I’m aware that a purist might find my use of “irony” inappropriate, but that’s the word that stood up and danced around in my head when I saw that Lottie Moon’s home church now has a female pastor.
Lottie Moon was many things — not only a pioneering missionary in China, but also a pioneering missionary woman in ministry. Appointing single women to mission service was controversial in 1873, and it may have helped that Lottie’s sister Edmonia and her husband were also missionaries there. Lottie was relegated to teaching children or doing “woman’s work” at first, and not allowed to evangelize, but she waged a determined campaign and finally convinced mission leaders that women could best reach Chinese women — something she worked at tirelessly for the rest of her life.
When Lottie moved into the interior to evangelize in the city of Pingtu, she was doing pioneer work. A few years back I read that one of the churches that resulted from her work there was served by a woman pastor. Now we learn that Lottie’s home church, Scottsville Baptist in Charlottesville, Va., has recently called Katie McKown, who identifies with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, as its pastor. The SBC’s Baptist Faith and Message Statement, as revised in 2000, says “the office of pastor is limited to men …”
Lottie and the new SBC have made an unusual couple ever since the fundamentalist wing gained control, but they could hardly divorce her, because they knew that if there were a popularity contest between Lottie Moon and the new SBC leadership, she would win hands down. Change the “Lottie Moon Christmas Offering” to something like “Inerrancy to the World!” and it’s going nowhere but down.
I’m sure that McKown is more interested in being a good pastor to her people than in being the focus of media attention because of the particular place she serves, but I couldn’t help noticing — based on the picture included in the ABP article — that she and the young Lottie share at least a small physical resemblance, maybe more if Lottie had smiled.
If McKown also share’s Lottie Moon’s indomitable combination of love for people and persevering grit, she and Scottsville are bound to be going places.
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.