I have been an evangelical Christian and Southern Baptist since I birth. Harold Hunt baptized me at First Baptist Church in Independence in the old sanctuary. I grew up across the street from Waldo Baptist Church, and we attended that church for a short time until my father had a disagreement with the pastor and we started attending First Baptist.
I remained a member of First Baptist until July of 1995, when I married my wife. I moved her and her three children into our home on Union Street and the twins were forced to leave their familiar school at Spring Branch to begin attending Bryant. I could not ask them to leave their church, too, as they attended Maywood Baptist, so I joined Maywood the Sunday after I married Kim.
At the time I left First Baptist, the church was experiencing some turmoil and so it was a good time to leave. I still have many friends there and my mother continued to attend church there until she could no longer attend because of her health.
I had attended Maywood on occasion with my wife before we were married, and I really liked the pastor, Bob Spradling. He was a wonderful pulpit preacher, and Maywood was a different kind of church. It was about to begin a transition to be the kind of church it is today. It is a New Testament church. I suspect many of its members are not aware of the tumultuous history of the Southern Baptist Convention.
I was aware of the tumult because my mother served as parliamentarian at the SBC national conventions for a few years and she was there when the conservatives (also known as fundamentalists) took over the convention. A judge from Texas, Paul Pressler and Paige Patterson, the President of Criswell College in Texas, led the takeover, and it caused quite a stir and division among Southern Baptists.
The takeover occurred in Houston in 1979. My mother was invited to attend a celebration after the critical votes were taken, and she came home saddened by what she had witnessed because it was very much like a political rally. Shortly thereafter she quit being parliamentarian for the convention.
Patterson was recently removed as president of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas because of his response to two rape allegations made by students. He was accused of making improper remarks about a teenage girl’s body and contending that women in abusive relationships should almost always stay with their husbands.
The SBC is the largest Protestant denomination in the country. The SBC has struggled to overcome its history as a denomination formed in defense of slaveholders. It has come far. It recently expelled a church in Albany, Georgia because of racial discrimination after a black female was told to use a restroom at a nearby convenience store rather than the restroom in the church.
The SBC has also struggled with the #MeToo movement. This summer a draft resolution was presented at the annual convention to repudiate any rhetoric or behavior that dishonors women. The resolution denounced those who cover up such actions and urged congregations and ministers to abide by all laws mandating the reporting of sexual abuse and assault.
The SBC is dominated by male leadership, but women in the denomination are advocating a greater role for women. The SBC has doctrine of “complementarianism,” which preaches male leadership in the home and in the church and says a wife “is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband.” The SBC has resisted any effort to revise this doctrine.
Beth Moore, one of the leading spiritual leaders in the SBC and in the country, recently published a letter after the trustees at Southwestern seminary rendered their unanimous decision and their denunciation of any forms of abuse. She asked that the trustees “would simply have no tolerance for misogyny and dismissiveness toward women in your spheres of influence.”
Moore previously had called out attitudes that surfaced in early October 2016 (before the election) among some key Christian leaders that “smacked of misogyny, objectification and astonishing disesteem of women” that had “spread like wildfire.” She reminded the trustees that women were also among the followers of Jesus, that the first recorded word out of His resurrected mouth was “woman” and that same woman was the first evangelist. She also reminded them that the Apostle Paul served with many women and praised women for their service.
Fortunately, my church warmly embraces people of all races and recognizes the sacrificial service of women in the church. I see no evidence of racism, misogyny, objectification or disesteem for women. However, I have been saddened by what has happened in the denomination and have been ashamed at times to call myself a Baptist. The blatant political activity that occurs in the pulpit of some churches is offensive to me. I would never attend a church that sanctioned that behavior.
Perhaps the winds of change are blowing, thanks to some brave men and women in the SBC such as Beth Moore. Yet, misogyny and racism seem to be more pervasive than at any time in my life, and so the challenges are more daunting than ever. I am pretty sure that Jesus had no use for either of these.
Bob Buckley is an attorney in Independence, www.wagblaw.com . Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.