Beth Moore is a popular author and well known Bible teacher among Evangelical Christians. She’s connected to Lifeway Christian Publishers in Nashville which is the publishing house owned and operated by the Southern Baptist Convention and she is a member of a large SBC congregation in Houston.
Her career hasn’t been without some level of controversy in a denomination that took a conservative turn in 1979, particularly with regard to doctrinal positions regarding the role of women in the church. There were SBC churches that were moving in a more liberal direction with regard to the role of women in the church, including some who had opened deacon ordination to women and a few who were ordaining women to the gospel ministry. The direction the SBC took in 1979 put an end to most of that movement and made what a church does with a woman in ministry a test of denominational fellowship, removing from status as a “cooperating church” any congregation that called a female to their pulpit and codifying a belief that the role of “senior pastor” was reserved for men only in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, the statement of SBC denominational doctrinal fidelity.
The prevailing view is called “complimentarianism.” It is a way of putting the perspective that most Southern Baptists share about the role of women in the church in a more positive light. It includes the belief that women cannot hold ordained leadership roles in the church. In more conservative circles, there is a literal application of passages from the New Testament, primarily Paul, which state that women are to be silent in the church, not asking questions but referring what they want to know to their husbands at home. That’s the environment in which Moore has done her writing and teaching. I’d say she’s done pretty well. Well enough to be asked to preach from a pulpit on Mother’s Day and stir up a storm of controversy about whether or not a woman should preach.
I’ve encountered few Southern Baptist churches that apply this teaching consistently. In every SBC congregation where I’ve been a member, women are not kept completely silent. They’ve been able to pray publicly, to participate in business meetings, to use their prophetic gift as the scripture says they have been given and to have an active life and role in the church. No church were I’ve ever been a member would have continued to exist without the women doing what they were called to do because no church where I’ve ever been a member had enough men willing to lead where they were called to serve.
Moore has taken quite a bit of criticism, to which she has responded admirably, patiently and scripturally. She’s not a woman with an ambition to serve a church as a pastor but in the strict complimentarian perspective that so many Southern Baptists take, her high profile status is more than they think she should be allowed to have because she is a woman.
And because her name isn’t Paula White and she’s not the current occupant of the White House’s spiritual advisor.
I haven’t seen many complimentarian Southern Baptists say much at all about the fact that the President has chosen a female, who also serves a church in the senior pastor role which is a no-no big enough to get you kicked out of the SBC, but which seems to be absolutely fine because the President, or at least this President, gets a pass on something like this.
On top of the fact that White occupies a pastoral role in a church that Southern Baptists have explicitly stated belongs only to men, she also holds to a theology that most Baptists consider heresy, or at least close enough to virtually disqualify its followers from salvation by grace through faith in Christ. She is a promoter and preacher of the prosperity gospel, an unbiblical philosophical system that justifies getting rich by whatever means are available because God wants you to be happy, healthy and wealthy. There’s no Biblical support for her theological perspective at all. From my perspective, the prosperity gospel is heresy, by definition. So as far as Southern Baptists, as well as most of the rest of conservative, Evangelical Christianity is concerned, Paula White is out of the will of God on one count and a false preacher and teacher on another.
I can see why she would appeal to this particular President.
But many of those Southern Baptists who were so mean-spirited in their criticism of Beth Moore’s invitation to bring a mother’s day message from a church pulpit openly accept White, not because she is right, not because she is Biblical or anything close to it, but because she’s the President’s spiritual advisor, the President they like. Paula White preaches every Sunday and many days in-between and they are silent. That speaks volumes to me about, well, about a whole lot of things.
Many Southern Baptists were among the critics from the religious right who railed against President Obama’s pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, taking a few sentences from a sermon he preached completely out of context and making such a fuss and an issue that it forced the President to sever his ties to the church. Wright was pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, affiliated with a denomination that does have a few theological differences with Evangelical Christians though not anywhere as serious as the divide between the Biblical gospel and the prosperity gospel. The UCC does allow for women to be ordained and to serve as pastors, though there are only a handful out of more than 5,000 in the whole denomination. The critics were silenced for the most part when the Obamas chose to worship most frequently at a Baptist church in the city of Washington and on occasion, to sit under the preaching of an ordained Southern Baptist chaplain who preached the Protestant services at Navy Chapel. Paula White is much further out of the ball park than Jeremiah Wright. Where’s the hollering?
Beth Moore, a Biblically sound and highly regarded Bible teacher isn’t welcome in a Southern Baptist pulpit because she is a woman. But given the chance, how many Southern Baptist pastors would rush at the chance to have Paula White preach in their pulpit? And how much criticism have you heard from Southern Baptists about this particular woman preacher or this particular prosperity gospel promoter?
You know exactly how this is being perceived.