Southern Religion

Domestic violence & Baptist divorce

Confusing, both because correction was delayed until the raging controversy quieted, and because the original statement was clear. Nonetheless, a Saddleback Church minister reportedly told church members that he never intended to say Baptist women are obligated by scripture to stay in violently abusive relations.

It began on Jan. 8 when Associated Baptist Press (ABP) lit a fire simply by reporting:

Rick Warren, the Southern Baptist megachurch pastor chosen to offer the invocation at President-elect Barack Obama’s Jan. 20 inauguration, says the Bible does not permit a woman to divorce a spouse who is abusing her.

Half a year passed before Saddleback Teaching Pastor Tom Holladay, who actually voiced the controversial audio clip, said in a statement to Saddleback Church members that it was all a misunderstanding. According to ABP, he said he was just trying to explain to explain “the difference between an angry exchange between spouses and domestic violence” and:

“We believe that one violent incident is obviously more than enough to demand the need for a separation … .” And if an abusive spouse refuses to repent and try to change, there eventually comes a point at which he or she has abandoned the marriage and it cannot be saved.

That’s a little convoluted but not incomprehensible. Even so, in the course of the audio clip (transcript) he said, “I wish there were a third [reason for divorce] in Scripture, having been involved as a pastor with situations of abuse… There is something in me that wishes there were a Bible verse that says, ‘If they abuse you in this-and-such kind of way, then you have a right to leave them.’”

Momlogic has former Saddleback Church member Sheri Ferber’s account of receiving the kind of counsel apparent in the now-deleted audio clip. Momlogic notes that Saddleback has been asked to comment but has failed to do so.

This is of more than passing importance in part because Warren was chosen to give the invocation at Barak Obama’s presidential inauguration, in part because Warren has a politically active ministry which includes calling presidential candidates to his Faith Forum and in part because the submission Southern Baptist doctrine requires of women can be dangerous.

The foundations, impact and validity of that submission are a matter of ongoing debate.

The necessity of keeping the vulnerable women and children safe should not be.

September 24, 2009 - Posted by | Religion, SBC | , , ,

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