Most people are unaware that the Southern Baptist Convention is currently meeting. (June 13th– 16th) Southern Baptists were once the largest and most influential denomination in the United States. However, their membership and influence have been waning over the last decade.
The SBC’s reputation has been tarnished so badly that some Southern Baptist churches hide their affiliation. For example, the Southern Baptist church where my family attended changed their name from First Southern Baptist of Fountain Valley to Beach Point. The First Baptist Church of Huntington Beach changed its name to Crosspoint. Even the mega-church Saddleback Community Church hid its denominational affiliation deep on its website. You really had to search to find out that they were Southern Baptists.
This year as the SBC convention meets, it is facing huge challenges.
- The Southern Baptist Church lost half-a-million members in 2022
- In fighting between leadership
- Their largest seminary is in financial crisis after lavish spending of $140 million.
- The cover-up of the SBC sexual abuse scandal
Will the SBC address these issues of falling membership, disunity, bad stewardship, or failure to protect the flock? Nope. The number one issue on the agenda is female pastors. Messengers from two churches that were removed from the denomination for ordaining female pastors will plead their cases before the convention.
In other words, maintaining the Patriarchy is the number one concern of the SBC. I would argue that it is the Patriarchy that has created the other problems.
Southern Baptists are patriarchal to the core. They believe in complementarianism. They believe that God created men to lead and women to serve. That these two roles are equal but complementary. In theory, it sounds nice; in practice, it leaves women as second-class citizens. In the SBC’s patriarchal system, women and children are subservient to men.
The Bible was written during the Bronze and Iron Ages. Patriarchy was the primary family system of the geographical area where the Bible was written. The Bible describes the system and how to work within that system. Patriarchy is the context of the Bible; however, it is not the command. Understanding the Bible requires us to understand the system of family relationships it was written to.
However, Jesus and the Apostle Paul make it clear in their teaching that Patriarchy isn’t the social system of the Kingdom of God. Yet, groups such as the SBC use the contextual descriptions in the Bible to justify the preservation of the Patriarchy as “Biblical.”
Patriarchy is driving members away from the church. Who wants to attend a church where you are a second-class citizen? The Patriarchy would say that women and children are being rebellious. Families are saying the church is out of touch.
The in-fighting in leadership is between moderates who wish to soften their patriarchal stance due to changing culture and hard-core right-wingers who support patriarchy and right-wing politics. If you want to be in leadership in the SBC, you better be a Republican alpha male.
The seminary financial crisis can be linked to the number of students declining and unchecked spending. Male leadership believes they should not be questioned. They are the head of the family, church, and institution. They have been anointed and placed in authority by God Himself. To question them is to question God. So, when the president of the seminary spends $11,000 of seminary money on an expresso machine for his on-campus home, he is not to be questioned. In total, the president spent $1.5 million on home refurbishment and decorations. Other expenses, such as $10,000 for first-class tickets to fly his family to the convention, are unquestioned. The Seminary president has full discretion over the use of seminary finances. He stands as the unquestioned head!
There is so much that can be said about Patriarchy and sexual abuse. The SBC covered up the crimes because they didn’t want to tarnish the reputation of the denomination, the churches, and especially the MEN. Yes, these men “made a mistake.” However, they prayed, and they were forgiven. Some even went through a sham process of restoration. Little thought was given to the victims. To the women and children who suffered at the hands of the predators. After all, women and children are second-class people in a Patriarchy.
I’m not surprised that with all the issues facing the SBC that they choose to focus on women being ordained as pastors. Once someone has power and control, it’s hard to give it up. The men who control their families, churches, schools and denomination are not going to give up that power easily. They certainly will never admit that women are their equals.
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