Baptist ministers mull latest statement of faith

June 11, 1998|By BRENDAN KIRBY

A day after the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a statement of faith that says women should "submit graciously" to their husbands, Tri-State area ministers tried to decide what it means for their congregations.

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Meeting in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, the Southern Baptists approved the 18th Article of The Baptist Faith and Message, the first update of their statement of beliefs in 35 years.

It contains statements about the proper role of women in marriages, including: "A wife is to submit graciously to the servant leadership of her husband, even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ."

A husband's role is to provide for, protect and lead the family, according to the article, which states that although husband and wife have different roles, both are equal before God.


The Rev. Allen Youngbar, pastor of the Smithsburg Valley Baptist Church, said much of the controversy springing from that statement is the result of misunderstanding.

"That is a good statement, if you understand the terms," he said. "That term 'submit' always gets a rise out of the ladies It's terms, buzzwords, that get people to react."

Youngbar said he usually avoids words like "submissive" when preaching about the concepts because of the baggage they carry.

Like other area Baptist ministers, he said submission is not the same as enslavement. And the "servant leadership" of the husband means the man is subservient to his family, Youngbar said.

The Rev. Richard Gross, pastor of the Virginia Avenue Baptist Church, said the Bible calls for men to love their families as Jesus loves his people and to provide for their wives' every need.

"That's a sacrificial love That's an awesome responsibility," Gross said. "Women see this text and say God's being hard on the woman. I think God's being hard on the man."

Tri-State area women's groups expressed disappointment with the position.

"That's not the way I see marriage. I see it more as an equal partnership," said Deborah "Dee" DeVore, president of the Washington County chapter of the National Organization for Women.

Beverly Kipe, past president of NOW, said she was raised in a religious environment similar to that of the Southern Baptists and sees potential for abusers to justify their aggression with such statements.

"Those are some really scary statements. Unfortunately, they are some of the sentiments that fill up our domestic abuse shelters," she said. "Women should expect equality in every aspect, and that includes the home. Without full equality in the home, we can't expect to have it in our careers."

Several Baptist leaders said equal does not mean identical.

The Rev. Jimmie Knox, pastor of the Chambersburg Baptist Church, said men and women are equal partners but play separate roles.

"That does not mean that husbands are domineering," he said. "The problem arises, mostly, because husbands do not accept (their) role."

The delegates to the convention on Tuesday rejected an amendment that called for mutual submission.

Youngbar speculated the amendment was voted down because conservatives did not want to concede to more liberal members.

"A lot of this is political," said Youngbar, who said he considers himself conservative. "There should not even be sides."

Youngbar said the biblical concept requires mutual respect between the husband and wife.

But DeVore said that meaning does not come across.

"It certainly isn't clear in the statement they make," she said.

The Rev. Johnny Kelly, pastor of Westview Baptist Church in Martinsburg, W.Va., said worshipers ultimately must find their own way. He said the Baptist Faith and Message is not binding.

"It's a guideline. It's not something that's rammed down our throats," he said.

Charline Cameron, a member of Free Will Baptist Church in Inwood, W.Va., said she feels submissive to her husband and views him as the head of the household.

"That doesn't mean we're not equal partners. Decision-making and financial decisions, we work out together," she said.

Cameron said she does not feel oppressed when, for instance, she has a glass of iced tea waiting for her husband each day when he comes home.

"It's not done out of duty. It's not because I have to," she said. "I do it because I want to. I love him."

related story: Area ministers say 'amen' to Baptist message

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