LOVE, HONOR & OBEY?
June 10, 1998
A resolution by the 16-million-member Southern Baptist Convention declares that a wife should "submit herself graciously" to her husband's guidance. Margaret Warner discusses the convention's new statement of beliefs and how it relates to today's families.
MARGARET WARNER: The Southern Baptist convention this week amended its official statement of beliefs to declare that a wife must: "submit herself graciously," to her husband's leadership. Southern Baptists are the nation's largest Protestant denomination, with nearly 16 million members. The convention's leadership adopted the amendment yesterday at their annual meeting in Salt Lake City. It was the first change in 35 years to the "Baptist faith and message," which sets out the principles for Southern Baptists to follow.
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The amendment on "the family" reads, in part: "the husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God's image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to his people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. The statement goes on to say: "A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God, as is her husband, and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation."
MARGARET WARNER: With is now is Dr. Anthony Jordan, the chairman of the committee that drafted the amendment. He is the executive director/treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma; Carolyn Weatherford Crumpler is former executive director of the Woman's Missionary Union of the Southern Baptist Convention. More recently, she's held a leadership role with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a breakaway group within the Southern Baptist Church. Welcome, both. Mrs. Crumpler, do you have a problem with the statement that I just read that was adopted yesterday?
A call for submission?
CAROLYN WEATHERFORD CRUMPLER, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship: I have no serious problem with this statement, as much as I have a problem with having to revise or amend the Baptist faith and message. I believe that the scripture cited is Ephesians V, and I believe in that, Paul is talking more about mutual submission in order for there to be unity and cooperative effort. I am not in agreement with the amendment. But, of course, I did not vote.
MARGARET WARNER: And you're saying that you believe that the biblical teaching is man and wife submit to one another?
CAROLYN WEATHERFORD CRUMPLER: Correct.
MARGARET WARNER: And, Dr. Jordan, your response to that.
DR. ANTHONY JORDAN, Southern Baptist Convention: Well, I think that the amendment speaks very clearly the interpretation of scripture, in all due respect to Mrs. Crumpler, the fact is that yes, the scripture says that we are to be in mutual submission to one another, but it goes on to say here's how it is played out. And it is not only spoken of in Ephesians V, but it is also spoken of in Colossians, and again in 1st Peter III. And I think the key to it is that you are to submit to a husband in relationship to his servant/leadership. And if a husband loves his wife like Christ loved the Church, then the wife has nothing to worry about.
MARGARET WARNER: What do you mean by that?
DR. ANTHONY JORDAN: Well, obviously, the husband has a responsibility to love his wife and to serve her. It's not like the husband demands this submission. In fact, our statement says she graciously submits to him. And it is God's word that tells us that's the way it is. Really the amendment was put forth as the basis that came solely out of the scripture. And so we're very comfortable with it, and it was overwhelmingly adopted.
A demand for women to submit?
MARGARET WARNER: Mrs. Crumpler, do you see the statement as meaning that there's a demand or not?
CAROLYN WEATHERFORD CRUMPLER: A demand for submission, yes. No. I really do not, but the thing that concerns me about the statement is I am very happily married to a Christian pastor, retired pastor, and we-our marriage is very happy. We do not-we don't argue about who is submissive to whom. I think the problem that this gives me is that I think it will define the male/female relationship beyond marriage. There is a great deal in our convention at the present time that feel that there are certain positions to which the Lord does not call women. And I think that this will be interpreted in that way.
MARGARET WARNER: Dr. Jordan, why did the convention decide that this kind of a statement and this kind of amendment was needed now? What's the problem you're trying to address?
DR. ANTHONY JORDAN: Well, there's no question that there is a tremendous breakdown of family life. There's an attack on family values. And Southern Baptists have always been pro family. And I think this statement is a very clear definition of what we believe how God would have us live in family relationships. And it is a statement that is not being clearly stated within our culture. And so this statement, I think, certainly runs against culture, but it is God's way. We're very comfortable to say this in a strong and yet very clear and compassionate way.
Marriage and the family.
MARGARET WARNER: Mrs. Crumpler, would you agree that there is a breakdown in the family and in family life and it's something that churches should address?
CAROLYN WEATHERFORD CRUMPLER: I certainly do agree that there's a breakdown. I simply do not believe that this statement is going to decrease the breakdown. I do not believe that a woman's failure to submit to her husband is the cause of the breakdown in the family.
MARGARET WARNER: And Dr. Jordan, do you think it is?
DR. ANTHONY JORDAN: Well, I think it is-any time that you do not follow God's plan, as revealed in His word, there's going to be dysfunction and problems in the family. I think that our position was not to try to straighten out all the world, but we are simply saying as Christians, as Southern Baptists who are bible-believing Christians. This statement gives us the best plan. We've heard from all the other gurus around society and culture, and now let's hear from God.
A confusion of gender roles?
MARGARET WARNER: So are you saying you think there's a confusion of roles within marriage today?
DR. ANTHONY JORDAN: Well, I think there has been. I think it goes all the way from male/male relationship to the male/female relationship in marriage. And obviously, we've addressed all of that in our statement.
MARGARET WARNER: And Mrs. Crumpler, do you think there's a confusion in the roles in marriage?
CAROLYN WEATHERFORD CRUMPLER: I'm not confused. I'm not confused.
MARGARET WARNER: Mrs. Crumpler, staying with you for a minute, this was adopted. You said you did not vote. You were at the convention, were you not, or not?
CAROLYN WEATHERFORD CRUMPLER: Yes, I was, but I came home early. I returned to Cincinnati yesterday.
MARGARET WARNER: I see.
CAROLYN WEATHERFORD CRUMPLER: I was there for the women's meeting. The Woman's Missionary Union meets just prior to the Southern Baptist Convention.
MARGARET WARNER: It was adopted, as I understand it, almost overwhelmingly, without dissent?
CAROLYN WEATHERFORD CRUMPLER: That's right. Unanimously, I believe.
MARGARET WARNER: Does that tell you that it is a view widely shared by a majority of Southern Baptists?
CAROLYN WEATHERFORD CRUMPLER: It is a view widely-by the majority of Southern Baptists, who now attend the convention, that has changed in recent years.
MARGARET WARNER: I'm sorry. Can you explain that.
CAROLYN WEATHERFORD CRUMPLER: Yes. Some 20 years ago there came to be what some have called the conservative resurgence within the convention. There's a basic difference in interpretation of scripture between those who are in leadership now and those who were in leadership. This is a very wide divergence, and most of the people who are not in agreement with the current leadership in the convention have just stopped going to the conventions.
MARGARET WARNER: I see. Is that the case, Dr. Jordan, that really your conventions, your meetings now only reflect a certain group within your church, a more conservative group perhaps?
DR. ANTHONY JORDAN: Well, I think it is more conservative, because that's who Southern Baptists are. That's who we have been across the years, and some of those who disagree have stopped coming to the convention, but there is a wide diversity of those who've come. We had a debate on the floor about this matter. The other side was represented, but when you look at the convention, you look at who is there, it is a wide perspective of who Southern Baptists are.
The decision's practical effects.
MARGARET WARNER: Dr. Jordan, what practical effect do you want-do you expect that this new statement will have?
DR. ANTHONY JORDAN: Well, it defines and clarifies where we as Southern Baptists stand in relationship to this issue, and I think it is a necessary refinement and statement-definement of who we are and what we believe. That's what a confession of faith. And hopefully, there will be a response on the-I think people will-in the Southern Baptist convention basically follow it now.
MARGARET WARNER: But just to be very specific about individual Southern Baptists, would you expect that within a family, if the wife said I'd like to go out and work and the husband said well, I don't want you to work, that he would cite this as sort of authority for his position?
DR. ANTHONY JORDAN: Well, there are always people who will take anything and take it and make an aberration out of it. And I would just say that this statement is very clear. It is not a putdown on women. It really lifts women, if a husband loves his wife. In my marriage of 30 years my wife is not subservient to me. We're in a mutual partnership and relationship, and yet, there are certainly times when I take leadership in the home, because that's my biblical responsibility.
MARGARET WARNER: And Mrs. Crumpler, what do you think the practical effect of this will be?
CAROLYN WEATHERFORD CRUMPLER: I think it won't make a great deal of difference to very many people. I certainly agree that if there were to come a time when someone had to be the leader of our household, my husband would be that, because he just is more sensible than I am, more practical than I am. I do not think it's going to make a great deal of difference in the playing out of the way that Christian people, Baptist Christian people, live their lives and live their marriages.
MARGARET WARNER: Is that possible, Dr. Jordan, that actually it won't have much effect at all in a practical sense?
DR. ANTHONY JORDAN: Of course, I believe anytime that you make a clear definition and state clearly where you stand in relation to the scripture, it'll have an effect on Southern Baptists' lives, because we're people of the book.
Must all Southern Baptists agree on this matter?
MARGARET WARNER: And, Dr. Jordan, if there are Southern Baptists who don't agree with this, and who don't try to put it into practice, do you still consider them Southern Baptists?
DR. ANTHONY JORDAN: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. We're not trying to exclude anyone here. We're just simply trying to say this is what we as Southern Baptists believe the scripture teaches about family. Mrs. Crumpler and I may disagree, but she is my sister in Christ. And I in no way would exclude her.
MARGARET WARNER: And, Mrs. Crumpler, do you feel the same way? Do you feel the same-that you are still very welcome within the Church?
CAROLYN WEATHERFORD CRUMPLER: Yes. Yes. My basic differences is that I do try to follow the teachings of the bible. My interpretation of those teachings vary somewhat from Dr. Jordan's and from others in leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention now, but I certainly try to follow the teachings of the scripture.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Well, thank you both very much for being with us.
CAROLYN WEATHERFORD CRUMPLER: Thank you.