In less than a week, the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting will take place in Dallas, Texas. In the midst of the worship, the well-known speakers, and the election of a new president to lead the convention, another group is taking the opportunity to make their voices heard. Their message? It’s time for the SBC to confront its faulty ideas about women, abuse and sexual assault.
Speaking on behalf of the rally, Ashley Easter says “we don’t just want words—we want action” on the part of the leadership of the SBC.
- The time has come for women to be respected and honored within the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention—as Scripture teaches.
- The time has come for a clergy sex offender database for the Southern Baptist Convention.
- The time has come for mandatory training of all pastors and SBC seminaries on the issues of domestic abuse and sexual assault.
Easter says there are symptoms that need to be addressed stemming from the diminishment and disrespect of women within the SBC. The organizers of the rally want to see current pastors (and those in training) and clergy receive training on how to treat women with respect, how to handle allegations of abuse, and how to minister to victims of abuse. Additionally, one of the goals of the rally is to point pastors and clergy to resources to help them address this topic in their own churches.
Is This About Paige Patterson?
The rally is the inspiration of Cheryl Summers, who believes God led her to call for change and justice for women after the recent events involving Paige Patterson came to the public’s eye. Summers is a survivor of an abusive marriage. She and her former husband attended an SBC church while the abuse was occurring.
As Easter explains, though, the problems being voiced about Patterson right now are not new. Easter says sites such as the Wartburg Watch and SNAP (Survivor’s Network of those Abused by Priests) have been speaking about Patterson’s questionable behavior for a long time now. While the situation with Patterson certainly brought the topic of the abuse and mistreatment of women to the fore of the SBC’s consciousness, the rally isn’t solely about Patterson. It’s about addressing an issue so large and yet so subtle that the organizers call it “tragically systemic” within the SBC.
Easter says a good place to observe this systemic mistreatment of women is in the seminaries, where she says female students “are not treated with the same respect as male students.”
Is This About #meToo, #churchToo or #silenceisnotspiritual?
Given the nature of the broader culture reacting to the groundswell of #metoo action, one might be tempted to chalk the inspiration for this rally up to another trending hashtag. While Easter is thankful for #metoo, #churchtoo and #silenceisnotspiritual, she says the work to end abuse has been going on for years. What these movements did is simply “brought to light the work already being done.”
The timing of the rally and the #metoo movement is not coincidental, as it does seem people are more willing to acknowledge that fact that we (culture in general and the church in particular) have some problems we need to address when it comes to the treatment of women.
Why Does the SBC Struggle With the Mistreatment of Women?
Some believe complementarianism contributes to the mistreatment of women, although Easter says this is not the rallying cry of the rally. The organizers are hoping to mobilize those—whether complementarians or egalitarians—who want to do something to stop the abuse against women that occurs within the church’s walls and under the watchful eye of leadership who should be trained to address such abuses.