“Human history is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”—C.S. Lewis
I know I promised you my perspectives on the SBC Convention. However, Wade Burleson just wrote this very important blog post that I feel compelled to share with you.
Wade Burleson not only came to the For Such a Time as This Rally, he also attended the after party in which Christa Brown was honored for her incredible work at exposing Baptist predators undertaken at great personal cost. Wade spoke at the event, in which he recounted the suffering Christa Brown experienced as the hands of members of the SBC.
I gave a short talk that evening. While sitting there, it dawned on me how much Wade reminded me of other pastors whom I have admired. For example, my current pastors who prayed for me and supported me during the *stupid letter* incident. As one of them said to me “I am not your boss.” Instead, they are there to support me. Two other pastors, Pete Briscoe and Jim Abrahamson round out the bunch.
When I saw this post by Wade, it demonstrated for me why he has been so supportive of me, along with many other women. He mentions Jeff VanVonderen who is one of the authors my most oft recommended book, The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse. If you haven’t read it, you are missing out on the most thoughtful and succinct books written on the subject. I quote from it regularly.
Wade’s thesis will cause heartburn in those who follow the authority driven ministries such as 9 Marks or The Gospel Coalition.
He has given me blanket permission to post his blogs here at TWW.
A Fixation on Authority Is a Sign the Spirit Has Left
It’s the ugly disease of male patriarchalism.
Traveling home from the airport this week, my friend Jeff VanVonderen called me. Jeff is the author of The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, Families Where Grace Is In Place, Good News for the Chemically Dependent, and a host of other superb books. Not to mention, Jeff is the star of the award-winning show Intervention.
He wanted to know how the Convention went. I explained to him the crisis of sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention. Then Jeff asked me this question:
“Do they understand that child sexual abuse and sexual assault crimes against adults all have at their root the sin of power, control, and “authority over.”
I told Jeff I’m doing all I can to tear down the unbiblical doctrine of spiritual authoritarianism and bring back the biblical doctrine of humble servanthood in Christ’s Kingdom to the leadership of the SBC.
What follows is the biblical antidote for any man infected with the venom of authoritarianism by the bite of the power viper.
If you are able to prove the concepts of power, authority, and control OVER OTHERS is not biblical, then you stop abuse cold in its tracks in the Convention that says it believes the Bible.
“All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Paul is emphatic that there is no room in the body of Jesus Christ for racial distinctions, no room for class distinctions, no room for gender distinctions. To forbid a woman to serve, read, lead, or teach (when men are present) is twisting the gospel of freedom in Christ into a gospel of bondage by gender. To restrict a Holy Spirit gifted and empowered woman from edifying other believers through the free exercise of her Spirit given gifts is to resist the Holy Spirit Himself–and qualifies as a very foolish act indeed.
An ancient Jewish prayer from the Hebrew Siddur (prayer book) went like this: “Blessed are you, Hashem, King of the Universe, for not having made me a Gentile. Blessed are you, Hashem, King of the Universe, for not having made me a slave. Blessed are you, Hashem, King of the Universe, for not having made me a woman.” “Hashem” was a Jewish name for the one true God, a name used by Jews in the days of Christ.
The same spirit ancient Jews possessed that caused them to believe that only men were created to lead, rule and serve and that women were born to receive, follow, and help men who lead, is the same spirit now at work in more than a few evangelical leaders. Interestingly, the rise of the Siddur coincides with the glory of God departing the Temple of Jerusalem in the days of Ezekiel (see Ezekiel 10).
Jewish Temple worship continued, but it was during this Spirit-less intertestamental time period that you have the rise of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and other male-only Jewish orders that were constantly focusing on male “authority,” male “leadership,” and male “power.”
A preoccupation and fixation on authority (whether it be conservative patriarchalism or liberal feminism), is a sign that the Spirit of God has departed. Jesus Christ explicitly forbids any one individual assuming authority over other adults in the Christian community (Matthew 20:20-28). In fact, after describing the imperialism of political rulers and the authority fixation of religious rulers, Jesus said to his disciples … “It shall not be so among you“ (Matthew 20:26).
I would propose that any portion of the body of Christ that is placing emphasis on male leadership to the exclusion of female leadership (or vice-versa) is void of the Spirit of God.
The New Testament covenant of God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ totally turns the world’s concept of authority on its ear. The world is concerned about position, power, authority, prestige, control, and ruling over others. Jesus Christ teaches His followers to serve, to love, to express their spiritual gifts to their fullest for the good of others, and to never fear what any person in so-called “authority” can do to them because “All authority … has been given to Me” (Matthew 28:18). There is to be a mutual equality, respect, and submission within the home between husband and wife (Ephesians 5:21-33).
There is to be a mutual equality, respect and submission of men and women toward one another in the body of Christ based upon the gifts that the Spirit gives to each male and female believer who has been baptized into Christ (Acts 2:15-21; Galatians 3:28). References to the churches’ teaching ministry and other gifts are found in Romans 12, I Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4 and not one of those passages excludes females from being recipients of any one of those gifts. Let me say that again in a different way. The gifts of the Spirit are never differentiated on the basis of gender in the New Testament — ever.
Wade Burleson is a writer, avocational historian, and teaching pastor at Emmanuel Enid, Oklahoma. Burleson was twice elected President of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and served as a trustee for the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board.