The Palin Predicament: Gushee versus Land

Last Monday David Gushee, professor at Mercer University, wrote an article entitled “The Palin Predicament.” It was published in the national newspaper, USA TODAY. He contented that southern evangelicals were culturally conditioned to resist the election of a woman to a place of national power, especially since they routinely deny women places of leadership in their churches.

Richard Land, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, took sharp exception. He wrote a column for Baptist Press contending that Southern Baptists distinguish between the home and church, on the one hand, and all other places of employment, on the other. Biblical rules of male leadership apply to the congregation and the family, but nowhere else. This frees southern evangelicals, he wrote, to restrict women in the home and church but free them elsewhere.

But he is wrong, and for two reasons.

First, Southern Baptists and other Southern Evangelicals do not limit their restrictions on women to the congregation and the home, as Land contends. In fact, they extend their limitations to every sphere over which they have control. Land could not name one single position of influence and power among Southern Baptists now held by a woman: not leading a Board of Trustees, not directing a seminary or agency, not even convening a gathering or convention.

One SBC seminary recently fired a professor because she was a woman; women, they claimed, are not supposed to teach men. It has been just a couple of years ago that a prominent female preacher who carries the name Graham was disinvited as a speaker to a gathering of preachers solely because she was a woman. And just this month the Baptist book stores removed from their sales rack a magazine published by another denomination that featured a cover story of female pastors. The fact is that the Southern Baptist Convention has both written and unwritten policies against women in charge, and I suspect Dr. Land is simply too embarrassed to admit this.

Second, this restriction of women to second-class status in the church and family shapes what little boys and girls think about their future. If these children grow up seeing males always in charge and females always sitting in silence they learn the cultural lessons. It is no co-incidence that women are rarely elected to public political office in those states dominated by the Southern Baptist Convention. This coheres with data from a 2007 research poll conducted by Baylor University that says 44% of evangelicals believe that men are more suited to political leadership than women.

It seems clear to everyone that if a woman can be vice-president of the United States, she should also be elected vice-president of the Southern Baptist Convention; and if electing a woman as vice-president of the country is to say she is qualified to serve as President of the United States, then it should follow as night follows day that a woman is qualified to serve as president of the Southern Baptist Convention. There certainly are women who are available for such election but I will bet my money that it will never happen, regardless of what Land writes; and this is why Gushee is right and Land is wrong.

But Land could prove his critics wrong by standing at the next annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention and nominating a woman as their president. We shall see if he has the conviction and nerve to do it.


6 comments so far

  1. John A Williams on

    Speaking from the perspective of a “church alum”, “believer in exile”, etc., is it any wonder why so many of us choose to continue in this mode and look for other ways than church to enrich our spirituality as human beings.

    Many are “doing” church in all kinds of ways (the emergent church movement, etc.)and some of us have (raised in the SBC environment) just decided to put all of this “junk” behind us and look for entirely new ways of connecting to the “radical” Jesus and his ministry. Modern 21st century SBC methods of engaging Jesus will be on the “junk-heap of religions” before this century is over!

    Richard Land, the SBC and all who espouse their “visions” for women make me very angry when both my wife and I have raised our daughters to be all they possibly can be!

  2. Pastor M on

    The Internet Monk is presently dealing with the issue of women teaching in churches with a post that has drawn many comments. You can look there for more. Here’s my question: how does so-called complementarism differ from racial segregation?

  3. Camille Haggard on

    This has been something that has stuck in my throat about the SBC for many years. Their deliberate attempt to go after WMU in order to subject that org to be under men was also galling. I don’t see it as anything but cultural (and a man thing). When our church voted for a woman deacon many years ago, we had a SS teacher leave the church because he felt that it was not biblical for us to have women deacons. It would be nice if men would grow up and not have a need to feel superior to women.

  4. wicketman on

    I would be interested in your comments regarding the local church with respect to women, and women teaching or being in authority over men.

  5. Rick on

    I find it quite ironic that the author didn’t have the “anatomy” to keep the word “anatomy,” but succumbed to political correctness.

  6. Joy Fagan on

    I just want to remind all of us who are Christ-followers and desire to be authentic pursuers of His heart as we embody Christ in us, our hope of glory, that how we engage in this conversation is critical. I don’t think it is naive to believe that we can still speak the truth in love, communicating our understanding of Scripture with grace and a desire for what is best (Phil. 1:9-11). I say this because I have a love for people on both sides of the issue (both complementarians and egalitarians, if you will), and would much rather see us sit around the table and study Scripture together, pursuing an accurate understanding of truth and allowing room for appropriate Christian liberty. Whether blogging or writing articles and books, sarcasm, frustration and a critical spirit have only led to divisiveness. Whatever happened to giving the benefit of the doubt and going to one another to get clarification? Just a reminder to all, including myself…let’s not forget this!

    “And this is my prayer, that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ…” (Phil. 1:9-10)

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