Last week, the Washington Post published an article: Southern Baptist leader pushes back after comments leak urging abused women to pray and avoid divorce, based on an audio tape in which Paige Patterson, currently the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a prominent leader in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), urged counseling women to remain in abusive marriages.
Patterson continues to believe that women should endure abuse because, if they stay and suffer, they may be able to help their husbands become better people.
Thousands of Southern Baptist women responded by signing an open letter, expressing their concerns with Patterson's views toward women and marriage.
Christian author Beth Moore realized it was time for her to speak up, too. She wrote a letter to her Christian brothers describing what it has been like for her to be a woman minister and speaker in the male-dominated evangelical world. She wrote, "I’m asking for your increased awareness of some of the skewed attitudes many of your sisters encounter. Many churches quick to teach submission are often slow to point out that women were also among the followers of Christ (Luke 8), that the first recorded word out of His resurrected mouth was 'woman' (John 20:15), and that same woman was the first evangelist."
She continued. "I’m asking that you would simply have no tolerance for misogyny and dismissiveness toward women in your spheres of influence. I’m asking for your deliberate and clearly conveyed influence toward the imitation of Christ in His attitude and actions toward women."
In a September blog post of last year, Divorce Support or Condemnation?, I wrote, "I had not intended to make my mission of exposing Pharisaical behavior in the church toward divorced Christians a gender issue. But, after a conversation with a divorced Christian friend yesterday, my eyes have been opened; I believe it often is."
I mentioned an earlier guest blog post, Liberation from the Patriarchal Church, as evidence. In the writer's situation, she chose to divorce because of physical and emotional abuse. Yet, she was blamed by the church leaders and others for her husband's behavior. Somehow she hadn't been a "good Christian wife" in their eyes.
Anyone with "eyes to see and ears to hear" and a knowledge of the love of Christ ought to know this kind of misogynous behavior has no place in our Lord's church. My next blog post will explore the origin of this harmful and systemic practice.
I advocate for healing of divorced people within the church by gathering stories of Christians who chose divorce because of abuse, and the response of their churches to that decision. (I'm interested in both helpful and hurtful experiences.) I also include those who have divorced because of their spouse's infidelity but have nevertheless been blamed by their church for the divorce.
If you’re interested in having your voice heard by contributing your divorce story in relationship to the church, please email me at LindaMKurthBlog@gmail.com for guidelines. I’ll be happy to help you share your story.
Know that I encourage respectful comments, keeping the blog a safe place to dialog about this subject.
Linda M. Kurth is a writer and a divorced and remarried Christian. In going through the divorce, she experienced a dichotomy of responses from the Christian community. After sharing some of those experiences in her upcoming memoir, God, the Devil, and Divorce, she's heard many stories of divorced Christians who have struggled with the same issues. This blog invites divorced Christians to tell their stories with the goal of encouraging churches to resist condemnation and become a source of healing and grace.