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.

13 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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  7. 1 Timothy 2:12King James Version (KJV)

    12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

    So yet the bible is against women voting (1st wave feminism)

    Don’t be lukewarm

    Also you’re friend is a reprobate (Jeremiah 6:30,Romans 1:18-32) and can’t believe (therefore cant be saved)

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