Monday, March 24, 2014

Petition CBMW for an Apology Along with Me, for the Sake of Liberty and Love

[Technical note: If you're having trouble signing the petition, please try a different browser. The software has some apparent issues, particularly with Firefox.]

The Freedom for Christian Women Coaltion (FreeCWC) recently decided to advance a public petition to demand an apology from the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) for the untold and inestimable harm that their teachings have caused so many. It was first penned by Shirley Taylor in 2010 when she was a young sixty-seven years of age, and little of it has been changed to adapt to the petition format. 

Read Shirley's plea for Christians to sign the petition and her formal announcement of it HERE at bWe Baptist Women for Equality.

At the time of this writing, it bears 115 hopeful signatures, in addition to the signatures first garnered on July 24, 2010. It awaits and welcomes all those who wish to add their voices to the song that cries out for all of Christendom to hear and for the evangelists of complementarianism to heed.

Complementarianism is a neologism created by CBMW to make patriarchy and gender hierarchy more palatable to modern Christians. The CBMW disclaimer mantra states that man and woman are “equal but different” while craftily redefining “different” as very much unequal in privilege, power, and function. Too many listen only to the disclaimer, overwhelmed by sophistry and many words that sound thoughtful but weary the listener into passive confusion. Many would argue that “different” is also redefined as unequal in worth because of the vitreol directed at women through CBMW's ideology and worldview.

Why is there a need for a petition?

I have divided the issues that I have with CBMW's doctrines into categories, and the first concerning their problematic Doctrine of God appears HERE, featuring a more detailed summary. (More posts will follow, one each for men, women, and one for marriage.)

In terms of God, CBMW seems to ambiguously define God as male (instead of a spirit that transcends gender), while demoting Christ to the subordinate of the Father which limits Christ's authority and power. Theologians contend that the teaching constitues a semi-heresy that shares similarities with the Arian Controversies of Old. CBMW also redefines gender as a central doctrine of the Christian Faith, uncharitably demeaning those who do not embrace their views as wicked, idolators, and false teachers while refusing irenic (respectful and productive) dialogue.

Concerning gender itself, Eve, the first woman, is said of CBMW to be responsible for original sin. Lacking legal status as a type of defacto child of Adam, he was held accountable for her sin of failing to fall under his leadership. All women are thus said to be easily deceived, requiring the oversight of a man. Several teach that men act as demi-god/verseer/mediator of women's sanctification – their responsibility as a “spiritual covering” for women/girls in their care. All women are said to be the derivative/indirect image of God because Eve's source material was taken from Adam's body. As a consequence of this shame, demonizing blame, and lesser status in essence and personal autonomy, women become the readily available dehumanized scapegoats who deserve an ill fate. Their status and purpose to be the helpmeets, as well as marriage, exist for all eternity.

The CBMW paradigm also sets up a false dichotomy between men and women, claiming that a woman is her husband's adversary, continually seeking to usurp him. In this paradigm, she is not a husband's helpmeet but a willfull conspirator by her very nature. It is said that when a woman sins by failing to properly and obediently submit to her husband (perhaps despite her conscience to do otherwise), it is understandable if her husband abuses her. She is advised by former CBMW council members to kneel down and take her beating, for her submission will magically witness to her husband and will convert him. Women are warned through ambiguous advice and clarifications that if they do call civil authorities, they risk losing their meal ticket. They will be strongly discouraged from calling the police, and her church will blame her for the problems in the marriage. I have personally witnessed this at work and heard similar advice (given to others) in a very “soft complementarian” church.

I am also still troubled by the numbers of missionaries who were recalled from the mission field and who had to abandon their posts because of the revision of the Baptist Faith and Message statement in 2000, the same year that CBMW's Danvers Statement (core belief statement) was ratified as the gender doctrine for the Southern Baptist Convention. Women were dismissed from their teaching positions, and women were denied the right to minister. Even this past week, we see the continued changes that the complementarian movement has fostered when an Ohio college decided to restrict men from studying under women teachers.

Why issue a demand as opposed to a request?

Some people tend to assume that Christians are supposed to be sweet and pleasant, maintaining the peace at all costs, even if that peace is merely an illusion. Some have stated that the FreeCWC has not been irenic enough in their demand, as if it is improper to make such a demand. Why would I as a Christian agree to sign a document demanding anything?

I do so because of the aggressive resistance of meaningful discussion and academic debate on the part of CBMW. Men who stand in pastoral positions ignore the cries of those who have suffered because of their ideology as it is enforced in churches. If countless pastors have poorly administrated their teachings, addressing this problem should be a matter of grave concern to CBMW. It is not. The problem is denied or laid on other causes – including equality. We have long passed the opportunity to be irenic with the organization. We critics are mocked and shown no respect. A demand seems to offer a fair recourse in the pursuit of justice.

But I'm not an egalitarian.

The petition is not an egalitarian document, though it contends for liberty for all Christian women to follow their convictions about how the Bible and the Spirit direct them to live. It focuses on the dearth of Christian liberty offered by CBMW, particularly for Dispensationalists who reject many of the Calvinist presuppositions that complementarianism demands. It matters little where you fall on the false continuum between egalitarianism and complementarianism that the Evangelical Church has allowed CBMW to establish (I do not even fit on it). The petition addresses the denial of Christian liberty and love to those who reject the extremes of CBMW's teachings. CBMW demonizes those who reject their elitist views, even though their different theologies fall within the pale of orthodoxy.

The petition also addresses the problem of the wide variety of abuse suffered by women as the logical conclusion of the complementarian worldview, resulting from the dehumanization, scapegoating, and demonizing directed at all women. The petition cries out for CBMW to address the harm and the potential for harm that is fostered by their worldview. Sign the petition for the sake of liberty.

What good can a few signatures do?

I've heard some state exasperation over the futility of attempting to demand anything of a group of people who deny that I am a reasonable Christian – who consider me to be a scapegoated woman as well. What good can a meager number of signatures accomplish against somewhere between the 20 to 27 million of people whose houses of worship embrace complementarianism?

I am bound to follow my conscience and what I believe is right to do – to stand in the gap for those who have no voice or cannot find their own. I am determined to stand before God, never to hear that I left Jesus abandoned and broken after the Word of God was used as a club to bludgeon Him for violence done to the least of the brethren. In the spirit of Martin Niemoller's poem, I know that I have a duty to speak up for those who are wounded by the words transformed into a million ill deeds, no matter how unintended any harm may be. I think that one voice and one signature can light the spark that will change the world.

We Christians have a wonderful history of youths with slingshots who faced giants and beasts to realize God's victorious provision through their faith in God and their faithfulness to do what He bid of them. They were cast into dens of lions and firey furnaces and were preserved by God. An army once sent the families of the tribe of Judah out to worship before their enemies' assembled armies, and God caused those enemies to turn on one another and kill themselves. Jesus fed a multitude of five thousand with baskets of food to spare all with the meager five loves of bread and two fish that a young lad freely offered to Him.

Jesus can gladly have my loaves and fishes, no matter how many must be fed.

For the sake of the wounded, the physically abused, 
and the disenfranchised, 
please sign the petition on their behalf.

As you consider whether it will make a real difference, consider this song that keeps softly singing in my heart. Little is much when God is in it.  I hope that you will sign it, in Jesus' Name.

For more information and documentation concerning CBMW's complementarian view, review the embedded links, visit CBMW (starting with their Danvers Statement position on gender), and download Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

For more information and documentation concerning the criticisms of CBMW, just start googling if you cannot find information on this blog or through recommended links (particularly those dealing with domestic abuse and women in ministry). I recommend the following books as introductory ones that will help the reader understand the teachings pertaining to the issues that most concern me personally.