If you are tired of talking about issues related to Beth Moore, that means you are a sane and rational person. I know it’s exhausting, but we need to care about Beth Moore preaching, and here is why.
Those seeking to shift the SBC theologically liberal are counting on you getting tired of talking about women preaching at the corporate worship service. Wearing you down is their aim.
The SBC is a big place – 40,000+ churches. It can and does handle a lot of inconsistency below the surface and mostly out of sight. This is true of any organization of this size. When an individual church has a woman preach on a Sunday morning, it’s an aberration and can be viewed as such. That doesn’t make it right, but it explains how this practice can take place in the past and not become the lighting rod issue it has at the moment.
When the most popular, best-selling female teacher in your convention starts preaching on Sunday mornings, this is no longer an aberration. As a convention, we must formally oppose this practice, or we will quickly de facto become a convention that supports women preaching at gathered corporate worship.
Many have observed that in an organization, “you get what you tolerate.”
The popularity and name-recognition of Beth Moore is forcing the SBC to reckon with whether it is going to tolerate women preaching to the gathered church, and thus get more of it. Not tolerating women preaching can mean a lot of things – from SBC leaders speaking up, to formal resolutions, to ultimately disfellowshiping churches who practice this functional egalitarianism. But the bottom line is, are we going to accept that women preaching at gathered corporate worship is within the framework of our complementarian commitments, or is it not? What kind of SBC will we be?
The BFM2K does not specifically address the issue of women preaching, but it does clearly define male leadership in the church. Is the function of preaching a part of male leadership, or can this function be separated from the role? Furthermore, direct appeal to the BFM2K is not an exhaustive argument, as there are a host of practices the document does not address that we would not tolerate among us.
Perhaps further denominational clarification on the matter of women preaching is needed through formal resolutions and amendments. I would welcome this. But it would also go a long way for the leaders of the convention to speak clearly and say, “This practice is not consistent with our complementarian commitments.” Some have spoken about this clearly, but they are few and far between.
It will not do to plead local church autonomy as a means of keeping the peace. What is at stake is our denominational identity as a whole. What kind of churches are we? The choice is not between a church that allows women to preach and one that does not. Indeed, this is a matter of autonomy. The choice we are confronted with now is between a convention that allows women to preach, and one that does not. What kind of SBC will we be?
The approach of many SBC leaders has been to ignore the issue of women preaching or dodge the question, often with the deflection, “We support and value women who are made in the image of God.” Well of course we all do, but that’s not the question. What kind of SBC will we be?
In our current cultural climate, to not answer the question of whether women should preach is to answer it. Will we be an SBC where it matters that 1 Timothy 2 says what it says? Those in favor of women preaching will not appreciate my framing there. But that’s the point. To avoid the question is to say the answer does not matter.
Perhaps there is a better way to frame the question. Before us is not the issue of whether or not women do preach at the corporate worship service. Clearly, as evidenced by Beth Moore, some women do. The question that we in the SBC, and especially our leaders, must answer is, “Does it matter in our convention whether women preach?”
We cannot have it both ways. We cannot say that it matters whether women preach, and then also refuse to speak clearly and take a stand to oppose this when they do. Inaction as a convention going forward will be to say that it does not matter whether woman preacher, and in that event we can expect more women preaching in the future.
What kind of SBC will we be?