Much pontification has been digitally uploaded to this site recently regarding the question as to whether or or not it is appropriate for a woman to serve as President of the SBC. My friend Casey Hough offered his thoughts on this subject at his personal page on Thursday. I asked Casey if I could post his text in full here at Voices in order to offer another opinion on the subject. Now, I must admit that I am not completely convinced by his argument (although the vast majority of it resonates loudly with me) but his tone and congenial tenor draw me in and I completely understand and appreciate his position. It is sound, valid and reasonable.
Allow me the personal privilege to share at the outset that my position is not a hardened one. However, I do see very clearly the role of SBC President as simply the moderator of a 2 day deliberative assembly, who does indeed give an address (not a sermon even though that is what we are now conditioned to expect) and who does have limited appointment opportunity, but who has no authority other than the act of presiding itself. Maybe I’m too much of a parliamentarian at heart but the fact is, the moderator in a parliamentary proceeding has no real authority. They simply help to facilitate deliberation. Thus, I believe the role, as I mentioned in William’s post, could be filled with a Baptist layman lawyer, a 75 year old deacon, a small church pastor, a female Sunday School teacher or a retired female missionary. From RRNR 10th ed (because that is the one that has 18 years of my ink, highlighting and dogears) we see that the presiding officer of a large assembly…
should be chosen principally for the ability to preside. This person should be well versed in parliamentary law and should be thoroughly familiar with the bylaws and other rules of the organization–even if he or she is to have the assistance of a parliamentarian. At the same time, any presiding officer will do well to bear in mind that no rules can take the place of tact and common sense on the part of the chairman.
Clearly, our 4 wonderful parliamentarians (Dr. McCarty, Dr. Greenway, Mr. Culbreth and Mrs. Whitfield) are tremendous assets during our annual meeting but the Presidents should be able to handle most things themselves. THAT is their job. To guide deliberation. I’m just afraid we’ve given too wide a birth to the presidency and have become conditioned to think of the position in terms of a pastorate and I believe that to be an unfortunate development.
That said, Casey offers a sound, articulate and reasonable argument while offering fair treatment of the opposing position without chastising or misrepresenting the view of others. This is the way brothers disagree without becoming irrational and slipping into bad argumentation. I wholeheartedly suggest a full reading of this article and larger perusal of his page, www.therenewedchurch.com for more helpful insights from this gracious pastor.
Can a woman serve as the President of the Southern Baptist Convention?
by Casey Benjamin Hough
That is the question that is being tossed back and forth between various groups within my denomination. If you are looking for a definitive answer to that question in my blog post, then I am afraid you will be disappointed. The bylaws of the convention do not exclude a woman from being elected to the office of SBC President. I am not here to argue or speculate about the legal possibility of a such an arrangement. Furthermore, I am not here to question the clear and convictional leadership that countless women provide in our denomination. God has blessed the SBC with an abundance of leaders, many of whom are women. The SBC needs women for the accomplishment of its mission. We need strong, godly women in our churches. So, please hear me again, women are indispensable to the life of our churches and our convention. We need more women contributing to the decisions of our trustee boards and committees, which function as corporate bodies in our denominational government. God has uniquely gifted women for the building up of the body of Christ, and we must not ignore this reality. With that stated, I do think we need to be careful with our current debate regarding the possibility of a woman serving as the president of the Southern Baptist Convention. The SBC’s custom of electing a qualified male to set the direction and lead the convention in the fulfillment of its mission is not without biblical precedent. Here is the main reason that I believe a woman should not be elected to serve as the President of the Southern Baptist Convention:
The Biblical Pattern of Qualified, Male Leadership in the Home and the Church
The pattern for spiritual leadership in the Scriptures is qualified, male leadership in the home and the church. Ephesians 5:18-33 makes it clear that God has ordered the family to function according to a pattern that derives from the relationship that Christ maintains with the church. The mutuality of the submission mentioned in verse 21 is qualified in verses 22-33. The suggestion is not that husbands are called to submit to their wives any more than Christ is called to submit to the church. The pattern holds. Wives submit to their husbands as the church submits to Christ.
At this point, there is a temptation to assume that submission entails inferiority, but this cannot be the case. According to 1 Corinthians 11:3, even Christ, at least for a season, was functionally submissive to the Father. What orthodox Christian would dare suggest that Christ was ever inferior to the Father during His submission? To make such a suggestion would destroy the doctrine of the Triune nature of God, which maintains that God eternally and simultaneously exists as one God in three distinct, functionally-different, yet ontologically-equal persons – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. If submission and difference in role require an inferiority of personhood, then the doctrine of the Trinity evaporates before our eyes. And yet, Paul draws upon the analogy of the relationship between the Father and the Son to demonstrate the difference in role, but equality of person in the male-female relationship in marriage (1 Corinthians 11:3). Paul, however, does not limit the extent of this male-female relationship to marriage and family. He also extends it into the church.
In the church, God intends for qualified men to lead the church as pastors. The requirements for this role are explicitly spelled out in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. It is important to note that not all men are qualified to lead in the church. Only men who, by the grace of Christ, are qualified with godly character and gifting should lead the church. Those who would contend that Paul is merely accommodating the culture of his day have to wrestle with the fact that he grounds his argument in the creation of male and female in 1 Timothy 2:11-15. To overcome Paul’s appeal to creation, some scholars have suggested that submission is a result of the fall, not God’s intended order from creation. Furthermore, they argue that submission has no place in the coming Kingdom of Christ. Such arguments fail to take into account the full storyline of scripture. The submission of a wife to her husband is not a result of the Fall. It is the pattern that God intends for marriage. In Christ’s relationship to the church, God has revealed the pattern that was broken in the Fall. Furthermore, while earthly marriages between husband and wife will cease in the fullness of the coming Kingdom of Christ (Matthew 22:30), submission as a reality of relationship will not cease. It will simply change from the shadow of the submission of a wife to her husband on earth to fullness of the church’s submission to her husband, Jesus Christ. Submission will not cease in the New Heavens and New Earth. Only those in the relationship of submission will change. From earthly wife to earthly husband, we, the church, as the bride of Christ, will be submissive to Him for all eternity as He exercises His Lordship for His glory and our good. In other words, submission is not a bad thing. Therefore, the proper functioning of gender roles in marriage and in the church has an eschatological significance. It is pointing to the day when perfect peace and submission will reign in the fullness of the Kingdom of Christ.
Another approach to Paul’s instruction in 1 Timothy 2:11-15 is to believe that Paul is addressing a particular instance of false teaching in the church in Ephesus and that he does not have a universal principle in mind when he writes, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” Others have taken the phrase, “to exercise authority,” to be pejorative, and thus meaning, “to domineer,” thus only excluding women from domineering forms of leadership. These attempts, however, to undermine a complementarian understanding of Paul’s letter to Timothy fails on several fronts.
First, whether Paul was addressing a particular instance of false teaching in Ephesus is beyond our information. It may be true that Paul was addressing a particular instance, but that would not necessarily make his instruction less applicable to other churches, especially since Paul goes on in later chapters to give specific instructions about the nature of church structure (1 Timothy 3). Second, while one might be able to demonstrate places where the terms behind “to exercise authority” have a pejorative meaning in extrabiblical literature, it is equally true that the same terms are applied to God in extrabiblical literature. The meaning of words and phrases are constrained by their context, and, in the case of 1 Timothy 2:12, “to exercise authority” is paralleled with “to teach,” which is not pejorative. Whatever “to exercise authority” means, it cannot be construed as pejorative without explaining how “to teach” is also pejorative. Third, if one narrowly takes “to exercise authority” to mean “to domineer,” then they have essentially only proven that women are not allowed to domineer others. This supposed solution would not even address domineering leadership among men. The pejorative understanding of “to exercise authority” creates more problems than it solves. Lastly, some explanation must be given regarding how these few verses in 1 Timothy 1 do not relate to the clear, universal instructions that Paul gives Timothy in 1 Timothy 3 regarding the ordering of the church. Instead of imposing a foreign context to the passage, wouldn’t it be best to read 1 Timothy 2 alongside the rest of the letter that is concerned with relationships in the church?
Ok, yea, so what?
At this point, someone might say, “Well, I agree with everything that you have said about the family and the local church, but what do patterns of leadership in the church and in the home mean for the Southern Baptist Convention?”
Well, it seems as though the pattern of the local church and the home extended into the larger cooperative efforts of the universal church. In Acts 15, when the churches sent representatives to Jerusalem to discuss the matter of circumcision among Gentile converts, the meeting was made up of apostles and elders. I recognize that there is a debate about the identity of Junia as either well-known “to the apostles” or a well-known “apostle” in Romans 16:7. Suffice it to say that I agree with Moo, Dunn, Cranfield, Fitzmeyer, and Schreiner as understanding Junia as a woman who was esteemed among the apostles as a traveling missionary. The term “apostle” can, and often does, mean simply “messenger.” And given the fact that Paul specifies in 1 Corinthians 15 that there were 12 apostles, it is almost certain that he does not include Junia in that designation. So, when we come to Acts 15 and find Luke’s designation of “the apostles and the elders” who descended upon Jerusalem to address the matter of circumcision, it is most reasonable to assume that Luke has the 12 apostles in mind with Paul serving as the one “untimely born” (1 Corinthians 15:5-11). Furthermore, it is also most reasonable to assume that these leaders were men who came from their local churches and families to discuss the business of the broader church. In this, I discern a pattern from the family and the local church that informs the broader mission and leadership of the broader church in Acts 15. Furthermore, I believe this pattern would rightly extend to the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention.
When messengers elect a president, they are electing someone who will set a direction and lead the convention on matters regarding the church and the family. Furthermore, the president will often be called upon by churches and other denominational entities to bring spiritual leadership and direction. Based upon the biblical pattern of qualified, male leadership in the church and the family, I believe it wise for Southern Baptists to continue its custom of electing qualified, male leaders to the presidency of the SBC. This is in keeping not only with the biblical pattern found in Acts 15, but also the pattern of church leadership that we find in the earliest centuries of church history. As best as I can tell, qualified, male leaders from regional churches attended the ecumenical councils of the early church. Thus, the SBC’s custom is shaped by both the testimony of Scripture and the testimony of the early church.
The argument that the Southern Baptist Convention is not the church and that the president of the SBC does not function in a pastoral role, and thus, therefore, can be fulfilled by a woman, seems to ignore the significance of a biblical pattern of qualified, male leadership in matters concerning the family and the church. The question is not, therefore, whether or not a woman “can” serve as SBC president, but rather, “should” a woman serve as SBC president. For me, the pattern of Scripture seems to suggest that in matters of spiritual leadership, particularly concerning the family and the church, God has assigned this role to qualified men.
Therefore, I believe it is biblically warranted and wise to maintain the SBC’s custom of only electing qualified men to serve as the president of the SBC because it is in keeping with the biblical pattern of qualified, male leadership in the family and in the church.