Monday, September 28, 2009

Baptist Women in Ministry: A Journey Unfinished

Last month conservative-turning-moderate Southern Baptist Wade Burleson, pastor in Oklahoma, spoke of his newfound acceptance of women as full partners in ministry. This month, the moderate-turning-conservative Baptist General Convention of Texas retreated from open organizational support of women as full partners in ministry. Meanwhile, a Barna survey indicates that 10% of churches in the United States now have women senior pastors.

While the number of senior women pastors in Baptist churches is far fewer than in many other denominations, the numbers are growing.

Baptist Women in Ministry (BWIM), founded in 1983 "to be change-agents… to empower women to hear God’s call and to have the courage to respond… to bless the ministries of all women… to encourage churches to enter into dialogue and to listen for the discerning voice of God who calls both men and women," serves as a regional, southern barometer for Baptist women in ministry. (Many American Baptist congregations have long accepted women in ministry.)

Earlier this year, BWIM hired Pamela Durso as its first full-time director in six years. BWIM is in better financial and organizational shape than ever, at a time when the numbers of Baptist women in ministry in the South are steadily growing, with the exception of Texas. Whereas Texas Baptists in the past have stood at the forefront of some Baptist trends - including early resistance to fundamentalism in the 1980s and 1990s - prophetic voices in Texas Baptist life in recent years have been increasingly muted by ascendant fundamentalists and internal controversies within the BGCT. Church historian Rosalie Beck suggests that full support of women in ministry has been historically sacrificed in order to broker peace among Texas Baptists, who as a whole lean more to the right than left (moderate Texas Baptists tend to be more conservative than moderate Baptists in other states).

At this point in the modern saga of Baptists in the South, it is quite apparent that even moderate Baptist statewide organizations (whether traditional conventions or more recently-formed state CBF organizations), grappling with a wide diversity of views among the local congregations from whence their support comes, are not in a position to fully exercise the freedom of conscience that is the historical hallmark of Baptists. While an inherent conservative bias in Texas Baptist life disallows full support of women in ministry, emotional attachments to SBC mission agencies on the part of many older members of openly moderate congregations prevent many churches in the southeastern states from aligning solely with CBF. In addition, the modern Baptist confusion over the historical Baptist positions of full religious liberty and separation of church and state poses an ongoing challenge. In short, traditional and moderate state Baptist organizations are often pushed or pulled down a path of political and/or pragmatic reality that results in incremental changes, or in some cases little change at all.

The sometimes-slow change taking place at the state level means that specific advocacy-focused moderate, independent Baptist organizations, such as Baptist Women in Ministry, are vital to the shaping of contemporary Baptist thought and life.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Update on Christian Capitalists

Religion Dispatches offers a first hand account of the recent Tea Party protest (dubbed the 9/12 Coalition) in Washington D.C., organized by health insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry, and the Freedom Federation (see below for a longer list of sponsoring corporations and organizations), a consortium of Religious Right organizations that advocates for limited government, free enterprise, and free markets (no word on how these agendas fit in the Gospels).

More on the Freedom Federation, founded this summer in opposition to President Obama and Health Care Reform:

Among the groups represented are the American Association of Christian Counselors, the American Family Association, Catholic Online, Family Research Council, High Impact Leadership Coalition, Strang Communications, Traditional Values Coalition, Teen Mania, and Vision America. (see recent Christianity Today story)

Vision America (a theocratic-leaning organization) gushes about the Freedom Federation. Note Southern Baptist involvement.

Another article about the Freedom Federation.

And here is the website of Freedom Federation, which was initially envisioned by Liberty University's Liberty Counsel, a theocratic-leaning organization.

Supporting corporations and organizations of the 9/12 Tea Party protest (source is Veterans Today, which has a rather strong article against 9/12; also, visit the the 9/12 Coalition site):

* AETNA (Insurance)
* AFIPAC (American Family Insurance)
* Alexis de Tocqueville Institution
* Allied Pilots Association (pilots union which includes many VT supporters)
* American Association of Health Plans (Insurance)
* American Association of Political Consultants
* American Conservative Union
* Americans for Hope, Growth & Opportunity
* American Policy Center
* American Public Philosophy Institute
* The American Spectator
* Australian Barley Board (Australian govt's "beer lobby")
* Black America's Political Action Committee
* Blackwell Corporation (Finance/Stocks/Insurance)
* Bruce W. Eberle & Associates (Republican fundraiser)
* Business Mail Express ("direct mailer")
* Campaign Solutions
* Canadian MG Lewis MacKenzie (Ret.)
* CapitolWatch
* The Carmen Group (healthcare lobbyists)
* Carrying Capacity Network
* Center for Individual Freedom
* CIGNA (insurance_
* Citizens for State Power
* Citizens United
* Club for Growth
* Collegiate Network[1]
* Conservative Political Action Conference
* Ann Coulter
* Crown Publishing (Coulter's publisher)
* Davis, Manafort & Freedman, Inc. (very dirty lottery lobby firm)
* The Honorable Pete DuPont
* Employee Benefits Associates (insurance)
* Energy Freedom Alliance (oil lobby group tied to Tom Delay)
* Federalist Society
* Flickers Films
* Free Enterprise Fund
* Free Speech Coalition
* Freedom Alliance
* Foley & Lardner (lawfirm for the Coors family and the Heritage Foundation)
* Forbes for President 2000
* The Galen Institute
* The Hawthorn Group
* Heritage Foundation
* Institute for Legal Reform
* Institute for Policy Innovation
* Institute for Socio-Economic Studies
* The Keene Report
* Law Enforcement Alliance of America
* The Limited
* The Manhattan Institute
* McDonnell Douglas (defense contractor)
* McGuire/Woods Consulting, LLC.
* National Audit Defense Network
* National Center for Policy Analysis
* National Farmers Federation of Australia
* National Rifle Association
* National Rifle Association-ILA
* National Taxpayers Union
* News World Communications
* Nuclear Energy Institute (producers of depleted uranium)
* The O'Leary/Kamber Report
* Playcare Incorporated
* PM Consulting Corporation
* Prima Publishing
* Progress & Freedom Foundation
* Prudential (insurance)
* Public Safety Systems
* Republican Majority Coalition
* Republican National Committee
* Natan Sharansky (pro-Russian Israeli activist)
* Small Business Survival Committee
* Southeastern Legal Foundation
* Starboard Response
* Stevens & Schriefer
* United Seniors Association
* University of Phoenix
* USA Weekend
* U.S. Chamber of Commerce (anti-union/pro-illegal immigration org)
* U.S. English
* Washington Times Foundation
* Westinghouse Corporation
* The Winston Group
* WND Books

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Religious Right Becomes Anti-Life, Pro-Death

In recent months, the Religious Right has been in a funk. With hero George W. Bush out of office and a popular Democratic president in office who has the support of many Christians, Focus on the Family was forced to lay off much of its work force.

But salvation has arrived from an unexpected quarter: the Religious Right, according to the Washington Post, has found a new cause - opposition to Health Care Reform.

Once an advocate of so-called "pro-life" policies (more properly, "anti-abortion" policies), the Religious Right is now openly defending insurance companies in a battle against political reforms that would extend medical care and a lifeline to the tens of millions who, for lack of money, endure pain and suffering while facing the ever-present prospect of financial ruin and even death, simply because they cannot afford exorbitant insurance policies, or, in the case of the insured, have no assurance that their insurance company will pay for critical, life-saving treatments and medications.

While it is true that the Religious Right has long advocated for Republican "trickle-down" tax policies that favor the wealthy over the poor, now these religious crusaders have seemingly come out of the closet altogether in championing corporate America and advocating anti-life, pro-death policies.

Why? Because the prospect of government intervening to save the lives of sick and dying citizens is ... well ... ungodly, according to the Religious Right. Only the Church has a right to take care of those persons who cannot afford medical care, after all (not that it will). Unless, of course, the subject is persons-not-yet ... then it is the government's duty to protect sperm and egg, even at the risk of maiming and killing living human beings.

Anyway ... Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention (see Washington Post link) seems quite happy about the new anti-life, pro-death stance of the Religious Right: "Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and Henry Waxman have done more to energize Christian conservatives than any conservative leader could have done with this health-care package," said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. "I, who never believed that we were dead, did not believe that it would happen this quickly."

How many millions will suffer, and how many thousands needlessly die, in order to fulfill the Religious Right vision of a nation that values corporate profits over human life?