Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Patriarchy Controversy in the SBC

republished here from the
Grace and Truth to you

The Blog of
Pastor Wade Burleson

Friday, April 18, 2008

And What Is It About Patriarchy
That Scares Us?

For the last couple of years I have observed what I perceived to be professional mistreatment of women within the Southern Baptist Convention, all in the name of biblical patriarchy. Though I have no personal disagreement with the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message statement that declares the office of pastor to be reserved for men, I have been puzzled by the removal of female chaplains and other women supervisiors on the mission field, the lack of promotion of women to administrative positions in our SBC agencies, and the termination of SBC trained female Hebrew and history professors at our Southern Baptist seminaries. I have truly wondered about the root cause for such actions. What is the philosophical or theological premise that would lead some to exclude women from Southern Baptist positions for which they are either gifted, trained, or eminently qualified to hold?

Cindy Kunsman offered a possible rationale when she spoke at the 2008 nameless apologetics Conference
, hosted by the nameless Seminary. The leaders called this year's conference "XXXXXXXX" and gave to Cindy Kunsman the opportunity to examine the rise of extreme patriarchal behaviors within groups claiming to be both evangelical and Christian. Her lecture, entitled The Development and Practice for Patriarchy: Cure for Cultural Decline or New Gnostic Disease?, included a pre-approved handout, a power point presentation, and a question answer time which followed.

Cindy is a complementarian herself. She states her personal beliefs on her blog where she writes:

Personally, I hold to a traditional, complementarian view wherein women . . . do not meet Biblical qualifications to be senior pastors or elders . . . but they certainly can minister as a members of pastoral staff(s).

The above statement is consistent with the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. However, it is what Cindy said about the views of Southern Seminary's Dean of Theology Russell Moore, highly esteemed theologian and Southern Seminary professor Bruce Ware, The Council on Manhood and Womanhood and Paige Patterson that caused any reference to her presentation to be removed from the
unnamed apologetics organization’s website, a change in the Executive Director leadership at unnamed apologetics organization, and a demand for disclaimers and retractions from Cindy.

The press release distributed by the
unnamed apologetics organization reveals the specific complaint against Cindy Kunsman:

Several people have contacted us regarding a presentation on "Christian Patriarchy" by Cynthia Kunsman at the unnamed apologetics organization’s national conference, held at xxxxxxx Seminary in March 2008. After reviewing her presentation, the board of unnamed apologetics organization and the administration of xxxxxxx Seminary concur that Mrs. Kunsman made unwarranted and misinformed accusations against Christian teachers and ministries, including the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and agencies within the Southern Baptist Convention. While several aspects of the "Christian Patriarchy" movement (exemplified by Vision Forum) merit study and correction, in this instance the speakerʼs criticism of alleged "influences" on this movement was faulty.

Cindy said in her presentation that the Southern Baptist Convention, specifically Russ Moore, Bruce Ware, Paige Patterson, and the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood have influenced the statement of faith, church practices, and strategies of Vision Forum Ministries and her controversial patriarchal pastor and leader Doug Phillips and the emphasis on Family Integrated Churches.

The Lecture That Caused The Controversy

Presenter Cindy Kunsman quoted from Dr. Russell Moore's 2007 lecture at the CBMW sponsored
Different By Design Conference where Dr. Moore states complementarians who live like egalitarians are functionally open theists. A similar charge was made by Russell Moore two years earlier at the 2005 Evangelical Theological Society where he added an exhortation for why his listeners should defend patriarchialism: An embrace of biblical patriarchy also protects the doctrine of God from aberrations such as the impersonal deity of Protestant liberalism. Though many Southern Baptists may not fully understand the basis for Professor Moore's statements, the essence of his argument is that the roles of women in society, not just the church, are essential to the gospel itself, and protects against any slide into theological liberalism. As Russ Moore stated in his ETS lecture, for Christians to show the world the gospel it "means specificity in terms of what complementarianism looks like in the present era."

Baptist Press reported in September 2007 on a conference hosted by Southwestern Theological Seminary, where SBC leaders sought to raise awareness of Baptist Identity by emphasizing the gospel through the normative family. The BP reported:

When the church's view of the family is awry, the Gospel is being falsely presented, theologian Russell Moore said during Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's third annual Baptist Distinctives Conference.

Also speaking on this year's theme -- "The Family: Reclaiming a Biblical View of the Family, Womanhood and Manhood" -- were Southwestern President Paige Patterson and Dorothy Patterson, professor of theology in women's studies; Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; Mark Liederbach, associate professor of Christian ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Tom Elliff, senior vice president of spiritual nurture and growth for the International Mission Board.

The family is a "Gospel issue," Moore said in his presentation, titled "Have Baptists Changed or Has Culture?: The Baptist View of the Family

The idea that the gospel is in danger when the 'normative' family is in danger is the same sentiment expressed by the controversial patriarchal pastor, and according to Cindy Kunsman, new Christian cult leader Doug Phillips, who on his Vision Forum Website gives The Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy. Pastor Phillips and Vision Forum were specifically discussed in Cindy's March lecture on 'New Cults' within Christianity, and as such, she quoted Pastor Doug Phillips:

The church should proclaim the Gospel centered doctrine of biblical patriarchy as an essential element of God’s ordained pattern for human relationships and institutions.

Cindy Kunsman expressed concern in her lecture that anyone would associate 'the gospel' with specific roles that women should play in society and the church. Further, she revealed several of the 'roles,' as envisioned by Doug Phillips, that women must take in order for the gospel to revealed. Some of those mandates for Christian womens' behavior in society and in the church include:

(1). Women are called by God to serve their patriarchs (fathers) until married when they will then serve their husbands.
(2). Women are not to speak in a church setting, but are to ask their husbands any questions they may have and remain silent in the presence of men.
(3). Women are not to work outside the home for any income, but are to be housewives and homemakers within the home.
(4). Women are never to teach a man anything, but are to learn from men in a quiet and submissive spirit.
(5). Women cannot have communion unless given to them by their husband or, in the case of an absent husband, an elder from a 'normative' family or, in rare cases, a mother can be served be her son if he (the son) is old enough to walk and carry the host and is present in worship with her.
(6). Women are to cover their heads as a sign of their 'submission' to their husbands and to God.
(7). Women are not to attend a university or any institution of higher learning for the purpose of pursuing a career.
(8). Women are not to vote, but are to let their husbands speak for them.
(9). Women are never, for any reason, to use birth control.
[BLOG HOST NOTE: Birth control, per their official statement, is "strongly discouraged" per the VFM website, though may be prohibited through social enforcement, social mentoring and negative reinforcement by the group and leadership.]
(10) Women are to respond to abuse in a quiet, gentle and submissive spirit.

Though a couple of the examples given above may be unfamiliar with most Southern Baptists, the majority could be taken from the headlines of Baptist Press these past ten years.

The Theological Foundation for This New Christian Cult

Again, it must be remembered that Cindy was lecturing this past March on the aberrant views of Doug Phillips, President of Vision Forum, and not the Southern Baptist Convention, whom she at no time in her presentation called aberrant or heretical.
Yet, in attempting to find the theological source for the specificities of womens' roles held by Pastor Phillips, Cindy discovered roots in the beliefs and teachings of Civil War Presbyterian theologian
R.L. Dabney, Southern Seminary Professor Bruce Ware (the chief theological defender of modern SBC patriarchy), Doug Phillip's friend Paige Patterson, Southern Seminary's Russ Moore, and the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. It was Southern Baptist theologian Bruce Ware whom Cindy credits with articulating the theological basis for modern patriarchy, and whom she quoted at the conference. She stated objections in her lecture notes to at least three theological views held and taught by Dr. Ware, which she claims has influenced the 'specificities of women's roles' as held by Doug Phillip's Vision Forum Ministries.. (If you are uninterested in the theological basis for Phillip's aberrant views of womens' roles in society, skip to the next section where Doug Phillip's Southern Baptist ties are outlined).

(1). Man is created in the image of God directly, woman indirectly

"Man is the image of God directly, woman is the image of God only through the man… Because man was created by God in His image first, man alone was created in a direct and unmediated fashion as the image of God, manifesting then the glory of God in man, that is male man… If male headship is rooted in the image of God itself, then it isn’t just a functional distinction of how we work out. It really does mean we are made in a different way.It may be best to understand the original creation of male and female as one in which the male was made in the image of God in a direct, unmediated and unilateral fashion, while the female was made image of God through the man and hence in a indirect, mediated and derivative fashion. So while they are both fully image of God, there is also a God intended priority given to the man as the original image of God through whom the woman, as image of God, derived from the male comes to be… Identity is rooted in priority given to the male… Her identity as female is inextricably tied to and rooted in the identity of the male… Her created glory is a reflection of the man’s… has her glory through the man. Seth is the image of God because he was born through the fatherhood of Adam. Specifically Adam is mentioned and not Eve. As Seth is born in the likeness and image of Adam, so is he born in the likeness and image of God. Male headship is a part of the very constitution of woman." Bruce Ware in his lecture Building Strong Families in Your Church

This theological belief, according to Cindy, causes some patriarchists to believe in 'the priesthood of believers,' but not the priesthood of every believer. Due to man bearing directly the image of God, the husband must be the priest of his wife, and the father of his daughter, for it is the prayers and leadership of the man that 'sanctify' the female. In short, only men, according the logical extension of some who hold to Ware's theology, can be priests unto God. This is why a woman who attempts to pray, teach, lead, or display spiritual authority 'in the presence of men' is forbidden to do so by some patriarchists.

(2). Jesus is eternally subordinate to the Father, and thus, Christians should only pray to, petition, and glorify the Father, for Jesus serves His Father's will, not His own.

The Son stands in a relationship of eternal submission under the authority of His Father… We’ll see and marvel at the fact that while the Father and Son are in a relationship marked by eternal authority and submission. We’ll see, in short, that the Son in fact is the eternal Son of the eternal Father, and hence, the Son stands in a relationship of eternal submission under the authority of His Father . . . What do we learn from this first account,? First, the very same Jesus who claims implicitly to be God (John 8:23) then proceeds to describe himself as doing nothing by his own authority speaking only what the Father teaches him, and in doing only and always what pleases the Father (vv 28-29)… As eternally divine and not of this world, he is God the Son, but as under the authority of his Father, and as the eternal Son of the Father, he is God the Son." (Pages 71, 74) Bruce Ware in his book From Father, Son and Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles and Relevance

Cindy Kunsman stated in her lecture that Ware's belief in the eternal and ontological submission of the Son gives the basis for a woman submitting to the man in all things. Ware affirms only eternal 'funcational subordiation' and not ontological subordination. However, many take the concerpt of 'eternal submission' of Christ as the basis for the woman's submission to, and service for, the male - in speech, conduct, and lifestyle. To the hard-line idealogues logically extend Ware's theology of the Son's eternal submission, female submission reflects the God of creation and restores creation to its pristine, orginal order, and reverses the curse. This view, according to Cindy, is similar to the views Christians in the south once held regarding 'slavery.' For some Christian leaders in the south, as recently as the 1950's, to give equal status to black people was thought to be contrary to the nature of God. As abolitionists were once called 'liberal,' so too, those Christians who promote the equality of women today are called 'liberal' because they threaten to undo the very nature of God. Thus, in Doug Phillips mind, anyone who does not follow his very specific rules for women (no birth control, modest dress, stay at home mom, no higher education, homeschooling kids, etc . . .) is undermining the very character of God.

(3). Jesus is not equal to the Father in authority. He never was nor ever will be. He comes from the Father, as the woman from the man, and is subordinate to the Father, as the woman is to the man.

"The Western church adapted the Nicene Creed to say, in its third article, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father “and the son” (filioque) and not merely that he proceeds from the Father (alone). While I agree fully with this additional language, I believe that this biblical way of speaking, as found in John 15:26, (But when that Comforter shall come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth of the Father, he shall testify of me.), refers to the historical sending of the Spirit at Pentecost and does not refer to any supposed “eternal procession” of the Spirit from the Father and the Son. The conceptions of both the “eternal begetting of the Son” and “eternal procession of the Spirit” seem to me highly speculative and not grounded in biblical teaching. Both the Son as only-begotten and the Spirit as proceeding from the Father (and the Son) refer, in my judgment, to the historical realities of the incarnation and Pentecost respectfully.” Footnote 3 on Page 162, from Ware's book From Father, Son and Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles and Relevance

Cindy believes this view may contradict historic Christianity and Scripture itself. Jesus said, "Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son" (John 14:13), and "If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it" (John 14:14) which indicates there is no ontological, or eternal functional subordination to the Father.

Doug Phillips Ties to the Southern Baptist Convention

Doug's father,
Howard Phillips, served in the Nixon Administration and was a director for The Council on National Policy. Serving with Howard in 1996 on the Council for National Policy were his son Doug, Southern Baptists Paige Patterson, Judge Paul Pressler, Judge Roy Moore, and others.

Remember that Cindy was speaking on a conference about new cults arising within Christianity, and specifically she expressed her concern with the direction of Vision Forum. Her premise was that Doug Phillips and Vision Forum have been heavily influenced theologically by a few Southern Baptists, but "the specificity in terms of what complementarianism looks like in the present era" (as Russell Moore calls it) were Vision Forums specifities and not necessarily the Southern Baptist Convention's.

Or are they?

Dorothy Patterson commends Doug Phillips book
Passionate Housewives Desparate for God where women are called to stay home and not work. Doug Phillips himself speaks admiringly of Paige Patterson and the conference platform he shared with Dr. Patterson in May 2003, where the two men discussed the godliness of boys hunting, going to war, and women staying home to serve the men and children.

As Doug Philliips honors two women in his
Wednesday, June 23, 2004 blog who abstained from birth control and gave birth to a total of 40 children, so too Dorothy Patterson writes on her own blog that abstinence from any artificial birth control is 'God's Plan' for women.

We could go on about Doug Phillips belief that women should not pursue graduate degrees for career purposes (but can pursue homemaking degrees such as those offered at SWBTS), and the belief that a woman must be absolutely silent regarding spiritual matters in the presence of men, and the unique 19th century dresses, hats and other modest clothing that women and girls are encouraged to wear (see here, here, and here) . . . but you get the drift.


Cindy Kunsman lives just outside Detroit. Her husband, Gary Kunsman, PhD. is the chief forensic toxologist [sic.] at the Oakland County Medical Examiner's Office. Cindy and Gary have been members of two churches that mistreated women because of extreme patriarchal views of the leaders within those churches. As stated, Cindy is a traditional complementarian but is concerned with a new brand of patriarchalism that is subjugating women in ways not seen since the 1700's. A friend of Cindy's has coined the word "Patriocentricity" to define this new movement. Cindy is concerned enough to research the subject, present her views on it, and at least discuss the issues with those who disagree.

She's not used to people reacting the way they did after her talk at
xxxxx Seminary. I have two questions for those who have accused Cindy of Southern Baptists and their influence on the patriarchal movement across evangelicalism, specifically through leaders of Southern and Southwestern Seminaries. (1). Does the demand for a retraction from Cindy mean that some folks at these agencies within the Southern Baptist Convention are now seeing the potential dangers of a resurging patriarchal movement within evangelical circles? and, (2). Since when is an 'Academic Conference,' as was the unnamed apologetics organization Conference in March 2008 hosted by xxxxxx Seminary, subject to censorship? Would it not be more appropriate for a response to be given to Mrs. Kunsman's lecture than to act like it never happened?

Finally, if there are those who question how a solid, evangelical Southern Baptist theologian like Dr. Bruce Ware, or other Southern Baptists could ever be spoken of in the same breath as Doug Phillips and Vision Forum, let this be a lesson that just because someone articulates truths that may be taken and misused in 'specificities' does not necessarily mean the articulation of those theological views is necessarily wrong. In other words, just as complementarianism and Christian patriarchy do not automatically mean 'cultic,' neither does egalitarianism and equality necessarily always mean 'liberal.' On the other hand, we should always be on guard that we don't allow drifting toward extremism in any one particilar doctrine. Christians sometimes really do go off on tangents - both right and left.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

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