Jimmy Carter leaves the Southern Baptist Convention after 60 years

Jimmy Carter leaves the Southern Baptist Convention after 60 years

Jimmy Carter leaves SBC church

Jimmy Carter writes “Losing my religion for equality

I HAVE been a practising Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world. So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention’s leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be “subservient” to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.

With these words, Jimmy Carter sent shockwaves through the SBC.  While one may wonder what took him so long (60 years is a very long time), it appears that his steadfast trust that the leadership leadership would finally do what is right towards their sisters in Christ came to an end.  Carter continues:

This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women’s equal rights across the world for centuries.

At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.

Carter explains the worldly system that discrimates against females in every area of their lives:

The impact of these religious beliefs touches every aspect of our lives. They help explain why in many countries boys are educated before girls; why girls are told when and whom they must marry; and why many face enormous and unacceptable risks in pregnancy and childbirth because their basic health needs are not met.

In some Islamic nations, women are restricted in their movements, punished for permitting the exposure of an arm or ankle, deprived of education, prohibited from driving a car or competing with men for a job. If a woman is raped, she is often most severely punished as the guilty party in the crime.

The same discriminatory thinking lies behind the continuing gender gap in pay and why there are still so few women in office in the West. The root of this prejudice lies deep in our histories, but its impact is felt every day. It is not women and girls alone who suffer. It damages all of us. The evidence shows that investing in women and girls delivers major benefits for society. An educated woman has healthier children. She is more likely to send them to school. She earns more and invests what she earns in her family.

Carter then deals with why so many refuse to do anything about this discrimination:

It is simply self-defeating for any community to discriminate against half its population. We need to challenge these self-serving and outdated attitudes and practices – as we are seeing in Iran where women are at the forefront of the battle for democracy and freedom.

I understand, however, why many political leaders can be reluctant about stepping into this minefield. Religion, and tradition, are powerful and sensitive areas to challenge. But my fellow Elders and I, who come from many faiths and backgrounds, no longer need to worry about winning votes or avoiding controversy – and we are deeply committed to challenging injustice wherever we see it.

Carter steps beyond just his own denomination to challenge all religions to give dignity and equality to women:

The Elders are an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by former South African president Nelson Mandela, who offer their influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity. We have decided to draw particular attention to the responsibility of religious and traditional leaders in ensuring equality and human rights and have recently published a statement that declares: “The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable.”

We are calling on all leaders to challenge and change the harmful teachings and practices, no matter how ingrained, which justify discrimination against women. We ask, in particular, that leaders of all religions have the courage to acknowledge and emphasise the positive messages of dignity and equality that all the world’s major faiths share.

Carter ends with a challenge for Christian leaders to exalt women instead of subjugate them.

The carefully selected verses found in the Holy Scriptures to justify the superiority of men owe more to time and place – and the determination of male leaders to hold onto their influence – than eternal truths. Similar biblical excerpts could be found to support the approval of slavery and the timid acquiescence to oppressive rulers.

I am also familiar with vivid descriptions in the same Scriptures in which women are revered as pre-eminent leaders. During the years of the early Christian church women served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, teachers and prophets. It wasn’t until the fourth century that dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted Holy Scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant positions within the religious hierarchy.

The truth is that male religious leaders have had – and still have – an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions – all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.


Jimmy Carter was president of the United States from 1977 to 1981.

10 thoughts on “Jimmy Carter leaves the Southern Baptist Convention after 60 years

  1. I actually agree with Carter and “the Elders” on this. I think it is most dispicible to use God as a reason to justify demeaning women.

    It is taking God’s amazing name in vain and dragging it through the mud of human sin.

    I wish more folks would leave their churches because of this, then leaders would know that this is an important ethical issue. instead, we put up with it hoping things will change. If we would just vote with our feet, things would change. I believe there are way more who oppose the subordination of women who are in the church today and are silent.

    I wonder what would happen if we had the courage to walk out or resign like Jimmy.

    The problem is… many churches, especially those who seek to reach younger generations, do not advertise their real views. if you look on their websites, they are silent. many become connected before they ever know the churches position on women. This silence is, i believe a secret shame.

  2. I would invite all women to ask questions and find out where they church is and take action.

  3. To me all these distinctions between men and women are silly. Of course, Carter is right. I personally do not have a problem of having a pastor who is either male or female. Nor do I mind learning from one who is male or female.

    I look at a person and not their gender, for learning purposes, for teaching, for being mentored or someone being in a leadership. But again in Christ there is no leadership. The elders are to be servants. We are all truly one in Christ. All in different stages of maturity, all growing and striving in faith to be one in Christ.

  4. NPR > Baptist Leaders Face Challenge On Women’s Roles.
    But Wade Burleson, pastor of a Southern Baptist megachurch in Enid, Okla., says the leaders got it wrong.

    “You are badly misinterpreting the word of God, and the consequences of your misinterpretation are enormous,” Burleson says.

    Burleson says Jesus treated women as equals, and if Southern Baptists ignore his example, the denomination will shrivel. Burleson believes there’s a quiet underground movement within the convention to rethink women’s roles.

  5. Excellent comments and thanks Thy Peace for the link. I really appreciate the brave pastors of the SBC, like Wade Burleson, who are willing to be persecuted for standing up for women.

  6. I have always had a high regard for Jimmy Carter and the genuiness of his Christian faith, even though on some points of Christian doctrine and ethics I am more conservative than he is. And I think we all agree with him that too many male religious leaders have twisted the Scriptures and made them a club to beat women down and keep them from full partnership in Christian ministry and leadership, which we know is part of the inheritance rights of all who are heirs of Abraham and co-heirs with Christ (cf. Gal. 3:26-4:7). I hope and pray that God may shake up the Church as a whole and cause it to rethink how has treated women.

    But as someone who grew up in a fundamentalist Baptist church, and who tries to keep in touch with what’s going on in the complementarian camp by reading World Magazine, I must sadly tell you that, so far, the reaction by non-egalitarians that I have seen has been a negative one. For example, Cal Thomas wrote a piece for World where, after criticizing the Episcopal Church for its liberal beliefs and practices, then criticized Carter as a liberal who walked away when the Church taught and applied the Scripture against his own pet views, adding a comment on Carter’s apparent ignorance of “mutual submission” being taught in Scripture. I wanted to yell out to Thomas, “Cal, that’s the whole problem! The American Protestant Church, as a whole, does not teach or practice the mutual submission of Scripture.” It appears that Carter is not being heard as one crying out against injustice and oppression, but as a disgruntled liberal. So whatever else may happen, it seems to me the only thing we egalitarians can do is speak and do the truth in love, hoping to win people over to the truth as it is in Jesus.

  7. I’m afraid the step-ford wife movement is coming soon… (read some prophecy awhile ago…)

    Not a whole lot can irk me more than the thought of a human being living as a robot having lost their own personhood that was made in God’s image…

    As long as the debate continues the way it’s going… women will continue to become free but others are going to “lose themselves”… and so I suspect there is going to be “strange” negative reaction in the future by non-egals.

    CBMW this last year came out with an article saying that male headship will exist in heaven which is kin to beliefs about women in Mormonism. Perhaps the stage is being set… I’m curious how the debate issue is going to play out within the years to come.

    I’m so glad I am not part of organized religion and it’s trappings…

  8. The issue of male “headship” in heaven is just the fruit of this movement that has to make the male as eternally superior in every way. Paul says in 1 Corinthians that we are going to judge angels, showing our equality in male/female serving Christ and ruling with him, but they want to make the man the boss. Boy are some of them going to be surprised in heaven. Those who seek the best seats may be last.

  9. I think many conservative denominations view gender roles in ministry as a settled argument, and that is why you don’t see people leaving. Feminism really never had much impact on conservative denominations and even older, more conservative, protestant congregations. The women there didn’t feel downtrodden because they accepted and were quite comfortable with male leadership. Frankly, most women didn’t want the job. Why leave when you are perfectly happy with the way things are?

    I see that in both the chruches my grandparents attended and the evangelical churches I have attended since becoming married. For the most part, the women are perfectly happy with the way things are. Of course, for the most part, the men don’t lord it over the women. As I have said many times, these people often operate in a very egalitarian manner even if they are operating within a complimentarian structure.

  10. gengwall,
    I think that for the most part you are very right. The thing that makes it more of an issue today is that many churches (leaders) are becoming more interested in power and control. And whenever the sheep are abused and people are stifled so that they cannot function in their gifts, they will either fight the system or leave.

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