Righting America

A forum for scholarly conversation about Christianity, culture, and politics in the US
History, Women, and the Southern Baptist Convention | Righting America

by Patrick Thomas

We were thrilled to see that a recent post on our blog authored by our colleague Margaret Bendroth has led to an even more impressive and insightful piece for The New York Times.

Appearing yesterday in the Opinion section, “Could Southern Baptists Actually Become Feminists?” addresses how, despite the ousting of Paige Patterson, the SBC’s history of complementarian theology and local governance of church authority complicate further efforts to acknowledge and deal with claims of domestic abuse and sexual violence against women and children.  As Bendroth notes,

Southern Baptists do not take these steps lightly. They are acknowledging not just individual wrongdoing like Mr. Patterson’s but also a longstanding pattern of failure. This is a rare moment for any religious organization. Moreover, given their polity, the task ahead is especially daunting. Tracking and punishing abuse is hard enough under a hierarchy, but in a church body historically dedicated to “soul freedom” and the autonomy of local congregations, the logistics are formidable.

The 2018 Convention statement on SBC abuse offers some consolation with its concluding resolution: “…That we uphold the dignity of all human beings as image-bearers of God and the responsibility of all Christians to seek the welfare of the abused.” Whether and how the SBC continues to pursue and remove abusers and predators remains to be seen.

Or, as Bendroth puts it: “History has teeth, and it can bite. We best pay attention. Will Southern Baptists?”

Great question.