Southern Religion

Brainquake rather than Boobquake?

Brainquake is a Facebook call for Islamic women to use a demonstration of their intellectual firepower to fight the oppression visited upon them by oppressive Iranian clerics.

Brainquake creators Negar Mottahedeh and Golbarg Bashi wrote:

Let’s create a “Brainquake” and show off our resumes, CVs, honors, prizes, accomplishments (photo evidence) because the Hojatoleslam and the Islamic Republic of Iran are afraid of women’s abilities to push for change, to thrive despite gender apartheid (Did you know that over 64% of students studying at universities in Iran are women?) Let’s honor the accomplishments of Iranian women by showing off our abilities, our creativity, our ingenuity, and our smarts on our blogs, on Wikipedia, on Twitter, on Youtube, on Flickr and all over Facebook. Remember to use hashtag #brainquake on Twitter.

They were unimpressed by the satiric efforts of Jen McCreight’s Boobquake to counter the supernatural thinking of Iranian cleric Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, who said last week:

Many women who do not dress modestly … lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes

Those following McCreight’s call today are “testing” cleric’s assertion by dressing less modestly than usual. Satiric and scientifically slightly silly, Boobquake has inescapable sexuality implications. As Mottahedeh and Bashi responded:

Everyday women and young girls are forced to “show off cleavage” and more in order simply to be heard, to be seen, or to advance professionally. The web is already filled with images of naked women; the porn industry thrives online and many young girls are already vulnerable to predatory abuse. Violence against women and girls has a direct correlation to the sexualisation of women and girls. The extent of their sexualisation is evident in the hundreds of replies that pour into the “Boobquake” Facebook page where women write, apologetically: “I don’t have boobs, not fair” or “Hey, I only have a C cup… ” and “what about those of us who no longer have a cleavage? they sag too low.”

World-wide, the sexualisation of women and younger girls, as young as pre-schoolers is a genuine problem and as mothers, feminists, and young women ourselves we believe that it is time to move away from this “bare it all” mentality.

You may follow the Brainquake at @negarpontifiles, and you may join it by addressing a tweet to that account.

April 26, 2010 Posted by | Politics, Religion | , , , , , | Comments Off on Brainquake rather than Boobquake?

Middle East Evangelical Churches call for ordination of women

Delegates to the 6th General Assembly of the Fellowship of the Middle East Evangelical Churches (FMEEC) voted unanimously on Jan. 12 in support of the ordination of women.

The associated statement was written in Arabic. An English translation says:

The Sixth General Assembly supports the ordination of the women in our churches in the position of ordained pastor and her partnership with men as an equal partner in decision making. Therefore we call on member churches to take leading steps in this concern.

The statement was drafted and adopted in response to a report by the fellowship’s theology committee, which found no biblical or theological reasons to oppose the ordination of women, said the Rev. Munib A. Younan, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL), president of FMEEC.

The action means member churches are urged to open the doors to women’s ordained ministry, said Younan.

According to the FMEEC Web site, there are 23 member churches/organizations spread across the middle east and near east.

Several U.S. denominations allow the ordination of women. Among them are the Episcopal Church, which has a woman as its presiding bishop, the United Methodist Church, the Disciples of Christ, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and others. Several denominations deny ordination to women, most notably Southern Baptist Convention and the Roman Catholic Church. All subject to ongoing controversy in some regard.

Allison K. Schmitt, communication assistant with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, explains:

FMEEC was formed in 1974, the result of a long history of ecumenism among member churches. FMEEC’s purpose is to strengthen the mission and ministry of its member churches through training and formation of leadership and laity, both women and men, and promoting unity through joint work and education.

The organization’s history says:

The motivation for unity was always rooted in the faith and life of the Evangelical churches in the Middle East. The ecumenical movement in the Middle East sprang up from within the evangelical church, which through its biblical concepts and spirituality, yearns for unity. This motivation brought the Evangelical churches of the Middle East together. “The United Missionary Council in Jerusalem” (1924) was the first step, followed by the “Council of West Asia and North Africa” held at Helwan, Egypt in 1927, and its two peers, “The Missionary Conference of Syria and Palestine” held in the north, and “The Missionary Conference of all Egypt” held in the south. Later all these assemblies joined under one nomenclature, “The Near East Christian Council”. Thirty-five years later, in 1964 in Egypt, the Syrian Orthodox Church joined the council, whose name changed to “The Near East Council of Churches”. Then, in 1974, in order to encourage other churches in the Middle East to join the ecumenical movement, the Evangelical churches initiated the idea of playing a lesser role in administration and direct responsibility, in order that the other churches in the Middle East might join. As a result “The Middle East Council of Churches” came into existence on the basis of Orthodox, Oriental and Evangelical church families.

The yearning for unity does not mean that the member churches within the Fellowship of the Middle East Evangelical Churches are fully united. Theological questions related to eucharist and ministry are still unresolved, therefore the quest for unity is still a top priority for the FMEEC, which believes that unity amongst its members will foster the unity with the other families within the MECC. In 1997 the Fellowship formulated a “Proposal for the Unity of the Evangelical Churches in the Middle East”, which however was not accepted by all its members. In 2005 a new proposal was launched, aiming at a formal agreement between the churches of the Reformed and Lutheran traditions in the Fellowship. This agreement of full communion was reached in January 2006 at a meeting in Amman and is called The Amman Declaration of Lutheran and Reformed Churches in the Middle East and North Africa. It establishes the mutual recognition of baptism, eucharist, ministry and ordination. The churches that are signatories to the Declaration commit themselves to close cooperation and common witness.

January 13, 2010 Posted by | Religion | , , | 3 Comments

Building Biblical fortresses for friendly-fire battles

When Christian groups argue — and some seen to thrive on the process — advantage goes to the side which claims the “biblical” high ground. If they can hold it.

Take for example this statement by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, whose president, Paige Patterson, is a well-known veteran of the Southern Baptist controversy:

While the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 is the only confessional document at Southwestern, the seminary also affirms the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy and the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. These statements clarify the seminary’s general posture on the the subjects of inerrancy and gender roles.

Several questions immediately come to mind.

If the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, is the school’s “only” confessional statement, why the other two statements?

The school says the other statements “clarify the seminary’s general posture” on inerrancy and gender roles.

The general posture?

What does that mean?

And why does it need clarifying?

If the other two statements are needed to “clarify” the school’s stance, then why not add them as confessional statements?

Or else, why isn’t the only confessional statement enough?

Yet the confessional statement is not enough, at least not enough for Southwestern seminary.

Turns out, it isn’t enough for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina either.

Tony Cartledge reported that Southeastern is making even the ministers who supervise students in practical ministry efforts sign all three statements, along with the school’s Abstract of Principles.

Cartledge is correct to say that seminaries have the right to draw their own lines of participation “as narrowly and fearfully as they want to.” But as he points out, such moves “exclude a number of capable, qualified, experienced ministers from the program, to the great detriment of their students.”

Cartledge says the Danvers statement “was adopted in 1987 by the ‘Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood,’ which consists largely of people with close connections to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.” The document, he said, “attempts a response to the perceived danger of ‘feminist egalitarianism’ by affirming a belief that husbands should be the final authority in their homes (albeit humbly), and that wives should submit to their husbands.”

A closer look at the statement raises even more questions.

For example, item number seven of the statement’s affirmations includes the phrase, “In all of life Christ is the supreme authority and guide for men and women … .” Yet, in all the biblical texts given in support all 10 items, not a one is from the gospels, the section of the Bible where the life of Christ and his teachings are highlighted.

The eighth item of the statement insists that in “both men and women a heartfelt sense of call to ministry should never be used to set aside Biblical criteria for particular ministries.” Instead, the statement says, “Biblical teaching should remain the authority for testing our subjective discernment of God’s will.”

And in this instance, the schools get to decide the criteria used to override those calls, and it is the seminarys’ teaching that becomes authoritative.

Thus the seminaries complete the construction of a “biblical” facade around their interpretation of particular passages.

October 31, 2009 Posted by | Religion, SBC | , , , | Comments Off on Building Biblical fortresses for friendly-fire battles

German Protestant Church puts a woman in charge


A federation of 22 regional church bodies, all of which practice the ordination of women and some of which bless same-sex marriages, the Evangelical Church of Germany (EKD) elected Bishop Margot Kaessmann, 51, its first female head Wednesday during a meeting of the Protestant body’s council in Ulm.

Other women who head denominations include Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church in the United States, National Bishop Susan Johnson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada and General Minister and President Sharon E. Watkins of the Christians (Disciples of Christ) in the United States.

Kaessmann, a divorcee and the Lutheran bishop of Hanover, commented after the vote that “It is a sign that we are saying: For biblical and theological reasons, it is possible for women as well as men to assume any office in the Protestant Church.”

“The election sends a signal to the Church worldwide that God calls us to leadership without consideration of gender, color or descent.” Rev. Ishmael Noko, [Lutheran World Federation] LWF general-secretary told the Ecumenical News International news agency at the synod in Ulm.

October 30, 2009 Posted by | Churches, Religion | , | 1 Comment

Prayers for Southern Baptist Women

On behalf of gifted Southern Baptist women: asks Southern Baptists to:

  1. Pray for women pastors and for women who are being called into ministry.
  2. Pray for a softening of the heart of the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention toward women in the United States.
  3. Start an email cell group which would commit to pray and to enlist others.

Unusual (in our experience the email cells are) and sound strategy.

March 17, 2009 Posted by | Churches, Religion | , , , , | Comments Off on Prayers for Southern Baptist Women

Question isn’t whether Baptist women should be ‘ordained,’ but who is ‘gifted’

Baptist women have played a prophetic role since the movement’s dawn, four centuries ago, said Curtis Freeman, director of the Baptist House of Studies at Duke Divinity School in a Vivian B. Harrison Memorial Lecture at Mount Olive College last week.

That role is for modern Baptist women a matter of controversy, especially in the Southern Baptist Convention. But Freeman reminds us that “the church doesn’t really call people into ministry. We help people discern God’s call on their life.”

As a result, “Asking whether women should be ordained to the ministry is the wrong question, says Freeman. The question is, ‘Who is being gifted in the church?'” And historically, the Baptist answer to that question has not been uniformly gender specific.

Steve DeVane wrote that according to Freeman there were nine Baptists among the roughly 300 “prophetesses” in England between 1640 and 1660. They were objects of controversy at the time and recorded in the writings of “the English Presbyterian controversialist, Thomas Edwards” in 1646.

Reasonable estimates indicate that between 1640 and 1660 as many as three hundred women prophetesses were active in England. A checklist of women’s published writings during this period suggests that more than half of these women’s writings could be described as “prophetic.” Most of them published nothing, but many of the forty-seven well-known women visionaries during the revolutionary period did write. Nine of these writing prophetesses were Baptists. . . . these women told their stories in their own words . . . .

Freeman focused on the life and ministries of four women who wrote:

. . . all of whom were associated with the Particular (or Calvinistical) Baptists: Sarah Wight (1632-?), Anna Trapnel (1642-1660), Katherine Sutton (1630-1663), and Anne Wentworth (1629/30-1693?). By my count, the combined total of the writings of these four women was no less than 748 pages, which is no small record. And because many of these writings were published as cheap pamphlets, and thus available to even the poorest laborers, they were able to reach a wide audience and often went through multiple editions.

Freeman in his presentation addresses the question of “whether this survey of prophetic women suggests anything more than the fact that it took early Baptists a few years” to establish “a male ministerial monopoly.” There is, he says, history to the contrary, “even in the Old South:”

The Haw River Baptist Church, for example, founded in 1758 near the town of Bynum in Chatham County, was one of the mother churches among Baptists in the North Carolina Piedmont. The church’s pastor, Elnathan Davis, who served for over thirty years, was converted and baptized by the Separate Baptist patriarch, Elder Shubal Stearns. When Morgan Edwards, the noted colonial-era Baptist preacher, traveled through the South in the 1770s, he observed that the Haw River Church permitted “ruling elders, elderesses, and deaconesses.”

They may have exercised “their office only among their own sex,” but there were women among the Separate Baptists in Virginia who “crossed over and exercised their gifts among the brethren.”

One of them, Margaret Meuse Clay of Chesterfield County, was convicted of unlicensed preaching and escaped public whipping only because her fine was paid” by a stranger. She and her sisters apparently remained unaltered in their conviction that “the right to pray and preach was based, not on ordination credentials, but on charismatic endowment. They exercised their gifts whenever the Spirit moved and among whomever they were so led without asking permission from any man.” He further writes:

These women surely were convinced that Jesus was addressing them directly just as he spoken to the primitive Christian community, and they certainly believed that they were women of whom the Lord had promised, “I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy” (Acts 2:18). The possibility that the Baptist vision might be enhanced by the standpoint of these prophetic women suggests that it might be important to ask how we might be prepared to look at history, and indeed the future, differently through their lives.

Finally, Freeman offers the modern example of Addie Davis, who was ordained by Watts Street Baptist Church in Durham, N.C. on Aug. 9, 1964, to suggest that:

Ultimately it is not a matter of gender or ordination, but of spiritual discernment. For such radical democracy to work perhaps we might begin by looking again to the horizon of the new creation with our sisters in the Spirit who may help us once again to see it afresh.

March 16, 2009 Posted by | Churches, Religion | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Question isn’t whether Baptist women should be ‘ordained,’ but who is ‘gifted’

More about bWe: Baptist Women for Equality

Shirley Taylor, who with her husband publishes bWe: Baptist Women for Equality email newsletter and Web site, told us via email on Jan. 24:

Shirley Taylor

Shirley Taylor

I am just an ordinary woman who got fed up with the Southern Baptist Convention which holds sway over the local church, the local Baptist association, the state convention, and refuses to realize that the greater sin is not that women be allowed to serve, but that the greater sin is to keep women in their so-called place.

She explains, writing with the quiet tone of an after-church conversation, that SBC disregard for women can be cured, because it is a result of ignorance. Pastors “just don’t know” how many of the women in their congregations believe women should be free to serve as deacons and “even pastors.”

She is determined to enlighten misinformed pastors, and brings the summary force of a hammer blow to her convictions.

I wonder if that is in part because she has three granddaughters and would like a better future for them. In any case, she wrote:

Many of these church members have daughters and granddaughters who are feeling the call to go into ministry, and there is no option for them except to go on to the mission field. We are more than willing to ship our daughters off to a foreign land, but we allow our sons to stay home and preach. Doesn’t anybody see the hypocrisy in this? Our bellies are full of camels that we have swallowed while straining out the gnat when it comes to women in authority. We stab those scriptures with our bony fingers and declare that women shall not have authority over men, and then we put them on every committee and give them every responsibility in a church, except as the office of a deacon. What makes the office of a deacon so sacred that we argue endlessly and heatedly about who should or should not be “scripturally allowed” to be one?

Women have been tainted with the sin of Eve long enough. If we truly believe that Jesus can wash away our sins, then why are we saying that Jesus cannot forgive women for something that Eve did, which was not even our sin. It is time we accepted the fact that Jesus makes both men and women whole through his saving grace.

She is a former employee of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and knows most of her denomination’s top leadership is moving away from, rather than toward accepting women into its pulpits. But she is not alone. Enid, Okla., pastor Wade Burleson recently reprinted on his blog a persuasive account by Mimi Haddad explaining the role of women in the growth of South Korean churches.

Burleson, clearly aware of addressing himself to a church which is foundering on growth problems, then invites the theological debate which could lead to the changes bWe seeks. He includes with that invitation the example of a very effective Southern Baptist voice who, it is implied, would be far more effective if not barred from the pulpit:

I have two questions: What fault, if any, do you find in Mimi’s biblical reasoning? Has Beth Moore been released within the Southern Baptist Convention?

Some agree but are pessimistic. Some Baptist women raise other questions about Southern Baptist Church attitudes toward women. And there are some who see a failed and Biblically erroneous SBC strategy.

Meanwhile, the volume of Southern Baptists asking their fundamentalist leaders to reconsider the theologies which led them to push women out of and away from a place in the pulpit, is rising.

January 25, 2009 Posted by | Cultural, Religion | , , , , | 2 Comments

bWe: Baptist Women for Equality

Shirley Taylor, a former employee of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, has founded a group called bWe – Baptist Women for Equality, whose goal is to open Southern Baptist leadership roles to women.

Specifically, they “advocate for women deacons and women pastors in Baptist churches.”

Their Web site offers An Open Letter to Baptists (.pdf) which introduces the group and includes brief discussions of scripture and the Southern Baptist Convention’s 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.

It begins:

Even if you think everything is all right in your church, please consider those other churches where women can be Ministers to Children, Ministers to Youth, Ministers to Women, can be on all committees which make church policy and pertain to theology, and financial matters, but who cannot serve a piece of bread and cup of juice.

Do you know why your church does not have women deacons? It can be found in “the cold heart of the church” which is your church’s By-laws. Church By-laws can be changed. When women decide that enough is enough, the cold heart of the church will be changed to include women as Deacons and accept women as Pastors.

Closing the site home page is:

How often do you tell your daughter that she is scripturally inferior to your son?

You tell her every time you take her to church.

How often do you tell your son that he is scripturally superior to his sister?

You tell them every time you take them to church.

Unless your church recognizes women deacons and women pastors.

The site has been frequently updated with new materials, thus far all in .pdf format.

Southern Baptist policies appear to us to be the focus of the site and its literature, since there are other Baptist organizations whose policies with regard to women are far more inclusive.

We look forward to learning more about the group and following their progress.

More about bWe

Goals, rationale, hope for success [here].

January 23, 2009 Posted by | Cultural, Religion | , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Acceptable ‘Pastor Rick’ steps forward

Acceptable “Pastor Rick spoke from the pulpit at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta today, and promised to reappear at President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration tomorrow in Washington, D.C.

In his keynote Martin Luther Kind Day address, Warren said, according to the Associated Press:

Tomorrow when I pray the invocation for my friend, Dr. King and a whole host of witnesses will be shouting. Martin Luther King was a mighty tool in the hand of God. But God isn’t through. Justice is a journey and we’re getting further and further along.

Controversial Rick Warren, whose views on homosexuality and the role of women in marriage and in the church brought protesters out today, seemed to be absent from the pulpit of the church where King preached from 1960 until he was assassinated in 1968.

Instead there was a man whose voice may have been very much like the one Gustavo Arellano prayed for in the Los Angeles Times opinion piece we wrote about today. For this was a Rick Warren who urged the crowd to follow King’s example of service and selflessness.

One with whom Obama can work, but who to play the role of a national unifying voice will have to make some changes back home at Saddleback Church.

Time will tell, don’t you think, whether the self-contradictory Rick Warrens the Boston Globe wrote about today will resolve into a man of sweeping compassion with whom the late Dr. King would in fact have been pleased to work.

January 19, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Religion | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Acceptable ‘Pastor Rick’ steps forward

Release your women, Southern Baptists

Christian Church president Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins will in a week be the first woman to give the sermon at the National Day of Prayer service capping the inauguration of the first black president in U.S. history.

Thus Pastor Wade Burleson’s timing was exactly right when in his blog this week he hinted at the value of a change in the Southern Baptist Convention’s view of women in the pulpit.

Officially, they despise the idea, and the SBC’s drive to subjugate women is costing the huge but shrinking denomination in lost churches and member anger.

With introductory hints, Burleson merely reprinted a blog post by Mimi Haddad which appeared at Sojourners.

Haddad recounts how a South Korean megachurch grew to 830,000 members by giving “gifted women teachers” places of leadership. The church’s pastor is quoted as responding to the “small size” of churches in another country he visited:

I told them to release their women, but they insist that’s not the problem. They ask me, “What’s the key to your church?” I tell them again, “release your women … . “

The reform-minded Oklahoma pastor does not directly challenge SBC policy but is certainly aware of addressing himself to a church which is foundering on growth problems when he writes:

I have two questions: What fault, if any, do you find in Mimi’s biblical reasoning? Has Beth Moore been released within the Southern Baptist Convention?

Might Southern Baptists reasonably ask, without being cursed as apostate, if their fundamentalist leaders were misguided when they generated the self-crippling theologies which bar women from their pulpits?

January 14, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Religion | , , , , , | 4 Comments