Though one does not want to unduly interfere with the affairs of an autonomous church and though I am ambivalent about lady preachers, I can’t help but feel that a 81 year old Sunday school teacher dismissed in large part because she is a woman has somehow gotten a raw deal.
What makes this case most vexing is not so much that the church in question forbade women from the get-go from ascending to positions of dogmatic instruction but that this lady was relieved of her duties after fifty years of service.
So why was it OK for her to be teaching all this time then all of a sudden her classroom ministrations transfigured into an ecclesiastical outrage that could no longer be countenanced?
Though I cannot be absolutely certain, methinks I catch a whiff of Purpose Driven Warrenism in the air or at least the stench of the church growth movement.
On the August 24, 2006 edition of The Albert Mohler Program, listeners learned that the pastor came to the First Baptist Church of Watertown, New York in 2004. If female Sunday school teachers were such an abomination to this minister but were permitted by this church, shouldn’t he have done the chivalrous thing and not accepted this particular pastorate to begin with?
The pastor claims that, after his arrival, the church began to experience a period of growth and this ruffled the feathers of some longstanding members. If this follows the pattern of this phenomena taking place in other churches across the country, this means rock music and jungle rhythms were probably introduced to attract a bunch of tattooed and possibly lice-infected young people more interested in dancing and carousing than actually worshipping God.
According to the Syracuse Post Standard, much of the stink stems from opposition to the pastor’s removal of a stain glass window and crosses in the church (can’t exactly have those scruffy hooligans feeling guilty about their sins, now can we, since that would hamper their self esteem). Part of church growth operational policy is that a church should not look like a church but rather like a rec center or a pub (and probably a brothel in a few years if the seeker sensitive trend continues much longer).
Standard Purpose Driven strategy in such a situation would be to neutralize the resisters by getting those whose egos have been stroked with the offer of ecclesiastical offices and honors to swear allegiance to the pastor and purge from membership those retaining their integrity through no unquestioning loyalty to no one but King Jesus. Makes you wonder if the problem with a lady Sunday school teacher in her 80’s is not so much that she’s a lady but that she’s in her 80’s and not led around as easily with a ring in her nose as someone considerably younger. According to one witticism popular among Purpose Driven theorists open to different interpretations is that the pillars hold up the church.
Though he was reluctant to discuss the matter in initial press accounts, the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Watertown was finally man enough to admit on the Albert Mohler Program that more than the teacher’s plumbing was taken into account in this personnel matter. She was also let go since she was deemed not sufficiently submissive to the pastor and his cronies.
This matter of whether or not a woman should be allowed into positions of doctrinal authority within the church is indeed a serious matter. However, are all the other ducks in a row at this church as well?
Is the pastor going to take a similar hardline position against those whose divorces were acquired under less than Biblical guidelines? Given that the First Baptist Church of Watertown is a member of the American Baptist Churches USA, one would think this pastor would have weightier matters to consider like whether or not a pastor so concerned about a literalist interpretation of Scripture should even be a part of that particular denomination, convention, association, or however else you want to classify it.
For you see, the American Baptist Churches USA is involved with a number of matters that make the scandal of a lady Sunday school teacher seem quaint by comparison. For starters, the American Baptist Churches USA is a member of the National Council of Churches, a group of borderline Communists cutthroats in clerical collars that make the rogues in the bar scene from Star Wars look ethical. Furthermore, a number of American Baptist USA congregations just about endorse homosexuality.
It is not like heresy is anything new to the American Baptist Churches USA and struck the leadership of the First Baptist of Watertown unaware. After all, one of that denomination’s foremost personalities was none other than Martin Luther King, Jr.
While Martin Luther King might have done a commendable job for the cause of civil rights, he was hardly a font of orthodox Christian doctrine. According to columnist and pastor Chuck Baldwin, King denied essential Christian doctrines such as Christ’s deity, the Virgin Birth, and the physical resurrection (in other words, those very things that make Christianity worth messing with in the first place). Furthermore, King’s association with reported Communists and similar subversives has been well documented.
I wonder if the Pastor of First Baptist of Watertown would have the courage to put the smackdown on Dr. King or is that just something he does to old ladies? After all, unlike denominational bigwigs and assorted pressure groups, little elderly grandmother-types don’t have much ability to yank the purse strings shut or block access to the other niceties of positions those deriving their livelihoods from emolumented parsonships often crave.
Though this debate within the church makes for an interesting back and forth, probably even more disturbing is the response coming from the town mayor. Since the pastor also sits on the town council, the mayor felt it was his place to weigh in on the debate with the following comments: “If what’s said in that letter reflects the councilman’s views, those are disturbing remarks in this day and age. Maybe they wouldn’t have been disturbing 500 years ago, but they are now.”
Since this community apparently employ part time alderman, does the mayor speak out on personnel disagreements taking place at the day jobs of the others sitting on the council? More importantly, does the major plan to speak out against other religious organizations and groups that do not allow women to assume the highest levels of authority?
Since the mayor thinks he is some kind of equal opportunity crusader by kicking around the pastor of the local Baptist church, does he have the guts to take on the local Catholic church or is he just too afraid to take on the Vatican? Better yet, is he big and bad enough to take on the Muslims when they come to town as many times in that religion women aren’t only banned from positions of authority but also barred from the very act of public worship. They only thing the mayor should be worried about is whether or not the church is in compliance with the fire code or if members take over too many parking spaces on the street.
The pastor claims that God intended men and women to fulfill different roles within the church, and for the most part he is correct. But as my grandmother Louise Schwartz use to say, the man might be the head but the woman can sure twist his neck. So the next time he calls upon the ladies of the congregation to prepare the pancake supper or whatever else the gastronomically carefree gorge themselves on at such functions these days, perhaps these women of conscience should flat-out refuse pointing out it is not their place to cook promiscuously for all kinds of men to whom they are not married.
For if we are to adhere to such an airtight interpretation of Holy Writ, does it not say women are to be keepers at home? There is not one word there about being the kitchen scullions of the church. And if the pastor does not like it, tell him to take it up with the disgruntled husbands that are no doubt sick and tired these days of all these extraneous groups and Purpose Driven this study and Purpose Driven that study that act like they are more entitled to the labor of these women than the men to which such women are married.