During a recent meeting in The Bahamas, the General Council of the Baptist World Alliance issued a strongly worded resolution calling on global Baptists to repent of teachings, language and practices that are harmful to women.
The representative body that conducts business between the Baptist World Congress held every five years reaffirmed a 1988 resolution calling on Baptists to “celebrate the multiple gifts and sensitivities women bring to the service of Jesus Christ and the work of the Baptist family around the world” and to “commend biblical and careful attention by our member bodies to the enabling of women and their gifts.”
On the heels of a July 5-7 conference on women in the church, the resolution passed July 11 calls further for Baptists around the world to “repent from the teachings and practices through which we have prevented women from flourishing as human beings created in the image of God and full members of the body of Christ.”
It urges Baptists to “open ourselves to the Holy Spirit to bring conviction, inspire discussion, and provoke transformation in individual lives and communities, affirming the God-given call of women for service in the church, so that their stories may take rightful place in the wider story of Christ’s body in the world.”
It encourages Baptists around the globe to learn and use “language that is affirming to both women and men in worship, communications, and publications, including Bible translations” and “work intentionally to create equal space for women in all leadership roles” in churches, conventions and unions and within the 239 member-body BWA, representing 47 million Baptists in 125 countries and territories.
The Southern Baptist Convention, once the largest and most generous financial contributor to the BWA, withdrew in 2004 from the worldwide organization it helped organize in 1905. Grievances cited by a new generation of SBC leadership — significantly more conservative than the moderates in power before them — included “promoting women as preachers and pastors” among issues making “it impossible to endorse the BWA as a genuinely representative organization of world Baptists.”
The 1988 BWA resolution on women came just four years after a famous SBC resolution discouraged the service of women in “pastoral functions and leadership roles entailing ordination.”
In 2000 Southern Baptists amended the Baptist Faith & Message, the convention’s official doctrinal statement, to decree “while both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”
In the last year a number of SBC leaders have endorsed the Nashville Statement, a 2017 manifesto affirming traditional gender roles and rejecting designations such as LGBTQ Christian that was translated from English into four additional languages and shared with evangelicals around the world.
The past year also included media reports of widespread failures in preventing and addressing sexual abuse and domestic violence in Southern Baptist life, raising questions about what role, if any, the denomination’s teaching on male headship and women’s subordination might play.
During the July 7-12 annual gathering in Nassau, the BWA also passed a resolution voicing “deep concern” about religiously motivated violence that has occurred since last year’s meeting, including attacks on synagogues in the United States, mosques in New Zealand and Easter morning bombings targeting Christians in Sri Lanka.
“These events remind us that various forms of religious intolerance — both from individuals and as a result of government action or inaction — continue to pose a significant threat to individuals and to societies across the globe,” the resolution says.
Molly T. Marshall | I’m on a mission to rid the world of theological malarkey