Thursday, December 13, 2012

Patriarchy has its limits, I suppose

What do we need to think about these  females, that gender-specific group that makes up fully two-thirds of the personnel of our Journeyman force of our wonderful International Mission Board? 
These are mostly single, college graduates who postpone marriage, home, kids, career, family to give two years to the Lord in overseas service, while their gender opposites cruise along on their dating, marrying career paths.

What must we think of this crowd?

I'd start by remembering the considerable history of single females on the international fields, Lottie Moon being the most famous but who is joined by many, many others.

I wrote about a year ago about the most recent Lottie Moon biography, Lottie Moon, the SBC's Most Heroic Figure. Author Regina Sullivan did a good job with this and I recommend it, although you will look in vain in the SBC to find any mention of it. The phrase "speculative feminism" has been used dismissively of modern treatments of our sainted missionary of long past.  Pay no attention to these. Read the book.

One notable thing about Sullivan's book is how Lottie Moon (and others) had considerable difficulty with men missionaries behaving administratively and attitudinaly badly. Read the book,  you will see.

Our current expression of ecclesiastical patriarchy, having been expanded in some SBC circles from "the office of pastor is limited to men" as outlined by the Baptist Faith and Message, is in a state of flux. Thank God those SBC leaders holding responsible denominational positions haven't lowered any patriarchal guns at the Journeyman program. Not a hint of it, but vigilance is the watchword on this.

While we are in the neighborhood: Quickly now, name one male SBC missionary figure of the past. 

Er, ah, ahem....

Lottie and patriarchy aside, because of a network of connections I have known several 'Journeygirls' (a term they use, not of my coining) and seldom find a better expression of Christian commitment and zeal than among them, not that the one-third male Journeymen lack the same.

Because of funding pressures, the appointments in this program can involve locations that entail service with some degree of difficulty and often relative isolation; nonetheless, these females answer the call. God bless them all.

Contrast that with the hotbed of our six seminaries brimming with mostly male students strolling to class, holding high minded theological discussions with fellow neophytes. Some of our seminaries, Southeastern and Midwestern come to mind, have taken to promoting themselves as "Great Commission Seminaries." One might rightly conclude that the "Great Commission" concept has not been fully embraced.

Manifestly, the current SBC emphasis on patriarchy has not filled the IMB with male mission candidates.



23 comments:

Tom Parker said...

William:

You asked:" While we are in the neighborhood: Quickly now, name one male SBC missionary figure of the past.

Er, ah, ahem.... "

I think the higher ups in the SBC need to do some soul searching on this one, but I will not hold my breath.

They just continue to use Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong to raise money. These ladies in the journeyman program do what men are not willing to do.

Sure sounds familiar to the many letter Lottie Moon wrote begging for men to come and join her and they did not.

Bill said...

I think it is also important to point out that women "postponing marriage" is essentially sinful in the eyes of many advocates of "biblical womanhood", whatever that means.

Anonymous said...

"Manifestly, the current SBC emphasis on patriarchy has not filled the IMB with male mission candidates."

You're right, but it has caused the loss of a number of single ladies who were on the field for years! Can you blame them?? After being told that they could not "advance" any further than their current role. In other words, even with YEARS of experience, they could not oversee men or couples....sad!
These ladies were not in easy places...few families lasted there long. Now...no one is there.

imb m

Tom Parker said...

imb m

You said:"these ladies were not in easy places...few families lasted there long. Now...no one is there."

Unbelievable, once the greatest missions program on the face of this earth. IMO, and now reduced to this. It sure appears the choice has been made it is better to have no one there than a woman--incredible--what would Lottie Moon say to this outrage.

Hello--is anyone in the higher ups of the SBC listening?

ET said...

Interesting thoughts, William. Now that I think about it, of the handful of people I have personally known to commit to serving as a foreign mission, they have been exclusively female. There are two from our small church now...one in Asia and one in South Africa. Another served in China some years ago. Any of the men I know that are missionaries have all been married prior to their leaving for their respective country.

Anonymous said...

The reality that many qualified women are not promoted is sad and poor judgment by those making promotion decisions.

Will it get better? I hope so. Should a woman be appointed as a pastor or church planter? I don't think so. Are all men who serve promoted? Absolutely not. There are many biases and issues those making the choices have. I am not sure if it is fair to paint the reason for this sad reality with such a narrow sweeping accusation.

The bottom line is, no matter how the IMB structures things, it is God's place to call men and women out, not ours. William, I am guessing that is the reason you did not serve. It is better to follow God's call, whether to a pulpit in the USA or to a hut across the great water.

Am I wrong?

Jon L. Estes

William Thornton said...

Jon, of course you are right, so much as I understand that completely subjective concept of God's calling to an individual.

It is not insignificant that as a single college grad, I was immature and mostly clueless. I would presume that most single, male SBC seminarians are informed about mission needs and opportunities.

Anonymous said...

William,

I was not questioning your heart for missions but rather highlighting the fact that our call is from God. We must discover that and follow with joy.

For the most part, I have and I believe you have. Those single guys today are more informed but that does not determine a call.

I wonder how many seminary students have a long time relationship with the church. The man I know in seminary now, mostly entered a committed life to the things of Christ in their 20's. The few who have a background in SBC life seem to come from a large church where a large church mindset is already founded in them. NOTE: This is from men I know. No indicator of the whole picture.

Good post. -- Off to spend time with the grand kids.

Jon L. Estes

Tom Parker said...

Jon:

You said:"Should a woman be appointed as a pastor or church planter? I don't think so. Are all men who serve promoted? Absolutely not. There are many biases and issues those making the choices have. I am not sure if it is fair to paint the reason for this sad reality with such a narrow sweeping accusation."

Are you really saying that William Thornton's blog piece is a narrow swepping accusation?

I'm certainly not reading it that way.

Anonymous said...

Jon: Should a woman be appointed as a pastor or church planter? I don't think so.

Anonymous: Certainly the above is the prevailing belief of SBC pastors, even if among others it stretches credibility. Women missionaries teach, preach, counsel, etc., that is, they ‘pastor.’ But as long as we called it missionary work rather than pastoral work, it is OK. The men control, the women roll their eyes and serve, and if men wish to think that these women are serving under their authority, that is fine. These women, although mostly silent on the subject for obvious reasons, know otherwise. They know their day is coming; yes, even in the SBC. The discussion has already started.

Jon: Are all men who serve promoted? Absolutely not. There are many biases and issues those making the choices have. I am not sure if it is fair to paint the reason for this sad reality with such a narrow sweeping accusation.

Anonymous: All men are not promoted ... nor are all women promoted. Easy to understand, but it is not the point. The reality is that some men are promoted but no women are promoted; that is, promotion is associated with males, not females. For the time being, that is.

Anonymous said...

Tom,

"Are you really saying that William Thornton's blog piece is a narrow swepping accusation?"

No. I was making a general statement about any who might say such things. If William spoke directly about these things and I responded to such specific context, then it might seem I am accusing William of something. Since he did not, I was simply adding my thoughts to the discussion.

Jon L. Estes

Anonymous said...

Anon,

I also stated:

"The reality that many qualified women are not promoted is sad and poor judgment by those making promotion decisions." This first comment was made to set the tone for the rest of my comment.

Jon L. Estes

Anonymous said...

Jon: The reality that many qualified women are not promoted is sad and poor judgment by those making promotion decisions ... Are all men who serve promoted? Absolutely not.

Anonymous: The problem with your comment, notwithstanding the presence of “sad” and “poor judgment” is that it is not parallel: “many qualified women” vs. “all men”. Many qualified men are not promoted is likely, but men are, nonetheless, promoted. Many qualified women are not promoted is also likely, but the reality that we are given is that women are not promoted.

Tom Parker said...

Jon:

Anon said:"but the reality that we are given is that women are not promoted."

What is so difficult about that for you to understand??

William Thornton said...

Tom, please, just comment, agree or disagree with me and leave it at that.

David Tuten said...

Name one male SBC missionary figure of the past...

No problem. Bill Wallace.

William Thornton said...

Yes, I had him and Charles Culpepper, Sr. That's it, but then no one named an annual offering after either.

Tom Parker said...

William Thornton:

You said to me:"Tom, please, just comment, agree or disagree with me and leave it at that."

William, thanks for allowing me the opportunity to participate on your blog but I believe it is best for all here if I just no longer participate. I appreciate you as a person and consider you a friend. I wish you well.

I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous: The problem with your comment, notwithstanding the presence of “sad” and “poor judgment” is that it is not parallel: “many qualified women” vs. “all men”. Many qualified men are not promoted is likely, but men are, nonetheless, promoted. Many qualified women are not promoted is also likely, but the reality that we are given is that women are not promoted."

Contextually, the two paragraphs you pull together are anchored by my comment:

"There are many biases and issues those making the choices have."

I know there is a gender bias and it is wrong. Just as wrong as any other bias used to not promote a qualified person.

Jon L. Estes

William Thornton said...

Tom, your opinion and perspective is always welcome. I just do not care to have a lot of back and forth between commenters.

There may be an occasionwhen i am completely off-the-wall and you may be needed here.

Have a nice Christmas season.

Anonymous said...

Context or no context, "Are all men ... Absolutely not" sticks out like a sore thumb.

Anonymous said...

Anon... If context does not matter then I leave the discussion with you.

Have a great Christmas.

Jon L. Estes

Anonymous said...

Jon: If context does not matter then I leave the discussion with you.

Anonymous: A conservative resting on context is progress, indeed, but in this case context does not overcome the inconsistent comment.

Merry Christmas to you, too.