“I sincerely wish Mrs. Moore had repented rather than left. But if she refuses to repent, I am glad she is gone from the S.B.C. Sadly, leaving the S.B.C. won’t fix what is wrong with Beth Moore.” (Tom Buck, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Lindale, Texas)
Perhaps you haven’t heard. The most prominent woman in the Southern Baptist Convention, a beloved Bible study teacher and best-selling author, has severed ties with the denomination, citing the “staggering” sense of “disorientation” she experienced in the denomination leaders’ worship of Donald Trump and the cultural and moral fallout in its wake. “There comes a time,” Moore said, “when you have to say, this is not who I am….”
Of course it was Beth Moore. She knows well the impact of how women are sidelined and disregarded in the rigid, hierarchical, male-dominant SBC. That personal experience of marginalization inevitably lends itself to a Damascus Road awakening. Across history, it has always been the marginalized who have been quickest to see the light—including those marginalized by gender. Who were the first to believe in Jesus’s resurrection? Women! After encountering an angel at the empty tomb, they ran to tell the disciples the good news—Jesus was no longer dead! What were they met with? Disbelief! Because, to those men, “their words seemed to them like nonsense” (NIV Luke 24:11). Even after the eleven other disciples had encountered the resurrected Jesus, Thomas, who had not been with them, famously said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (NIV John 20:25).
Mr. Buck wants Beth Moore to repent for the sin of—what? Speaking her conscience? Clearly, what Buck desperately needs is to sit at her feet and under her teaching, as so many Southern Baptist women have done. Buck speaks from a position of power—he’s using that power to try to silence Beth Moore. But in scripture, it is not the powerful but the powerless who carry God’s message and fulfill God’s mission—from shepherd boys to fishermen to—yes—women!
What’s wrong with Beth Moore is that she’s right. It is her moral clarity that has left the SBC leadership literally quaking in its boots. Yes, these are the same Southern Baptists who, after splitting from the Northern Baptists in 1845, went on to support slavery until Emancipation, resist Reconstruction, and provide religious-sounding sustenance to systemic racism from the Jim Crow era to this day. No wonder their leadership would seek to crush Beth Moore’s moral conscience.
In the past, how did Southern white men respond to challenges by African Americans to their hegemonic power? Volumes of southern history yield an unequivocal answer: the ultimate tool used to keep Black Americans down was violence. Consider this uncomfortable fact: between the 1865 (the end of the Civil War) and 1950, nearly 6,500 Black Americans were lynched—often because they had dared to stake a claim that they were equal to Whites. Evangelical preachers often fomented the violence. Now, Mr. Buck uses verbal violence to try to keep Beth Moore down.
Yet, as Ruth Graham’s reporting in the Wednesday New York Times shows, Mr. Buck’s efforts, and those of other patriarchal Evangelical leaders, are doomed. Moore is just one of several prominent Evangelical women who have left the fold.
More are sure to follow.