Although my book Fed Up with Fundamentalism, which currently I am (slightly) revising and updating, was published in 2007, much has changed little since then. For example, Al Mohler, whom I wrote about in the second chapter as one of four influential fundamentalist leaders from 1980 to 2005, continues to spout questionable views about women.
The Issue of Submissive Wives
At the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in 1998, an amendment titled simply “The Family” was added to the Baptist Faith & Message (BF&M). That amendment included the declaration that wives must submit to their husbands.
The report of the committee recommending the addition of the new article wrote, “A wife’s submission to her husband does not decrease her worth but rather enhances her value to her husband and to the Lord.”
The BF&M was then revised, for the first time since 1963, at the SBC’s 2000 convention. Mohler was one of the 15 members on the “Study Committee” that recommended the revisions, which included the 1998 amendment on the family.
Somewhat related is Mohler’s negativity through the years toward birth control—and his 8/27 podcast in which he declared that “to be human is to be a parent.” Perhaps there is a fairly close link between the emphasis on submissive wives and the “ideal” of women being kept “barefoot and pregnant.”
The position of submissive wives is upheld by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW), which was formed in 1987 and has consistently forwarded the relationship between husbands and wives known as complementarianism.
The current president of CBMW is Denny Burk, a professor at Boyce College in Louisville. Al Mohler, who is the president of Boyce College (as well as of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), is a member of CBMW’s Council.
The questionable emphasis on complementarianism has been correctly challenged by Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE), a group begun early in 1988. In Women, Abuse, and the Bible (1996), an important book published by CBE, the author of one chapter stresses that the emphasis on the submission of wives can lead, and has led, to the abuse of women.
The Issue of Women Pastors
Not only do fundamentalists of the past and many conservative evangelicals of the present teach that women must be submissive in the home, they also generally hold that women must be subordinate in the church as well.
The revised BF&M 2000 (referred to above) also newly declared, “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”
Moreover, earlier this year in a May 10 podcast, Mohler emphasized that not only can women not be pastors, “females should not preach from the pulpit on Sunday morning” (see Baptist News Global’s report here).
The issue of women preachers is a personal one with me, for many years ago I preached the ordination sermon for a Japanese woman (using Acts 2:17-18 as my text) and then for several years she served as my assistant pastor and then as co-pastor of the Fukuoka International Church.
The Case for Full Equality
For decades now, I have been a “feminist,” one who advocates the full equality of women—in the church and in the wider society. I have applauded the work of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, whose struggles for equality were opposed by conservative Christians, including women, before fundamentalism was called by that name.
I have also been a supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment, which still has not been ratified by the required number of states, partly because of the vigorous opposition by conservative, traditionalistic Christians such as Phyllis Schlafly and her ilk.
But surely, surely the time has come for full equality between men and women!