Into the Pulpit

Into the Pulpit: Southern Baptist Women and Power since World War II

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Into the Pulpit
    Book Description:

    The debate over women's roles in the Southern Baptist Convention's conservative ascendance is often seen as secondary to theological and biblical concerns. Elizabeth Flowers argues, however, that for both moderate and conservative Baptist women--all of whom had much at stake--disagreements that touched on their familial roles and ecclesial authority have always been primary. And, in the turbulent postwar era, debate over their roles caused fierce internal controversy. While the legacy of race and civil rights lingered well into the 1990s, views on women's submission to male authority provided the most salient test by which moderates were identified and expelled in a process that led to significant splits in the Church. In Flowers's expansive history of Southern Baptist women, the "woman question" is integral to almost every area of Southern Baptist concern: hermeneutics, ecclesial polity, missionary work, church-state relations, and denominational history.Flowers's analysis, part of the expanding survey of America's religious and cultural landscape after World War II, points to the South's changing identity and connects religious and regional issues to the complicated relationship between race and gender during and after the civil rights movement. She also shows how feminism and shifting women's roles, behaviors, and practices played a significant part in debates that simmer among Baptists and evangelicals throughout the nation today.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0182-3
    Subjects: Religion, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-26)

    On July 12, 1979, more than 15,000 messengers to the annual Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) gathered in the Houston Astrodome to elect the charismatic, conservative, and controversial preacher Adrian Rogers as their denomination’s next president. To the dismay of many church officials, Rogers, who stood outside the traditional network of leadership, defeated several senior Southern Baptist statesmen with a 51 percent margin of victory on the first ballot. More significantly, his victory served as the initial step in a carefully calculated plan to overthrow the power base that his opponents represented.

    Conservatives like Rogers argued that theological and cultural liberalism...

  5. 1 Into the Center Pulpit A DANGEROUS DREAM
    (pp. 27-49)

    On August 9, 1964, Watts Street Baptist Church in Durham, North Carolina, ordained Addie Davis to the gospel ministry—the first ordination of a woman by a Southern Baptist church. It came well ahead of many mainstream Protestant bodies and only one year after the publication ofThe Feminine Mystiqueby Betty Friedan.

    Davis was a well-educated, professional, and single woman from a long line of Virginian Baptists. She grew up in Covington Baptist Church, the very church that her great-great-grandfather had pastored. From an early age, Davis felt called to preach. Speaking in the measured Virginian brogue that also...

    (pp. 50-67)

    Settling on the theme “Sharing the Word Now,” Southern Baptists met in Portland, Oregon, on June 12, 1973, for what denominational officials predicted would be a “non-controversial” convention.¹ The northwestern location suggested that times had indeed changed. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) was now the largest and wealthiest Protestant denomination in the nation. In 1973 alone, the Foreign Mission Board commissioned more than 170 new missionaries, and the Home Mission Board commissioned a record-breaking 360. Southern Baptists also boasted churches throughout the fifty states. After a rather tumultuous decade, messengers were now ready to celebrate their success and expected the...

  7. 3 A Rattlesnake in the House THE BEGINNING OF THE CONTROVERSY
    (pp. 68-101)

    As the 1978 Consultation on Women in Church-Related Vocations concluded, women felt hope for their future in ordained ministry. The Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) was coming to their side. The Christian Life Commission had adopted their cause. Plans for a women-in-ministry network were under way. While frustrated by the advice of male denominationalists to wait, they celebrated “glimmers of light here and there.”¹ For the first time in the denomination’s history, some young women actually anticipated an ordained ministerial career in Southern Baptist life. Terry Thomas Primer was one. As a collegian from Baltimore in the early 1970s, she had...

  8. 4 First Tier in the Realm of Salvation GRACIOUS SUBMISSION
    (pp. 102-148)

    In March 1984, Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president James T. Draper announced that Southern Baptists were now less likely to “kill each other.” The conservative Texas preacher also went on to say that women’s ordination might become “the most emotional and explosive issue” that the denomination faced.¹ Less than three months later, as 17,000 messengers gathered in Kansas City for the annual convention, Draper’s prediction about the explosiveness of women’s ordination came to pass, intensifying the contest between conservatives and moderates.

    Throughout the spring, word had leaked that conservatives might be planning a resolution against women’s ordination. At their second...

  9. 5 Behold a New Thing? MODERATE LIFE
    (pp. 149-176)

    When Adrian Rogers won a second presidential victory in 1986, moderates despaired. They recognized that after five consecutive losses, their chances to regain control of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) were beginning to diminish. The dramatic events unfolding at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary only added to their perception of a conservative takeover. A few began to feel the need for a network whose goals involved something more meaningful than election politics, and that September sixteen moderates gathered at Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina. They called themselves the Southern Baptist Alliance. Most were from North Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia. Many...

  10. Epilogue
    (pp. 177-194)

    Baptist Women in Ministry (BWIM) observed its twenty-fifth anniversary in 2008. On June 18, the night prior to the yearly assembly of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF), 160 women and a scattering of men gathered at the Memphis Southern History and Heritage Center to celebrate. Sitting around large circular tables, they feasted on a traditional fried chicken meal, complete with turnip greens, biscuits and gravy, and peach cobbler. It was Wednesday evening, the traditional time for Southern Baptist prayer meeting and supper, but on this occasion women were front and center. Recognizing key BWIM founders was its coordinator LeAnn Gunter...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 195-228)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 229-248)
  13. Index
    (pp. 249-263)