Social media – well, maybe not your social media, but certainly my social media – has seen a lot of chatter this week about recent statements by a male leader in the Southern Baptist Convention questioning the denomination’s commitment to Biblical authority when they allow women to lead in ministry settings.
John McArthur made the remarks at a conference at his California-based church, where they were marking his 50th anniversary in the pulpit. Claiming the SBC had taken a “headlong plunge” toward allowing women preachers, he opined, “When you literally overturn the teaching of Scripture to empower people who want power, you have given up biblical authority,” MacArthur said. Later, when asked to reply quick responses to a few prompts, a prominent female pastor’s name drew the response “Go home.”
His flippant response drew laughs – and a ton of much-deserved criticism. A popular response is to place "I Will Not Go Home" over Facebook profile pictures, an easy way you can show your own support. I’ll let others bicker here over his theology, which I find pitifully laughable, because it shows how out of touch he is with God’s work in the world through all genders leading in ministry roles.
Chalice Press is a fervent believer that we all have a role – an equal role – in how our faith is taught and expressed. Gender has nothing to do with the credentials one brings to a pulpit, to a committee meeting, to denominational leadership, to authoring a book. Just as we are all welcome at God’s table, we are all welcome to have our own opinions and share them accordingly, appropriately.
Of course, pastors have the professional training to express those opinions, and they have earned their places in the pulpits. And we are all better when those professional credentials are in place. That said, there is still immeasurable damage inflicted from the pulpit.
Even those professional credentials shouldn’t give a preacher carte blanche from the pulpit. The only true qualification for the privilege of proclaiming God’s word should be how they answer this question:
Will the message I plan to share encourage listeners to be more loving, more compassionate, more open to hearing the Good News of God’s love for everybody?
If the answer is yes, step right up. If not, sit down and keep working.
No gender qualifications. No racial qualifications. No sexual identity qualifications. None.
Chalice Press holds that value at our core. For almost a decade, Chalice Press has partnered with Young Clergy Women International, whose name identifies the exact audience they represent and encourage. The first book in the series, 2011’s Bless Her Heart: Life As A Young Clergy Woman, by Ashley-Anne Masters and Stacy Smith, described the humorous and humiliating life experiences of young women clergy. Ashley-Anne and Stacy didn’t flinch, either; it’s an engaging, challenging read. (I blush to imagine how Mr. McArthur would respond.) It is a book that commiserates, reflecting the professional and personal challenges of engaging in a job that has two thousand years of gender bias entrenched in nearly everything it does.
Chalice Press’ partnership with Young Clergy Women International is strong and growing stronger; our two most recent releases, When Kids Ask Hard Questionsand Ash and Starlight, are both products of our partnership. More are on the way. We’re proud of our partnership, and we’re proud of the holy work done every second of the day and night by all clergy of all genders who answer an enthusiastic, faithful, “YES” to the challenge above.
Now, I will confess Chalice Press is working to balance the gender of our authors. A review of the authors of our current titles, some of which date back a few decades, indicates about one-third of our authors are female. Over the past eight years, at least 53 women have written or edited our titles, just under half of our author base. (This doesn’t include contributors to collected volumes, which I would estimate to be pretty close to 50/50.) That’s better than many other Christian publishers, but it’s not enough.
Go home? Nope. Get to work. There’s a lot of work to be done.
 McArthur’s five-decade tenure at his congregation has the fingerprints of privilege all over it. You already know he’s male and that he’s got a lot of other experience; I’ll let you make the other privilege-based assumptions on your own.