Freedom in Christ for – who?

Dear Pastor,

It is a little late, but I just read your July 4th article in your newsletter this morning. I get your church newsletter regularly because it comes to my post office box, addressed to a former member of your church who previously had my mailbox. You know me, of course. I am the sister of one of your members and you knew me when I worked for Baptist General Convention of Texas. (Letter sent to Baptist pastor August 3, 2014)

When I found it in my mailbox Friday, I tossed it in the front seat of the car. This morning I arrived early at my church and picked up your newsletter and read it. This is what you wrote:

“The history of the human race is largely one of enslavement. Men have enslaved each other…Yet man is enslaved by a worse slavery than the literal kind – by circumstances, by customs, by fear, and by his passion for sin. John 8:32 tells us it is the truth that makes man free. Christ came to make man free, not just from institutional slavery but from every kind of slavery. He frees through Himself, who is the truth incarnate. If a person wants true freedom all he has to do is surrender to Jesus Christ.”

I like the story of freedom through Christ. Paul told the people of Galatia “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Gal 5:1).

I put down your newsletter and went into my own church. Today, our praise song was “Open Our Eyes (we want to see Jesus).” The song says ‘we want to reach out and touch you, and say that we love you.’ Surely you hear the wistfulness in women’s voices when they sing this song. Much like Mary at the tomb the morning of the resurrection when she saw Jesus.

My pastor began to preach. I was glued to his every word. He told the story of Esau and Jacob. You remember the story. Jacob steals Esau’s birthright. The name “Jacob” means “supplanter, deceiver.” Jacob took what was not his to take. Through opportunity and deception, he received the inheritance of goods and position.

That was the Old Testament. In the New Testament, there is a ‘newbirth’ right, given by Jesus, where both men and women were set free. A new birth: a new right as sons and daughters of God. That was our birthright. We were free! Christ set us free from ‘institutional slavery and every kind of slavery,’ (your words, again.)

We were all firstborn, and set to inherit goods and positions. But something happened along the way.

The supplanters and deceivers came and women’s birthright through Jesus Christ was stolen from them. Women were made slaves again. Like Esau, we have been tricked and we have lost the precious birthright that came with Jesus. Yes, like Esau, we have sold our birthright for a bowl of pottage. We have received a bowl of beautiful words of flattery served with ‘equal-but.’

Jacob sought to make amends with his brother. God met Jacob on the way, and Jacob was engaged in a spiritual battle to account for what he had done. Jacob would not give up the struggle until he knew that he had received a blessing. This changed Jacob forever. He limped, but more than that, he had received forgiveness.

A birthright has been stolen. The birthright was a way of living, a position in society and family, something to be passed on to the next generation.

So it is today. And it has been stolen.

Which belies the last statement in your article on the 4th July 2014: “If a person wants true freedom all he has to do is surrender to Jesus Christ.”

True freedom would mean a full birthright. To preach. To be a deacon. To serve the Lord’s Supper. To take up the offering. To pass out an attendance pad and worship bulletin. That is not a freedom that you are willing to give the women in your church.

This past Fourth of July, as you ate your hotdogs and apple pie, women are still being oppressed by the very church that claims to set them free. What would happen if next July 4th, the women in your church can serve as God calls? Will you lead the way?

It is 2016. How free are you?

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The birth of a theocracy

Theocracy: a country that is ruled by religious leaders. Enter Donald Trump’s Evangelical Executive Advisory Board. Now, why does a presidential candidate need an Evangelical Executive Advisory Board?

This blogpost is very difficult for me to write. The words just will not come. I cannot understand how we have come to this point where a presidential candidate embraces those pastors and religious leaders who teach and preach that women are inferior in the face of God, in the face of man, and in the face of church and family. This is a man who wants to kick out Muslims, yet embraces those who teach the same concepts of submissiveness toward males.

Here they are listed in the Baptist Standard. There are five Southern Baptist pastors on the list. As we all know, Southern Baptists believe that women must submit to their husbands and must be lead by males in the church and home. There are no women evangelical pastors on this list. The fact that all but one (marginally) are male headship leaders or pastors and that the only woman included once owned an “ex-gay” clinic, tells us much about Donald Trump and the way he would take the nation. In fact, he said, “I am so on your side.”

  • Jack Graham, senior pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano
  • Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas
  • James Robison, an evangelist and founder of Life Outreach International in Fort Worth
  • Michele Bachman, former congresswoman
  • Kenneth and Gloria Copeland of Kenneth Copeland Ministries of Newark, Texas
  • James Dobson, former head of Focus on the Family
  • Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University
  • Ronnie Floyd, Arkansas pastor and immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention
  • Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary and former president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
  • Robert Morris, pastor of Gateway Church, with campuses across North Texas
  • Ralph Reed, founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition
  • Tony Suarez, executive vice president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

So, there we have it. The birth of a theocracy. A theocracy that prefers males to females.

It is 2016. Just how far are you willing to submit?

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The culture war

Omar Mateen, the Islamic terrorist who murdered 49 people in Orlando, Florida, may or may not have wanted to preserve his Islamic culture and bring down our Western style culture. But he would not be the only one who wants to do so.

Sunday morning in church, I bowed my head in silent prayer for the victims of the massacre. Monday morning I knew nothing had changed. It came in an envelope from a large congregation of Church of Christ just down the street from us. It was an invitation to hear how Liberty University and their legal team at Liberty Counsel plan to take back America by rousing pastors and congregations into civil action. Their Three Pillars Ministry are: Religious Freedom, Sanctity of Human Life, and The Family.

Their goal is to restore the culture. And you can be sure that culture they want to restore is one that fits with their perceived “right” way. I am reminded of the Amish and the Mennonites. They chose to live in the culture and not move away from it, even though everything around them was changing.

Most Amish communities that were established in North America did not ultimately retain their Amish identity. The original major split that resulted in the loss of identity occurred in the 1860s. During that decade ministerial conferences were held in Wayne County, Ohio, concerning how the Amish should deal with the pressures of modern society. (Amish-Wikipedia)

Liberty Counsel’s first pillar, Religious Freedom, has no real meaning except to the person espousing it. To Liberty University and Liberty Counsel, it means:

Liberty Counsel advances these liberties on behalf of students, teachers, parents, pastors, churches and individuals in their homes, at work and in public spaces. Liberty Counsel advocates for students who want to pray and thank God in their schools and help Christians gain equal access to host events in public facilities. We protect the right of ministers to speak the truth without fear of government censors, and fight for those who are at risk of losing their religious freedom.  

But Religious Freedom will not be what Liberty University wants it to be. For true religious freedom, Muslims, Hindus, Mormons, Christian Science and any invented religion, will also have those same rights. Muslims can put down prayer mats in hallways and issue calls to prayer in schools. It is doubtful that is what Liberty University wants. Goal: Pray in schools.

Their second pillar, Sanctity of Human Life means no abortions. Abortions are horrible and should never be taken lightly. But to say absolutely ‘no’ to abortions opens up illegal back-room abortions and girls and women will die because of botched abortion attempts. Let’s face it. Birth control is legal, available, and cheap – but women and girls still get pregnant. Many of those women will choose to abort their baby. You can’t change that. You cannot legislate morality. There always have been abortions and there always will be. Goal: Repeal Roe vs Wade

Their third Pillar, The Family. They say “Marriage as the union of one man and one woman predates every form of government and transcends politics.” But that is wrong. One man and multiple wives was the norm in biblical times and is still the norm in Muslim cultures. Look back to pillar Religious Freedom. Since Islamic men can have four wives, are we to allow them four wives in America? Goal: Repeal same-sex marriage.

Whenever anyone wants to change or preserve culture, look at how they treat women. Liberty University is a male headship university and teaches that women must be in complete submission to their husbands and males in leadership. Islam teaches the same.

Our Western culture is not perfect by any means, but we are making a governmental step toward equality for women. Religion has not done so. Most religions seek to deny women full equality.

It is 2016. What culture do you choose?

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They already know the outcome

The Southern Baptist Convention and the Vatican have decided to study women’s roles of ‘leadership.’ They can save their money and their time. They both know what conclusion they have to come to.

“I hope when women are excluded or passed over for leadership, it is on the basis of the biblical gender parameters (such as being a pastor or elder) or that she is simply not qualified for the position, rather than on a general suspicion of women trying to control men,” Susie Hawkins, SBC author and speaker, says.

There it is: ‘biblical gender parameters’ which – in their opinion – biblically denies women the role of pastoral and elder leadership. And that is what seals the deal against women.

This Advisory Council is made up of 18 women. Three are wives of Southern Baptist seminaries: Mrs. Al Mohler, Mrs. Chuck Kelley, Mrs. Jeff Iorg. These women’s preference is to be known as ‘the wife of’ before any secular accomplishments. There is no way these women will come to any conclusion that their husbands do not agree with. In fact, that is what male headship means: he makes the rules and she cannot decide against him. Like I said, they can save their money and their time.

Now to the Catholics. Same situation. In 2010, Pope Benedict said pedophilia crime is on the same level as having a woman as a preacher. When asked about women’s ordination, Pope Francis said, “That door is closed.”

Catholics, too, can save their time and their money.

It ain’t gonna happen, folks. It cannot happen because those doing the studies have already been told what the result must be.

What they have not been told – and what they have no control over – is how you will react.

It is 2016. Is your mind closed to fully understanding the Gospel of Jesus Christ and his calling to women in service to Him?

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But what if nobody did?

This Memorial Day weekend, I have been thinking about the 11th commandment.

Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35).

That was hard to do. Most of us have no idea what it is like to be discriminated against because we are of a certain race or religion, even though women know that very well. So, perhaps I should qualify that, and say that women have always felt discrimination, and so have blacks, and other ethnic groups. This discrimination is often by Christians, both men and women, who claim that they love everybody.

I am reading a series of novels about World War 11, as told by Jewish families who were persecuted, and also by those fighting this horrific war. What would I have done? It is easy to sit in my armchair with my Kindle and think I would have risked my and my family’s lives to help someone else, but it is much harder when actually faced with such a decision.

It is easy to judge the country doing the persecuting and ask how these people who claimed to be Christians could do such horrendous things to others. It is also easy to forget that Jesus said these words to the Jews who lived each day with persecution from the Romans.

This is a blog about women’s equality, so let’s look at that. Just as I am offended when I read of the injustices and abuses and horrific acts against Jews during WWII, I admit that I don’t know what I would have actually done to help those who were suffering. I like comfort. I like safety. I am not brave and would be terrified to disobey the law even if I were helping someone who the law was persecuting.

I believe that many who read this blog and other egalitarian blog posts, feel the same way. It is hard to stand up in your church and speak out against injustice against the women in your church. It is hard for pastors to speak out in their denomination about this misuse and abuse of denying women equal opportunity to worship and serve their Lord.

But what if nobody did?

This brings us to today – Memorial Day weekend. I suppose we can justify Jesus’ words by thinking that Jesus meant for them to love each other “who dress like we do, who eat the same foods we do, who worships in the same place we do, who observes the same rules we do and who speaks the same language as we do.” But somehow, I don’t think that is what Jesus meant. This weekend we observe Memorial Day – a day of honoring those who lost their lives serving in wars brought on by not loving the neighbors.

It is 2016. Does loving your neighbor mean standing up and speaking up whenever you see women denied equal opportunity in your church?

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Choosing the next SBC president

“What do you see as the key moral issues of our day, and how can the SBC president represent Southern Baptists as America increasingly moves away from Judeo-Christian values?” That was the question Mark Woods of Christian Today asked the three nominees for president of the SBC.

Good politicians know how to answer the question without answering the question, and these preachers know that too, as you can see in their responses.

Steve Gaines, “The three key moral issues in our day are abortion, sexual immorality.” (note that he listed only 2 moral issues).

Steve Crosby, “The greatest moral issue is our flagging love for the lost and dying around us.” 

JD Greear, “I am less concerned with the moral drift of the culture than I am with the moral drift of people who call themselves Christians. If we do not look like Jesus in our behavior, we will certainly not sound like Jesus nor represent Him faithfully in our world.”

Woods goes on to say, “All of these men are, by UK standards, highly conservative theologically – you don’t even get nominated for the SBC presidency if there’s any doubt of your orthodoxy. This means, for instance, no women in ministry, (probably) young-earth creationism, biblical inerrancy and absolutely no tolerance of homosexuality or acceptance of transgender behaviour. In strictly theological terms, there’s probably no difference between them on social issues.”

To me, that sums up what is wrong with the largest Protestant denomination in the US today. No matter what these 3 candidates for president of the SBC say, there is a moral failing of Christians today that has little to do with abortion, gay rights, or evangelism.

#1 moral failure – No women in ministry. Until all of God’s children can serve equally without regard to their gender, love is withheld. And without love, we cannot be Christ-like, for how can we show our love to the lost and dying when we do not show our love to the females in the denomination?

#2 moral failure – elevating husbands to be representatives of Christ on earth. This redefines God and it is a moral failing when we seek to make a human man like God.

#3 moral failure – homosexual bashing on public forums and in pulpits. You have the right to not agree with homosexuality, but it is a moral failing when we seek to hurt others through our strongly held religious beliefs.

#4 moral failure – Biblical inerrancy which leads to limiting God as to how he created the earth (young-earth creation) and teaching our children to discount scientific knowledge about creation – knowledge that God has revealed to us in through discoveries in the earth and in the universe.

If I were answering the question of what the key moral issues today, it would be far different from these pastors’ answers. Key moral issues are:

1) drugs

2) sex (sex trafficking which demeans girls and women by selling them, and demeans men by purchasing their favors; pornography.)

3) Pastors’ addictions and pastors’ sexual abuse of children

It is 2016. What do you see as key moral issues today?

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Pentecost: Who is your Advocate?

Two tweets after Mother’s Day caught my attention:

Visited church today where men & boys stood and gave women the Mother’s Day “gift of covering” as they pledged to be priests of home.

“Guys, it’s our calling 2 lead our wives N2 holiness..someday we can present her B4 Christ as this radiant bride.”

There is no indication in the Old Testament from the Prophets, or in the Gospels, that the Messiah would share his Lordship with human males on earth. There was no time of foretelling that husbands would share lordship with Christ.

Jesus makes no mention of bequeathing a husband the privilege of representing him on earth, nor does Jesus make any mention that a woman would be presented to Christ by her husband, nor does he indicate that males can give “covering” to females, nor does Jesus indicate that husbands or males can lead anybody into holiness. Jesus promised that he would leave an Advocate, the Holy Spirit, on earth to lead us. With the Holy Spirit within us, women need no further representation, or role play actor, or leader, and certainly not a male head. For how can a male head provide leadership that the Holy Spirit cannot?

 “All this I have spoken while still with you.  But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid,” John 14:26-27.

These words were spoken specifically to Jesus’ disciples, but all Christians have believed these words apply to those of us who are Christians, men and women alike. We believe Holy Spirit was made known equally to both men and women at Pentecost (Acts 2:17-24).

Before Jesus began his ministry on earth, John the Baptist was to prepare the way. Luke tells us that the angel of the Lord told Zechariah that his son, whom we know as John the Baptist, would be like the prophet Elijah, “And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord,” (Luke 1:17). Jesus says of John the Baptist in Matthew 11:14, “And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.” Jesus was referring to Malachi 4:5-6, “See I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”

There was no Elijah moment when husbands were commissioned for service, or were charged with the protection of their wives, and no Elijah moment when husbands were given the ability for sanctification of their wives to create a covenant relationship with God (1 Kings 19:16-19). More importantly, there was no Pentecost moment when husbands became the heads of Christian women.

Yet, that is what it has come to in many religious circles, particularly in seminaries, and among pastors and others who believe that women are to be submissive to their husbands (some even believe that husbands will account for their wives in heaven). These complementarians believe and teach that husbands represent Christ and that wives represent the church. Therefore, to complementarians, husbands become the provider, the protector and the sanctifier to lead their wives into a covenant relationship with God. Yet there was no herald of that news.

Jacob Creath, a great Baptist preacher of the 19th century, said, “where the scriptures speak, we speak; where the scriptures are silent, we are silent.” It appears that 21st century Baptists and other evangelicals have decided to speak where the scriptures are silent.

It is 2016. Who is your Advocate?

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