According to a recent ABP article, Southern Baptist Seminary president Al Mohler told students during a Sept. 14 chapel service that he is embarrassed by a belief he held about a quarter-century ago: that women could serve in pastoral ministry.

He pointed to a resolution, passed by the Southern Baptist Convention in 1984, that asserted only men can be pastors. Mohler said he went along with those who found the statement to be lacking and even offensive.

His “insouciance of youth” and the opinions of other seminarians at the time were responsible for Mohler’s position, he said. Plus, as he noted, there was no Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood — an organization he now hosts on the seminary campus — to clarify gender roles.

Of course, his going-along-with-the-crowd defense is a bit odd since, at that time, there were so few ordained female Southern Baptist ministers and the overwhelming majority of SBC messengers heartily approved the resolution.

The resolution, those of us in attendance well remember, was primarily about ordination. That was the big concern of the Big Baptist Brothers at the time: that women were being “ordained” as ministers and deacons by autonomous Baptist congregations over which they had no control. (Note: They like control.)

The resolution most famously scapegoated Eve, by stating that women cannot fill the same leadership roles as men because she took the first bite of the forbidden fruit. A concoction of Pauline texts was used to make the point that women suffered more than men due to “the Edenic fall.” (Paul’s words to Romans (5:12) that “sin came into the world through one man” were omitted.)

As with all documents that men use to put women in their rightful place, this resolution patronizingly affirmed the “equal dignity of men and women.” But as Oregon State professor and researcher on Southern Baptist women, Susan Shaw, asked in an interview I did with her a couple of years ago: How do you claim equality when the positions of power are all occupied by men?

It is interesting that my embarrassment over past attitudes and actions stem from being too exclusive. Yet this Southern Baptist leader is red-faced over once being open to the possibility that God could call women to pastoral ministry.

But, then, that was the opinion of so many around him, he said. So I guess Al got duped.

Or did Southern Baptists?

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