As the SBC comes together in the wake of the Paige Patterson scandal, I have been watching from afar as the denomination again bungles its attempts to be pro-women while holding what I believe to be a very anti-women position on ministry. I have written about that here. One of the things I think many people do not understand is why this idea of women in ministry is such a big deal in the SBC. The main explanation for the SBC stance is that their position (Complementarianism) is posited as the ONLY Biblical position.
While this is continually espoused from the traditional branches of the church, this is just not true. There are excellent exegetical arguments to be made for Egalitarianism contrary to what many conservative Christians have been told or espouse. A love for Biblical truth, and a commitment to Biblical principles can be harmonized with a belief in gender equality. This is why I appreciate groups like The Junia Project and theologians like F.F. Bruce, Gordon Fee, and Philip Payne. All use Scripture to support what they believe, and are excellent exegetes. Sadly, many of those in the SBC have never deigned to read contrary arguments from solid sources. They see the flamethrowers jettisoning the Scriptural anchor, and solidify themselves behind their prior systems of belief.
This is the main reason I believe Egalitarians will continue to be seen as against Biblical truth. Many who espouse egalitarian ideas do so with an ignorance of Scriptural support for their beliefs. Because they have been told that “bible believing Christians” cannot believe in gender equality, they have dismissed part of the Bible without investigating the worthiness of the claim. Once a part of Scripture is dismissed, its really easy to continue throw out other other parts to cater to ones feelings or cultural sensitivities du jour. This is incredibly harmful to the Egalitarian position because it allows the traditionalists to continue to paint all Egalitarians as liberal, Scripture-haters. This is one of the reasons Complementarianism remains an absolute for folks in the SBC. While there is equivocation for divorced pastors (looking at you FBC Atlanta), women as pastors is seen as beyond the pale. I encourage my Egalitarian friends to push their agenda Biblically, and to stop believing the narrative that the Scriptures are not pro-woman.
In a culture where it has become increasingly difficult to disagree civilly and not think those who disagree with you are anathema, it would be great to finally see some real discussion on this issue from my denomination. Unfortunately, I think the way Patterson handled himself is endemic of how the SBC views and treats women. Regardless of how many times they affirm the value of women (BF&M Article 4), they are relegated to second class citizens in our churches when it comes to leadership. Unless it has to do with kids.