Guest column by Doug Jackson, D.Min.
Doug Jackson was a pastor for twenty-five years and is now an Assistant Professor of Spiritual Formation and Director of Logsdon Seminary Programming at the South Texas School of Christian Studies in Corpus Christi. He holds a Master of Divinity degree from Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth and a Doctorate of Ministry from Truett Seminary in Waco. Doug teaches a variety of classes including pastoral ministry, spiritual formation, and Greek. He is married to Becky who serves as the minister of music at Wesley United Methodist Church and is pursuing her Master of Divinity degree through Logsdon Seminary. Doug and Becky have two sons. Jay Don who lives in Houston with his wife, Madeline, and Landry who lives in Corpus Christi.
Albert Mohler of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is embarrassed by his past advocacy of women in ministry. He can’t say he wasn’t warned.
Mohler recently admitted that he once expatiated to fundamentalist icon Carl F. Henry on the glorious struggle to allow women to have to deal with deacons and church business meetings. “He looked at me with a look that surprised me,” the abashed Mohler now recalls, “and he simply said to me, ‘One day this will be a matter of great embarrassment to you.’”
Well, Dr. Mohler shouldn’t feel bad. Which is good, because he doesn’t. He tosses the blame like a live hand grenade to the faculty who infested Southern back in those days. The callow youth simply imbibed the received wisdom of his seminary, a pervasive and unexamined mindset, which seeped into his unsuspecting heart and mind. “The professors whom thou gavest to be with me, they gave me of the tree of women in ministry, and I did eat.”
I don’t want to defend women in ministry. I want to defend something else: embarrassment. I don’t have to imagine what it will be like for Dr. Mohler to answer to God for embarrassing doctrinal mistakes. I don’t have to do that second-hand.
Let’s imagine it’s me. What I imbibed in my seminary days was that the only reason a woman ever had to enter the pulpit was to dust it. I have since changed my views, and assuming Dr. Mohler is right (right this time, you understand; right now about being wrong before), I will one day have to explain myself to Someone who actually has more power than the SBC cabal think they have. What might I say?
“Lord, you’ve got me bang to rights. I said women could be pastors when all along it turns out you said they couldn’t. In my defense, you dropped a lot of red herrings: female prophets leading armies and pronouncing on canon and recognizing the infant Jesus; Philip’s daughters being prophetesses; Paul saying women could prophesy if they slapped on a Rangers cap. No, Sir, I’m not trying to blame you. Yes, Sir, I know—it didn’t work for Adam and I’m not likely to get away with it either. I’ll man up. (I assume, under the circumstances, that phrase is acceptable?)
“Anyway, I’ve got nothing here. But, just in case it’s any mitigation let’s look at what I’m embarrassed about. I’m embarrassed because I over-stressed your inclusiveness, but for cryin’ out loud! I mean, you start off deciding to save human beings instead of nuking us as we deserve. Then you show us that you’re so crazy to embrace the whole sinful world that you send your own Son to make it possible. And then, I mean, c’mon! Jesus heals Gentiles and commends the faith of members of the occupying army and heals the daughter of a descendant of Jezebel—what was I supposed to think? And then Paul (and I have to say, Sir, I hope you give him a good talking to after you’re through with me) shovels in the uncircumcised and slaves and says everyone should eat at the same table and eat pork while they’re at it. I swear so-help-me-You, I realize I went a little nuts, but it was only because it looked as if you’d gone completely nuts.
“And then I got to reading the Gospels thinking that maybe Jesus did more than make sure we were okay after we died. (I am still okay, aren’t I, Sir?) Anyway, it occurred to me that maybe Jesus came to give us a life, right here and now. So I started reading the Gospels that way and wow! Here was this Kingdom, this world that I suddenly yearned to live in, and I saw that he kept attracting heat for letting the wrong sort get their hands stamped—and a lot of them were women, you know. In fact, the first ones to carry the message of the full gospel, with the final act of resurrection in place, were women. I was sort of asking, you know, WWYD, ‘What Would You Do?’ and it looked like being too inclusive was a pretty good thing to get crucified for.
“So I rolled the dice. And it wasn’t in the Apostles’ Creed or the Four Spiritual Laws or anywhere like that. It was in one version of the Baptist Faith and Message, I admit, but . . . what’s that? Didn’t read it? Well, I’m sure it’s on Google when you have the time . . . or the eternity, or whatever.
“So anyway, there you have it. I plead guilty. They told me this would be an embarrassment to me and it is. What’s that? Why yes, I’ve read Galatians. Some of your better work, if I may say so. Chapter 5, verse 11? ‘And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offense of the cross ceased.’ What? Greek? ‘Offense’? Yes, the Greek word is σκανδαλον. Did you know we get the English word ‘scandal’ from that? Oh, you saw ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding,’ huh?
“What, now? Oh, I see: the cross ‘offended’ people because of its inclusiveness. Paul means he took such physical and intellectual and political poundings because he tried too hard to let too many people in? And . . . you mean, that’s sort of what I did? Even if I went too far and got it wrong? So that instead of being an ‘embarrassment’ my position toward women in ministry was a ‘scandal’?
“Now, you’re going to have to repeat that last part. You know – the way you keep doing in Deuteronomy. You are more pleased by my scandals than my successes? If I didn’t exceed the boundaries sometimes, I’d never get close enough to them to fill up the measure of grace. Plus, since I was massively, gloriously, completely wrong, I can’t get proud about the fact that my conduct brought you joy.
“Well, that’s a load off my soul. So, I’ll just be going now, shall I? What’s that? My record as a husband? Well, if we have to . . .”