By Norris Burkes, March 21, 2021
Beth Moore made big news in the religion world this month by announcing she’s leaving the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Moore is the most famous SBC preacher who’s never pastored a church. SBC doesn’t ordain women.
Moore began her “preaching” career in the 1980s, sharing devotional lessons in a church aerobics class in Houston. Her popularity quickly outpaced other SBC celebrities giving her evangelical-superstar status estimated at $2.5 million.
But ever since the 2016 presidential election, Moore has debated how much longer she’d remain Southern Baptist. Her dilemma resembled the one my own daughter, Sara, expressed on her 16th birthday in 2000.
At the time, I was serving as a chaplain at Patrick AFB in Brevard County, Florida. From the Patrick beaches, my family often watched NASA launches, inspiring my newly minted millennial daughter to reach for the stars.
In June, the SBC hosted their annual convention in nearby Orlando and volun-told me to attend since I’m an endorsed SBC chaplain. Sara came as my plus-1 because she’d heard about the proposed changes to the Baptist Faith and Message.
The change to the heart of this SBC doctrine would say that ”the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”
My wife and I were concerned how this change might affect Sara. As a child, she’d voiced interest in Baptist work overseas, but she’d been quiet on the matter for some years.
On the day of the debate, still wearing my uniform, I marched with my daughter onto the crowded convention floor and found our seats. The meeting began with top-billed Christian musicians and rousing preaching. But when it was time for the business portion, the pep rally ground to a sudden halt with a, bored meeting. (Pun intended.)
The proposal was quickly made and adopted – without a single word of debate. In one sweeping moment, before the eyes of my firstborn, the Southern Baptist Convention boldly declared that God does not want women pastors.
That night, while walking to the car, I sensed this was not my proudest pastor/dad moment. And that’s when Sara fired her question.
“So Dad, how much longer are WE going to be Southern Baptist?”
I stopped short in the parking lot, as if I’d lost my keys. The darkness declared her own unspoken answer: “No longer.”
I was quiet, but inside I was outraged. Sara was reaching for the stars, but this gray-haired old boys’ club was telling her there was something God would not allow her to be. They were trying to cancel her launch.
Still, I wasn’t prepared to leave my church. I was proud of my SBC upbringing. The Baptist doctrine I preached had redeeming qualities. Members were encouraged to interpret scripture for themselves. Congregations enjoyed autonomy. Together, SBC churches had forged a path of religious liberty and separation of church and state.
Yet today, many denominations, including my own, are failing to outgrow the racist and sexist habits on which they were founded. America’s churches remain segregated. Many churches are shrinking as our young people, striving to be better than their parents, no longer find faith without inclusion.
But please don’t worry about Sara. She’s never been one to be told she couldn’t do something. While she never did become a missionary, she did move to Honduras with her husband and new baby where she does God’s work establishing libraries in elementary schools. (ChispaProject.org)
No worries for me either. Twenty years later, the SBC is still endorsing me. (It’s pretty clear the higher-ups don’t read my column.)
And regardless of how you feel about Beth Moore or Southern Baptists, I believe her Twitter advice is relevant to everyone calling themselves a Christ-follower.
“I can’t say this strongly enough,” she recently tweeted. “Stay in your Bibles. Read the prophets & watch for verses noting God’s displeasure over injustice. Note divine judgment. Start with Isaiah. Pour over the Gospels & watch what compelled & repelled Jesus. Read Acts thru Revelation. Read, read, READ.”
Do this and your faith will make your kids proud regardless of what convention they attend.
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