Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Southern Baptists' Albert Mohler Sides with LaBouf in Woman Teacher Dismissal

The Southern Baptists, whose campaign against women teaching, preaching, being missionaries on the field, or having mutuality relationships in marriage continues unabated, praised mainline American Baptist pastor Tim LaBouf of Waterton, New York, for doing likewise. LaBouf and his board recently fired Mary Lambert, a Sunday School teacher who'd taught there fifty-four years, for being female.

As it turned out, LaBouf really got rid of her for other reasons, as was made clear in various interviews he did as well as this church statement posted on their website. At one point, LaBouf claims that the gender issues was merely a "small aspect" of why she was dismissed.

That didn't stop Southern Baptist president Albert Mohler from turning American Baptist LaBouf into a poster boy for their own gender jihad. Mohler's recent August 24 radio program featured LaBouf, who reiterated his belief that women shouldn't be allowed to teach adult Sunday school (just why it is alright to teach children's Sunday School wasn't explained).

"I believe that Satan had infiltrated and taken the first Baptist church off course," LaBouf said. "The world frankly can't see it."

Both LaBouf and Mohler then turned their ire on the secular media, always a convenient whipping boy in matters having to do with inequality. From there, the two discussed how such unfortunate events as women ending up preaching and teaching occur.

"Things go wrong, number one, when men are unfaithful and do not lead," Mohler claimed. "The second problem comes when women begin to do things and assume responsiblity that is unbiblical."

Mohler called the Christians who disagree with him victims of an "equal opportunity God theory." Nice sound bite, if one happened to agree with Mohler. Empty rhetoric when one doesn't.

LaBouf, who continually seemed double-minded about whether or not to discuss the political intrigues behind Ms. Lambert's dismissal ("out of Christian charity, I won't mention....") did reference the fact that she was apparently part of a smaller group in the church unhappy with many of the changes LaBouf had instituted since becoming pastor. Yet, as I pointed out in my first posting on this mess, the dismissal letter sent to Ms. Lambert mentioned only the gender issue, proof-texting 1 Timothy as a Scriptural basis for her removal.

In short, LaBouf is caught on the horns of his own dilemma: was the dismissal because of internal dissension (a valid reason, I believe, for a dismissal in some situations), or was the dismissal because of a change in the church's beliefs regarding women as teachers? The American Baptist church normally does not hold to hierarchy teachings; that is a Southern Baptist distinctive. There seems to be more than a bit of waffling here as to just why all this happened.

At any rate, I for one find it instructive that the Southern Baptists' Mohler would grab hold of LaBouf as a brave, biblical pastor. What I would point to is the unintentional example both men set for us.

LaBouf and his board used gender as a means to get rid of someone they (rightly or wrongly) felt was troublesome and divisive. Using gender that way illustrates just how evil and pernicious hierarchal teachings are, and how they often seem to blind those who hold them to their own true motives.

Mohler and those who preceeded him in the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptists some years back have systematically stripped women in their denomination of preaching, teaching, and even most missionary roles. Could it be that the women often also represented a more moderate, less strident, version of evangelical Christianity to which the fundamentalists were so bent on removing from positions of influence? I strongly suspect so. A post-modern critique of language as power-mongering ("biblical" defined as disempowering women) might be quite applicable in this scenario.

They call all this being true to Scripture. I call it being false. Not only to Scripture are they false... they are false even to their own stated beliefs. The true motivations for hierarchal teachings are too often dark, manipulative, and abusive. In this situation, an elderly woman's service to Christ has been dismissed as unbiblical by males so locked into the letter of the law that they lose the Spirit of the Law. In the Southern Baptists' case, people around the world and in the United States are deprived of the giftings of Southern Baptist women.

Nowhere in Scripture is it even mentioned that spiritual giftings are handed out by gender. As someone with not one, but two, female pastors, I can certainly say "Halleluia!" to that.

One more thing. Mohler emphasized that men are called to lead. Women, uh, have other callings. He has it half-right. Men are, in fact, called to lead. So are women. Each should lead according to gifting and calling. And one place we men can lead is in faithfully calling our sisters in Christ to fully exercise their own gifts so that both female and male members of His body will be full, robust, and powerful expressions of agape in a broken, hurting world.


Lainie Petersen said...


I recently read that some blogger is suggesting that gender hierarchalists infiltrate egalitarian churches and stage a coup. Strangely enough, that sounds like what happened here. The American Baptists are diverse, but are generally considered to be a safe haven for ordained women and their supporters. This is really bizarre. And scary. And it is only going to get worse.

BTW, the Southern Baptists are proceding full steam ahead on the anti-contraception bandwagon. Read this little gem from Dorothy Patterson's (wife of Paige) website:

Lainie Petersen said...

One more thing: This whole business of men being "called to lead" strikes me as a bit presumptuous. It seems to me that most of us, men and women, are called to submit and serve. The call to leadership (even so-called "servant leadership") is certainly not something that all, or even most men have.

Pastor Phil said...

There appears to be a general sickness of leadership in Christianity of which this is just one example. Thanks for keeping abreast of this issue.

I am revulsed daily by the attempts of Christian leadership to justify their gross desire for power through poor scriptural exegesis.

BTW, we've got a great American Baptist female pastor in our city of Salem, MA.

P.S. I found your blog through John Morehead, and the Sacred Tribes Journal.