week, the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention did three things:
1. They approved a constitutional amendment that would specify it is impossible for churches that ordain female elders to be in good standing with the SBC (the amendment must be approved again next year before becoming permanent).
2. They upheld the disfellowshipping of two churches that are currently employing women as pastors.
3. They authorized another year of work for the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force, and they upheld the disfellowshipping of a church that had hired and retained a pastor accused of multiple counts of sexual abuse.
Now, if you’re fairly well-read in the evangelical cognoscenti, you constantly hear loud and persistent claims that abusing women is something people who believe in traditional gender roles do. Alternatively, you may also hear that talking about the abuse of women is something that people who reject traditional biblical teaching do. These two polar opposite positions have very energetic adherents. What’s more, these positions are overrepresented in the most active sectors of both conservative and progressive media. Based on the content that gets published, goes viral, and raises the temperature within institutions, these two positions are the only tenable ones. There is no future outside them.
Well. It turns out there is a future outside them, and the largest Protestant denomination in the world just pointed the way.
My point is not to exhaustively defend any of these three actions, all of which could be debated in good faith among people who are committed to the same doctrine and practice. My point is that the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention did what ideologues—many of whom are atop the most visible perches in both evangelical and secular culture—say cannot be done. They took male-only ordination seriously, and they took preventing and responding to sexual abuse in the church seriously, too.
The ideological response to this is to say that, by doing one of these, the SBC wasn’t really doing the other thing. Thus, it might be claimed, the SBC doesn’t really take traditional doctrine seriously because they continue to curry favor with “cultural elites” through the abuse reform task force. On the other side, you can find plenty of folks claiming that the SBC doesn’t really care about preventing abuse, because they believe only men can be pastors. The audience is not supposed to ask why these two things are intrinsically at odds. They are just supposed to believe they are, and then sort themselves with whichever group they like better.
Let me suggest to you that the proper response to someone who claims that only egalitarian theology can prevent or prosecute abusive men, or someone who claims that only abstaining from the business of preventing or prosecuting abuse can ensure theological orthodoxy, is not to argue, debate, or explain. The proper response is simply to say, “Watch me.”
Watch me, a complementarian member of a complementarian convention, give money and training and attention to programs that help churches know if a pastoral candidate is untrustworthy.
Watch me—a man who thinks that a senior, associate, or youth pastor who isolates a woman, has sex with her, then tells her to shut up about it, is disqualified from ministry—believe and teach that only men can be ordained pastors within the church.
Watch me believe these two sets of things, and watch me disregard the urgent insistence that this is impossible and that I just need to give up the pretense and join a team already. Watch me quote 1 Timothy 2:12 and Ezekiel 34:7-10 in the same breath. Watch me strive to defend sound doctrine while treating sisters in the church with all purity. Watch me disregard the vitriolic web articles, tweets, petitions, and bestseller lists, and find brothers and sisters who want to do the same.
Watch me do it.