David Waters has a brief tirade on Washington Post’s “On Faith” site entitled, “Southern Baptists and their Gender Double-Standard”. The message of his article is rather simple to recognize: The SBC’s “chauvinistic” policy toward women should be judged as hypocritical and irrational .
These claims are not hard to challenge. I’ll mention only a few objections:
- This article implies that the SBC’s complementarian position is the work of men who sought to maintain a male dominance in leadership. It is true that men were instrumental in the language of the BF&M 2000, but it is untrue that women were not also involved. In fact, two women, Susie Hawkins and Heather King, were on the study committee. The complementarian position has been upheld and supported by such notable women as Dr. Dorothy Patterson, Dr. Mary Kassian, Dr. Terri Stovall, and others. The mention of “countless” who oppose is intentionally misleading.
- It is not hypocritical to believe that a woman is qualified for political leadership but not pastoral leadership, for running a nation and running a local chuch are two different types of leadership. One is called to uphold the constitution, while the other has been called to preach the Word. One is leading a group of people united by national citizenship, the other is leading a people united by the work of Christ in the gospel, a heavenly citizenship. One has no gender restrictions, while the other does. It is no less discriminating than for a person to say that a woman is qualified to be a CEO but not qualified to be a husband.
- I notice in the criticism a “greater to the lesser” argument: if Southern Baptists accept a woman to hold the second highest office in the land (greater), how can they not also accept a woman to be pastor (lesser)? This thinking does not understand the work of God in history. Nations come and go as God wills, but his Church will stand through the ages. The greater office is the office of the pastorate.
- The author dismisses passages like 1 Cor. 14 and 1 Tim. 2 as “short verses”. Such a stance does not take into account the full authority of all the Scriptures. Consider the short command “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy”. Such a “short verse” could be easily lost in the Scriptures, but it was authoritative enough that a man was executed for failing to obey it (Num. 15:32-36). The length of a verse does not determine its importance.
- The force of a “restrictive” command is not determined by a change in cultural norms, as the article suggests. The work of Christ is what determines a change in force. God’s calling for women is not a law comparable to eating pork, for one is a created purpose of God, while the other is a law for ceremonial cleanliness, something which has been replaced by the finished work of Christ.
- The statement against the complementarian roles in the home imply that a woman cannot be governor and submissive to her husband. Can a governor or a Vice-President “respect her husband” and “serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation”? What I mean is this: the BF&M 2000 does not command women to be stay-at-home moms. It calls women to embrace their calling in the home. Inashmuch as a working wife/mother is still fulfilling her responsibilities in the home, she is in obedience to the Scriptures.
- The Christian view of womanhood is not the same as the view of womanhood in other theistic religions. BF&M 2000 rightly observes that a woman is “in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him”. Thus women are equal with men in their personhood. Such an equality does not imply an equality in roles, nor does a difference in roles endanger an equality in personhood. While other religions do not support female equality, Christianity sees women as equal with men. BF&M 2000 also calls a woman’s role in the home and in the church as “the God-given responsibility”. Thus, women are honored by God in their calling, not suppressed.