God Speaks to Us, Too

God Speaks to Us, Too: Southern Baptist Women on Church, Home, and Society

Susan M. Shaw
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 322
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    God Speaks to Us, Too
    Book Description:

    Raised as a Southern Baptist in Rome, Georgia, Susan M. Shaw earned graduate degrees from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, was ordained a Southern Baptist minister, and prepared herself to lead a life of leadership and service among Southern Baptists. However, dramatic changes in both the makeup and the message of the Southern Baptist Convention during the 1980s and 1990s (a period known among Southern Baptists as "the Controversy") caused Shaw and many other Southern Baptists, especially women, to reconsider their allegiances.

    InGod Speaks to Us, Too: Southern Baptist Women on Church, Home, and Society, Shaw presents her own experiences, as well as those of over 150 other current and former Southern Baptist women, in order to examine the role, identity, and culture of women in the largest Protestant denomination in the country. The Southern Baptist Convention was established in the United States in 1845 after a schism between Northern and Southern brethren over the question of slavery. Shaw sketches the history of the Southern Baptist faith from its formation, through its dramatic expansion following World War II, to the Controversy and its aftermath.

    The Controversy began as a successful attempt by fundamentalists within the denomination to pack the leadership and membership of the Southern Baptist Convention (the denomination's guiding body) with conservative and fundamentalist believers. Although no official strictures prohibit a Southern Baptist woman from occupying the primary leadership role within her congregation -- or her own family -- rhetoric emanating from the Southern Baptist Convention during the Controversy strongly discouraged such roles for its women, and church leadership remains overwhelmingly male as a result. Despite the vast difference between the denomination's radical beginnings and its current position among the most conservative American denominations, freedom of conscience is still prized.

    Shaw identifies "soul competency," or the notion of a free soul that is responsible for its own decisions, as the principle by which many Southern Baptist women reconcile their personal attitudes with conservative doctrine. These women are often perceived from without as submissive secondary citizens, but they are actually powerful actors within their families and churches.God Speaks to Us, Tooreveals that Southern Baptist women understand themselves as agents of their own lives, even though they locate their faith within the framework of a highly patriarchal institution. Shaw presents these women through their own words, and concludes that they believe strongly in their ability to discern the voice of God for themselves.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5985-0
    Subjects: Religion, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction: Raised Right—The Making of Southern Baptist Identity
    (pp. 1-36)

    Mama said, “I just don’t believe a woman should be the pastor of a church.” We were sitting in the living room of the house in which I’d grown up. Mom was kicked back in her overstuffed recliner, and I was on the sofa. The lavalier microphone cords linked us to each other and to my digital recorder.

    “Why not?” I asked, walking the fine line between researcher and goading prodigal daughter.

    “Because women are more emotional creatures, and we’re supposed to be protected. And God put that man here to protect us. We’re the weaker sex; I believe that....

  5. 1 Just as I Am: Southern Baptist Women’s Experiences of Salvation and Baptism
    (pp. 37-62)

    The beginnings of life as a Christian and as a Southern Baptist are marked by two distinct and essential experiences: conversion and believer’s baptism by immersion. The first is necessary to enter the community of God; the second is necessary to become a member of a Southern Baptist church.

    I was six years old when a traveling evangelist came to town to preach at an evening revival at Shorter Avenue Baptist Church. I had been in attendance pretty much every time the church doors were open since I was six weeks old, and in the language of Southern Baptists, I...

  6. 2 The B–I–B–L–E: Southern Baptist Women and the Bible
    (pp. 63-86)

    Vacation Bible school, that week or so during the summer when thousands of Southern Baptist children make macaroni art and hear stories about Daniel in the lion’s den, the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace, and David and Goliath, begins with a series of pledges—to the American flag, the Christian flag, and the Bible (not necessarily in that order). Standing with their hands over their hearts, they recite, “I pledge allegiance to the Bible, God’s Holy Word. I will make it a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path and will hide its words in my...

  7. 3 Casseroles and Covered Dishes: Southern Baptist Women, Hospitality and Friendship
    (pp. 87-115)

    I found this joke on the Internet: While working on a lesson in world religions, a kindergarten teacher asked her students to bring something related to their families' faith to class. At the appropriate time, she asked the students to come forward and share with the rest of the students.

    The first child said, “I am Muslim, and this is my prayer rug.”

    The second child said, “I am Jewish, and this is my Star of David.”

    The third child said, “I am Catholic, and this is my rosary.”

    The final child said, “I am Southern Baptist, and this is...

  8. 4 Red and Yellow, Black and White The Dynamics of Race in the Lives of Southern Baptist Women
    (pp. 116-137)

    Any discussion of Southern Baptist identity necessitates a discussion of race. By far, the majority of Southern Baptists are white, and to a great extent, whiteness is an assumed norm of Southern Baptist identity. Although women of color do participate in Southern Baptist churches, they do so mostly as part of ethnic or language minority congregations. Rarely are Southern Baptist churches fully integrated, and women of color who participate in predominantly white congregations often acculturate to the prevailing norms in the church. For Southern Baptist women, gender and race intersect in a variety of ways that shape their lives and...

  9. 5 We’ve a Story to Tell: Southern Baptist Women and Ministry
    (pp. 138-183)

    “You can be anything God calls you to be.” Women learned that refrain as children and adolescents in Southern Baptist churches, and they repeated it to me during our interviews. The history of women’s ministering among Southern Baptists turns on their appropriation and embodiment of that one sentence. It is their calling, their mission, their driving force. It has led them to take on traditional responsibilities of nurturing and educating, and it has compelled them to challenge gender norms and traditional roles that have excluded women from ordained ministry and the pastorate.

    Probably the most influential Southern Baptist programs for...

  10. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  11. 6 Gracious Submission: Southern Baptist Women and the Family
    (pp. 184-222)

    During World War II, white women entered into the paid labor force, so when the soldiers returned from the battlefields, an ideological shift was required to force women back into their traditional roles in the home. Thus the 1950s emphasis on domesticity emerged, idealized in the pop-culture image of television’s Cleaver family. Beginning in the 1960s, however, the women’s movement challenged these idealized notions of family and demanded equality for women in the home and in the workplace. Women’s growing consciousness of sexism and inequality affected even conservative Protestant women, including Southern Baptists. In fact, Southern Baptist publications in the...

  12. 7 I Am Woman: Southern Baptist Women and Feminism
    (pp. 223-245)

    Contemporary Baptist women are conflicted about feminism. Some are proudly feminist; they wear the label and support the movement’s goals. Others are adamant that they are not feminist, even though they acknowledge the benefits brought about by the women’s movement. Most of these women, however, see feminists as extremists and so distance themselves from the label. But all the women I spoke with believe in women’s equality, and when I defined feminism as a belief in and willingness to work for equality between women and men, almost every one admitted that she might well be a feminist based on that...

  13. 8 Competent before God: Southern Baptist Women and Soul Competency
    (pp. 246-268)

    I heard this story: A little girl in Sunday school was working intently on her artwork. Her teacher asked the little girl what she was drawing. “I’m drawing a picture of God,” the little girl replied. “But,” the teacher said, “no one knows what God looks like.” “Well,” answered the little girl, “they will in a few minutes.” Once, a friend of mine who is a lapsed Catholic told me that she’d come hear me preach if I’d preach on “What is God?” I decided to accept her challenge and make that my next sermon. A couple of weeks before...

  14. Cast of Characters
    (pp. 269-276)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 277-290)
  16. Index
    (pp. 291-302)