Baptist Feminist, Is that possible?

I call myself an accidental Baptist. I joke that I want a teacher that says “Not that kind of Baptist.” I assure people that my church is “Baptist, but doesn’t function that way” I have all sorts of coping mechanisms to explain my denomination away. But today I am sure that God is calling me into the tension of it.

Prior to Atlanta I had always been a part of a denomination that (aside from some “extremely churched” people) no one knew anything about or had opinions on (Disciples of Christ as my growing-up church, Christian Missionary Alliance in College.) But now, I am a Baptist, and Southern Baptist, and for better of for worse, people have opinions about the Southern Baptists. They seem to know more about it.

I know the reason I explain it all away, brush over it, joke. I am not totally comfortable with the label either. How can I be both a feminist and a Baptist? In the past I have been quiet or jokey with one side while I was with the people of the other. Coming out as a feminist at a  church marriage seminar once I was told I couldn’t be I didn’t hate men. About two weeks into our car-pool relationship, my lesbian friend referred to me as “not-evangelical” because I hadn’t yet told her to “turn or burn” and I wasn’t really planning on it.

I feel like a poser in either circle, like at any minute someone is going to question my credentials, kick me out. Sometimes at church I wonder if people role their eyes, “there she goes, you’ll have to forgive her, she is a feminist after all.” Sometimes in especially academic circles I wonder if they too are rolling their eyes. “Can she really  be a feminist; she tithes to a church without a single female elder, to a denomination that will not ordain women.” I wonder if I am truly welcome in either place, even though both places have always welcomed me. What if you really knew me, I wonder, would you still value what I have to say?

I am aware of the accusations made about people who read the Bible and come away with an egalitarian view. I used to wield those swords myself, and oh how I am repentant of those swipes. The Lord calls the body to unity, and there is nothing grace-filled about dismissing someone’s honest and struggled-to conclusion of scripture as simple, easy or conveniently cultural. Just because you and I have come to different conclusions about biblical interpretation does not mean that one of us is unwilling to trust or believe in the sanctity and inerrancy of God’s word.

I have avoided this conversation because it is controversial. I have let women like Sarah Bessey and Rachel Held Evans handle it because they are better writers and have a larger following. I can just quietly sit on the sidelines and nod my head. Nice work ladies. Mostly, I have avoided speaking up out of fear.

I am afraid of being rejected by everyone, and then where would I be? Whose tribe could I claim? It is hard enough to walk in the tension of my own heart. How am I supposed to walk this tension out on the internet for the whole world to read? I have more than once questioned the wisdom of raising two daughters in a church that will only affirm them to a point. But my church is my family, and they love Jesus desperately. Even when we disagree on what the Bible says about women, I can see the Spirit moving in their lives. They want to be Jesus Lovers too.

It is time I stop dancing around who I am. I am a Baptist, I signed the papers, dedicated my babies, and give regularly to a Southern Baptist Church. This is where the Lord has called me. And I am a feminist. I believe that God created man and woman, in His image He created them. Equally. And I have come, by a pretty serious and prayerful search, to the conclusion that this is the view the Bible supports.

I am not always sure whether you can be both at the same time. But I suppose Jesus was a proponent of the paradox.

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12 thoughts on “Baptist Feminist, Is that possible?

  1. Well said. For what it’s worth, I have some of those same struggles at my C&MA church, but it’s where God’s called me and I love the people. You’re making a difference there, even if you can’t see it 🙂

    • I am struggling with, is that my job, to make a difference in that way? But it is helpful for me to know that I am not the only one living in this tension.

  2. if there were social margins of between ‘this’ and ‘that,’ in Jesus’ times (which I think there were), Jesus lived there. You challenge me all the time to think outside the box and, more importantly, to look at Jesus. You rock.

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  5. I googled “baptist feminist” and your post was the first one to come up. Why am I googling that phrase? Because I am now being called to live in the tension, too, and I needed that to be affirmed by other Southern Baptist Feminists. I grew up in the SBC, but I intentionally walked away and became non-denominational for 13 years. My husband and I just made the decision to join an SBC in our area, and to raise our daughters in this denomination. And it terrifies me. I do not want them to have to struggle and overcome so many facets of their religious upbringing the way I did. But, I am confident that God’s will is for the SBC to be redeemed, not to be abandoned by all forward-thinking, educated, and Jesus-loving women. So, thank you for your post. A year later it is still reaching people!

    • I also googled baptist feminist and this came up first. All my life I’ve grown up southern baptist and I am now in my senior year of college and my views about the world are decidedly different than what they were. I was hoping to find others, and to hope that the being baptist and a feminist are not mutually exclusive.

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