Posts Tagged SBC

Stepping Towards 51, Looking Back Over 50 – Mitch Randall

Today is my birthday. I turned 51 years old.

When I hit half-a-century last year during the pandemic, I told my wife that I was looking forward to middle-age. She raised a brow and responded, “Not sure how long you’re planning on living, but you passed middle-age a decade ago.” Thanks, dear.

Now that I have one foot squarely pointed towards the second 50 years of my life, I’m looking forward to what lies ahead. However, before I step into this new and exciting period of my life, I want to take a moment of indulgence to reflect on the first 50 years.

Recently, I stopped by the Indian Hospital in Claremore, Oklahoma, where I was born. My mom and dad were 20 and 19, respectively, when they had me; just kids trying to make it through life. Over the course of our childhood and adolescence, my younger brother and I were shaped by their dogged determination, impeccable integrity and compassionate spirits. We are who we are today because of them.

While always taking my “big-brother” role seriously, I never realized how much I needed my younger brother until I was an adult. The “big brother” is always supposed to keep an eye out for the “little brother,” but no one ever told me about the valuable lessons “little brothers” teach their older siblings. My brother is an absolute inspiration. He teaches art in public schools, raised two amazing daughters as a single dad, fostered three babies with his wonderful second wife and now has two young and beautiful boys.

During the pandemic, I lost my grandfather (Herbert Sheffield) from complications due to COVID-19. Each of my grandparents had a significant part in mentoring me over the years. Okema connected me to my Muscogee Creek culture. Les instilled the value of education. Carlene demonstrated the importance of sacrifice. Herbert reminded me about the importance of humility while always striving to make certain the next generation has it better.

Growing up Southern Baptist, I must admit the significance that faith held in my life. While I certainly disagree with much of the SBC’s doctrine and politics today, their passion for teaching the Scriptures and applying them to life has influenced me. Today, I am serious about the Scriptures and how they guide my faith – not necessarily in spite of my SBC upbringing, but because of it.

While baseball was constant in my life, that cold October morning in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, in 1992 after college baseball workouts changed my life forever.  On that fall morning — looking across a kaleidoscope of colorful trees while drinking coffee — I heard the calling of God upon my life.

Attending Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Boo Helflin shook my understanding of faith by opening the entirety of the Scriptures to me as never before. From that day forward, I was on a journey of serious discovery that began to shape my life almost immediately.

I met my wife at church. Seriously, I did. A church in Coppell, Texas, called me as their new pastor while I was still in seminary and very much single, dedicated to the Lord and all. However, once I met Missy on that first Spring Sunday and a donkey brayed during my sermon, I was smitten.

Because of the strangeness and complexities of a single pastor dating a parishioner, we decided to marry soon after we declared our love for each other. Twenty-five years later, we’re happily married and thrilled to be watching two sons begin their careers.

Our life together has not always been filled with rainbows and unicorns – ministry and life, you know – but it has been filled with adventure, surprises and wonderful memories we will always cherish.

You’re supposed to be an example for your kids, right? Then, why did no one tell me that your kids would become examples for you?

I hope Missy and I have been good instructors for our boys, but more than anything they have shown us a better way for the future.

Their commitment to community and passion for social justice offers us a glimpse into a future where individuals live outside their own self-interests to embrace a common good for all people. We’re so proud of their accomplishments and the adults they are becoming.

The church can be filled with the most wonderful moments in a pastor’s life, but the church can also be the source of great pain and heartache.

Relationships forged within the stained-glass walls of congregational life can be soul-filling. These are the saints that forever shape your life. However, there are times when congregants turn on you in attempts to put you in your place or exert authority over you. During those times, the church likes to remind you that she is still filled with sinners – the pastor being chief among them.

With nearly three decades of walking alongside the church, I love her more now than ever before.

When I stepped beyond the walls of the church to enter a new phase of ministry, I was both scared and excited. After 20 years of pastoral ministry, I had grown comfortable with preaching, teaching, ministering and leading a congregation. Being the executive director of an ethics organization sounded a bit out of my league.

In my eyes, I was still the little Indian boy born at the Indian hospital who grew up on the eastside of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The notion that a group of Christians wanted me to lead a national organization was far beyond my expectations. However, it was exactly what I needed.

Being the executive director of and now CEO of Good Faith Media has been a life-altering experience. The greatest perk of my job is getting to meet so many inspiring and fascinating people of faith engaged in transformative work.

From racial justice advocates to LGBTQ allies, the world is filled with passionate people rolling up their sleeves to make this world a better place. And many of them are not abandoning their faith to accomplish these goals but embracing their faith as a catalyst for global change.

In the Christian tradition, we are certainly seeing more and more people practicing an inclusive gospel to bring about transformative communities. It is a sheer pleasure to tell their stories.

All in all, the first 50 years of living on this rock have been extremely rewarding.

Sure, I’ve lived through some strange and heartbreaking times: Watergate, Iran hostage situation, Iran-Contra affair, Challenger and Columbia explosions, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Oklahoma City bombing, 9/11, multiple mass shootings, the Great Recession, racial injustices, a U.S. president using force on U.S citizens peacefully demonstrating, an attack on the U.S. Capitol by U.S citizens, and a continued global pandemic wreaking sickness and death across the globe.

However, even within all of these dreadful moments, the light of the gospel has never been extinguished.

Yes, there were times when it flickered and almost went out for me. But as soon as those moments thought they had won the day, a flicker of the gospel would always emerge. Either through a comforting word or creative idea, hope resides in the hearts of people who come together to find solutions.

While I very much enjoyed and appreciated my first 50 years, I’m looking forward to another 50, hopefully.

I can’t wait to see what the future holds, for the emerging generations are filled with a desire and passion to instill common-sense change. Therefore, I wake today to put my feet on the floor, ready to step into a future filled with light and hope.

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A ‘heretic’ returns to a formative place that once was home: Molly Marshall*

I did not expect the visit to be as poignant and memorable as it was. After being away for nearly 25 years, I recently returned to the campus of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. Over the past year I have been working on a podcast series produced by the Baptist Center for Ethics that will narrate portions of my life as a minister, scholar, theologian, seminary president and troubler of Israel – at least the Israel that Southern Seminary became as it lurched to the right over the issue of biblical inerrancy.

I taught at Southern from January 1984 until December 1994, and then I helped several Ph.D. students finish their work after I moved to Kansas and Central Baptist Theological Seminary in August 1995. Part of the deal I struck upon departing was that I might continue their supervision. After all, if one is not in teaching for the sake of the students, one does not belong. Nevertheless, I was soon barred from using the library even though I was doing work for the school.

As video producer Cliff Vaughn and I walked onto the campus, memories welled up as I remembered being there as a Master of Divinity student from 1973 to 1975 and then another stint as a doctoral student from 1979 to 1983. Studying at Southern had been transformative for me. I had come from conservative Landmark country in northeastern Oklahoma, and the larger view of Baptist origins – or even the Protestant heritage in general – was not in my area of knowledge. A new theological world opened to me, for which I continue to give thanks.

“The administration did not want me to ‘poison’ any more students since I was not theologically trustworthy to teach.”

I did know of the school through my maternal great aunt who had attended the WMU Training School, completing her work in 1920. She attended prior to the seminary’s relocation to “The Beeches,” its current campus, in 1925. So she studied at the “House Beautiful” located in downtown Louisville. Although they could not be enrolled in the same degree programs as the men, the women were allowed to attend lectures. My aunt spoke of sitting at the back of the room (quietly of course) when the famed New Testament scholar A.T. Robertson lectured. Sixty-four years later, I could stand (for a time) at the front of the classroom to offer my gifts as a seminary professor.

For the filming, we began at the library because I wanted to visit my old doctoral office, see if my dissertation was still on the shelf and view a historical display that chronicled the founding, theological drift, depths of heresy and resurgence of the seminary as interpreted by the current administration. Friends had told me of the tableau as I figured prominently as exemplar of the HEResy that required the drastic measure of my dismissal.

Entry to the library now required a driver’s license, and I had left mine in the car. I handed my business card to the young man protecting entrance and remarked that I used to teach here. He allowed me to enter, but soon the archivist was hot on our tail, helpful but perhaps a bit suspicious.

I told him what we were hoping to see, but he said it had recently been taken down. I had seen a picture of it; my name was not spelled right, and I was the poster child for what was wrong with Southern. He was not quite sure where the display now was and suggested that we might look in the historical area of the McCall Pavilion, a relatively new construction on campus named in honor of the late Duke K. McCall, president of the seminary, 1951-1980.

Our next stop was in Norton Hall, the main administrative and faculty office building. I wanted to see my old faculty office and reflect on the joy of lining up on the main floor according to rank prior to processing to the chapel for convocation or commencement. Our names were put on the wall to designate where we were to stand, and the goal was to move up the line as one got promoted. I did make it to associate professor, with tenure.

“Studying at Southern had been transformative for me.”

One memorable graduation when the forces of antagonism were at their frenzied heights, David Wilkinson, then the director of seminary relations, planned a wonderful tribute to President Roy Honeycutt and faculty. He invited churches to write notes of appreciation and then had them taped to the corridor walls for us all to observe. I remember one card, written by a GA group (Girls in Action), assured us that they “had been preying for Dr. Honeycutt.” It struck me that that was precisely what the newly-elected majority of trustees had been doing as they opposed and undermined Honeycutt’s many overtures to find a way through the controversy.

We visited my office on the second floor of the east wing, and I pointed out how we turned the men’s room into a unisex bathroom with state-of-the-art technology – a key. I also pointed out how one day I walked across the roof to my classroom, thanks to a structure that made it possible, even in a dress. The trustees were on campus that day, and I simply did not want to be interrogated by them, as some had a habit of doing whenever they encountered me.

We visited my favorite classroom where I taught many a theology class, which always began with scripture and a hymn. And then we went to the classroom where I was scheduled to teach in the fall of 1994. Just a couple of days prior to the beginning of the semester, I resigned under threat of a heresy trial, so my Master of Divinity courses were canceled. The stated reason was that the administration did not want me to “poison” any more students since I was not theologically trustworthy to teach.

I went to the first day of class anyway and told the students why I would not be their professor for that semester and commended them to the care of Dr. Frank Tupper, who had been my first theology teacher. I enacted the sacrament of defeat and left the classroom tearfully. I was allowed to teach a doctoral seminar that fall, ironically “Liberation Theology.” Evidently, the administration believed I could not damage the doctoral students further.

During my recent visit, I did have a memorable encounter with President Albert Mohler. But I will leave that story for another day.

*Dr. Marshall lectured at the Hamrick Lectures at First Baptist Church of Charleston twice. The congregation loves her and speak of her often.

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Complementarianism: A Separate-But-Equal Knockoff –


n article I read recently extoling the virtues of complementarianism nagged at me. It would not let me rest.

Complementarianism is a religious construct that deals with the roles of gender. The message is evil at its center.

“The SBC has affirmed complementarianism – the belief that the Bible reveals that men and women are equally made in God’s image, but that men and women were also created to be complements to each other, men and women bearing distinct and different roles,” Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, stated in a recent column. “This means obeying the Bible’s very clear teachings on male leadership in the home and in the church.”

To me, it is nothing more than the old argument of “separate but equal” applied to gender roles and dressed in a type of theological clothing. This is the same argument earlier generations used to justify segregation of the races.

The whole idea is to downgrade the role of women and to promote the superiority of men. Proponents dress it up and clothe it in statements of love. In most cases, this is window dressing.

For many, it is the excuse they need to keep women in their place.

We have been through this before: “Blacks are fine as long as they stay in their place.” It stank then and it stinks now. Separate but equal was never equal, and no one pretended that it was.

The black schools in the town of my youth got hand-me-down textbooks, hand-me-down desks and chairs and rundown buildings.

We took our money to church for missionaries to win the lost in Africa, but the black children two blocks away could not come to church with us.

Under complementarianism, in many churches women can’t teach men because that is not their God-prescribed role.

The inconsistency of the position is seen in the fact that female teachers teach male students in public and private schools, including religious ones, every day.

The goal is to keep women in lower paying jobs and deny them authority. The males who promote this travesty are in control and have no intention of relinquishing any of their control.

“The same Bible that reveals the complementarian pattern of male leadership in the home and the church also reveals God’s steadfast and unyielding concern for the abused, the threatened, the suffering and the fearful,” Mohler stated. “There is no excuse whatsoever for abuse of any form, verbal, emotional, physical, spiritual or sexual.”

And yet, the nation is finally seeing some of the harmful results of this philosophy, which plays into the hands of those who abuse women around the world: “The church says that you are to obey me.”

Jesus set the example for another and better way. He made it very clear that there is no artificial ranking of male and female roles in his kingdom. “Mary, go and tell my disciples.”

Paul emphasized this in Galatians 3:28. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Growing up Southern Baptist, my experience with women pastors is limited, but I have been blessed by hearing some of the best: Linda McKinnish Bridges, Amy Butler, Molly Marshall, Joan Brown Campbell, Cynthia Campbell, Julie Pennington-Russell, Susan Sparks and Martha Brown Taylor, to name only a few.

Not only have I been blessed by hearing these women, I have gained so much insight from them.

I regularly listen to and read Sparks, pastor of Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City.

She places God in the center of our every action and has a sense of humor and such an awareness of God’s presence in the ordinary that you are compelled to listen and take notice.

McKinnish Bridges, president of Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, Virginia, preached her sermon, “Grace upon Grace,” 27 years ago. Yet it is as fresh today as it was the first day I heard it because it expresses God’s work in my life.

Marshall, president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas, awakened my interest in the influence of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives.

Cynthia Campbell, president emerita of McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, preached the most inspirational sermon on the resurrection I have ever heard.

God’s love for all of humanity oozes from every word from the sermons of Joan Brown Campbell, an ordained Disciples of Christ and American Baptist Church minister who was the first woman to lead the National Council of Churches.

How can you say that God rejects the work of these ambassadors of hope because they dare preach to men?

I have experienced outstanding female Bible teachers in my years in the church. You want me to disregard the teachings of these gifted women because I am a male and should not have been listening to them?

Should I have not have listened to my mother when she spoke of God’s love for me? Should I have not listened to my wife when she assured me that God would watch over me and our children?

All of these women were gifted by God with talents far greater than the ones given to me. I think God brought me into contact with them because they had been given a message I was intended to hear.

I ask myself, “Where would I be in my spiritual journey if these women were not a part of my life?”

Complementarianism belongs on the ash heap of history along with separate but equal.

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SBC’s Anti-Public School Crusade Is Off Course

Posted: Monday, May 24, 2010 8:15 pm

SBC's Anti-Public School Crusade is Off Course | Mitch Carnell, Public Education, Schools, SBC

I am dismayed to learn that the Southern Baptist Convention is criticizing public schools as bastions of anti-Christian attitudes and urging churches to foster private schools or home schooling, Carnell writes.

I grew up in a small cotton mill village in upper South Carolina during the last years of the Great Depression. Churches and schools were the town’s foundation. I was fortunate to have teachers who were not only skilled and caring academics, but who lived Christian lives before us. I never had any reason to believe that my teachers did not care about me as an individual; in fact, I have great evidence that they did. My parents and all the parents that I knew held public school teachers in the highest regard. 

When I left the hallowed halls of two Christian colleges and made my way to the University of Alabama and then to Louisiana State University, both public institutions, I found dedicated Christian men and women. I was astounded because I had been warned to look out for the sinful state universities. I have never known stronger and more radiant Christians. 

Many years later, I married a public school teacher. She toiled in the public schools of South Carolina for 28 years. Day and night, she was concerned for her students. The only night she took a respite from her school work was for Wednesday night choir rehearsal at our church. She even persuaded me to volunteer at the impoverished inner-city school where she taught. 

Now I am dismayed to learn that the Southern Baptist Convention is criticizing public schools as bastions of anti-Christian attitudes and urging churches to foster private schools or home schooling. Most churches can hardly meet their current expenditures, much less operate a quality school. Both local and foreign mission programs are suffering from lack of funding. Is it ethical or even Christian for a church to operate a school that offers less than a quality education? Is it Christian to rob mission programs to duplicate services that are already available in the public schools? Is the cause of Christ served by a so-so educational program even if it is labeled Christian? 

Would the Southern Baptist Convention and its many constituents not be better served by investing time, money and energy to strengthening local congregations, equipping ministers and other staff members in new and innovative ways of implementing the Great Commission? 

Will the convention profit by denigrating the vast number of public school teachers and administrators who make up its membership? Why would any group want to alienate this great army of supporters? The laborers are few and dwindling. What we need are women and men who live out their Christianity day in and day out. Of course, they cannot promote religious causes in their classrooms. Who would want them to do so?

 What they can and do on a regular basis is live exemplary lives before their students. During their careers, teachers influence thousands of students directly and thousands more indirectly. Where else can you obtain that kind of result? It is past time for the SBC to reverse its course. Offer scholarships to potential and current public school teachers, develop academic mentoring programs for all students who need them, and promote public school bond issues.

I am grateful to my public school teachers and to those of my children and grandchildren. I am also grateful to all of those public school teachers who worked tirelessly with me during my work with the PTA. 

I am in no way opposed to excellent private schools. I am opposed to those that short-change students under the guise of being Christian. I am heartbroken that the Southern Baptist Convention, which is faced with many real problems, has chosen to paint with a broad brush dedicated men and women who are devoutly Christian simply because of their career paths. 

The leaders have fallen prey to false prophets. 

Mitch Carnell is a consultant in organizational and interpersonal communication. He is the editor of “Christian Civility in an Uncivil World” and an active member of First Baptist Church of Charleston, S.C.


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