Beth Moore’s Ministry Reignites Debate Over Whether Women Can Preach

In the world of Bible teachers, Beth Moore is a rock star.

She packs sporting arenas and big-name churches. She has written dozens of best-selling books. She has an outsize social media following.

But among some of the male leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, where she is a member, she has also become a liability.

After suggesting on Twitter that she was spending Mother’s Day preaching at a church — though she did not use the word “preaching” — a crowd of prominent Southern Baptist men charged after her.

“For a woman to teach and preach to adult men is to defy God’s Word and God’s design,” wrote Owen Strachan, professor of Christian theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.

“There’s just something about the order of creation that means that God intends for the preaching voice to be a male voice,” piped in R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., in a podcast.

Josh Buice, pastor of a Southern Baptist church in Georgia, was even more explicit.

The title of his recent blog post: “Why the SBC Should Say ‘No More’ to Beth Moore.”

The uproar is part of a decades-old theological battle over the role of women that appears to be reigniting on the eve of the denomination’s annual meeting, which begins Tuesday (June 11) in Birmingham, Ala.

Beth Moore speaks at Transformation
Church,  near Charlotte, N.C., on June
2, 2019. Photo courtesy of
Transformation Church

The Baptist Faith & Message, the SBC’s official statement of doctrinal beliefs, asserts that although men and women are created equal, they have different roles in marriage, family and the church, a position called “complementarianism.”

According to the document, which was amended in 1998 to include a section on the family, a wife “must submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband.” Only men can serve as pastors of a church, a distinction added to the statement in 2000.

Religion News Service could not confirm whether Moore spoke at a church on Mother’s Day, and Moore declined an interview.

She did, however, preach, or she might say “teach,” at Transformation Church, a nondenominational megachurch outside Charlotte, N.C., this past Sunday (June 2).

“We had no idea that there was some kind of controversy brewing,” said Pastor Derwin Gray. “I’d been trying to get Beth to speak for years and her schedule finally opened up.”

Regardless, no one would deny Moore has preached before mixed audiences of men and women. And that has become a mounting concern among some — notably male — SBC leaders, who say it’s OK for women to preach to women, but not to men.

Moore, who is 61 and lives in Houston, has for years toed the line with Southern Baptist orthodoxy, carefully balancing her teaching role with the demands of Christian femininity as defined by evangelicals.

But the election of Donald Trump in 2016, and the pre-election debate over the now-infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, in which Trump boasted about groping women’s genitals, appeared to break something in her, especially after numerous Christian leaders appeared to condone the behavior as “locker-room talk.”

Moore, a survivor of sex abuse, tweeted recently that 2016 was a turning point. She also said she felt “compelled to my bones by the Holy Spirit – I don’t want to be but I am – to  draw attention to the sexism & misogyny that is rampant in segments of the SBC, cloaked by piety & bearing the stench of hypocrisy.”

Beth Moore addresses attendees at the summit on sexual abuse and misconduct at Wheaton College on Dec. 13, 2018. RNS photo by Emily McFarlan Miller

That reproachful tone was new to Moore, who prior to the #MeToo movement had struck a more cheerful note.

“My hunch is that it’s precipitated a lot of soul-searching for her and for a lot of women like her, who have been willing to continue within a more traditional, gendered role,” said Nancy Ammerman, a professor of sociology at Boston University School of Theology. “Seeing the way that has been harmful to so many women has caused this kind of soul-searching.”

That more critical tone has been amplified by social media, especially Twitter.

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Source: Religion News Service