I read a letter from a prominent woman in ministry recently that confronted what we now refer to as “gender inequality” within church ministry. She exposed a laundry list of problems within the church and how many men within the church dealt poorly with her over her long years in ministry. Quite a number of women (and men), and some quite well-known, lauded her courage to speak out and bring out of darkness an issue within the church. Now, I don’t entirely have a problem with what she did, but I have asked myself how airing it all on social media follows Matthew 18. Did she ever personally confront some of these gentlemen or take an elder to confront him as God’s word calls us to when we have a grievance with a brother? Her letter did not indicate that she did such. Having said this, I do believe there is a place for sharing personal experience and shedding light on a heretofore hidden issue, but I don’t think these two options are mutually exclusive. Both can, and should, take place; the Scriptures also tell us it is profitable for us to bring into the light that which is hidden in darkness.
The same week her letter hit the internet, three leaders within Southern Baptist churches either stepped down or retired because of sexual misconduct, which has reminded all of us that none of us are exempt from sin and moral failure. These occurrences caused a tidal wave of men and women to raise their voices about gender inequality within these churches AND promoted the prevalent idea that Southern Baptist churches consist of old, misogynistic white men who cling to patriarchy. THIS is a huge disservice to the men of our convention. While Southern Baptists are certainly not exempt from sin, as we have seen all too clearly these past weeks, I do take umbrage against anyone who sweepingly accuses all my brothers within the SB convention of misogyny. Just like not all Southern Baptist men are white or old, most certainly, not all are misogynists and, I daresay, not even a majority.
Again, during the same week, I met with a group in my home state for a quarterly meeting. I’m part of the Christian Life and Public Affairs Committee for the SC Baptist Convention. This group consists of roughly eight older, white, supposedly misogynistic, Baptist men, one other lady, and myself. Now, I’m a 28-year-old female and the youngest member of the committee by far. I’m quite possibly the youngest female to ever be nominated to the committee as I was nominated at barely 26. I’m outspoken, I’m opinionated, and I have a strong personality (all three of which I have struggled to handle with femininity, grace, and overall Christ-likeness my entire life). According to the world at large, I’m most likely oppressed within that committee; plus, my opinions aren’t heard when given, and I’m certainly never asked for my opinion. Furthermore, my presence is ignored, and the men pretend I’m not in the room. When I am allowed a voice, I’m condescended to or, again, completely ignored. I’m not allowed any leadership roles within the committee and viewed as brash when I do acquire leadership responsibilities.
HOWEVER, this is not the case. First, you should know I was nominated to the committee by an older, white, Baptist man who is now the SB convention leader for our local network. At our meeting, I gave the first informational presentation on an upcoming event that I am spearheading on behalf of our committee. I had full support from everyone for my ideas and the room was filled with enthusiasm for the event. Their gratitude for me was very evident. While eating lunch together, the subject of politics arose, and I was asked my opinion on the 4th Congressional district candidates and our gubernatorial candidates here in SC. As I began to wax eloquently about one of my favorite subjects, I looked around the room to see not only every member of the committee hanging upon my every word, but also the president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, another older, white, Baptist man.
These men are some of the most influential men in SC Baptist Churches and one is THE most influential man in our state convention! But they are giving me, a young woman, a voice and have never, not once, condescended to me or tried to push me out. On the contrary, on numerous occasions they have all encouraged me and told me they appreciate me being a part of the committee because they are wanting to “break glass ceilings”. On my drive home last week, I could not help but reflect upon the meeting through the lens of all the events of the week. I recognize that I am young, and I am a female that takes interest in subjects not typical to my gender. I puzzled over the fact that my fellow committee members listen to what I have to say. I was filled with thankfulness for the opportunities they have given me and the platform I now have for my voice to be heard. In addition to this opportunity, I’ve been given a platform on a radio show - Christian Worldview with Tony and Hannah, by yet another older, white, Baptist man.
I daresay the majority of our Southern Baptist brothers are not misogynistic cavemen. The majority are gracious, caring, Christ-honoring men who want to see women flourish within the church and their personal ministries. Men nor women are perfect within the body of believers. Our imperfections are meant to highlight the perfection of Christ, and while on this earth, we must extend grace to one another as we all grow in Christ together. Let us bring light to the darkness most certainly; yet let us never forget the darkness of our own hearts. So, while we are grieving over the sins of a few, let us not dishonor the majority for I am so very thankful for quite a few older, white, Baptist men who saw something in me and were willing to listen to a young, opinionated, country girl from South Carolina.