The Georgia Baptist Convention today continued a campaign of selective reading of Scripture – and more important to fundamentalist messengers, it would seem – a selective reading of their own statement of faith (the Baptist Faith and Message 2000): for the second year in a row, the GBC tossed out a church (Druid Hills Baptist Church of Atlanta, in this instance) for having a woman pastor on staff.
Never mind that women have been preaching from pulpits in Baptist life since at least the eighteenth century. Today’s Southern Baptist Convention has regressed to the point of teaching women 1950s-era homemaking skills in seminary.
Since the 1960s, Southern Baptist fundamentalists have fought long and hard to reduce (literally) Southern Baptist life to conformity with an ever-narrowing pure faith. Today was simply the latest in a string of thousands of theological purgings.
Yet Baptist church fights are nothing new, and in some instances from yesteryear, members literally were tossed out of church buildings.
In a January 1899 church conflict, women turned the tables on the men in a church dispute: according to a news report of the event, the church moderator and deacons (all males) were “pulled from the podium and roundly pummeled by enraged sisters.”
In September 1884, a pastor and widow squared off in a local church dispute, charging each other with character defamation, each trying to win the majority of members to their side. The fight unfolded underneath a wall plaque declaring “Love One Another.” Members initially closed the church’s windows to keep outsiders from hearing their dispute, but the heat became too unbearable. After the shutters were opened, a throng gathered around the church building. A news story noted that “the Baptist denomination is a supreme authority in quarrels of this kind.”
Many other examples of exciting Baptist conflicts of that era abound, pointing to the observation that Baptists have long been known as church people who know how to fight. Our propensity for conflict may be something that we simply cannot outgrow. But hopefully we are ever-learning what is worth fighting over, and what is not. God’s work awaits: Druid Hills Baptist Church is better off letting gender-fearful fundamentalists fight among themselves over theological and political correctness.