Update: My mother continues to decline despite the fantastic efforts of the therapists. I do not expect her to survive much longer. She refuses to eat except for some ice cream and pudding. She takes small sips of ice water and juice. My son is getting married one week from today, thankfully in the Raleigh area. We will host the rehearsal dinner next Sunday. Joy and sorrow happening at the same time. I will do my best to keep up with posts. I am behind in commitments to some to write their stories, for which I am sorry. Thank you for your kind expressions of prayer and support.
There is an understanding among the Calvinistas that it is best to get rid of everyone in the church that don’t march lockstep with the theology du jour. Years ago, I read that one leader of these theodudes said it would be best if the church shrank to two people since they agreed on how the church should be run. The church would be “pure” when the riff-raff gets off the bus. I have watched as this system of understanding is applied in painful ways, causing many to sour on belonging to churches. Many of these theodudes have a childlike intolerance for thoughtful adults who ask questions or express hesitation about the unjust application of church discipline.
There is little question that the SBC is now controlled by those who prefer autocratic control. Mark Wingfield at Baptist News Global wrote the aptly title Picking Up the Pieces of the SBC. It appears that Wingfield agrees with my thoughts surrounding the Calvinista ascendency in the SBC.
One of the most common questions I’ve been asked over the past week is why SBC leaders would take such an off-putting stance on women when they know it will drive more people away from the church — when numbers already are declining.
My answer is simple: Because they do not care.
Does the “theology of election” contribute to this blasé approach to the declining numbers in the SBC?
They do not care because the theology driving the far right of the SBC today is Calvinism. Calvinism teaches that God has preordained who will be saved and who will be damned, and all the “elect” will be saved by God’s irresistible grace anyway. The only reason missionaries are needed is to round up the elect, which apparently an omnipotent God needs some help with.
Could it be that these leaders in the SBC think those who have questions are not saved, so it is good to cut them loose? Quite possibly. One only needs to look at the Reformed theologians who became Catholic. Whispers on the street included derogatory comments such as “He wasn’t really saved” or “I always knew there was something “off” about him.
In the confirmation classes in my LCMS church, the kids are taught that Baptists, nondenominational churchgoers, Catholics, Presbyterians, etc., are all Christians. Lutherans disagree with them on matters such as communion and the sacraments. Not so for the hardcore SBC Calvinistas. Now, entire churches will be given the left boot of fellowship since they do not march to the prominent clarion call of “my way or the highway.” As I look into the future, there will be more. First, it’s the problem with women pastors. I wonder what will come next. Sex abuse has undoubtedly taken a back seat. The SBC would rather have a pedophile male pastor than a godly woman pastor.
How many churches with women pastors will be kicked out of the SBC?
Marv Knox wrote If you bet on how many churches the SBC will kick out, take the ‘under’ for Baptist News Global. The latest mantra for the Calvinist leaders of the SBC is “women can’t be called pastors.”
The SBC’s recent move to clarify the term “pastor” and to restrict convention membership to churches that employ only men for positions described by that word extends its never-ceasing quest for purity.
It was assumed that the faithful knew only men could be pastors, especially the senior pastor. Twenty years ago, most Baptist churches had only one pastor, and it was a male pastor. As churches grew (back when churches were growing), titles were given to all the others working there. “Worship Leader” and “Director of Women’s Ministries” are a couple of usual titles. Then things changed. The “Director” became “Minister,” and then the “Minister” eventually became “Pastor.” Marv noted that title inflation became rampant.
Think of this as title inflation — changing what an employee is called to a more important-sounding title. It’s not exclusively an ecclesiastical phenomenon. You may not know any secretaries and janitors anymore, but you probably have friends who are executive assistants and maintenance engineers.
Literalism is the key.
Literalism is a pillar value for people who have decided to stay in the convention. They fought over biblical literalism and won. They support judges who claim to be literalists. Words in their dictionary mean what they say, with no room for nuance.
So, if the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message says women can’t be pastors, and churches hire women to be any kind of pastor, then those churches have got to go.
But they probably won’t.
The churches with women pastors will probably cave and say, “Whoops, we didn’t mean it.” So they will do what everyone knows what they will do.
That’s why most women in the SBC called “pastor of ________” today will be called “minister of _________” this time next year. By then, the SBC won’t have all that many churches to kick out because they won’t be able to find them.
There are few churches with Rick Warren, who courageously stood his ground.
That’s because churches that have stuck with the SBC the past 30 years want to be there. They may have followed a title trend and started calling women on their staff “pastor of such-and-such.” But they don’t mean it — at least not enough to get kicked out of their beloved SBC over a staff member’s title.
Will the former women who were named “pastors” easily switch to being called “minister” or “director?” And then what?
I expect people to be upset with my answer. These women will do so in a heartbeat to keep the jobs or positions they love. How will they justify this deep down in their souls? Were they ever pastors? Will they claim their experience as former pastors on Linked In? Did they actually think they were pastors? If so, what part of their job description changed when they became directors?
The dirty little secret for the women who are in this situation.
Their jobs will not change. They will do the same things they did when they were called pastors. It’s a name game.
What will happen when this inevitable action is taken throughout the SBC?
- More people will leave, which will not matter to the literalist leaders.
- The SBC will throw its attention and money towards assimilating individual, small churches into megachurches. Resistance is futile. Disagree, and your church might be booted for not following the program.
- Most nondenominational churches will join forces with the SBC while hiding their affiliation in order not to scare away new members. Running mission programs and retirement funds as a single, lonely church is difficult.
- Many women will do what Beth Moore did. Join liturgical churches (Anglican, Lutheran, etc.) These churches do an excellent job at keeping the main thing the main thing.
- The theodudes don’t give a hoot that the US will see declining numbers in conservative churches. Remember, if only two are left, the church will survive.
- What if the churches that survive are not the ones run by theodudes?
Final question: What is cooperation?
Does your church associate with other churches outside of their wheelhouse? My church participates in a weekend lunch bag program with a Catholic church. They take a certain number of weekends, and so does my church. I still remember some folks in Dallas who had “proof” that the Roman Catholic Church’s pope would be the anti-Christ. How many in the SBC hold similar views?