It’s being as kind, gentle, and loving as possible when saying this: The Southern Baptist Convention is in a mess of its/our own making, and it’s time to move in a positive direction.
As reported here in Word&Way and across many other media outlets, SBC leaders and messengers met last month in Birmingham to address very serious recent controversies, along with discussing regular annual business.
To his credit, SBC president J.D. Greear seems to understand the seriousness of sexual predators that are associated with Southern Baptist churches and the legal, moral, and spiritual issues that go hand-in-hand with such predators. For years, SBC leadership seemed unaware or unwilling to deal with the shifting tide in America when it comes to sexual crimes and inappropriate sexual behavior.
Thankfully, that tide is shifting … some.
In Missouri, Southern Baptist leaders are still making an effort to hail the disgraced Paige Patterson as a hero in their official publication — even after Patterson was forcibly removed from seminary leadership for trying to sweep a felony rape under the rug to allegedly protect the rapist.
In a somewhat related controversy, SBC leadership was also making headlines last month for their treatment of prominent (and conservative, I might add) Bible teacher Beth Moore.
While not hesitating to profit off Moore for decades, a few bad actors in the SBC decided to bring up the weary argument of egalitarianism versus complementarianism (otherwise known as “keeping women in their place”) for those chauvinistic, power-hungry men who want to cherry-pick their Bible verses.
As Doyle Sager noted recently in his column, cherry-picking a few Bible verses to twist the meaning to your agenda — since we would then be selectively ignoring most of Paul’s other teachings — is an age-old trick that has been used for generations to keep certain groups of people “in line.” Some profess to be an authority on who gets to have a voice in modern church life. We’ve seen those folks before; they were called Pharisees and Sadducees.
The moral of the story, if we as Baptists want to reach people for Christ, is plain as day: It’s time for the tide to shift, away from clinging to the “old ways” and a monopoly on power. It’s time to share the love of Christ with — and through — all.
Christopher Dixon is chief operating officer of eLectio Publishing (electiopublishing.com) and pastor of West Finley Baptist Church near Fordland, Mo.