If I’m being honest, I was a little indignant when I first scrolled down to the “Ds” and realized the church where I serve as associate pastor hadn’t made “the list.”
But then I kept scrolling. And scrolling. For more than 200 pages. And I saw image after image of women (and men) with their contact information, personal biographies, sometimes naming their children, and maps.
Maps. Pinpointing their exact location on any given Sunday morning. And as I scrolled, my indignation morphed into a sense of horror, and then guilt-ridden relief that my family — my church family and my actual family — had been spared. Because although this information is all available on the internet, to compile it in this way and to frame these individuals and congregations as false prophets based on one pastor’s incredibly narrow interpretation of Scripture feels a lot like a dog whistle for other zealots like himself.
It is a target Mike Law felt important to lay upon his fellow pastors to prove a point: We don’t belong in his club.
The women Law seeks to vilify and demean have long since shaken the dust from our sandals when it comes to attitudes like these. And although the list he compiled is shockingly inappropriate, we are not shocked that people still think like this. We are not shocked that he has collected more than 2,000 signatures from like-minded men.
But here’s the thing: We have heard a call from God that is louder and more persistent than any declaration that would tell us it could not be so. And countless women have bravely answered that call despite attitudes like these, often while navigating a system still riddled with misogyny, sexual harassment and workplace inequalities. The women preaching and teaching as they have been called to do are not the ones Law is hurting. We have moved so far beyond the Mike Laws of this world.
“We have heard a call from God that is louder and more persistent than any declaration that would tell us it could not be so.”
About this one thing, Law is not wrong: According to the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, the SBC does not welcome my congregation, which not only affirms me as a woman called to pastoral leadership, but who affirms women as deacons and has done so since the 1990s.
However, there are cherished and faithful members of our beloved community who do still feel deeply committed to the SBC, who have friends serving on the mission field and working in their offices. These members of our congregation give tithes to the SBC and pray faithfully for them. They radically believe we don’t have to agree on everything to remain in faithful relationship.
Law’s actions do not hurt the women he has dragged into the square. His actions hurt the SBC. And more importantly, they hurt the good and faithful people who yearn for a relationship with the family that loved and raised them and to whom they still feel committed.
His problem isn’t really with the women and congregations on his list. His problem is with the SBC. Using these individuals and congregations as pawns in his zealotry is wrong.
I don’t know what will happen when the SBC gathers in June. But I know this: Mike Law’s actions are reprehensible, un-Christlike and dangerous; and his colleagues need to demand better.
Alice Cates Clarke serves as associate pastor of youth and community engagement at Derbyshire Baptist in Richmond, Va.
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How dare they publish that list | Opinion by Arthur Wright Jr.
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