Baptist Press reported that Mike Huckabee said he “stands by” a Southern Baptist statement on wifely submission, but a moderate leader says the former Arkansas governor misrepresented what the statement really says in last Thursday’s GOP presidential debate in Columbia, S.C.
Huckabee was asked about joining 130 evangelical leaders in 1998 to sign a full-page USA Today ad affirming to Southern Baptists that “You are right!” in holding that the Bible teaches that a wife must “submit herself graciously” to her husband’s “servant leadership.”
Huckabee said his belief has nothing to do with being president, but he explained the context like this: “The point, and it comes from a passage of Scripture in the New Testament Book of Ephesians, is that as wives submit themselves to the husbands, the husbands also submit themselves, and it’s not a matter of one being somehow superior over the other. It’s both mutually showing their affection and submission as unto the Lord.”
The Southern Baptist Convention news service reported Friday in a story headlined, “Huckabee affirms Baptist Faith & Message marriage stance.” The writer inferred that Huckabee’s statement about husbands also submitting was “presumably meaning ‘to Christ.'”
But Bruce Prescott, executive director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists, saw it differently. “Huckabee Lies About SBC Family Statement,” the headline to his Thursday blog stated.
“Huckabee can’t have it both ways,” Prescott wrote. “He can’t endorse the the 1998 family statement and the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message and then endorse the egalitarian interpretation of Ephesians 5–an interpretation that the family statement was written to deny.”
Prescott called the SBC family article a “patriarchal and sexist” statement that “is well outside the mainstream–even for Baptists.”
Prescott said that appearing before a national television audience, Huckabee “gives the impression that he is offering a vigorous defense of the SBC’s family statement,” but the explanation the candidate gave is closer to the views of moderates who opposed the submission phrase than the fundamentalist committee that wrote it.
Prescott said mainstream Baptists believe that husbands and wives relate as equals within the family and the Bible speaks of “mutual submission.” That, he said, means give and take, so that under some circumstances wives will submit to their husbands but at other times husbands will submit to wives.
The SBC statement, Prescott said, says the husband is the “boss” or “ruler” of the wife in all circumstances. “Submission is one-sided,” he wrote. “There is no admonition for husbands to be ‘submissive’ to their wives–graciously or otherwise–in the SBC’s family statement.”
Prescott said a member of the committee that wrote the statement in 1998 made it clear the intent was for women’s subjugation in a press conference following its adoption. “When it comes to submitting to my husband, even when he is wrong, I just do it,” said Dorothy Patterson, wife of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson. “He is accountable to God.”
Prescott said if Huckabee’s interpretation had prevailed within the SBC, seminary professors would not have been forced from their positions. Prescott said he left as pastor of a church in Houston to become a full-time moderate leader just as many Baptists were protesting the family statement. A number of foreign missionaries resigned or were fired for refusing to endorse the document.
The full paragraph of the statement about husbands and wives reads: “The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God’s image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to His people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation.”
“Yes, it actually said wives should run the house and take care of the kids!” wrote a former professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in April 1999.
“They hope to make June Cleaver the biblical model for motherhood, despite numerous biblical references to women who worked outside the home,” Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics said in a quote reported by the New York Times and cited on NBC’s “Today Show.”
Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, also a member of the committee that drafted the family doctrine, recalled recently that “the priests and priestesses of political correctness, those gurus who take it upon themselves to police what may and may not be said in American society, had a collective fit because the Southern Baptist Convention dared to say that a husband ‘is to love his wife as Christ loved the church’ and a wife ‘is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband, even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ.'”
In a Jan. 9 column in Baptist Press, Land called the article a “very clear statement concerning what the Bible teaches about the family.”
A recent Baptist Press story said Huckabee and other leaders signed the declaration of support for the Baptist Faith and Message because “critics and news media mischaracterized it as misogynist.”
Prescott said Huckabee followed what he calls a “rule of thumb” for fundamentalist preachers.
“If they made their real beliefs clear and explicit, fewer of them would succeed in becoming pastors of our churches–much less the president of our nation,” Prescott said. So they “tell the people what they want to hear–then do what you want when you get the position.”
Prescott said he hears regularly from church members grieved because their pastor lied during his interview before his hiring.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
Managing editor at EthicsDaily.com from 2003-2009, Allen wrote more than 1,500 news stories during his tenure.