Southern Baptist #ChurchToo
By: Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
As the #MeToo/#ChurchToo movement continues to echo through faith communities, there is news from the Southern Baptist Convention. Southern Baptist leaders over the years have not only ignored sexual and domestic violence suffered by its members but many have actively excused and rationalized men’s violence towards women often with erroneous biblical proof texting. But it appears time may be up.
Paige Patterson, the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, has been forced to retire by the seminary board. In the face of revelations about his inappropriate comments about young women as well as his advice to rape victims to not report and battered women to stay in abusive marriages, the board began to feel pressure. But they gave him a soft landing— naming him “President Emeritus” of the seminary and allowing him to continue teaching. [UPDATE: Patterson has been stripped of title and benefits]
The best part of this good news is that the pressure has come from the grass roots: women and men who feel empowered by #MeToo to finally question and confront the teaching of women’s submission and corresponding excusing of men’s violence under the guise of “Christian marriage”.
Patterson has been unapologetic in response. Some of his colleagues have risen to his defense but other Southern Baptist pastors have condemned his position and questioned the larger teaching of the denomination regarding the position of women.
What is even more interesting and surprising is that Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., made a very strong statement: “I have to see it as the judgment of God upon a denomination and the larger evangelical movement for decades of failure in dealing rightly with questions of sexual abuse and misbehavior.” Mohler warned that “we’re going to discover this problem is far more widespread.”
This kind of language from a respected Southern Baptist leader is not to be taken lightly. But I must say that I would agree with Mohler’s assessment: God is not pleased when scripture and church teaching are used to justify the abuse of women.
I pray that the pressure coming from the grassroots will continue. Time is indeed up.
Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune