When I graduated from Southwestern Seminary in 1956 I was proud of my alma mater’s academic leadership. In stark contrast 60 years later I am left speechless when I learn that some leaders of that same institution have used biblical jargon to argue that women, if abused, must endure silently. This blows my mind! Women should always speak out when they are harassed or sexually abused. Shame on male authority figures who have the audacity to tell women to suffer in silence. I suppose I should not be surprised given how the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) shifted from its roots in the 1980s. Let me give you my view on that change now, more than 40 years ago.
When I was a teen in the 1940s, I thought anything coming from the SBC was pure gold. This escalated during my college years at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor when I became part of a summer working team aligned with what Texas Baptists called “The Invincibles.” We were asked to find places in our home state of Texas that were not planning to offer a vacation bible school. After a week of intensive training we were ready to accept anything except no for an answer.While working on my master’s of religious education degree at Southwestern Seminary, I spent my summers directing bible schools and camp activities. During my summer work I delighted in creating biblical characters that keep children who attended spellbound. I was proud to be a Southern Baptist, a missionary, and an educator.
In the 1970s, however, turmoil erupted within the Southern Baptist Convention. By then I was a pastor’s wife and public school teacher. I couldn’t believe how political and divided our convention was becoming under the leadership of some of the same people who have been in the news in 2018. The controversy had become full-blown by the time I attended a critical 1985 SBC in Dallas. The fundamentalist leadership of the SBC, with strong ties to the Moral Majority political movement, was successful in gaining control of the SBC. My Southern Baptist moderate pride lay shattered, and I sensed our convention would never include both moderates and fundamentalists again. The fundamentalists had taken control.
Even so, it was a difficult decision for me to leave the SBC in the early 1990s. I had many friends on both sides of the controversy, and my deceased husband’s church was still aligned with the SBC. Ultimately I began identifying with the newly formed progressive group called the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF). The SBC’s increasing shift toward a conventional and narrow view of what it meant to be Christian challenged me to have the courage to follow my core religious beliefs about inclusive love toward a new faith community, leaving behind a group that had nurtured and formed me for decades.
Make a final fast forward move and you’ll find me as a member of First Baptist Church (FBC) of Chattanooga, proudly aligned with the CBF. Out of my CBF ties I acquired a special friend in Dr. John Pierce. While he served as interim pastor of our FBC of Chattanooga, I touched base with him about a manuscript I was working on about my relationship to the LGBTQ community and my own faith. John immediately took me under his wing and helped me organize my thoughts into a coherent format. When I completed Tarnished Haloes, Open Hearts, John, who was the executive director of Baptists Today, an independent news publication, shared with me that Baptist Today was establishing its own publication company. WOW! My son, Alan, and his partner, Timothy, helped fund my initial publication, and the rest is history. This past spring Nurturing Faith published my fifth book, Trailblazer, Part Two. Trailblazer, Part Three is in the final editing stage this summer.
Despite the disappearance of the SBC of my childhood, I have found alternatives that allow me to be authentic in my spiritual journey in a climate of honesty and humility.
To find out more about: