Like you, I’ve been reading a lot about the current situation with Paige Patterson, the SBC annual meeting, and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. It’s a mess that doesn’t appear to be headed for any kind of resolution before we arrive in Dallas for the annual meeting. While Patterson’s original comments and recent response are deeply disturbing, there have been a few articles written since this all blew up that I have found very helpful and encouraging. I thought I would share them here in an effort to draw more attention to them.
The first is an article by Beth Moore. She calls it “A Letter to My Brothers.” Here are a few quotes from the letter. I encourage you to click through and read the whole thing.
As a woman leader in the conservative Evangelical world, I learned early to show constant pronounced deference – not just proper respect which I was glad to show – to male leaders and, when placed in situations to serve alongside them, to do so apologetically. I issued disclaimers ad nauseam. I wore flats instead of heels when I knew I’d be serving alongside a man of shorter stature so I wouldn’t be taller than he. I’ve ridden elevators in hotels packed with fellow leaders who were serving at the same event and not been spoken to and, even more awkwardly, in the same vehicles where I was never acknowledged. I’ve been in team meetings where I was either ignored or made fun of, the latter of which I was expected to understand was all in good fun. I am a laugher. I can take jokes and make jokes. I know good fun when I’m having it and I also know when I’m being dismissed and ridiculed. I was the elephant in the room with a skirt on. I’ve been talked down to by male seminary students and held my tongue when I wanted to say, “Brother, I was getting up before dawn to pray and to pore over the Scriptures when you were still in your pull ups.”
About a year ago I had an opportunity to meet a theologian I’d long respected. I’d read virtually every book he’d written. I’d looked so forward to getting to share a meal with him and talk theology. The instant I met him, he looked me up and down, smiled approvingly and said, “You are better looking than _________________________________.” He didn’t leave it blank. He filled it in with the name of another woman Bible teacher.
Finally, I’m asking that you would simply have no tolerance for misogyny and dismissiveness toward women in your spheres of influence. I’m asking for your deliberate and clearly conveyed influence toward the imitation of Christ in His attitude and actions toward women. I’m also asking for forgiveness both from my sisters and my brothers. My acquiescence and silence made me complicit in perpetuating an atmosphere in which a damaging relational dynamic has flourished. I want to be a good sister to both genders. Every paragraph in this letter is toward that goal.
I am grateful for the privilege to be heard. I long for the day – have asked for the day – when we can sit in roundtable discussions to consider ways we might best serve and glorify Christ as the family of God, deeply committed to the authority of the Word of God and to the imitation of Christ. I am honored to call many of you friends and deeply thankful to you for your devotion to Christ. I see Him so often in many of you.
After reading Beth’s article, you should read this letter from Thabiti Anyabwile. It is an apology to Beth. Here are a few quotes from his letter. Again, you should read the whole thing.
Some years later, I thought I had learned a few things. By then, I had become a “complementarian,” though my understanding of that view wasn’t deep. I had picked up the attitude—the patronizing and chauvinistic attitude—of some professing “complementarians.” My heart met nearly every mention of a woman in ministry with a scoff and the suspicion that that woman did not understand or accept the Bible’s teaching on gender roles.
So, I want very much to ask your forgiveness.
I want to admit my sin publicly, because my sins have affected a wider public than I know. I don’t want to pass under the radar hoping others might afford me the benefit of the doubt or because they might appreciate something else about me might put me in the category of men you so graciously say you’re not addressing.
I do now commit to being a more outspoken champion for my sisters and for you personally. Not that you need me to be but because it is right. I hope, with God’s help, to grow in sanctification, especially with regards to any sexism, misogyny, chauvinism, and the like that has used biblical teaching as a cover for its growth.
Finally, if you are looking for some advice on counseling victims of domestic violence, consider this article by Bruce Ashford, J. D. Greear, and Brad Hambrick. It’s called “4 Myths about Responding to Spousal Abuse.” Here are some noteworthy quotes.
Pastors who wish to support, protect, and counsel survivors of abuse are often left wondering how best to minister to them. They know abuse is a multi-faceted evil. They want to provide the best counsel possible. But several misconceptions around the issue can cloud the thoughts and guide the actions of well-intentioned church leaders.
God hates divorce because he loves marriage. But that is also why he hates abuse. Paul says marriage should reflect the order and commitment within the Godhead, and thus should depict Christ’s sacrificial love for the church. Abuse is in diametric opposition to God’s design for marriage. Any steps taken to protect victims of domestic abuse, therefore, are steps towards fulfilling God’s will for marriage. By intervening on behalf of those afflicted by slander (abusive speech) or violence (abusive actions), we serve as God’s arm for executing justice for the needy (Ps. 140:11–12).
It can be difficult for many church leaders to understand why the actions and processes of the church should be postponed so legal processes can unfold. But in Romans 13, Paul makes it very clear that in criminal matters, the state is God’s agent of justice. Deferring to legal processes is not putting God second; it is recognizing who God asked to take the lead when a crime has been committed. By putting the needs of the victim first, you are not minimizing the offenses of the abuser. Rather, you are preparing the victim to walk a difficult journey after her abuse becomes public knowledge.
I believe that what others intend for evil, God intends for good. I’m seeking to learn through this. I hope you are as well. The articles above have helped me. I trust they will help you too.