Archive for category Say Something Nice

From her mouth to God’s ear? – Bill Leonard* – Baptistnewsglobal.com

From her mouth to God’s ear? Women’s voices, homiletical testosterone and radical redemption

 

First, the Bible: “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression” (1 Timothy 2:12-15, KJV).

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1, KJV).

Then the question: Considering recent Baptist-related pontifications regarding “women in the pulpit,” one might ask: “Why should Christian women keep silent when in church?”

Answer: “Because if they speak, God might think they are preaching!”

“My hermeneutical approaches are surely those of an unabashed egalitarian where women and pulpit are concerned.”

That revised standard question arises from certain dictums recently made public by the Reverend Dr. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, in response to an inquiry regarding women preachers during his “Ask Anything” podcast. In extended remarks on the subject, Mohler distinguishes between “egalitarian” approaches by which men and women share in the call to preach, and “complementarian” approaches that set divinely ordained “boundaries” regarding the role of men and women in home and church. He cites the Southern Baptist Convention’s confession of faith and the evangelical-based Danvers Statement (1988) as advocating, indeed requiring, complementarian biblical interpretations.

The manifesto notes that:

  1. Both Old and New Testaments also affirm the principle of male headship in the family and in the covenant community (Gen. 2:18; Eph. 5:21-33; Col. 3:18-19; 1 Tim. 2:11-15).
  2. Redemption in Christ aims at removing the distortions introduced by the curse.
    • In the family, husbands should forsake harsh or selfish leadership and grow in love and care for their wives; wives should forsake resistance to their husbands’ authority and grow in willing, joyful submission to their husbands’ leadership (Eph 5:21-33; Col 3:18-19; Tit 2:3-5; 1 Pet 3:1-7).
    • In the church, redemption in Christ gives men and women an equal share in the blessings of salvation; nevertheless, some governing and teaching roles within the church are restricted to men (Gal 3:28; 1 Cor 11:2-16; 1 Tim 2:11-15).

Mohler concludes: “If you look at the denominations where women do the preaching, they are also the denominations where people do the leaving. I think there’s just something about the order of creation that means that God intends for the preaching voice to be a male voice.” In his view, 1 Timothy, chapter 2, means that since Mother Eve “was in the transgression” in the Garden, “biblical authority” for the church’s preaching office must be measured by homiletical testosterone, males only.

Mohler is therefore an unabashed complementarian who has every right to apply that specific biblical interpretation (hermeneutic) as he chooses. (Ironically, his assertion about declines in women-ordaining denominations came the week Southern Baptists acknowledged their own enduring statistical deteriorations in membership and baptisms, reflecting the loss of over a million members in the last decade.)

“God hears any voice that preaches Jesus.”

My hermeneutical approaches are surely those of an unabashed egalitarian where women and pulpit are concerned, views Mohler might consider “hermeneutical oddities devised to reinterpret apparently plain meanings of Biblical texts,” as the Danvers Statement calls them. Truth is, a variety of “hermeneutical oddities” have enlightened and divided the church from the beginning, dueling texts that demand decision of all of us.

My own homiletical egalitarianism rests with texts like Romans 8:1: “There is therefore no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus….” In those words, all curses die, even the one 1 Timothy lays on Mother Eve and her OB-GYN descendants. For if women are too cursed to be called, they may be too cursed to be redeemed. Paul applied that radical declaration to the first-century church, often in the face of similar arguments about keeping Gentiles from entering the church without their becoming part of “the circumcision,” a bio-theological assertion apparently expanded with Christ’s resurrection! (See Colossians 2:11.)

The last thing I want to do is reengage in theological disputes with Al Mohler, who, if memory serves, was a student in at least one of my church history courses at Southern Seminary during my professorial tenure there, 1975 – 1992. He and I have been there, done that. Instead, I’ll defer to Jarena Lee, (1783 – ca. 1864), one of the first recorded African American female preachers in United States history.

In her autobiography, The Life and Religious Experience of Jarena Lee, A Coloured Lady, Giving an Account of her Call to Preach the Gospel (1836), Lee asked:

O how careful ought we to be, lest through our by-laws of church government and discipline, we bring into disrepute even the word of life. For as unseemly as it may appear now-a-days for a woman to preach, it should be remembered that nothing is impossible with God. And why should it be thought impossible, heterodox, or improper for a woman to preach? Seeing the Saviour died for the woman as well as the man.

She continued:

Did not Mary [of Magdala] first preach the risen Saviour, and is not the doctrine of the resurrection the very climax of Christianity – hangs not all our hope on this, as argued by St. Paul? Then did not Mary, a woman, preach the gospel? For she preached the resurrection of the crucified Son of God.

“It’s not about testosterone; it’s about grace.”

The spiritual descendants of Jarena Lee continue that homiletical tradition. On May 9, 2019, “Woman’s Day” at our Winston-Salem congregation, I heard Reverend Sherine Thomas-Spight preach on Luke 8:26-39, the story of the Gadarene demoniac whom Jesus healed. Citing the man’s demon-inspired query, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” Thomas-Spight declared:

You see, when Jesus shows up it makes some folks uncomfortable. You know, sisters, there are some folks who just don’t like you because you carry the presence of Jesus with you. It doesn’t matter what you do, what you wear, what you say, they will always take issue with you because you carry the power of Jesus with you and it makes people uncomfortable because the darkness doesn’t like the light. But I challenge you today to keep coming around anyway.

Sister Jarena preaches still!

Across the years, women in my family, in my classes and in the church have taught me this: Christ’s gospel isn’t measured by biology or hierarchy, but by radical redemption. Joel 2:28 said what Simon Peter echoed (Acts 2:17): “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons, and your daughters shall prophecy.”

God hears any voice that preaches Jesus. It’s not about testosterone; it’s about grace.

*Dr. Bill Leonard was one of the speakers at the Hamrick Lectures at First Baptist Church of Charleston.

 

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Tearing Others Down is Easy; Say Something Nice Instead

By Mitch Carnell Nay 30, 2019 -Ethicsdaily.com

Every one of these privileged students wrote from a negative viewpoint. One or two did contrast positive speech and negative speech. The verbal abuse these young people have already experienced is heartbreaking.

Parents, teachers and coaches should be about the business of inspiring these students as opposed to tearing them down.

I know how hard it can be to always say the right thing. My grown son has made me painfully aware of the times when I failed to make the right remark.

When he cleaned his room as a child and waited for my approval, I tried to be honest and yet encouraging. “You’re getting there. It’s looking better.”

What he heard was so different. “You failed. It’s not good enough. You’re so messy.”

I never uttered one of those statements, but those are the ones he heard.

Forty-five years later, those words are still there and no matter how sorry I am or how much I try to explain, they are still in his nervous system and color our relationship.

I am proud of my son and all that he has accomplished in spite of my poorly chosen words.

How many other words did I say with good intentions but that hurt instead?

I carry deep within me words that were spoken to me with good intentions 75 years ago. I can still recite them.

When I let my guard down, they surface and contribute to a feeling of worthlessness – of never being good enough. My father confided to me things that were said to him years earlier that, even at his advanced age, still carried a barb. Words once spoken never die.

He did not know how to pay a compliment even when he was very pleased with some event or success.

Norman Vincent Peale is one of my heroes; however, he was ridiculed as being “religious light.”

His successor, Arthur Caliandro, became a friend, but this remarkable man was painted with the same negative brush.

When we first celebrated Say Something Nice Sunday (the first Sunday in June), the editor of the Florida Baptist newsletter wrote a front-page editorial referring to it as “Gospel Free Sunday.”

According to him, we were watering down the gospel. Does his Bible not record that Jesus said, “You are the light of the world?”

In her recent book, “Call It Grace,” Serene Jones, president of Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, recounts in painful detail the verbal abuse she received from her mother.

This brilliant theologian still carries those wounds into one of the most respected religious positions in the world.

In contrast, she received uplifting words of encouragement from her famous father, but he could not erase what had been done.

Unfortunately, I know how to verbally slice you up, and I am good at it. I was a member of a successful debate team in college and taught debate as a faculty member.

I am sorry to say I have used those skills all too often. I am trying to get as good in demonstrating and teaching a better, more productive way of communicating. It isn’t easy.

Being positive is a challenge. Being negative is easy. People expect and accept negative criticism, but they are suspicious of positive comments. They are silently asking, “What does he want?”

As this year’s “Say Something Nice Day” approaches (June 2), I hope you’ll think back to those people who encouraged you. Think of those who said the right things. Think of the verbal gifts they gave you.

Then, bring their remarks into the present. Speak them aloud. Use these images to replace those of people who put you down and belittled your efforts.

There is wonderful Scripture that supports this practice: “From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely and all that is worthy of praise.” (Philippians 4:8)

Mitch Carnell

Mitch Carnell is a member of First Baptist Church of Charleston, South Carolina. He is the author of “Our Father: Discovering Family.” His writings can also be found at MitchCarnell.com.

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Women as Pastoral Leaders Render a Different Vision of God

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Whose ‘principles of faith’ are being manifested on Trump’s watch?

 

White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney declared at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast this week that faith drives the Trump administration’s policy proposals, arguing that “the principles of our faith (are) being manifest” under the president’s watch. My shock threshold is high, but I reeled when I read Mulvaney’s remarks. As a Christian and a theologian, I believe the torrent of hateful words, brinkmanship executive orders, racist dog whistles, sexist behavior, malignant deceit and national idolatry are uneasily linked with anything we might call Christian.

Yet President Donald J. Trump’s popularity with evangelical Christians persists, and to their delight, he consistently says things out loud that they think but – with a few notable Baptist pastors among the exceptions – are too self-protective to say.

“When Trump mused that he could not remember ever asking forgiveness for anything, he basically forfeited any claim to Christian identity.”

Last month, Pew Research Center found that Trump had a 69 percent approval rating among white evangelical Protestants, compared to around 40 percent among all Americans. This is astonishing. Indeed, the willingness of Trump’s base to overlook the absence of a moral compass, much less Christian values and practice, only seems to grow with each passing month. With Trump’s judicial appointments and a flurry of policy changes and legislative proposals, moral traditionalists see their ends-justifies-the-means long game coming into view. For this, they will put up with reckless leadership that cares little for an authentic Christian theological vision for life.

In one sense, I concur with Mulvaney’s statement. The “principles of faith” that drive the Trump administration and its Republican sycophants in Congress are, indeed, manifest. But the principles on my list are different.

One clear principle is xenophobia, fearing and reviling the stranger, which is a stark contradiction of a prominent biblical theme. Welcoming the stranger is a way of remembering God’s providence in the life of an insignificant people; it is also a way of being enriched by holy presence. A corollary principle regularly manifested is racism, as we witnessed when Trump referred to nations where persons of color predominate with an epithet.

Immigration policies reflect both of these principles. Honoring every person as created after God’s likeness, bearing the image of God, is absent from the insulting rhetoric employed and actions taken.

Egregious in its impact, another principle is protecting the rich at the expense of the poor. The Bible’s prophetic literature and the ministry and teachings of Jesus accent justice for the poor and warn of judgment upon the rich who will be “sent away empty.” Current tax law is a windfall for those who least need it. The widows and orphans of our day are ground underfoot in wage disparity, lack of educational privilege and shrinking access to varied health and social services.

“Perhaps the most glaring of the principles I find to be antithetical to Christian theology is the arrogation of power to one individual.”

Similarly, the attempts to marginalize sexual minorities are growing. LGBTQ rights are in the cross-hairs, and for the foreseeable future case after case will wind its way through the appellate system on the way to the Supreme Court. A conservative majority will be predisposed to beat back recent gains as this central issue draws untoward attention in the current culture war. Clearly the New Testament makes space in the reign of God for non-traditional expressions of human sexuality, as the story of the Ethiopian eunuch attests.

Incessant saber-rattling and projected military growth ignore the biblical admonition to “be at peace with all, so far as it depends upon you” (Romans 12:18). Threats to bomb nations into oblivion go far beyond national security; these bellicose words are more about presidential swagger. Even the attempts at negotiation with other nations are so full of ego that every encounter is a win-lose drama rather than a genuine pursuit of common ground. Further, the “America first” quest arises from a distorted doctrine of exceptionalism, which includes claiming divine preference for national interests.

Policies that roll back environmental protection also defy God’s directive to humanity to care for this creation as God’s own representatives. Demonstrating an incomprehensible, dismissive attitude toward the consensus of climate scientists worldwide and the dire warnings from the United Nations and other international bodies – namely, that environmental disaster looms unless radical action is taken in the next two decades – this administration is accelerating its support of destructive practices. The unwillingness to curtail pollution of the atmosphere, to participate in global environmental accords or to prevent rampant oil and gas drilling and fracking, are having a deleterious effect. These profligate actions are tantamount to humanizing the eschaton, i.e., bringing about the destruction of the earth.

Perhaps the most glaring of the principles I find to be antithetical to Christian theology is the arrogation of power to one individual. While in humility Christ Jesus gave power away, the current president presumes to be the final arbiter on most matters of governance in our system of democracy. With Caesar-like imperiousness, this administration claims a kind of sovereignty that eschews bowing the knee to any higher authority.

When Trump mused that he could not remember ever asking forgiveness for anything, he basically forfeited any claim to Christian identity. The very heart of authentic faith is knowing the gap between what God’s righteousness calls us to do and what we actually do. Forgiveness is that shattering experience that acknowledges our sinfulness and the grace of God that draws us near.

Mercy, justice and humility are the marks of authentic Christianity. I see none of these in the principles of faith by which the president of the United States operates. Indeed, the only thing worse than the failure or refusal of people of faith to see this reality is to remain silent.

*Rev.Dr. Molly Marshall spoke twice at the Hamrick Lectureship at First Baptist Church of Charleston. She is a congregation favorite.

 

 

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